Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

When You Love a Man With Low Self-Esteem – 9 Things to Keep in Mind (by Paul Graves)


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.

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Thank you for this article,it helped me to understand why every other week I’m thrown away by this guy I truly love and understand its him not me like how can loving someone be bad? How being positive be bad yet I’m always feeling like I’m being put in the you messed up zone 🙁 I will try to keep loving this guy but it’s really idk I hope he will come to his senses


Don’t have the option to “run like hell” to get out of the relationship. Been married 35 years. Husband just turned this way in the last 3-4 years but it is “spot-on” with how he is acting. So what can I do besides leave? Please help me.


I’m tired. I been there. 17 years and more of the same. I can’t do this anymore. I lifted complimented sacrificed loved forgave taught listened learned waited left returned and for what. I feel myself turning into him. Being with someone like this is a burden. You will waste your youth and have nothing to show for it. Get out early ppl like this never change. They will always blame everything on you. The cheating disregard lies manipulation disrespect hurt abuse mental emotional physical deceitfulness and you will never be enough. Leave NOW. No what ifs or maybes or one day it could… it’s not. I promise it doesn’t. Save yourself and your own self esteem. Our last fight was a few days ago it ended with a miscarriage. He will never know that. You have to end well before this point.

Unknown Female

The article is written very well I I don’t know how to say this but I am a woman and I felt like he was talking about me! I was trying to find out what’s going on with my man because we have been together 11 years and he just doesn’t have the same passion for me like he used to, but I do I still want him as much as he did the first day we met and I don’t know I don’t think it’s him now I think it’s me. I do know somethings wrong with this… I’m really confused My man matches up with some of those things but not all of them I am kind of match up with more than he does and that scares me! I wanted to reach out to the author but none of his Instagram or Twitter links work. there’s more to it than that there was a bump in the early part of our relationship because of his previous marriage and it spilled over into our relationship and it hurt me really badly as it might sound silly to some people but I don’t like pornography and he did that behind my back When I found out he lied but I had evidence and since then he admitted but I don’t know, to me it feels like all the transgressions in the world that I could ever do to him would never ever make up that one he did to me. Since then we’ve had many experiences with that stuff and I’m confused about that too I think its just making me hate myself more and you know drugs and stuff blah blah sound crazy I know I don’t care this is how I feel I talk to him about things because I want to know I don’t want him looking at other women at home because I don’t like him and like that I can’t bring myself to because I want him so much but I’m Sorry I’m just really emotional right now I would like someone to contact me I wanted to speak with the author because maybe just maybe he would understand me even though I’m a woman I don’t know it breaks my heart to think I don’t know I have high standards And I’m probably a damn hypocrite but yeah….help Anyway it’s really long story but anyone who wants to talk to me I’ll be completely honest with you about everything so you’ll understand my side and maybe you can help me I just want him to want me and be happy and I guess that that’s what I want you know To lie down at night and for him to grab me and hold me close like he used to I have extremely extremely high sex drive and I suppress it all the time I wait for him sometimes I cant.. I don’t like the idea of him masturbating because I feel like he’s withholding for me but I could do it all day long and still have him come home and I’m ready it’s awful he can go months withholding from me So now I’m thinking he’s doing that behind my back and other stuff to I can’t find anything ever paranoid about it I guess my brain just wants me to go with it because I’m not getting enough attention that’s probably not helping things I hope someone can relate. I apologize if this sounds awful my writing that is I voice typed it because it’s a lot. Please don’t contact me if you’re just gonna make fun of me only contact me if you really want to talk about what’s wrong with me!?!?

First Love

My boyfriend of 7 years has very low self esteem. He told me from the very beginning that he never felt he was listened to by his family. We’ve had our ups and downs but we never broke up, until a few days ago when he told me he wanted to break up. In the beginning of our relationship, he has seen me as someone who listens to him, someone he could confide his inner thoughts, someone he could talk to logically without him being judged. I was there for him when he was at his lowest point, when he ran away from home because his father insulted him. His greatest insecurity was that he was far behind because he of the 6years he lost that he didn’t finish college at he right age. I helped him survive college and even did some of his homework and helped with his thesis. As our relationship got longer, I sensed that he had that need to control. He is a nagging partner and when he does that, I become emotional. He said I was too sensitive. I should listen to the content of what he’s saying instead of the way he says it. To me his words come across as insulting. But when I calm down, I know he made sense. This has been going on for quite a while. I guess he was right all along. Now he feels he couldn’t talk to me anymore without hurting my feelings. He grew tired and has confessed that he does still love me but the feelings were fading which is why he wanted to break up. He also has a crush at work and one time asked our mutual friend who would he choose, me or that girl. He told me he wanted to break up because if he stayed, he might make a sin. I asked him to reconsider. He gave me another chance but told me he doesn’t know how long he will last. However, he is growing colder. He doesn’t text me as much anymore, even before he mentioned breaking up, he doesn’t indulge in conversations about us. All he talks about is his bike. He said he is not 100% sure about me and that he doesn’t know what he wants. he said he had no plans on replacing me with his crush since he has not even achived anything in his life yet. No house, no savings, just his bike. He is a wonderful man, he treated me so good and I don’t want to lose him. I believe I failed him so many times. I want to do everything I can to save us as he is worth keeping. What should I do so he would see me the way he used to? The one who he can rely on, the one he fell in love with. What should I do to make him see that the love he has for me is still worth fighting for? We are each other’s first relationship.


A guy like that gave me a panic attack and made me feel breathless. Nope! Run for the hills. Think about yourself. He can try and fix himself on his own.


Wow, this is extremely helpful for the situation that I am in. My ex boyfriend liked me for a whole year before I was the one to ask him out first (I wasn’t even sure that I liked him!). We took things very slow, and he told me straight up that he didn’t feel like he was good enough to be with someone like me. He had been hurt in the past by girls who basically just used him and cheated on him. He also said that he was very afraid that he was going to screw it up. We started dating and it was amazing right from the beginning. We had so much fun with each other and we were very excited about the future. But, after some time passed, the sparks started to fade. He got mono, and basically used that as an excuse to slowly dip out of my life. He blamed it on the fact that we didn’t have a connection, that I needed to be better at asking questions, and that he had lost feelings for me. He also told me that he needed someone who was more confident. I remember taking the blame for the whole mess and feeling like I was the one that wasn’t good enough, but in reality he was just projecting his insecurities onto me. He felt shameful for being sick, lacking energy, and not having the ability to be the perfect boyfriend that he believed that I deserved. I always tried to reassure him in the relationship that I valued him so much, reminded him of his true worth, and sticking by his side when times were tough. It was such an emotional rollercoaster for me. Eventually, he broke up with me because he felt like he couldn’t give me what I deserved. We both went home for summer after college. Four months later, I reach out to him to ask to meet up, and I get very cold and short responses. It’s sad, because there is SO much potential for such a good relationship. However, he is not dealing with his insecurities well. I see him around from a distance sometimes and we have mutual friends, so it’s very difficult. Of course I miss him a lot, but part of me knows that a relationship with him cannot blossom right now. I just want people who are going through the same thing to not feel alone. You can give him everything and try to make him feel loved, but he can only do that for himself. The best thing to do is just to stay mature about it and to not villanize him for making you feel like you weren’t good enough for him. It has all to do with him and nothing to do with you. I know deep down that he cares about me, he just doesn’t know how to handle this right now. Learning slowly but surely to be okay with moving on 🙂


I have just come out of a relationship of 8 years where I know I have suffered terribly at the hands of a potential Narcissist or low self esteem sufferer.
He has gradually drunk more and more, taken drugs and spent all his own money on them. He cheats and never contributes financially, I was even bringing his son up, paying for everything. He would go straight to the pub after work and would never return early to spend time with me. I spent so much time alone.
Once I asked him kindly if he would take the children (mine) to school, he hit the roof, another I asked him if we could have sex later on, he went mental at me because I didn’t say make love. He was emotionally abusive, if I checked my phone he would go mad and had massive hang ups about my ex’s as we were amicable for the kids. He moved down to where I lived so we could be together but as soon as we moved in together he would kick off at the least little thing. Once I walked into another room to light a candle and he went berserk! It was like walking on eggshells all the time, the children, including his suffered enormously.
I would lose my rag back, as I am a strong independent woman with a career, but he resented my work and would kick off if I was working to try and better myself. His family didn’t realise what he was like as he would act differently in front of them, his mother became abusive towards me when I tried to talk to her about it.
I worked so hard to please him every time I thought he would be happy, he would move the goal posts. Small things would make him kick off, if the children made a sarky comment he would bang on about respecting elders etc. But he treated me so disrespectfully. I went in and had to have a hysterectomy, when I came home from the op he shouted at me because my mum came over to stay for a few days to help, so he could go back to work.
I spent a fortune on him, tried my best with Christmas’ and always treated him to a lovely weekend away for his birthday. I adored him, but all he ever said was that he didn’t feel loved? Eventually he cheated and refused to come back, each time we had fought and been apart or moved out, he always wanted to reconcile. But this time he is saying different, he has turned it round to say that he will always love me, that I am a strong person and driven and he needs to be that way too and find himself again. That I must have self belief and hold my head up high as I haven’t done anything wrong? This tactic is new and so I have had to cut him off completely, because I feel as he is cheating he thinks he wants to now be with her as she is flattered by him. But she too in time will know the real him, he is a dangerous man and sometimes could be physical through drink. But never acknowledged it or admitted when he was wrong, everything is my fault and always was. I am now left devastated and hurt, with little left to give. He was an abuser and will continue to be forever, a user. Until he had, had enough. Very unfair. We could of been so happy, I used to take pride in cooking dinners, specially for him. They would either go in the bin or he would eat it at 11pm when in from the pub. I do not know what more I could have done for him, I gave him everything I could, he never felt love and now I am left feeling desolate that I cannot show it in the way I should?


Emptiness and a false self/image that protects the wounded/fragile inner self is indicative of a Narcissistic Personality. Do not be confused in thinking narcissism is loving the self. Its actually the opposite. Read about it.
You can not love someone with NPD enough. They have an deep wound that needs healed before they can learn to love the themselves much less anyone else. They need a qualified therapist. Stay away from men like this or prepare to loose your soul. Just because someone “doesnt mean to” hurt you, doesnt mean the hurt is okay. Walk away. And stay away!


This article was such an eye-opener! I ordered the book recommended, one for him and one for me.
I can see why someone would think that my boyfriend is a narcissistic, self-centered man. But he’s not. He is deeply troubled, and he has, as he alone admitted many demons to fight with. Depression, insomnia, a troubled childhood, all added up and created the man he is today. And what a man he is! Truly! He is wonderful, but he cannot see it. If I compliment him, he recoils immediately. If I tell him I miss him and I love him, he replies on a dry tone , “what’s there to miss?” And I smile and start all over again. I told him he better get used to it, because our opinion of him do not match, but that that does not make me wrong. I see what I see, and I adore what I see.
At times I feel he tests me. At times I feel he pushes, and pushes to see if I will leave him like the others. I told him I’m not going anywhere. His smile was bitter. They are just words, I said. Yes, he reply. But time will prove me right, I continued.
I am light. He is in the darkness, and he doesn’t know how, and doesn’t want to leave there. But I’ll persist. I’ll teach him trust and the power of true love. Unconditional love. I have so much love to give and he needs so much love.
We are not teens. We’re both in late 40s.
This trouble man, this man haunted by a dozen of demons is the love of my life, and I’ll stand by him while he finds his way to the light. “It’s his mess, I’m the messenger.”


Your words resonate so much with me, thank you lightness! That is how I perceive our relationship, but sometimes I doubt my ability. My love is too strong for my broken man to give up on him in hard times. I am realising that breathing space always helps to gain re-balance.


Thank you so much for posting this…I’m in the exact boat with my man…I see the wonderful man he could be that he doesn’t see and he pushes me away in every way he can think of…it hurts me tremendously, but I don’t want to not can give up on him! He has lived in and embarrassed his darkness because it’s safer to him, but I so truly want him to finally see the light of true, unconditional love that I have for him so he may finally feel true love, comfort and security….I love him with my entire being! Through the hardship and pain I have gone through with him, hasn’t waived my complete love for him…I pray he will see and embrace that fact one day…


I had to let him go.
I am broken. I am just a shadow of who I’ve been.
He pushed and pushed. Him losing his job was the last drop in a glass full of depression. He said he cannot be in a romantic relationship because he is no good for anybody.Wants to go back to the ocean where he feels happy. I was never given a chance. Never considered as an alternative. Just an accident. I asked him to stay, to make it together. I told him I don’t care about his income or lack thereof. I just wanted him. To get old with him. I asked him to marry me. I’ve never done that before and never will again.
But, no. He wants his ocean.
I’m crying as I’m writing this.
I had to let him go because that’s what he wanted. It was I who unplugged the relationship because it was alive because of me alone. He left me trying to figure things out alone.
Never before have I tasted betrayal.
He took the freedom I gave him and shut me off entirely. No response to my messages. As if I never existed.
I am not sure I will ever recover from this. I am a resilient woman, but now I am struggling with mild depression and insomnia.
Somehow I believe that I haven’t seen the end of it, but I know that that’s just the voice of hope. I feel as if we’re united in a unique, undeniable way. I don’t know how to deal with this loss because in my mind, heart and soul, this is not over. So I’m in hell.
The love I still feel, all of it, I am sharing it around all those in my life. My children, to begin with. Sometimes I feel I could pick up a rock from the side of the road, kiss it and tell it “I love you.” That rock perhaps would warm up to me, to the heat of my hands and lips, but not him. How sad is that?
I just wish he will be happy, that he will find himself.
My wings are broken.
On my finger there is a ring he put there. A claddagh. I’m his so the ring will stay there.


I AM his Mary. And I’ll never let him down because I love him so. I am an adult woman in her late 40s, not a child, and this man is so wonderful and so tormented. I am telling him every day that he’s everything I ever wanted, and he fights me when I say it, just like described in the article.
I am enough light to pull him through and out of his darkness. Love conquers all, and I will NEVER give up on him, not I will let him do that to himself. I’ll remain his anchor into light and reality.
He’s so dark and I am so light. I have so much to give, and he needs so much!
Above all, I know he loves me. That’s all I need to know to keep me going and stay strong when he’s kicking and punching at me in a metaphorical way. His wings are broken. Mine would break without him, so…until he’ll get back on his feet, I’ll be here.


I would like to be like you but I do not know if he will allow me to do so, I feel he will never even look at himself to realise what is wrong, he just says I will never change


That’s what they say. It’s your fault you wont change. You will never get validated if you are wrong you will ne punished excessively by depriving you of the one thing you need the most, ie if you need and like emotional connection with him he will ignore you. You like sex he will reject you. Whatever his go to is to “punish you” however if he is wrong the whole narrative will be changed so somehow somewhere in there “you” are wrong and therefore punished accordingly. Over time you weaken, feel a shell of who you were and you become even more powerless. It isnt a relationship. Those are two way streets. Thos is control and abuse


Run, run as fast as you can ! And never look back! Low self esteem? Really ? All that to treat someone crap ? Low self esteem is never a valid reason to treat anyone like crap. Once again , it’s all about him. Sounds like Narcissism. Feeling sore for someone never makes things better. It only perpetuates their behaviour. You become an enabler and actually feed his low self esteem. A guy with low self esteem needs to volunteer somewhere where he gets over himself.


And what if it still leaves you (Mary) feeling not good enough? I am a Mary and 10 years I have supported my partner by using reflections, understanding issues and going to a counsellor because of the difficulties he suffers through transitions of commitment… 10 years later I still have no child or marriage. It’s painful because I feel like somehow I have failed too because I loved him.

Heather B

And what if Mary also has a low self esteem? Now she is suicidal because the person she poured her life into still can’t show her love. She felt worthless before and now she is even more hopeless. I am Mary.


I am the Mary. Just sent this to the guy I’ve been seeing. Poor boundaries on his part. He is intelligent but somehow has all the traits you mentioned. He asserts himself but gives no room for me to say what I want. Purely a physical relationship to him after being hurt to many times I suppose. Let’s face it, we are both divorced and hurt is a common feeling. To take it slow and easy would be ideal but this was not what this person wanted. I walked away. The absence has been riveting. I wanted a relationship without all this drama. Its like he’s a teenager still.



I feel like I can relate to Mary a lot in this article. My question is, whats the right kind of help to get? My man just told me he has had low self esteem his whole life and just recently got kicked out of the Air Force. He decicded to become a wildland firefighter. Recently I found some porn on his phone and asked him what that was all about. Apparently, after some digging into the argument, I found out it was some girls from his fire crew told him to look it up. Once I found that out I flipped out and asked why I wasnt enough for him. Now hes opening up about his low self esteem… I’m about to get married to this guy….. What is the right thing for us to do???? All I want is for him to be happy but I just feel lost and dont uderstand how to help.


I would definitely hold off on that marriage. The last thing you want to do is get into a legal binding contract with someone who has low-self esteem. Marriage will only make things worse. Call off the wedding for now. Help him get the counseling he needs. Do things together that could boost his self-esteem. Have more fun together. Get him smiling more. But until then, do NOT marry him.


I have been ‘Mary’ myself, and read this article and totally convinced myself that this was what I had experienced, but then I read about Narcissists and now believe myself and Mary were actually dating Narcissists…

Dana P

Amazing article! It’s 1000000% on point! Thank you for sharing. Provides light to someone who has been searching struggling and trying to understand her mans behavior of 10 years. I was that “Mary” Nothing made sense until I read this! Thank you


My boyfriend ( Well not sure of our status now ) is this also like this, I am hurting and I am scared to send him this article because I do not even know if he will accept it or even take time to read it 🙁

paula m

I have experience this for the last year. For this author to tell the woman that it is her responsibility to love, compliment, and make the man feel good about himself even though he treats her with no respect and like a piece of garbage….well this author is completely wrong. Shame on him Men like this need to have a wake up call and GROW UP…act like a real man. You can call it anything you want to but that is exactly what it is…men acting like little boys. I agree with all the women that say..Mary should run like hell…life is too short to pacify some grown man. Lol There are plenty of grown men out there.


Thanks so much for this article. It really hit home. I am definitely the guy with low self-esteem, and trying to take the time now to make the changes and accept myself for who I am. I have spent years running from unpleasant thoughts and feelings about myself, but have come to accept that love from someone else isn’t the answer, no matter how amazing they are. Nor does it reside in all of the other areas that offer the illusion of being the answer. Can I ask anyone what books/resources are out there to help work on this process?


I have been married for 30 years to a man who has suffered from low self esteem and from depression. I am crying as I read this article for this hit the nail on the head describing my husband. He had a terrible childhood and he was born premature which can relate to some of his emotional issues. I have been by his side and tried to lift him up, listen to him and be patient. In the last two years, a woman at his work has been paying a lot of attention to him. He has told me about the things she has said to him. I took it as him trying to get attention from me by getting me jealous. Well it worked and I questioned him about her. At one point, I asked him if she was still paying attention to him, and his response was that she was leaving him alone because she knew he was married. I could sense that he was pulling away, but I had been for several years too. I was exhausted trying to walk on eggshells around him not knowing what mood he would be in. I was getting to the point that I just couldn’t take sticking by his side. I was tired of him being selfish and him not being respectful of my feelings and my emotional needs not being met. Last summer he had a big blow out in front of my 3 adult children. They said “mom, you need to be happy and we can see it’s affecting your health by staying with dad, so we are ok if you leave him”. I realized that I had been unhappy for so long with my husband, but deep down inside I knew there was a good and decent man. I think if he would have married anyone else, he would have been divorced long ago and probably remarried several times by now. I’m fiercely loyal and devoted at the expense of my happiness. So long story short, he came forward and admitted to having an emotional affair with this women for the last 2 years and the last 6 months of it became sexual. I was devastated and thought “well here’s my excuse to file for divorce”. We went and are still going to therapy and we are both religious. With help from therapy and God, our old marriage has literally died. He has remorse, regret and such guilty feelings for what he did. He was in a dark place and she paid attention to him. She preyed on him. He’s a very nice looking man and he’s in his late 50’s and she was only 5 years younger, but it gave him confidence I suppose to have someone take an interest in him. He has never blamed me for him straying. He knows he had a choice. He knows he could have asked for us to go to therapy, but he was prideful and didn’t reach out to me like he could have. He told me he admires me for all these years and knows he took me for granted as well. He now has been nothing short of being a husband that I always wanted. He compliments me, he’s open with how he feels, he asks me what my needs are, he puts me first and he’s been 100% accountable for everything. He knows he came a fraction of an inch of losing me and losing his kids. They have had a very hard time with this. They are all going to therapy. They are young adults and only one is married, so this will affect their future relationships and their trust. My husband has cried on a daily basis at first, now it’s once a week when we talk about things. He is ashamed at his actions and feels that when he was having the affair he wasn’t himself. He said the physical intimacy with the other woman made him feel temporarily good, but at the same time he felt bad and guilty about the whole thing. He never had feelings for her, just a friend who could listen. She is in a relationship, not married, and is not happy with it. So she went after my husband. My husband said he never would initiate an affair, but this woman came on strong to him and would drop hints to how she liked him. It got to the point where she would drop hints to him about her giving him blow jobs, etc. Well that just sucked him right in. My husband and I have set boundaries now. If anyone from the opposite sex says something to you that you can’t tell your spouse, then it’s inappropriate and we must discuss it. He knows that if he doesn’t continue to stay a changed man, then I won’t put up with another 30 years of his actions. I’m 57 and I’m not going to live my life being miserable again. I really do believe he will stay this way for the rest of our lives. He and our therapist said it was as if he was asleep and he hit a brick wall and realized what he could lose. Everything in his life literally. So by him having an affair has literally saved our marriage. Weird I know, but he has woken up from this depression and having another woman want him, has given him some self esteem I suppose. This was a great article to help me understand his life and how he has felt for so long. We actually feel like we are newly married. Our sex life has been like a newly married couple as well. Life is great! We are open and honest and will continue to be deeply connected by loving each other, giving constant affection, open communication and by God by our side we will have divine help!


Reading through the comments, I am concerned that this posting has potential to reinforce a reader’s commitment to an abusive relationship that they may be in (hoping that their partner will change). The behaviour described here (i.e., the man with low self esteem) is truly scary and not the usual stuff expressed by individuals with low self esteem.


I just stumbled on this article after breaking up with my boyfriend, my first love. I’m almost eighteen. Everything was going smoothly. Until something changed in the past month, a lack in communication when he promised to or just not reaching out at all to see me. And he knows what he’s doing. But can’t pull himself to change or get help. And it hurts like hell. Hardest thing to let go from that and tell myself it’s over. I’ve been crying myself to sleep, feeling so helpless and broken hearted…no one will ever replace him. I just hope he comes around one day in the future.


Dear Adam,
I don’t know your situation …. but maybe you just need to find Mary. As stated by the poster he found his marry and in the end was a better man for it. Marry stuck by him because she truly loved him. That says worlds about a person. She was willing to withstand the storm because she loved him in the end even though he didn’t realize he could ever love himself. In this case Marry’s boat didn’t sink. She was his life raft.


Any lady who relates to the Mary should run like hell. His misery is not your responsibility. Don’t let two boats sink in one flood.

Open your heart

Adam you may find that one who dose not sink there boat with you. But instead helps you mend your boat so you can both sail away together stronger in the end.


This article has really helped me understand ways I can improve in future relationships with others and avoid hurting loved ones through my own experiences with low self-esteem. As a nineteen-year old young man who has witnessed his own insecurities at work, I am glad to have found this article before engaging in more serious, long-term relationships with others. Throughout reading this, I felt on several occasions that I could relate to the narrator, and I am saddened to know that this is a reality in the lives of so many women. This article has given me perspective as a guide on how to understand my own behaviors can affect others, although I know that this is not an ultimate fix. Thank you for sharing this story!!


This article makes so much sense. I am the man with low self esteem. What this article did for me was clear up my relationship is struggling and that it is not my wifes responsibility to fix it. Sure i hurt inside but it is up to me to change that. It is not her responsibility and that her behavior change is because of my rotten behavior. I love her so much and cant stand the thought of losing her. So seeing the things i do that need to change is very helpfull. This is my fight not hers. And her love is the prize for coming out on top not her obligation to make me feel better.

Side eye for you

It’s great to see you recognize that it’s your responsibility. Many want someone else to make them feel good or to help them love themselves. Love you taking ownership because so much narcissistic deflection happens… this is refreshing.


Just came here after a scene with my boyfriend during which he looked at me with undiluted hate in his eyes and actually clenched his fists and jaw repeatedly whie I was asking him what was going on. He is going through a period of joblessness and deep depression and is putting a lot of the blame on me. I can deal with a lot, but being looked at with hate in his eyes just hurts so much. I don’t know if he can possibly love me if he acts like this. And of course, I wonder if it’s my fault and I’m just flawed and unlovable beyond repair. I am heartbroken.


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Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.

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Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefull Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll make plenty - it’s one of the ways they’ll learn and grow. We won’t always be able to love them out of a bad decision, but we want to be the ones they come to when the mess unfolds. 
When they get it really wrong, they’ll know it. They’ll also know exactly what we think. Of course we’ll be tempted to remind them over and over of what they’ve done and the fallout from that, but it will be useless. There is no new wisdom in telling them ‘I told you so’, and it also runs the risk of switching them off to our influence and guidance at a time they need it most. 
There will be wisdom in the mess for sure, and the best way to foster the discovery is to make a safe space for this to happen - and there is no safer space than in their connection with you. 
When we prioritise connection above lectures, criticism, or judgement, we clear the path for self-reflection. This is where the magic happens. When they feel safe with us, and free from shame or disconnection, we have enormous power to facilitate growth - ‘Can you tell me what happened? I know you’re a great kid and I’m wondering what made this feel like a good decision? What can you do differently next time? I know you didn’t mean for this to happen but it has, and I’m wondering how you might put things right? Do you need my help with that?’ When we strip it back to bare, discipline was always meant to be about teaching, and this will never happen when there is shame or when they feel disconnected from us. You are their everything. They don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to disappoint you - but they will, lots of times. 
With every one of their bad decisions is an opportunity to guide them towards growth, but only if we keep them close and hold their hearts gently amidst the breakage. When we keep their hearts open to us, they will open their minds and their mouths too. They will talk and they will listen, and they will know that even when their behaviour is ‘questionable’, they are our everything too.

Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll make plenty - it’s one of the ways they’ll learn and grow. We won’t always be able to love them out of a bad decision, but we want to be the ones they come to when the mess unfolds.
When they get it really wrong, they’ll know it. They’ll also know exactly what we think. Of course we’ll be tempted to remind them over and over of what they’ve done and the fallout from that, but it will be useless. There is no new wisdom in telling them ‘I told you so’, and it also runs the risk of switching them off to our influence and guidance at a time they need it most.
There will be wisdom in the mess for sure, and the best way to foster the discovery is to make a safe space for this to happen - and there is no safer space than in their connection with you.
When we prioritise connection above lectures, criticism, or judgement, we clear the path for self-reflection. This is where the magic happens. When they feel safe with us, and free from shame or disconnection, we have enormous power to facilitate growth - ‘Can you tell me what happened? I know you’re a great kid and I’m wondering what made this feel like a good decision? What can you do differently next time? I know you didn’t mean for this to happen but it has, and I’m wondering how you might put things right? Do you need my help with that?’ When we strip it back to bare, discipline was always meant to be about teaching, and this will never happen when there is shame or when they feel disconnected from us. You are their everything. They don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to disappoint you - but they will, lots of times.
With every one of their bad decisions is an opportunity to guide them towards growth, but only if we keep them close and hold their hearts gently amidst the breakage. When we keep their hearts open to us, they will open their minds and their mouths too. They will talk and they will listen, and they will know that even when their behaviour is ‘questionable’, they are our everything too.