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.

413 Comments

Krissy

How do you continue to love someone who doesn’t love themselves? And what point do you have the conversation.

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LakesGirl

I had the conversation when I became just sheer exhausted giving everything to help him feel he was worth it. The day I told him I can’t do this anymore was so hard, but in the next few weeks, he turned around 100% in his priorities. He had been looking in all the wrong places for happiness when it was right in front of him. The separation made him stop and really access what he was doing to himself and the people he loved. I can’t say this works for everyone. Some people are so hung up on feeling sorry for themselves, they stay stuck for a lifetime. And faith played a part in our story.

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M Seeker

You can’t. Trust me i hate myself… My ex tried painfully to show me love for 20 years and couldn’t get through to me. I Love her with all my heart and would kill for her and my children but still wish I were dead and curse every morning I wake up. Evil I have experienced and evil I have dealt. Demons in whatever way you perceive them possesses one that hates themselves…

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Jessica s

Me and this guy have been bestfriends for 5 years now. We started off as bestfriends and I feel like I always wanted more initially. I fell in love first. I had the crush on him. We then dated for 8-9 months 2 years ago, but then when we broke up it didn’t feel like a break up because nothing changed since we were bestfriends. We kept fooling around and being intimate. Nothing changed. Then 6 months ago he casually met someone else 3-4 times but it broke me, they stopped talking after 3 months and he became this perfect amazing guy who showered me with compliments 24/7 always called me and let me know how much he misses me every time we were apart. But everytime the topic of being serious and a future came up. He would get a little mad and say why is that all u want from me and our friendship. It’s all u want from me. And just today we had a open conversation and he told me he doesn’t love me in that way ever since we broke up. He said he’s tried so hard to figure out why. He said he has this perfect girl infromt of him and he started saying things like I’m f****d up and somethings wrong with me I’m broken and I realize he doesn’t love himself at all he can’t love me if he doesn’t love himself. And he told me he can’t live without me but he said if needs to try to focus on himself he can’t have me in his life. That I was an anchor weighing him down because he depends on me for everything. So I told him I understood and he promised we’d talk again once he’s feeling better about himself. He told me I was a once in a lifetime type of person. He didn’t wanna lose me. So I deleted him off everything just now so that I’m not selfish and interrupt him and so he doesn’t feel weak and need me. But I had to let go of someone I was in love with and my bestfriend and he would say all these perfect things but I don’t know if he ever even meant them. I just want to end up with him but now I’m not sure if he’ll ever feel that way about me

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LakesGirl

Holy cow you could be telling my story. I too met this amazing guy who I started as friends with and then I fell in love with him. He too started seeing another girl he said casually as friends, but I didn’t believe it at all. Crushed me. I told him at that point that he could go get her and live happily together. After 3 weeks, he came back and we have been together solid for over a year now.

In the beginning because of his low self esteem, he would say the exact same things to me like: I’m horrible, I should be alone, I’ll mess you up etc. Any time I started talking about how I was in love or about a possible future, he bolted. Scared little puppy. He too told me that he didn’t think he could love me the way I loved him because he screws love up.

I’m sure he meant them, but he has such a low opinion of himself, he can’t accept love. If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love someone else. And when guys/girls have trouble with low self esteem, they seek out other people to build them up. Probably why your guy sought out another girl for a while.

My guy finally got over himself and the poor me attitude. He is a new man and values his job, his relationship with me and is just a very settled, content at peace person.

Not sure where your guy is at, but THEY have to want to let the past go that holds them hostage to confidence in themselves. No one else can do that.

Good luck. I’m sorry you are going through this. It bites.

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Jessica s

Yeah I’m just wondering now if it’s best to take this break. We are inseparable and he always comes back because he says he can’t live without me, but we’ve been by each other from such an early age since we were 17. He doesn’t himself without me and same goes for me. But I’m also scared of things changing and feelings changing on his part. Because even the other day he was saying I have this perfect girl infront of me that I can’t love. Also since we aren’t talking right now because he’s trying to find himself and love himself. I have no idea how long that could take. There’s no timeframe for that type of thing. It’s just scary

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Jess

Personally, I think if someone says they can’t love you, it’s time to move on. It sounds like he’s just saying enough to keep you from leaving him because he’s afraid to be alone. You are probably better off alone or with a partner who treats you with more respect. That’s just my 2 cents. Respect yourself first and foremost!! Good luck!

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Heartbroken

Thank you for this article. A lot of the behavior sounds like my ex-boyfriend. I recently broke up with him. Had a feeling he was seeing someone else and was confirmed 6 days later. I’m totally heartbroken and very confused. I thought we had connected on a very deep and intimate level but soon into the relationship he pulled away and I constantly found messages from other women on his phone. He always had a valid excuse and told me that he loved me more deeply than he had ever anyone else and just wanted to be with me.

Due to loads of circumstances, I’m the one that works and provides but he did try to contribute in his own way. He was always extremely jealous and possessive which I thought was low self-esteem but it’s difficult to understand if it’s that or just plain narcissism and I’ve conned by an extremely manipulative person.

I always saw his good side which is amazing and then of course, also the bad which broke my heart time and time again. I tried everything I knew to keep him happy and nothing worked, so I eventually chose my own peace of mind. Now I’m just trying to get over the hurt and confusion wrt who he actually is and if he ever really felt anything for me or if I was just an easy and comfortable lifestyle for him. I hope he heals, I hope we both do.

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Mike B

I’m a guy, I read this, and tried to understand….if you have low self esteem a woman can’t solve that for you, so stay away from women and man up, you are making excuses…..I call bullshit!

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Toya

It’s not that she can’t help you, but she could just be there to help you, and uplift you and most definitely to inspire you, that people can love you just the way you are, and that might be the time, that, that man really realize it’s time to make a change, so men need to know that somebody cares about them, and they can still love me throughout the good the bad, and the ugly, not saying she’ll have low self esteem herself, she’s just there because she Loves him, Because Love covers a multitude of sins, and most definitely prayer changes things, people and every situation..

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In It For the Long Haul

I have been with my partner for 26 years, married for 24. We knew each other when we were teenagers, moved apart for 15 years, and then moved in together in our 30s after a long-distance relationship where I thought I knew him, thought I understood his struggles, but am now just learning how little I really understood.

After losing his job 4 years ago, and moving away for a year to take a contract (which I supported so he could rebuild his professional self-esteem), this summer I discovered he had 3 emotional affairs and one sexual affair (phone sex) while we lived apart, and one after his return, all with work colleagues (past and present). He has admitted he had these affairs because he needed the constant admiration/affirmation/boosting of his sense of self. He struggled with how his father treated him as a child (called him worthless and generally did not love him unconditionally). He was also molested when he was 8 because he was lured by a predator couple who sensed he could be influenced by compliments. I’ve always known about this background, and I always wanted to be there to soothe his aching soul.

I have ALWAYS understood he has self-esteem issues. That said, his favorite saying is he is “sorry” for doing whatever it is that he thinks I am criticizing him for. I have worked so hard to be patient with him, to compliment him, to explain that he misinterpreted criticism when all that was intended was to point out where I had gone wrong, but all he heard was that he had done something wrong.

I am self-confident. He envies this self-confidence, and also fears it. The challenge for me in our relationship is that the longer I am with him the more I find relating to him exhausting. It is always “about him”: (that he was wrong, that he can’t make me happy), and despite my best intentions to always be positive, there have been times in recent years where I have just simply snapped because always being supportive has drained me to the point of not only having nothing left, but starting to seek out negative attention because it started feeling like negative attention would be better than no attention at all. But, of course, with someone with no self confidence, giving him negative attention only makes things worse. It may have given me a very short-term adrenaline fight or flight rush, but it only hurt our relationship in the long run.

I am seeing all the advice in these comments that someone should run away from these types of relationships. I struggled with leaving after discovering the first affair 6 mos ago, and 3 more affairs 4 mos later. I know that he is currently exploring the psychological challenges he is experiencing, more than I have ever seen him look into it before. He is starting to accept some more things about himself, and how his childhood has shaped his need to escape reality. He is now accepting that he needs counselling (I have been in counselling on and off for the last 25 years to stay strong and work on my own issues). It is no excuse for the affairs, and no excuse for the amount of pain I have endured. However, I know he is making an effort now.

I also know I cannot count on him being able to sustain this positive path. I know he will likely slip again, and I have taken about 5 mos to come to terms with that. Low self-esteem leads to an addiction to seek out constant positive feedback. I know all it will take is for life to throw him another curve ball and he will slip again. And despite everyone’s advice to run away before he hurts me again, I have come to truly learn how to love him unconditionally. I never thought I would come to a place where I could accept that he might cheat on me again, but I see his struggles much like those of an alchoholic or someone with a gambling addiction. He is struggling with a different type of addiction, and I know it comes from the deep pain, anxiety and depression he lives with daily. Does it make it right for him to hurt me because of his pain? No. Do I accept him anyway? A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have, but after much soul-searching I have truly come to understand the true meaning of the vows to “love someone for better or worse, in sickness and in health.”

I will continue to love and support him. There are times when I feel so empty with him, and then he surprises me with some emotional gem that is enough to keep me going. Am I short-changing myself? Probably. But I also know that I am not perfect. I love him unconditionally, even with his imperfections. I hope he is doing the same for me.

Sorry this ended up being so long, but I felt I needed to tell my story. Thank you for letting me write all of this and for listening to me. Good luck to everyone in their search for what is right for them in these circumstances. We all have to figure out what works best for each of us.

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Lakes girl

Believe me I understand what it is like to be with a man with self-esteem problems. I have been dating a man for over 4 years that had super self-esteem issues when I met him. He had come out of a 2 year marriage that destroyed him as a man.
He was low weight, he called himself a monster, and just would not allow me in.
Well fast forward 3 years and we are in the most beautiful peace filled relationship I could have imagined. He values himself with me, he loves his work, and just is happy.
what was the magic? Time and helping him find ways to divert his self esteem issues. We began hiking and that helped him slowly dissolve all his issues of feeling not worthy. He felt comfortable opening up to me because I refused to judge anything. We are all human and have issues of our own. Whatever caused your partner to be this way is a product of something that damaged him. He has to want to though. My guy just naturally moved forward through the pain and won. I hope the same for you.

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Rena M

Thank you for sharing! I’ve been with my boyfriend for only two months but it has been a struggle to deal with the low self esteem. There have been times more recently where I have questioned if our relationship is right. But I have this great love for him and we have so many great moments together and a part of me is not ready to give up especially since this was a product of something from his past. I want to continue helping however I can and be supportive. I hope we get to a point where we find peace and where he can value himself

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Ty

In a parallel I am this guy. I came to the realisation that I suffered with self loathing so very recently and the whole key to seeing it was being told I had stopped someone from enjoying hugs because I find it a chore. Now I love this woman, as I told her my soul sings for her, so why would I do this. Then came other things like not saying I love you enough or telling her she was beautiful. It took a while but I realised that I thought she could do better and that there were so many better choices for her. So I looked up self loathing in relationships and came across this article and it resonated to the point that I could identify almost word for word. When the grim realisation hit me I was so ashamed of my behaviour as there is no way I would purposely do it so why exactly had I done it. The thing is I did do it though. What I didnt realise was it was happening, I dont think that’s a defence, without ownership and accepting something first you can’t offer one and besides there aren’t excuses you can only ask forgiveness and understanding. The thing is there will be multiple incidents all of which will feed that shame demon in your head and unless you see it for what it is then it will just feed the problem. Monsters lie here, these are the monsters that make you think your significant other is going to be the next one to abandon you or is already doing so and laughing about it. These monsters or thoughts are the ones that need to be addressed because for someone with self esteem problems its another flail to beat yourself with because you deserve it. And so the cycle perpetuates. I’m just starting to deal with this and its tough, but step one is admitting the issue.
I hope it works out for you as I am trying to reforge a relationship at the moment and the fact you are there will be of immense relief if he starts to see where you are coming from. Personally I’m in limbo I dont know whether the relationship is rescuable and trust me here the monsters have teeth.

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Eve

I’m going through the exact same with my partner. He’s using attention from women to fill the hole when I can’t fill the emotional void to his satisfaction. He loathes himself so much. We’ve just started therapy together and I pray he can gain a sense of self worth and love through it.

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Stephen M

This article has come at the right moment for me. I realise that I come across as confident and self assured. I sincerely love and appreciate my wife. We met 6 years ago and I was in a really good place, confident. I was single after my first marriage for 12 years. I filled the space with other women, and none of them could give me what I really needed – self esteem.
Little by little I put in place things and started to feel better about myself. I was able to be without a woman for 18 months and then I met my new wife.
I felt able to love, to hold my own, to be real and not need her.
I realise now that being married I am now beginning to do feel the same lack of confidence in our couple. I am a little jealous of her, I complain that she is not affectionate enough, I want to be alone with her all the time, I want sex and intimacy regularly.
It seems that I’m back to where I was before, back to low self confidence… and I know the path back to the person I can be is long and hard … I was beginning to wake up to this, to take the responsibility of the my feeling as my own problem. And this article has helped me see that I need to work on my own self confidence to either save the couple I am in with my wife, that I love enormously, or to prepare for the after and rebuilding and preparing for a great long term couple.
In any case thanks for this article and the feedbacks, it gives me the courage to start re-building the inner me … again …

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Lee

This is my man!!! From start to finish…
I’m in the verge of leaving him and then I stumbled upon this article and now I’m conflicted. I think I want to stay but I want to help him so much I just don’t know kow how to…

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Ang

I know what you mean. I have been seeing flags that indicated some self esteem issues, then 3 months in, the boom came and I knew exactly who I was dealing with. He ended the relationship because I accidentally cut a call with him for my cousin. He was feeling rejected and wanted to hurt me deeply. That is where i drew the line. He was expecting me to choose him over my family and couldn’t cope when I didn’t. He has created scenarios in his head that have no basis and frequently labels me as passive aggressive and difficult. There is no acknowledgment of his potential issues and frankly my skin isn’t strong enough to weather his storms. I had to decide to let him go. So I wish you luck with whatever you decide. Don’t forget to put your own mask on first before helping others.

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Anna

Wow, this was such an eye-opening read. Explains a lot about my ex-boyfriend. I was the “Mary” in the relationship.

The odd thing is that he seemed to have a highly inflated self-esteem. Makes me wonder if it was really just low self esteem disguised as high self-esteem. Is that possible?

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Moniek

Hey Anna,

There would be a high chance your boyfriend suffered from narcissism. Those people seem confident and inflate their abilities, but they’re not confident at all. Fake it till you make it is their slogan.

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Tony

Is it just me or I find people who have had multiple partners incapable of long term relationship? A person with a history of hooking up, cheating, one night stands, multiple failed relationships etc likely to fall back to the old ways.

Was in a long term relationship, been single for quite some time. I tend to reject women the moment they mention about multiple failed relationships etc.

I don’t want to marry a woman and later in life have to go through divorce and loose half of my assets.
Even if the law claims that what was built during a marriage belongs to both, I disagree. The earning potential of a man or woman is an accumulation of the effort put in by his/her parents raising them. So in theory, whatever you build in life can be partly claimed by your parents (assuming they were supportive)

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Uli

It sounds like you have also had multiple partners? Do you think you are incapable of having long term relationships? Ask yourself all those questions and what are your answers to yourself? Or are you simply afraid to love someone?

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Lola

Low self esteem men almost always use women as their way of filling the void that’s inside them. And women went we meet these men, we love and accept them as they are because we see the good. We try to “take away their demons” and heal them hoping they can leave the past behind and look forward to a future with you. Usually only lasts for about 6months-a year but after that it becomes exhausting performing all this emotional maintenance on someone on a daily basis. Just to have them make everything about themselves and not give that same type of support in return. We can help the journey, but they have to do the real work. Get into therapy and talk about why you don’t accept or love yourself. Because once you stop performing the emotional maintenance, they’ll feel empty again and start looking for someone else to fill that void. I wish more men could see how terrible this vicious cycle is and how they’ll never be happy if they don’t love themselves FIRST. No women can give you your worth or your self esteem. You have to build it and work at it for a long time. But guys prefer the easy way out, looking for “temporary relief” from the pain. Usually from a co worker or friend when their girlfriend isn’t building them up as much anymore. Ladies…don’t stay if he’s not in therapy and using therapy to heal himself. Separate until he does the work, because he will just bring you down with him. He’s not a bad person, just someone with so much pain that he can’t be there for anyone else until he can be there for himself.

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June

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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Julie

He is not emotionally available . He opened
Up & that scared him. He doesn’t love himself so he won’t love you . These guys need deep Therapy & often go through life pushing good women away . They don’t feel worthy & often being nice means nothing to them. Move on & let him go.
I have been here before too & hurt people hurt people & sometimes they have to heal over years themself. X

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Lakesgirl

Boy does your story seem like
Mine. My guy got close
To me too and then the next day he called and said he was going to meet his ex wife and felt bad

I fought through stuff I never should have stuck around for. I finally told him I wanted no more of fighting to be with him and for him to go chase what he wanted.

He Came back to me three weeks later and said he wanted to be with me and missed what we had.
I don’t advise anyone going through what I did but he is now a man at peace because I didn’t give up on him. He had to figure out what he really wanted and to stop living life
With such insecurity .

Best to you! If it’s supposed to be it will end up that way . Your friend has some stuff to work through before he can be good for you or anyone.

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Pam

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!!!

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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!

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Yaya

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.

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Racheal

Racheal
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.

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Clara

How did things work our for you in the end ? I am in a similar situation having been with someone 7 years

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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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