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.

439 Comments

Micky

My partner of 7 months left me completely out of the blue last week. We had fallen in love 5 months before and had told one another how much we loved an adored one another ever day during that 5 month period (and even before we said the ‘L’ word.

3 days before he told me (in the coldest voice I’d ever heard) that he ‘didn’t want to be in relationship’ he was telling me that he ‘loved me soooooo much, loved our relationship and felt so lucky to have me in his life.” On Monday and Tuesday he was saying those things. Firday night…he called me for 5 minutes from work to tell he didnt want to be with me anymore. No reasons – nothing. Just cruel and hard.

I know he has self-esteem issues and depression and he often said so but I did nothing but support him through down times, love him, try to build him and show him that I loved him for who he was. I never judged him and we communicated very well – but not about him wanting to run. I had no idea. I am confused and heartbroken and have no idea what to do. When I asked what I did and if he still loved me he said it was ‘him’ and that I did nothing and just kept reapeating, “I dont’ want to be in a relationship anymore.”

It is hearbreaking. I have not contacted him again since he called and he even blocked me from Facebook, with hurt even though I am like Mary – never harrassing, never being abusive, not an unkind work and I never would have. I dont understand his reasons of his coldness and had no doubt we were still madly in love until 2 days before.

🙁

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Marie

This exact thing happened to me a few weeks ago! Exactly as you described. Did you ever end up hearing from him again? I found this article and the comments so helpful…knowing I am not alone. I have been so hurt/confused and I see last night on Instagram that he’s out with other women. *cue the tears* I know I’m better off but it really hurts.

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Chad

Thank you for sharing Paul. This was sent to me from an amazing woman I was with for over two years until I recently broke things off. All of the thoughts, feelings, actions, the “dimensions” are almost everything I’m going through. I felt I needed to break things with her to save her from me. Breaking up with her was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. She’s such an amazing woman, we got along on every facet, never argue, finish each other’s sentences, have the exact same humor, but something within myself is missing and your article hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m ordering the book “No More Mr. Nice Guy” that you suggested. Was there anything else you could offer as to advice on how to help resolve these issues?

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L

I think i have read this almost 7x since Sunday. This really helped me make my decision recently and without being able to talk to anyone about what I’m going through these last few days reading this has been my mental savior. I’m sure ill be reading it many more times. Thank you.

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Txxx

You sound almost EXACTLY like my bf. What should I do to build his self esteem? What did you want “Mary” to do to help you? I feel like I’m just taking everything… I feel that no matter what I do nothing changes and it kills me inside. Sometimes I regret to have gotten into this relationship, but at the same time I can’t imagine my life without him. I feel like a lot of his issues are because the loss if his mom at a young age. I’m just really lost, but I’m glad too have found your article at least  I can somewhat understand what’s going on in his head.

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Juanita

I was involved with a guy for almost 4 years. A lot of this does not seem like him, but some of it does. He really always made me feel like I was special and worth listening to. I remember when we first started our friendship, I was involved with a cheater, Sam, in an online relationship. Abhi became my friend right about the time I found out Sam was a cheater and Abhi became my shoulder I cried on. But Abhi had low self-esteem, I know, because I saw everything good in him, his loyalty, his kind heart. When I was crying about Sam and his many women one day Abhi said, I envy him. I said. why. He said, because he has so many women after him. I said, so what, they are hoes, one of them I knew cam sexed with anyone. The Abhi said, but I need someone like you, a real woman. In the end I broke it off with Sam, but I did fall in love with Abhi and he fell in love with me. When I would say, why are you so wonderful, he would say, because of you. But almost 4 years into our relationship and he tells me he cannot be in a relationship. It hurt and still does. I wonder if his low self esteem drove him to break it off with me. Idk.

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Lupe

You just totally described my ex-husband. He not only pushed away all the time in many different ways, but also his children. He made everybody so unhappy. I was basically father and mother the whole time and was and still am the strong support for my children. I tried my best, but still he left us 3 times before as if we did something to him, and he went on a sex, dating rampage the last time. I shouldn’t have taken him back the last time, he became a total asshole even though I gave our marriage one last chance. Finally I said enough is enough and told him everything was over and he went nuts!!! We are finally divorce, but even though he found a girlfriend within a month after I kicked him out for good, he manage to interfere in my life and make not only me, but his kids suffer. He is still with that woman who has 4 kids, he hasn’t change a bit.

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Robert

I’m a guy whose self esteem and confidence is so low that at age 36 I’ve never even been able to ask a woman out in the first place. As such, I’ve never had even a mere second’s glimpse of what it’s like to be in a relationship. At least the guys referred to above had the confidence to ask someone out – or were attractive enough to be asked.

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Karen Young

Robert there is someone out there who is thinking exactly the same thing as you and who would feel so incredibly lucky to know you. I understand how difficult it can be to ask someone out – it can be terrifying! Know though, that there is no such thing as rejection. We have all heard ‘no’ and we have all been rejected. Rejection is a redirection to the person you are meant to find. I promise you – there is somebody out there who would love to know you. Everyone has a match – many matches. You do too. I know that for certain.

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Awkward1

This rings so true to me.
The guy I have been seeing for the past two years says he loves me and can be so attentive and loving but then out of the blue he will withdraw and want to be alone.
I had suspicions he was texting and messaging a girl we both knew and these were confirmed but when I challenged him on it he said ” we just get on there’s nothing in it” we split for a few weeks earlier this year and I decided to move on or at least I tried but I love him so very much it was hard. Three weeks later he began messaging me saying he had made a mistake and that he had a pattern of “running away” when he felt relationships were getting serious. We started seeing each other again gradually at first and then more frequently 5 months later he has done it again, this pattern of pushing me away as things get serious seems to me to be very similar to your article, he also needs affirmation from people that he looks good or dresses well etc and loves that affirmation to come from other women, I can see that this is a character trait and I became accepting of it but when I realise he is back on the texting with the woman we both know again it breaks my heart.

He says he loves me and he is sorry but he can’t give me what I want, is this just a get out. Is he totally irreparably messed up? I wish I knew

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Allison

I dated my boyfriend for 4 years, and he broke up with me last month. It’s been a heartbreaking, trying experience.

He has suffered from anxiety and depression, and I have always done my best to be there for him. In turn, he has been there for me as I’ve worked through my own anxiety.

He told me that he doesn’t know what his future looks like anymore. He used to be so sure that no matter what the future held, it always included me. Now, he doesn’t know and wants to take time to be able to find what makes himself happy, as well as figure out what he wants in life. I told him that many people don’t know exactly what they want, and that even things you plan for don’t always happen.

I had proposed working through this as a couple but he is determined to do it on his own and to work through his issues by himself. I know he is hurting, and I want nothing more than to make him happy again. I honestly think that I should be able to get through to him that I love him unconditionally and want to help him through this, and any other challenges that come our way.

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Antoinette

Interesting article. It felt as if my husband (soon to be ex) was the one who wrote this article- everything you said describes him to a T! He even (weirdly) looks a lot like you. Anyway, thanks for the read. It’s not often that you find a man who’s willing to do a little soul searching to pin point the root of his problem. Many men, like my husband, sweep their problems under the rug. So, good for you!

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Pam

Hi Paul, Thank you for your article. I’m a 55 year old woman and just recently discovered, after 25 years of counseling and 3 stays in mental hospitals, that my incredibly intolerable anxiety is from low self esteem. NO ONE ever mentioned, not even once, that my emotional pain was from low self esteem. You said that it is a ‘feeling of constant, nearly unbearable, BACKGROUND anxiety’. My God, that is perfect. That’s it!!! That is what I could never express to my ’emotional caregivers’. I used to say things like, ‘I have this pain in my chest; this deep underlying ‘thing’ that comes and goes, but mostly comes. Relationships with men have been torturous for me. My life has been different for the past week. I have a lot of work to do, still. I can breathe now. Thanks, again, Paul.

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Danielle

This was quite a helpful article for me, thank you. I know my husband (of 8 years) is definitely a people pleaser and so a lot of this makes sense. I’ve been really struggling with “my husband’s actions were about him, not some fault or short comings with me” advice being given and what that really means since discovering his compulsive use of pornography/masturbation–which has absolutely wreaked havoc on my own self esteem both within our relationship and outside of it and has led me to go back and question everything I thought I knew about him and the authenticity of the relationship. There’s been many bombs come out since, including the discovery of dating sites (using right up the months before our wedding), lying, inappropriate flirting, looking up old flames or online oogling random women etc in addition to the pornography and the ongoing fear of the possibility that there remains more to be uncovered. I used to feel secure, not suspicious or jealous/comparing and feel good about my overall appearance/attractiveness etc. Even though we’ve been working to heal and repair our relationship and reestablish trust, the idea that seeped its way into my head and latched on–that my partner was not satisfied with me and so was constantly on the lookout for new (better looking, younger, thinner, more interesting etc etc) partners or stimulation has been very, very difficult to shake for me. I feel half the woman I was before and have considered everything from leaving the marriage and remaining single for life to (I’m humiliated to admit) cosmetic surgery, currently I’m considering taking medication for the anxiety and distress it continues to create within me, even though I’m aware this comes with additional side effects. This piece has helped give some meaningful perspective on much of his behaviour.

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Sara

This article was so helpful. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 9 months and he completely hates everything about himself. He goes through phases where he seems so invested in me and our relationship to being so cold towards me. As soon as I feel him hitting that switch I withdraw and give him space until he comes to me (which only really takes a couple of hours). He has serious trust issues from past relationships which doesn’t help his self esteem at all and questions my faithfulness often. I have dealt with my own mental health issues in the past and can happily say, with a lot of effort, I figured out what works for me. I love him so much but because he does not love himself he says that he cannot tell me he loves me. I am being very patient but this hurts me so much. I want to stick it out and be there for him but how long am I supposed to go without the love I also need.

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Alyssa

Hi there your story made me realize that i need to love myself and my boyfriend too, because when we started talking and met each other we were so happy with each other and gave each other the love bonding we had and we went on a vacation together and he told me it was his first time doing that with me like it has never happen to him with his other ex’s like it was such a good feeling to feel like that with a different person. But anyway after that happen and came back home everything changed like he was telling me if i was ready to be in this relationship were his personality involves with hatetred and negativity and knows this I’m going to leave him after a year and a half being with him because that’s happen to him in his past with his ex’s and it makes me very upset when he talks about his ex girlfriends it irritates the living sh**t out of me like do i really care and it hurts be so much when he’s like that. Like he’s afraid to love himself amf show emotions to me and not communicate with me like isn’t realtionships suppose to be 50 to 50 % but to me it doesnt feel like it. I try to give my boyfriend as much affection i can and its like we doesnt want to give that to me like what is the matter with you. Such a short temper my boyfriend has and i can’t even talk to him on how i feel because he takes things the wrong way and has to prove himself that he’s right about everything like i need lots of help!!!!! Someone please tell me what i should do with a 3 month relationship that has cause through stupid arguments and then don’t want to talk about it and also pretend it like it never happen!!!!!!!

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Jewel

Reading your article it seems my SO is suffering from this, he’s getting therapy help and I was just wondering if there was any advice you can give me to help him through his process? I want to be there for him, I just don’t want to push it and make him push away.

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Nya

Thank you for the insights. The issues you raise resonate. My partner of fifteen months suffers from low self-esteem. I have sensed it virtually from the get go, and did my best to create a secure and loving environment. He is very loving and attentive when we are together…and then pulls away, and is non-communicative for days. I have on ocassion found him on his phone – and it’s startled him – so figured he’s chatting to other girls online…Well I have cut him off. I need time out to figure next steps. Maybe it’s time to really move on…Very painful.

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charity

I have a best friend for 7 years, I am from the Philippines and he is American. He friendzoned me and dated other girls although he does not love any of them. I asked him, you dated these girls to try and make things work but you set me aside. Why? You are convincing yourself that you can love her somehow? I grew up trained by my father that a rejection is a challenge. So, my mistake is I hit his ego to challenge him. I am the type who becomes very challenged in face of obstacles. But when I feel I am not wanted I walk away. For so long, I endured he is dating other women and I am surprised he never sleeps with them. He tells me he does not want to get any of them pregnant. And then he told me, “you will hate it, but I am only sexually comfortable with you, and I’d be glad to have a child with you.” It got me confused. He friendzoned me and then he tells me he wants to have a child with me? a week ago, I told him I am hurting so much I don’t want to be your bestfriend anymore. He I guess got mad, he blocked me and unblocked me after. Just tonight, he told my niece that he loves me but he also said “I am nothing more but a piece of a puzzle that fits into Charity’s (me) life. If she remembers my 2 exes, they deserve someone better.” My confusion is, is he inlove with me too? But just so afraid to lose me as a bestfriend that he does not want to make “us” an official couple? All his girlfriends are so threatened of me that some of them attacked me. Now, I am in a dilemma asking myself if I am right that he is inlove with me or am I just fucked up too.

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Alison

Wow, this article explained my current situation to a T. My fiance and I (well, him) decided to separate for now because he has anger issues, is off all of his mental health medications for the first time in years, and recently had a heroin overdose. I saved his life. He has 2 daughters that I love to pieces. We were due to get married in October but postponed. I KNOW he loves me. We have to live together for the next 2 months. He has been clean for 3 months now off all substances and struggles with life every day. His mind goes to very dark places and he is kind of all over the place. He has not been treating me well lately, and knows it, and is going to start therapy for his anger and the past. He wants to get better. I’m just fricken sad and am trying to have some faith. He said to me this morning, Al, I love you. Please just let me do what I have to do to get better. He does feel unworthy of me, I believe. I am currently just trying to take care of myself but I ache in my heart. I love this guy so much. He said for me to have faith that everything is going to work out. We got engaged and moved in too fast too.
I hope we can work things out. I made a therapy appointment for myself too. I have issues I need to work on. In my heart I think we will be okay, but fear overrides faith a lot of the time. I am an addict in recovery as well, clean for almost 11 years. Unfortunately he is so messed in his mind I cannot do what you’ve said… Kiss him and touch him. I have NO idea where we really stand. I do know what it’s like to be in early recovery though… And off medication… And it blows.

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Charlotte

Wow, so relieved to have come across your article on low self-esteem. It really hit the nail on the head for me for the man that I love. Its been a roller coaster ride for several years and sadly he has gone down the path of drug addiction. He is also addicted to online dating sites. He asked to borrow my laptop one day and accidentally left his inbox open. So that was an eye opener. I asked him to move out as i didnt want drugs in the house. He moved in with a buddy who seems to not mind/care. He still contacts me every week or so and we spend a day or two together. He recently gave me the “you deserve better than me, I’m not a good person” speech and it broke my heart. I know he needs to learn how to love himself and right now the drugs and the dating apps fill the huge void. I dont know if me staying in his life helps but I like to think it does. I tell him I love him for who he is, regardless of what he’s doing right now, I just can’t live with him while he’s on drugs and he tends to brush it off, makes him uncomfortable but I never want him to feel he’s truly alone.

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Jenni

hey,

I’m in love with this guy and he really has low self-esteem… But I love every piece of him.. He told me he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with me, because he won’t be able to give me what he thinks I deserve.. I just can’t let him go for that reason.. I mean if he told me he didn’t have feelings for me, there was nothing I could do about it.. but this reason only makes me want him more.. he’s such a good guy, he just doesn’t see it… I really can’t let him slip away like that… Is there anything that I could to make him see that he is enough for me and to convince him to give us a try? Or is all hope really lost…

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Christine

I am in the same boat Jenni. Mine broke it off unexpectedly saying he couldn’t force himself to continue our relationship and end up resenting me in the future, but still didn’t want to lose me. I was left in shock…I’m head over heels, but could see he had esteem issues while we were together. I tried to do everything I could to just show him I wanted to be there and we could work through, but I guess he just couldn’t deal with it. I still love him very much and given the opportunity I would work things out with him, but I had to let him go as it was his request. I hope and pray one day we can rekindle, but until then I am working on myself and being the best version of me I can for me. Good luck to you :).

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Charlotte

Thank you for sharing your story, Paul. I live with my fiance, and have been for 2 years. The first year he treated me so amazing! The past year, so much has changed. I use to cook breakfast, pack his lunches, cook dinner, keep the house cleaned and have myself always dressed like he and I were going out. He use to tell me he never thought he could get a woman like me. His ex wife and sister have made comments like “you’re the prettiest woman he has dated” I’m aware there’s more to a person than their physical appearance, but the past year has left me feeling insecure. He has stopped noticing me, doesn’t take me anywhere, never ask how I’m doing and seems to always notice other ladies, that aren’t as attractive as the one he has. His drinking has picked up, but he’s an everyday drinker anyway. I’ve had many talks with him about things, but he doesn’t have much response other than “I love you and want you with me” I’m starting to resent him, after so many attempts at trying to communicate. Maybe I should just be done..? I definitely don’t feel attractive with him anymore. We’ve lost respect for one another. The pain inside of me is the reason I voice my opinion of him in a negative way, making sure he knows I now see him (all negative traits) for what he truly is (and that honestly makes me feel horrible!) I only wish I knew ” what makes letting go so difficult.?”

Thanks for sharing your story. It has definitely made me feel better about my inner self/peace.

Charlotte

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Tallgirl

Well everything I have read above rings so true. I fell in love with my boyfriend who was 20 at the time and I was 18, who I know now suffers from low self esteem as well as he was dependent on marijuana (which he hid from me). I believe he truly loved me and I know I loved him dearly.

We were together until this past December. I now 19 and he was 22.. I am in university and he was not in school and not working. He lived in his parents house with a guy roommate.

The problem wasn’t his infidelity it was is secret I’ve weed use and lies. He was extremely loving when I was with him but he would disappear into his own world when I had school and other commitments. I did everything to make him feel special and loved. Always giving and never asking for anything in return….(and I didn’t receive anything). I’m not materialistic so I didn’t care but every girl wants to feel special.

I’m not a weed user so I had no idea what was going on. I ended up catching him high and he totally rejected me…it broke my heart. I worked through that…..and it happened 3 times….these were binges he would go on too! Anyway I tried to help him get his life on track. Helped him register for schools and we shared a sport in common and I’d always support him and watch him play.. he may have supported me in his own way but never really seemed to care too much. He told me “you are the only person who has never given up on me. No one else has ever stuck by means tried to make me a better person”.

Needless to say this past fall after many struggles and me always being there for him but him never showing any signs of change or even trying to make positive steps I had to leave. I would tell him what I needed and the last weed binge totally broke my heart (the weed was his other woman) I was devasted. He went away for 3 weeks to stay with his mother and then came back sort of like an intervention. When he returned he expected all to be forgiven or forgotten…after all if I loved him I’d get past that right? Well during those 3 weeks I realized how much I gave of myself to him to make him stay on the track he said he wanted and loving and keeping him happy that I realized I lost myself loving him. He wasn’t supporting me or giving me security. I was exhausted. While he was gone I felt relief…not that I didn’t love him more than anything but simply it took all of me and my attention to keep him happy and On track.

I remember breaking down right before he came back and told my mom that I feel the only way he may change and take responsibility for himself and work on his own happiness is if I leave him. I was so upset at this thought but I truly felt he never thought I’d leave nice three times I stayed with him when he had given himself the ultimatum to quit weed and so on.

As the story goes he came back and I felt heavy…with worry that I had to make sure he was going to be okay. Like a mother…… I’m 19….I want a man to love me and I want to love a man…not feel so responsible for him to be like a mother. Anyway, he came back and things didn’t improve. He made no attempt to make me feel special, “he said he was afraid of doing the wrong thing…so he did nothing”. He is a wonderful person with so much potential and I’ve told him over and over again…but it never seemed to register. I believe he suffers from low self esteem, learned helplessness and avoidance.

So I ended the relationship…with many tears and broken hearts. I truly do love him but I can’t fix what he won’t work on. He says I gave up on him…adandoned himand so on and I feel that’s so unfair. I did everything for him I wanted him happy and in my life…but I lost myself and I have my own dreams and I’m very academic and athletic so I need to look after me too. I fear he thinks I never cared or gave up….it’s actually the futherest from the truth. I want him to succeed and I knew I had to leave if he is ever to be the man I know he can be.

I have had support from my family through it all. They loved him too…thought he was the one for me and reached out to him all the time so it wasn’t lack of support from all of us.

We fell in love quickly and once he knew he had my heart (and I’m a very loyal, loving, generous person). He didn’t truly put much effort into working on a healthy relationship. I have nothing other than a few material items from our 1 1/2 together …maybe that’s a good thing…but it also makes me feel he didn’t appreciate or respect me either.

I guess my question is did I do the right thing? I love him and always will he was my first true love and I really didn’t give up on him but after telling him in a 100 different ways what was going on he never “got it”…he thinks it all came back to his weed use….yes I hate that…but there were many other things that concerned more. No education, no motivation, no job, no life plan, and I feel he needs counselling …but he says he’s fine!

I hope someone will respond. I know he is hurt but so am I.

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Paul Graves

I’m no professional, so please don’t take this as absolute.

But reading your heartbreaking post, I must say I feel you did the right thing. Sounds like he truly sucked you into his world.

In a healthy relationship you BOTH have your own large, fulfilling worlds, and you meet in the middle to create your own. At the same time, I believe you still get to keep your separate worlds.

Your favorite color may be blue, and his may be red. But in the middle, you create a purple world together. You’re still blue, he’s still red.

You must keep this in mind in the future, and now. And it’s something I’m still working on myself. I tend to get very invested someone and then in the end, become completely entrenched in their world. Feeling like a bothersome fly in their reality.

Your self, and your world, must come first. If you’d like, wait for him to visit. Wait for him to ask for an invite, but that’s where you must come from.

That’s all I can offer. Hope it was understandable to you!

I wish you peace and love.

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Tallgirl

Thank you. I am now working on my own life and realized it’s the first time I have been myself in a very long time.. I have on interest in a relationship at this point with anyone simp,y with working on myself and my life path.

I have cut all ties to my ex, simply because he was becoming very difficult to deal with. Still blaming me for not standing by him, he’d say if I loved him I would take him back no matter how much he does wrong.. in a perfect world maybe but when the person you love makes the same mistakes over and over again and doesn’t make an attempt to improve himself or even take step to communicate what’s going on it’s impossible. The lies and secrets undermine our relationship but he doesn’t see that. All he sees is I left, I didn’t stand by him anymore..apparently I’m the one the caused his weed use because I shut him out which led to his depression. This is so unfair, he shut himself out and has been depressed ever since I met him…I’m certain of this. He blame shifts all on me in a passive aggressive way. He says “I take 100 percent blame for the relationship not working”. Then he goes on to say but “you shutting me out cased it”.

He never once acknowledged that he lost my trust and not once did he truly even understand why. I still so angry with him…that is how I know it was love but I can’t go back to that ever. It’s not healthy for me. I know he is struggling but only because he isn’t getting what he wants. He says “adulting is tough”. Maybe it is but he should be looking at it that it’s exciting.

He received his first real paycheque and he’s spent the whole thing on things for himself. It told me a lot about his personality. Everything is truly about him. And it explained why he never spend anything on me…I never really mattered. I was there to look after him not the other way around..

I’m not use if he is off weed. He says he is, but he is out with his mom again so I wouldn’t know. He lied about his use all the time so I really can’t trust anything he says and for just reason I have to say.

He also goes on instagram and likes all these relationship things which I find so hurtful….he used to send them to me until I said stop. An example of what they’d say are “even if I had a 100mreasons to leave I’d have that one reason to stay and fight for you”. That is hurtful and I find so much of what I’d on the internet so toxic…..a person like my ex who is ill, will read things and then take it out of context. I don’t believe that saying is healthy anyway but when you lie and deceive the person you are suppose to love the most….how many chances do you give? I gave 3 big chances…but the third was too much to get over….and there were many other issues all the way along that I simply did let get to me. No one is perfect but I do believe if your significant other can’t even try to make adjustments when they are fully aware it hurts the other there is a problem…maybe with the relationship…but in this case I believe it’s him and the way he is. Low self esteem and a whole barrage of other insecurities.

I was the perfect girl for him because I’m tolerant, accepting and she. I trust or love I’m all in. He knew this about me and took advantage. I am independent and not a jealous type so he had it all. I do wish him well and maybe some day when the Agee goes away I can be friends with him. I know now I could never go back to him. Even if he improves himself and gets help he caused me so much pain and heartache and I don’t think I could ever trust him again.

Do you think he truly has a problem? Or was all of this in my head?

Reply
R

Tallgirl, no it’s not all in your head. You’re younger and much smarter than I was; I am in my 50’s and recently left a 26-year relationship for the same reason. Can you imagine? 26 years of THAT insanity? Shows how sick I had become. It damn near killed me. Good you got out now. I read a couple of books; “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay” and “Codependent No More” Maybe you will find some wisdom and solace in those as well. I wish you luck in the future. Stay strong.

Reply
Nimah

Hi..
I was wondering..
The author sounds quite similar to my partner.. but I am no angel.
I am an outgoing, creative, talented person who gets attention irrespective of my desire for the same.
I have been married to my husband for 4 years.. and I feel that he hates the fact that I get attention all the time..
he is an extremely quiet and reserved guy.. sometimes you won’t even notice that he is in the room..
Our relationship as a result is quite volatile..

What I want to know is that is there something that I can do to make things better.
Is this too lethal a combination?
Will things ever get better?

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Paul Graves

Sounds like you’re two different attachment types. Him more anxious attachment, and you more avoidant or secure-avoidant attachment. I’d do reasearch on attachment types and encourage him on his own to research this as well.

Maybe he needs to practice becoming more secure in his attachment (aka HIMSELF). I’ve dealt with this recently in a relationship. An anxious attachment style can be hell to live with for both parties. (And stems from low self-esteem, always needing reminders of his worth in your eyes)

Reply
Kathleen

Your question was would ever get better? If you don’t know what the problem is no it won’t and even if you do know what it is they are self-destructive I’ve been with my husband for 25 years two weeks ago I finally had enough it’s a very long story but to shorten it up I said to him one day because even as self-esteem kills him they also don’t show affection very well their love they make you just know that they love them or you got to ask him constantly and one day I said to him just off the top of my head I said if you can’t love yourself how can you love me and you turned his head and just kind of looked at me with Dunn surprise and that was the end of that and then like I said he started a fight over money and it got really bad to the point where he is very emotional and mentally abusive to me and it was like he was trying to make me look like the dirtiest bitch out there over a couple of mistakes I’ve made with money and it was bad and even more I have lost my two parents in 90 days and then the time that I needed him the most he wasn’t there and if I went to left I would have hated because of all the mean things you were saying to me he sucked the love right out of me and even preserve what I had left I had to leave and I don’t understand and didn’t understand why he was feeling that way until I read the story from him and he is everything that my husband was or is everything but it gets worse if they don’t get help I know it will good luck honey and please be careful don’t let him take you down with them it’s easy for him to do and I know you love him to death so do I it’s very destructive that’s all I know

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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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