When You Love a Man With Low Self-Esteem – 9 Things to Keep in Mind

When You Love a Man With Low Self-Esteem

So you love a guy with low self-esteem. Sucks to be you. I’m saying that as a dude who used to hate himself. Who still kind of does. I know the crap you deal with. He must drive you nuts.

I was in a relationship with an angel, let’s call her Mary. Mary was such a pure, beautiful soul. We connected. Looking into her eyes filled me with comfort and calmed my fears. Mary loved me so much, and I loved her too. But I hated myself even more. Long story short – I ran away from her love. The love I felt unworthy of. I sought validation and distraction in women, alcohol and career moves. And in many other dark ways I won’t mention.

Low self-esteem is easy to explain yet hard to understand for some. It’s feeling shameful about who you are. Feeling guilty or embarrassed about who you are, deep in your core. You feel ‘different’. Damaged or flawed in fundamental, irreversible ways. You don’t love yourself. Your man may never admit it outright – but he wishes he were someone else.

Alas, there’s no return policy in life. We’re stuck in this skin forever, and the hate, the self-pity – it gets us nowhere. But here’s the rub:

When a man is dealing with low self-esteem, he’ll make mistakes. Big mistakes. My shame and low self-esteem led me to become reckless. I felt a constant, nearly unbearable background anxiety. I had to make myself feel different. I had to escape. Luckily, there were several reliable methods: nonstop partying, irresponsible sex, starting businesses, spending lots of money, exotic traveling. My worst nightmare was being alone, in a quiet room. I couldn’t stand my own company. Maybe your man feels the same way, I pray he doesn’t. But my feelings aren’t unique.

The mistakes I made led to more shame and guilt. And then more mistakes made running away from those feelings. The cycle continues. This leads to what I like to call the 9th dimension of shame. The hole can get so deep. The spiral of pain seems unstoppable.

Your man’s low self-esteem can manifest in a variety of ways. Every guy will act out in his own way. Some pull back and hide, some flee and seek experiences. Others party and rage, or try to prove themselves at work.  It’s troublesome for both the sufferer and the poor individual who loves them so much. Low self-esteem is tricky; the sufferer can distract himself or run away from it for years. He may not even realize that the darkness he feels is low self-esteem. And it’s f*cking heartbreaking.

If you love him, he will need you to get through it. You may be able to show him the light. Don’t give up on him, he needs you. Many times it will be confusing, and he may hurt you without wanting to. (Trust me, he doesn’t want to hurt you. He hurts enough just being himself.)

Here are some important things to remember: a cheat sheet to get you through tough times. And maybe to help him see the truth of his ways.

  1.  He loves you so much, but hates himself even more.

    He’s lost. You two may have such an obvious, beautiful opportunity for love but he squanders it. He only sees his own shortcomings. His pain and depression is like a dark, heavy, thick blanket that he just can’t shake. But like I said above, he may not even realize it. He’s not trying to mess with your head. He’s not unreachable. However he is in a state of constant anxiety, always wishing he could be someone HE loves. If you say ‘I love you’, he probably thinks: ‘Why would you? You can’t. You’re wrong’.

    He yearns to love himself, and the struggle to do that can ruin your relationship. This should be a good thing, right? Not all men act out this feeling in healthy ways. It will be hard but think about their perspective. If they don’t love themselves maybe you can do something to help them. If you love him, do what you can to help his HEART. Buy him books on spirituality, ask him how he feels about himself. Listen, and if required seek the help of a licensed therapist or psychologist.

    A book I recommend is No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover. It was a wake-up call, and helped launch my wild journey of transformation. Don’t let the title fool you, it’s a book about shame, self-worth and learning to accept yourself. It’s a powerful starting point, buy it now.

  2. He may seek attention outside the relationship, or activities without you.

    This was a huge factor in my relationship ending. My low self-esteem led me to crave attention from other potential partners. I was addicted to approval and validation from other women.

    Maybe he likes attention from others, flirtation and come-hither looks. I hope you haven’t caught him on dating sites or apps. That was another thing I would do – I craved the attention so much. Maybe he also yearns for people to tell him how cool he is, how great he dresses, or what a sweet job he has. Point is, he’s just crazy for attention.

    He seeks attention and approval from other people – but what about you? Self-esteem is a real b*tch. He thinks that he has to either prove to himself that he’s worthy, or look for evidence of it anywhere he can. ‘If other people tell me I’m great, then that must mean I’m great.’

    It may be common sense to you – that we should all love and respect ourselves as human beings. But to a sufferer of low self-esteem, this isn’t the case. Having low self-esteem is like being in a courtroom. And you’re guilty until proven innocent. He’s shameful at the core of his being. His soul appears blackened, damaged and irreparable. He craves escapes from reality.

    Try to talk with him about this. ‘I think you act like this because you like how it makes you feel, right? Why do you need to feel this way?  Can’t you just be yourself, how you feel now?’ ‘Why aren’t I enough?’ ‘Do you need help learning to love yourself?’

    If your man can’t handle this conversation, consider moving on. He’s not ready. It must be him who makes the changes necessary to heal. It is NEVER on your shoulders to do this for him.

  3. He believes he must have ‘got lucky’. He feels unworthy of you.

    At first he cherished you. You were his prize. He held you close, showed you off to the world. It was intoxicating and intense. But soon, he knew he ‘had you’ and started looking around. The high that you and the new relationship gave him faded. The drug wore off, so he’s seeking fresh supply. He needs more intense intoxicating experiences to feel okay about himself.

    I had an amazing partner in Mary, but I didn’t believe I was worthy. She could see the man I was, beyond the shit-storm that was my life. She saw through my shame and self-hatred but I couldn’t buy it. I was too deep in my own trance.

    I thought I’d got lucky, that I’d fooled her somehow. So I needed to prove that I could be worthy of someone amazing. Does that sound stupid or what? I wanted to be able to ‘earn someone’ who everyone else wanted, to prove to myself that I was a valuable man. Then I could love myself.

    Remember that this isn’t about you – this is about a hole he has in his heart. He needs to know that he didn’t just ‘get lucky’ when he landed you. Don’t let him feel that way! Please, tell him you love him. Tell him everything you think is unique and enticing about him. Don’t make it only about appearance either. If he feels like he fooled you, he will not treat the relationship with the respect. This is an important point.

  4. He may be restless, or always trying to prove something to the world or himself.

    Some call it ‘hustle’ or ambition. Maybe he has grand ideas or entrepreneurial zeal up the wazoo. He wants to create something that will change the world. That’s wonderful, but in his case it may be a cover-up: a distraction from voices in his head. The voices that say, ‘you’re not enough’. He’s trying to create a life that will prove his worth.

    He doesn’t want a life without you. His big dreams or grandiose desires get him out of his head. They give him hope that maybe one day, just maybe he will be able to like the man he is. After he does all this awesome stuff.

    There is nothing wrong with drive and initiative. But why is he so driven? Why does he desire so much?  If we bothered to ask ourselves ‘why’ we want the things we do, we could save ourselves much heartbreak. We’d stop running after so many shiny red balls. We could live with more purpose. Your man should ask himself why he wants to accomplish so much.

    To bring him down to earth, remind him how much life there is to live right now, in this moment. This moment, between the two of you. Kiss his lips, hold his head in your hands. Tousle that hair and look deep into those eyes you love so much. Say, ‘I love you for exactly who you are, right now’. Tell him he is enough.

    The point isn’t to make him an aimless, lazy ass. It’s to make sure he has his motivation and priorities in the right place.

  5. He can be extremely jealous or insecure about other men.

    My ex, Mary, had to think that I was perfect and wonderful at all times. She was my entire support system, and my source of confidence and security. She was my everything. (And yet I treated her awfully – aren’t men the greatest?)

    If I felt threatened or not #1 importance in her life, I would start to lose my sh*t. The low self-esteem inside your man creates an enormous hole. He filled it with you, and sprinkles in other things like vices and attention from others. When you threaten to leave them empty again they go crazy or become irrational.

    He doesn’t want you to suffer. Nor does he want to dominate you. He doesn’t know why he feels this way, but it’s because he hates who he is. In effect it’s self-defense, your actions hurt him. It’s painful enough just being who he is – when you threaten to make him feel even worse about himself … he lashes out or gets uncomfortable.

    Nothing about this is okay. I’m only telling it like it is.

  6. It can be near impossible to get him living ‘in the moment’.

    Many guys with low self-esteem are living in the past. He may be guilt-ridden and woeful over opportunities he failed to seize. Maybe he regrets not doing better in school, or choosing a better college. He might feel like a failure and disappointment to his family. Who knows, the point is he rides himself down all the time.

    Alternately, he’s living in the future. He dreams of a day when he can ‘be happy’. You may feel sad because it seems all he cares about is making lots of money, accomplishments or fame. Or making his family proud. He may seem to leave you out of his utopian vision of the future. But he probably just feels he’ll only worthy of you once he conquers the world. He feels he’s unworthy of happiness until he proves himself. These thoughts consume him and he’s desperate for that sweet moment of relief when he’s ‘made it’.  Problem: it’s never coming.

    You love him exactly as he is, right? Tell him that right now.

  7. True commitment scares the sh*t out of him – but not for the reason you think.

    In my relationship, I was afraid because I didn’t know who the hell I was. The only parts of myself I knew were sh*t. I didn’t feel like a good person, so who would want to be with me? I convinced myself that I was helping by not giving her marriage or children. By not giving her 100% true commitment I was doing her a favor.

    I didn’t believe in myself. I had no faith in my own goodness or potential. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the hard times that would come.  My feelings were ‘everything I touch turns to sh*t, so why would I waste her time? It’s doomed from the start, and I do not want to hurt her’.

    No advice here, no matter what he’s going to give you the ‘deer in the headlights’ look. Knowing this may help you understand the complexity of a man. He needs to learn to love himself through the hard times before he can love you through the hard times.

  8. He may enjoy seeing you in pain or suffering for the relationship.

    Sick, huh? Hate me if you want, I don’t care. I come in truth. This is a tough one to talk about. Self-esteem can get so low that a man gets validation from seeing his partner suffer. Seeing a person go through hell for us, feel pain caused by us – can actually give us pride.

    It’s a dose of the ‘I’m worthy’ drug … ‘Look at how this person goes crazy for me, I must be worthy’.

    Enough said, it’s time to leave the relationship. Hurt never justifies hurt.

  9. He adores you – but he needs to learn how to love himself.

    Your guy has to learn to love himself. This includes all the deepest and darkest parts too, the parts that scare him to death. The unfaced and unfelt parts of our psyche are the source of all neurosis and suffering. Carl Jung said that, not me.

    If he only loves a certain part of himself like his looks, the rest of him will just go on undeveloped. In many ways I was like a child before. I avoided pain or sacrifice every chance I could, and I turned into a big man-child. If this is happening to your man, you must stop it right away.

In the end, you can get over this together. The bond between you will be unbreakable, and he will love you forever. He’ll never forget that you were the girl who helped him discover the greatest love in the universe. His love for himself. Stick in there, but develop a plan right away. Not only is he suffering, you are as well. Take action now. If he refuses to draw a line in the sand and change his life, it may be time to walk away.

About the Author: Paul Graves

Paul Graves writes about pain, shame, and better living through self-acceptance at TakeTheLemons.com. He lives in Ohio with his 7-year old daughter and two cats. 

Paul is on Twitter and Instagram.



Pls pls don t marry him in the space he is for it will never change after married to him!!!


Yes! He needs to realise the improvement needs to happen in order to have you fully, not having you fully will being him improvement.


I too love a man with low self esteem. Been with him two years and periodically he runs saying he can’t be with anyone. Then in a few weeks he runs back to me. This has happened over 10 times in a year . I am exhausted, depressed, torn on what to do with him, and just sad that he can’t let go of the past hurt and relax and enjoy life. I have walked out several
Times only for him to pull me right back in. Tired and drained.


Did Paul go back to “Mary” once he was able to love and accept himself? I’m in the same scenario only I’m Mary, and he says he can’t untangle the feelings of failure and guilt of continuing to hurt me so he’d rather run away and start fresh. This is just going to be a constant cycle for him until he gets help. He’s agreed to go to therapy, but he has no interest in trying to fix us. We were together for 5 years and then separated but still living together as best friends for 2 years. I want him and love him unconditionally just as he is, and he just refuses to accept that love because of his self loathing. Running away won’t make that self loathing go away though because it has nothing to do with me. He’s just associating with me in his head. So did Paul ever go back or want to go back to Mary once he healed and realized his warped logic in regards to their relationship?


I dated my high school sweetheart for five years and eventually went our separate ways after I had nothing else left to give. I didn’t realize until I connected with him 30 years later that it was self esteem issues. We had a fabulous four years together and then he started to pull away. I can honestly say I tried everything but to no avail. Until I finally walked away. I never stopped loving him. Fast forward 30 years. He is divorced and literally he still struggles with himself. But he is I think blind to the problem, or a good actor one. Anyway, tried to help him a second time and yet he walked away again. Therefore, I have walked away for good. I do not know how to help someone that doesn’t want to help himself and prefers to blame everyone else. It is utterly a sad life.

Doc Bud

Nothing is more precious than everyday of your life.

Once you allow someone to take you into that hole, YOU will LOSE your self esteem. Much easier to lose than recover it once lost.

I could go on for paragraphs but in one word:



This makes me so sad, I’m in this position. We dated two years ago it fizzled out yet we remained mates. We talk to each other on a deep and connected level. We both have dated others since. I too suffer from low self-esteem which makes it much worse. I get stuck in my own head and convince myself he is playing me and despite the fact he tells me he is working on himself to be the best version of himself to make me truly happy because I deserve nothing but happiness I tell myself how he is only saying it to make me feel better about myself. I told myself after we stopped dating that he is’just a friend’ but all the while I was falling in love with him. I know he has major issues and yet I think I’m not good enough either and I want him to be happy too and if I am not that person to make him happy it’s OK so long as he is happy because he is so very sad and broken. I’m 11 years older than him and I suppose at 41 I am at that age where I don’t have time to wait but at the same time I want to wait. I don’t want to throw my life away for what ifs yet at same time I have no desire to move on. I was seeing a guy for 6 months who on the outside was the perfect partner, attentive, loving, confident etc etc etc yet I couldn’t get the object of my desire out of my head. Its all so hard and I’m left feeling worthless yet I know this is my own lack of confidence. I suppose I don’t feel worthy of true love either


Im a (so they say aaaallll the time) attractive woman who feel every bit of this article. People judge books by the cover all the time…


I am an “so they say” attractive male who has low self esteem. I once dated a not-so-attractive female (I say tongue in cheek, I think all women are beautiful) and this happened to me. I walked away once…twice…and you know the rest. I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship (nor am I now) but this woman was an angel and I may never get the chance to tell her how much she ment to me because she’s moved on and won’t talk to me. She was one of the kindest, gentlest women I have ever known, and she went through so much *** for me I knew not why and still don’t understand why, but long story short, it ended miserably, and I still feel remorse for it everyday and wish I could take it all back.

Worried for you

Yeah i hate to break it to you but this isn’t low self esteem its a narcassistic personality disorder and anyone in a relationship with someone like this needs to leave before they are reduced to nothing but an empty shell of who they used to be
Physichally, emotionally and fianancially drained

Hazel C

Well I had mixed feeling with my husband, thinking he too was a narcissist he sure has traits of being one. Its all about him and he likes to control everything which isn’t working for me because I wont let him unless I want him to. I know he he loathes him self and he seeks others to make him happy or wanted or to feel special/important. He goes on to the internet often seeing if he has had any responses from what he has put up on a site he belongs to and some times he comes to me and says if it is good or no one replied and he seems down by it….I know we all want to be accepted but he cant handle rejection…on the other hand he shows he cares and he did nurse his first wife for many years before she passed away and his daughter until she passed away. Maybe caring for them made him feel good. I know when he meets people he has to tell them how he cared for his wife and sick children and mainly women think he is so wonderful…of course that fills his ego…..

Cynthia W

I absolutely agree!!! Reading your brief comment just helped me out a great deal where as the whole article I read had me second guessing how I was feeling about letting someone go. You can love someone until the cows come home but if they don’t love themselves what can you do? I have built this peaceful place in my life and I cannot afford to let it go. I still have work to do and don’t mind helping another person but they have to be willing.


Exactly. When I read the article I thought the same thing.
Ppl need to read up on narcs. And if they find themselves dealing with a narc they need to RUN. There is NO HOPE for a narc. Very few get help and those who do still struggle to not allow their narc traits to dictate their daily lives and relationships!! Know the difference ppl. Look up narcs and look up ppl with low self esteem (which does happen to be a narc trait) understand what you’re dealing with.


Elkhart Tolle has a great video explaining the Pain body, it’s a entity created out of thoughts and emotional residue. We have to stop judging others and instead take a good look at ourselves and why we are attracting these people. The pain they have within themselves is the same pain we are attracted to because theirs may be active and ours may be dormant but we all have some pain that is looking for the feedback of more pain from others. No one is a victim to anyone, but we all all victims to the pain body.


Never thought this could all be summed up in a few long paragraphs by a man I’ve never met. It’s so eerily accurate that I was actually speechless (voices in my head) and focused. This helped more than you know. Seeing the true narrative written, not the false one I have written the 4,000 times I started “redefining myself”. Even with that I painted a false picture to protect me…FROM me. Was never real. Never raw. Thank you for this. As a 35 year old, divorced father of 2 toddlers, thank you. In a world of billions, I really felt like the only broken one.


With a guy for 9 years… he had a ton of other issues going on. Unmedicated bipolar. Awful parents. Things get slowly better as some of the issues are addressed Married. A year later the booze becomes far too much. He quits. And then he’s left alone with the gaping angry maw that remains. Jobs dry up and he’s a husk. Sexless for 4 years and I am so close to just DONE. He knows that his confidence is an issue and being proactive about anything has always been a nightmare. Cue resenting me and authority figures. He’s been in therapy for years. I am now in therapy and we are doing couples counseling which is going pretty badly. I’m pretty ssure it’s over. I think this article is incredibly spot on and I sent it to him.


I know this is an old comment but I just felt compelled to reply to an earlier comment where a woman said women have to toughen up. What she was proposing (“if you need to cry, then cry, who cares what other people think?”) is next to impossible for people who were never taught (and yes, it’s very much something that is LEARNED through your environment/upbringing) that it’s OK to do so. Women DO get this freedom, let’s call it, of emotional range. It’s accepted that we are emotional, fragile, “weak” by nature (we are not, as you pointed out). So, we generally feel a lot more free when we’re young and as we mature to feel our feelings and do the healthy things needed to process feelings, experiences…Which lead us to self-acceptance, discovery, and the benefits of being someone who was allowed to feel the full range of their emotions without consequence or belittling.
That being said, I did not really get this kind of experience as a woman growing up. I am the daughter of a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and my feelings and behavior used to mirror the same kind of behavior this article outlines. I was often shunned for expressing affection, wanting affection, being “too sensitive”, etc. In fact, my first marriage ended in divorce because of it. I never realized how emotionally ill-equipped I was to love myself or another person. I NEVER lived in the moment. I used lots of things to escape (thankfully benign things like hobbies and work, but nonetheless – escape is escape and you know it when you’re oing it).
I think what Paul is advocating is very very VERY kind – unconditional love. You don’t have to put up with EVERY bit of bs (and certainly you might have to draw the line and walk away), but I know deep in my heart that I wanted SO SO BADLY to love my ex-husband. He was very impatient with my inability to do so. He usually invalidated my feelings and this led me deeper into shame, withdrawal, etc. Much like my mother, in fact. He called me dramatic, too sensitive, overreacting, defensive, etc. I wished so many times he would just comfort me, hold me, and be patient with my suffering. This is what my inner child needed.
He did not, but in the end it was for the best. We parted ways amicably and I blossomed and I’m so thankful for it. I now have completed lots of therapy and soul-searching and I think I can actually say that I feel VERY ready for love and a partner who can be in the moment with me. So, it’s possible. There is hope. Only problem now is, I’m in a relationship with a man who is where I was – depressed, low self-esteem, and with many emotional wounds. He is in therapy and healing but it’s slow. I am still considering what I plan on doing about it but it’s just interesting to me that I’ve come around to the other side. All I can do is tell him I love him, that he’s great the way he is – just the way I wish my ex would have told me. Anyway, best of luck to all! Thank you for your insight, Paul. I don’t know what happened to your site but it’s down. I hope you return to the internet soon.


I am dating this amazing guy and we been together for 6 months. We were always happy and we always had trust in each other. After some day I felt this weird feeling that he didn’t want to talk that much anymore which i was correct about. I decided to see if he texted me back and after two days had passed i decided to text because maybe he needed me. i told him “I love you”. I also asked him if i didn’t text him would he never text me back anymore. He said “to be honest, i dont know i dont feel like talking to anyone and i think we should take a break.”
I never thought that he would say that, knowing that he always wanted to run away from this world with me and just be me and him together. I was really sad after hearing he needed a break. I told him its fine if he had a break. after that, he told me that he wanted me to hate him right now. I did not know what to say. i wanna text him and i dont know how long its gonna take for him to text me back. He said he wanted to be isolated and he anxiety that had raised up. He has been talking about this other girl alot, and recently that girl broke up with his boy friend because he thought she was cheating with my boyfriend. Its complicated idk what to do. I have been crying alot lately and i dont have the energy to do anything. I cant sleep at night and i stopped eating. I just really love him.


I am dating a man with low self-esteem too. He compares himself to my ex’s and past partners believing that the have something that he doesn’t. I’ve told him several times that this is not the case. It wasn’t always like this. At the beginning, it was swift and minimal; everyone has insecurities but when its a resounding amount its hard to overlook them. We’ve been dating roughly a year. I don’t know how to help him. Everything I say is wrong. He has a very hard past in which a lot of his low self-esteem stems from: past interactions and suffering. He lashes out on me for not understanding when I do and I genuinely want to help him. We’ve been arguing a lot recently. I’m not sure what to do.


I met my ex-boyfriend, Paul, a year and a half ago.
He too has incredibly low self-esteem. He has had one marriage, which lasted for 4 years. They divorced about 12 years ago. He has a son from that marriage.

From the moment we met, he often made comments about my looks and intelligence. He would say that I “lowered my standards” dating him. He had the same opinion when it came to my ex-husband.

Over time, he introduced me to his mom, siblings, and his friends. We dated for about 4 months before he began growing distant. When I asked him about it, his excuse was his job. When the behavior continued and grew, I confronted him and made a comment about breaking up if he was no longer interested in dating me. He immediately took that out. He said that I deserved someone better than him, he wasn’t good enough for me, he had too many issues, and he couldn’t change. I then realized that his reaction was his way of protecting himself. I also realized he was a self-saboteur. I tried encouraging him and letting him know change is always possible. I told him that he was a good man and how his friends said the same things about him. Finally, I got frustrated and stopped reaching out to him.

Within a month, he made contact and asked if we could be friends. After an additional two months, we met for a date. About 3 months later, he declared his love for me, repeatedly, and in seemingly disbelief that he was in love and that I loved him. About 2 months later, it was over again. He suddenly stopped communicating one day. After reaching out to him for a day, I let a week go by before reaching out to him once more. I finally figured out that he took a comment that I had made as an insult when, in fact, I meant it as a compliment. I questioned him about it (via text) and explained what I meant by the comment. The next day, he apologized and began beating himself up about it. He said he didn’t think he was capable of being in a relationship. He didn’t think he was wired to be in a relationship. Once again, he told me I deserved someone who would love me the way in which I deserved to be loved. He said that he really would like to remain friends. That was over 6 months ago. We’ve maintained contact though I keep considering ending contact because of the heartbreak that I feel. It’s obvious that he cares about me and would like to maintain contact. We talk about things going on in our lives. When either of us needs to vent, the one is there for the other. If I need his help with something, he’s there to help and I do the same for him. Although there has happened only on two occasions. He’s been working on himself i.e. hitting the gym and eating healthier. We talked about him possibly seeing a counselor. He contacted his insurance company and got the information but he hasn’t followed up with making an appointment – as far as I’m aware. Occasionally, he makes comments that are intended to let me know he hasn’t been dating. He also flirts every now and then. I keep going back and forth between being there for him, encouraging him, and reassuring him of his value, his goodness etc; and on the other hand, I think about breaking away so that I can move on. I don’t want to hurt him, but I’m frightened of being hurt even more than I already have been hurt.

Hazel C

Well I have been wondering what was wrong with my husband. I thought he was narcissistic but I knew he also hated him self..When I first met him he was going through a divorce apparently she never got orgasms and she told him no one has given her one so she uses a sex toys to finish off, so that that made him feel inadequate. His first wife who died from a genetic disease, again she knew how to get him back saying he had a small penis, she knew his weakness. What I got he decided he wasn’t going to marry me ( he told me he had cold feet) also the man who was going to marry us lost our paper work ( if that was true). So we delayed everything. But in the mean time she was sneaking to see his ex wife. When I found out he told me she is a friend he should of never married..He forgave her for everything but he never wanted to have sex with her. She knew about me and she did her darnedest telling him why he shouldn’t marry me. She kept saying we wont work out , I will leave him because I wont put up with him. She told him so much about me, yet she never knew me. Any way he ended up marrying me and we get get on very well BUT he comes out with the wrong things, tries to make me insecure thinks I am up to something. The ex wife lives around the corner from us and she messages him on messenger and she knows when he is on his own ..most likely he tells her. So she phones him. I feel he uses her as in keeping friends incase I leave him. I even told him the other day he is just using her because he will never go back to her. Meanwhile she hangs on because she hated him divorcing her and doesn’t him to be happy. He doesn’t seem to see this…He thinks she is being nice, but soon as he mentions me she gets angry…..I find it so difficult knowing when he is on his PC she can drop a message to him and when he leaves me and is off in the car she can phone him and both can have a nice conversation about what they are both doing…she knows our business. Its not good, I struggle knowing how to handle it. I tell him I love him, he says he thinks I love him, but he has to tell me about other women from his past….so to handle all of this I block it out….But deep down I am not feeling as close as I once did…..I still care and love him….but I also feel I am alone…he doesn’t listen to me and he does listen he does nothing to correct things….


The problem is, if you stay with a man like this and help him through, he will leave you once he grows.
Not always.
It’s not absolute.
But it is more often then not, it’s true.
The qualities a man like this is searching for in a woman at this point in his life will not be the same qualities he wants once he comes out of this and becomes empowered. Often times, once he learns how to “leave the past behind”, and live in the present, you will be part of that “past” he is leaving behind.
I’m not saying this to be cruel. I’m saying this to protect women. To make them aware. This situation is similar to a rebound relationship. It is a transitional state.
of course, if you ARE in a committed relationship already with the man and your man comes to need this support, than that is a different scenario. You stay.
But if you met a new guy at this place, I strongly suggest not dating him.
You can stay engaged and friendly if you choose, but I recommend keeping solid boundaries.
A man must learn this type of growth outside of a relationship on his own. He is not ready to lead another if he can not lead himself. This doesn’t mean he shouldn’t engage the support of others. A therapist, friends, both male and female, can be there. But an intimate partner with a man in this emotional place will only serve as a care-taker or a “mommy”. And this role will be satisfying for no one in the long run.
Be very careful of the potential co-dependency of this situation. Sometimes the most loving act a person can give another person, is to set them free.


It’s like you took the words out of my mouth with this reply. Beautifully articulated.


After reading Paul’s post about loving a man with self-self-esteem issues, it really resonated with me. My ex-boyfriend had never had a loving relationship until meeting me and it was the longest he had had. We lasted 14 months. For the first couple of months after meeting it was perfect. Everything clicked between us. Then out of nowhere I spent an evening of receiving vile messages. He had put a post on fb complaining about me and some female friends were more than happy to jump aboard and he loved telling me what they were saying including one calling me a c##t. It went on for several hours. I was absolutely devastated and dumbstruck. The next day the vile messages stopped but he was still very off and rude. Then by the evening he wanted me to get rid of the pictures of my wedding day on fb as “his girls” thought it was disgusting I had pictures still when in a relationship with him now. My marriage had ended 6 years before and I never looked at them. But stupidly in a panic I removed all the pictures where I was with my ex-husband. We met the next day and I told him exactly what I thought and cried a lot. I didn’t realise he had been heavily drinking……apparently does it when stressed and anxious. He also admitted he doesn’t know how to handle a proper relationship. 43 years old and never had a relationship like ours. He was toxic with alcohol and they were toxic people. I forgave him and we carried on with our relationship. We fell in love and got on great…….then the friend who called me a c##t messaged him saying wanted sex with him and very graphic. Then another friend joined in as the 3 of them always chatted together. She wanted a relationship with him despite being married with 3 kids and having an affair before. He told me the next day and blocked them. Again we carried on. I also put up with his ex-fiancé hiring someone to stalk him and trying to win him back after 11 years. I supported him and got it resolved with the Police. Nothing happened til Xmas and then out of nowhere he got drunk again and went on a 5 day bender. He unblocked them and ex-girlfriends, was nasty to me and then blocked me. He took our pictures off fb and our relationship status. I told his parents as so worried about him and knew they could check otn him. I then got a text after the 5 days saying how sorry he was. We met after Xmas and he agreed to go to AA. Again we carried on with our relationship. I still loved him a lot and we had a great time in between the “incidents”. I did tell my family about the time it happened at Xmas and sometimes he would bring it up and not talk to me for afew days. Or say my family would never like him. There was random outbursts about me deserving better and finding someone else. I always told him I only wanted him and us. We had about 6 weeks together after the Xmas incident before he went to Thailand for all of February. We messaged every day. We then had 2 weeks before lockdown and not seen each other since for 3 months. We messaged every day and had some really loving chats. It hit me though that I needed to come back to the relationship not feeling scared of another hurtful outburst or women wanting him. I admit I did become abit distant the past few weeks to get my head and thoughts together. Then 2 weeks ago the messages suddenly changed again. His cheating ex from America wants a reunion after not seeing each other for 9 years. What can he do? Will have a meal out with his parents cos they loved her and she was their favourite. She wants to check me out. Why cant I have red hair like her. She is his and will always be his. A red haired goddess. And the friend who wanted sex with him managed to contact him despite being blocked. I was told to delete everything and he changed his profile picture to just him again. Blocked me on fb and whatsapp. And this time heard nothing since I cant explain the hurt knowing back in touch with them and meeting up. But I feel guilt as though my fault as I was distant the couple of weeks before. Any advice would be great. I feel so lonely and so many emotions. Thank you if you got this far!


Hi all I have been in a relationship for 23 years my partner. has just been diagnosed with Low self-esteem. He has been on dating apps and text a prostitute so we separated and then he had to have counselling on his own . which they told him he had lost self-esteem . and now one minute he said he wants to move back in the next minute he wants time on his own the next minute he wants to marry me the next minute he just wants to think about himself. I want us go to marriage counselling one day he wants to go next day doesn’t .We have four beautiful children together where does that leave me?him. He’s told me they must be more to life than me and the kids. I feel guilty because I should’ve known all the years ago that something wasn’t right. i’m not eating sleeping. Do I let him move back in I live him so much. My heart is so broken Wright now.


You sound like you described a narcissist. Yikes. Low self esteem and low self love are narc traits but obviously there’s much more to narcs that make them actual narcs. Let’s not get this twisted if someone is dealing with a narc there is little things no hope for change and if you stay thinking it will, you will be completely destroyed in the end sometimes over and over. So if they are a narc RUN!! Don’t look back. Close the door and lock it forever.
Now if you’re dealing with a man with low self but is not a narc then I agree you may be able to get through it with them and create an unbreakable bond but I say all this to say KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
Read up on narcs and what they do and what traits make them narcs. If you check many or all of the narc boxes don’t even bother. Again RUN OR YOU’LL BE SORRY.
If it is just a matter low self esteem read up on that and decide if you can endure sticking by a man with such an issue. Find out ways to help him overcome these issues.
Don’t ever let someone destroy you. Know your boundaries and limits and stick to them at all costs. If you have a hard time doing this maybe it’s YOU that also have low self esteem/self love and you should also be looking into fixing yourself too.
Just be careful with your heart.

Broken hearted

Being with a man with low self esteem is so exhausting, confusing and painful. I was with what I thought was an amazing man who I knew had low self esteem. I showered him with love and things were great. Until I got pregnant and didn’t keep his baby. He slowly distanced from me whilst still keeping me close enough not to leave. I have now found out that in this time he tried to get back with his ex with whom he has children. He clearly is only ready to move on if he knows he has a security blanket of a relationship. He never told me, she did!


I LOVE this article….you wrote it raw and hit the nail on the head. I am certain the introspection you did to figure all of this out was very difficult and out of your comfort zone. I too, have had a marriage with a guy just like you- I reached out to him today, after reading your story and introspection…I do not know if any of it will resonate with him- I hope for his sake it does. People going through this myriad of stuffing round holes with square pegs are missing out on so much amazing ness- the ability to love themselves, as well as another human being. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this!!!


Great reading through the comments and getting further understanding.
I was friends with a guy for 4 years, we met at our children’s camp and instantly hit it off ( platonically but I sensed chemistry). We stayed in touch as friends and when my marriage broke up we chatted more often on messenger. He had been single for 6 months but the relationship ( of 4-5 years – not living together) had left him doubting himself and relationships in general.
He is a very clever, quick witted man who appeared confident. Although he was a fast talker.
His childhood had been messy with neglect and a drunk mother. He had several relationships (now in his 40’s). He loved his children dearly ( full custody). He said he gets stressed, canbe short tempered and struggled with negative thoughts ( could turn a positive experience into a worry, possibly because of old trauma). He was seeing a therapist and she was helping him. He was open and I was falling for him.
During our chats I had told him I liked him. He explained that while he had thought about us he Couldnt give anything decent, I thought this meant commitment ( turns out he meant intimacy as well). He wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be for quite some time. We continued to chat over the weeks.
One weekend he offered to meet up, I made arrangements for us to stay at a friends (2 rooms). He came down, conversed easily, he said he felt attracted to me ( twice). Lots of eye contact and smiles, he opened up more about his life, work, kids…it was great.
That evening ( I stuffed it up 😭). We both said good night and went to our own rooms. I had been married for 20+ years and I was attracted to my friend. I was naive and keen lol. After 10 min I knocked on his door and said can we chat, I lay away from him and we continued to talk, he cried over issues I offered to hold him but he tensed up. We talked further then in the Dark silence, I could feel his hands shaking in bed ( anxiety) he asked ‘ if we get physical what do you want?’ I replied kisses and cuddles.he said he had thought about us like this
We began, I loved being with him, he seemed to as well. He couldn’t sustain an erection and turned and cried claiming he felt like he was cheating on his ex. He was wet with sweat ( anxiety? no workout yet).He asked me to go to my room, which I did. The next morning was awkward. I texted the next day and said I had enjoyed the weekend, getting to know him further and his kisses. His reply pretty much cut me to the core. He wasn’t in the same head space, doesn’t want to mess me around….
From there I was shocked, possibly heartbroken. I replied thanking him and that I was shocked. He replied with it was just timing really, I knew he was still heartbroken. A week later I foolishly offered fwb ( I’d never done this before but wanted some sort of connection – desperate ☹️). He was very disappointed with me and said how could I offer it when he couldn’t do intimacy, he had wanted a connection not this…and we needed a two month break.
Our texts dwindled. I sent a beautiful poem, an apology text, he then blocked me on cell and fb.
I didn’t realise what no contact breaks were and asked him how he was a month in.
I waited 6 weeks then sent a letter ( apology)and an array of sweets for his birthday. He was angry and wanted me to just leave him alone.
I feel so rejected, I adored him.
I feel like I dishonoured him by being intimate.
We never had a proper conversation afterwards to both talk about it. He only messaged ( anxiety with calls?).

Do I hold on.. I am happy to just return as friends.
I hate the rejection, silence, loss of friendship, hurt and heart ache. I see his pain and just want to be there but I keep digging my hole deeper pushing him away.
Is his anxiety ( was I getting too close, saw too much…) pushing me away or did I just ruin it and should I just not try anymore.
I had no idea that this would happen.
Thanks in advance 🙂


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Anxiety has a way of demanding ALL of the attention. It shifts the focus to what feels scary, or too big, or impossible, or what needs to be avoided, or what feels bad, or what our kiddos can’t do. As the grown ups who love them, we know they are capable of greatness, even if that greatness is made up of lots of tiny steps, (as great things tend to be).
Physical activity is the natural end to the fight or flight response (which is where the physical feelings of an anxiety attack come from). Walking will help to burn the adrenalin and neurochemicals that have surged the body to prepare it for flight or fight, and which are causing the physical symptoms (racy heart, feeling sick, sweaty, short breaths, dry mouth, trembly or tense in the limbs etc). As well as this, the rhythm of walking will help to calm their anxious amygdala. Brains love rhythm, and walking is a way to give them this. 
Try to help your young one access their steady breaths while walking, but it is very likely that they will only be able to do this if they’ve practised outside of an anxiety attack. During anxiety, the brain is too busy to try anything unfamiliar. Practising will help to create neural pathways that will make breathing an easier, more accessible response during anxiety. If they aren't able to access strong steady breaths, you might need to do it for them. This will be just as powerful - in the same way they can catch your anxiety, they will also be able to catch your calm. When you are able to assume a strong, calm, steady presence, this will clear the way for your brave ones to do the same.
The more your young one is able to verbalise what their anxiety feels like, the more capacity they will have to identify it, acknowledge it and act more deliberately in response to it. With this level of self-awareness comes an increased ability to manage the feeling when it happens, and less likelihood that the anxiety will hijack their behaviour. 

Now - let’s give their awareness some muscle. If they are experts at what their anxiety feels like, they are also experts at what it takes to be brave. They’ve felt anxiety and they’ve moved through it, maybe not every time - none of us do it every time - maybe not even most times, but enough times to know what it takes and how it feels when they do. Maybe it was that time they walked into school when everything in them was wanting to walk away. Maybe that time they went in for goal, or down the water slide, or did the presentation in front of the class. Maybe that time they spoke their own order at the restaurant, or did the driving test, or told you there would be alcohol at the party. Those times matter, because they show them they can move through anxiety towards brave. They might also taken for granted by your young one, or written off as not counting as brave - but they do count. They count for everything. They are evidence that they can do hard things, even when those things feel bigger than them. 

So let’s expand those times with them and for them. Let’s expand the wisdom that comes with that, and bring their brave into the light as well. ‘What helped you do that?’ ‘What was it like when you did?’ ‘I know everything in you wanted to walk away, but you didn’t. Being brave isn’t about doing things easily. It’s about doing those hard things even when they feel bigger than us. I see you doing that all the time. It doesn’t matter that you don’t do them every time -none of us are brave every time- but you have so much courage in you my love, even when anxiety is making you feel otherwise.’

Let them also know that you feel like this too sometimes. It will help them see that anxiety happens to all of us, and that even though it tells a deficiency story, it is just a story and one they can change the ending of.
During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.

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