How to deal with husband with very low self esteem


#1

My husband of 28 years suffers from very low self esteem. As much as I have lovingly tried to help him overcome this, it has now become more difficult to be understanding towards him. This has afffected our life in many ways. It's difficult for him to be social and the few times we have been able to interact with either other parents or friends, he seems to find fault in everything. For years, all I have heard is when we make more money, have a nicer home, nicer clothes, cars etc things will change. I love my husband very much, but this is a big problem that I don't know how to cope with anymore. Your advice and prayers are deeply appreciated.


#2

"We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son." Pope JP II from the 2002 WYD homily

I've struggled with low self esteem and anxiety issues for years. I always hated going to counciling because they always told me to do the same thing: make a list of your accomplishments and read them off to yourself when you feel like beating yourself up.

However, I am really convinced this is a part of a bigger issue. I think its a part of having a very melancholic temperment and being overall very pessemistic. I'm not just critical on myself. I'm critical of others. I used to just be too busy focusing on my own flaws and beating myself up, that most of the time I didn't bother to look at other people's flaws. In fact, of the things I liked about myself, I thought it was a good thing that I was so accepting of other people. As such, it was very hard for me to start making any list, because if I started liking myself too much, my pessemism and criticism would turn its attention to other people. I'd then hear my own judgements on them and resort back to mentally beating myself up.

My advise to you is to not feed his need for praise. When a person becomes dependant on the praise of others, they actually become worse. He needs to independantly like himself and he needs to counteract his pessemism and negativity by learning to give proper thankgiving for all the blessings of his life whether its the sunny day, or the fact that he has the ability to walk, talk, has a good family, etc. I adjusted the self esteeme program for myself and just turned it into a self discipline of making a daily prayer of thankgiving. I also for awhile made sure that anyone I was having negative thoughts about that I would think of 3 things within the weak that were positive about them and thank God for those good gifts.

That said, I still struggle with my negative tendencies. The key is that you need to be there to support his good behavior when he's striving to be optimistic. If you think you're helping him by turning to him and telling him how wonderful he is to counteract what he's saying about himself, he's becoming too dependant on you and will continue to lose his motivation to do this step himself.

I hope that helped.


#3

[quote="onebzzymom, post:1, topic:215486"]
My husband of 28 years suffers from very low self esteem. As much as I have lovingly tried to help him overcome this, it has now become more difficult to be understanding towards him. This has afffected our life in many ways. It's difficult for him to be social and the few times we have been able to interact with either other parents or friends, he seems to find fault in everything. For years, all I have heard is when we make more money, have a nicer home, nicer clothes, cars etc things will change. I love my husband very much, but this is a big problem that I don't know how to cope with anymore. Your advice and prayers are deeply appreciated.

[/quote]

I feel much sympathy for your husband and for you; you seem to be in such a painful situation, and my heart goes out to you, but I have to ask about a possible source of your husband's low self-esteem: do you usually beat down on your husband verbally or insult him? Do you embarrass him in public? Do you make fun of your husband in public? Do you laugh at his ideas and willfully contradict his thoughts without any regard to his feelings? When a husband feels as if his wife does not respect, his world will inevitable crumble. A wife has the ability to emasculate and break her husband just by a mere glance/look on the face. As a wife, you must realize that you have incredible power over your husband, and a mere tone of your voice can build him up or break him down. I said that you love your husband, but do you show respect toward him, or do you find yourself scoffing at your husband. Maybe the reason why he wants more money and a nicer house is because he feels that he will earn more respect from you if he had these riches. If you want to build up your husband, make sure you that he is confirmed in knowing without a doubt that you RESPECT him. Remember that a man's mother loves him, but he wants his wife to RESPECT him. Respect is like air and water to a man. If a man is having a bad day at work, but comes home to his wife who respects him, then he can conquer any problem. Aretha Franklin may have sung "R.E.S.P.E.C.T" but it was a MAN who wrote that song.

The word respect might sound "cold" - You might feel as if the word "Respect" sounds very cold and STIFF, however, as a wife, you need to understand that men have an innate pride and when a man feels as if his wife does not respect him, his world will crumble. Again, it is important for you to recognize that respect is NOT a COLD/STIFF word, instead, respect is like water and air to your husband.

You do not need to feel as if you are "feeding his ego" or "feeding praise to him" - HOWEVER, if you love your husband, why would it be so difficult to praise him or to admire him verbally? WHY IS IT SUCH A NEGATIVE THING TO VERBALLY PRAISE OR SHOW THAT YOU ADMIRE YOUR HUSBAND? Is that bad? Admiring one's husband - is that a bad thing? **Women want their husbands to love them unconditionally - Women want to have their husband's wholehearted LOVE and women want their husbands to cherish them as if they were the treasure of that man's heart - and yet, why do I so often hear people say that women don't need to respect their husbands? **Just as a wife hungers for the wholehearted love of her husband, so also does a husband hunger for and need the respect of his wife.

Just the way you look at your husband can signal to him that you respect him. Why is respecting your husband such a bad thing? Why is it such a bad thing to praise him verbally or compliment or admire him or build him up? Is it a bad thing to show your husband that you respect and admire him? Is that bad? What if your husband shows you that he loves you so much? Is that bad? Of course not - then why is it a negative thing when a wife shows that she respects her husband? ** I am not asking you to PAMPER your husband and BABYSIT him. I am not asking you to WORSHIP HIM or BABY HIM** - I am just advising that you show him the admiration and respect that he hungers for. You are his wife, and you have so much power over him.


#4

Wow. NguyenKimPhat appears to have much to say on this subject but only really addresses one topic, and it is one which has not been confirmed by the original poster: that the sole source of her husband’s low self-esteem is not enough applause from her.

It sounds to me like depression, the brain chemistry type that might be helped by a psychiatrist who has the power to prescribe medication to ease the depression. Your husband needs attention, yes, but I believe he needs medical attention. I understand depression, I have it myself. My life dramatically changed when my doctor and I found the right combination of medications to treat bipolar disorder. I have been medicated for over 20 years and the self-loathing, despondency, anti-social behaviors, refusing to live every day that was given me - all of these things are mostly gone.

If you can get him a medical evaluation first to rule out other physical problems, see if you can then get him to consider the array of pharmaceutical and therapeutic options that are available. No one needs to live like this.

tammy57


#5

[quote="tammy57, post:4, topic:215486"]
It sounds to me like depression, the brain chemistry type that might be helped by a psychiatrist who has the power to prescribe medication to ease the depression. Your husband needs attention, yes, but I believe he needs medical attention. I understand depression, I have it myself. My life dramatically changed when my doctor and I found the right combination of medications to treat bipolar disorder. I have been medicated for over 20 years and the self-loathing, despondency, anti-social behaviors, refusing to live every day that was given me - all of these things are mostly gone.

If you can get him a medical evaluation first to rule out other physical problems, see if you can then get him to consider the array of pharmaceutical and therapeutic options that are available. No one needs to live like this.

[/quote]

Having said that, depression can be an on-going issue that improves with treatment but isn't necessarily "cured". Kind of like having a bad knee: absolutely go see an orthopedist, but don't expect your knees will be like new again with his care. To have functional knees and a high quality of life because you know how to take care of them is a more realistic goal. Likewise, treatment for depression will not give a sunny disposition to someone who never had one in the first place.

Also, I heard a priest say once that while most of our problems are psychological, the cure is almost always spiritual. There is not a medication that will make us happy while carrying around one or more of the seven deadly sins. We have to identify and make progress against our dominant faults in order to be happy, as well.


#6

I'm not comfortable speculating on the cause of his problems, but he seems to have bought into the promises of consumer society in a toxic way. He will feel better with a bigger house...nicer possessions...a more exclusive neighborhood...etc. To a certain extent, money does bring opportunity, but people who think upgrading their possessions/neighborhood by itself will make them happier are usually disappointed.

You might want to google something about the psychology and long-term effect on people who win the lottery. A lot of the time after the initial happiness wears off, they go back to their previous level of happiness and many people spend all their money and more within a few years. b/c they think the money will make them happy and it doesn't. Also a lot of people don't realize that even winning the lottery means your money is still limited, and many people have a lot of pressure to give money to family, friends, charity, etc.

I'd recommend talking to a priest first b/c this type of problem is an issue many people have b/c many of us grow up thinking it's the "good life." His issues could be anything from depression to insecurity to fearing he has not accomplished what he wants to in life and material things will help him feel better, to having grown up without much money and wanting to "succeed" as a form of security - or maybe he doesn't feel fulfilled with the non-material aspects of his life. It could be a lot of different things but this is his problem to solve for himself, although I think you getting some suggestions from a priest would be good. People who fight the acquisition tendencies (which I have to do with books, mainly) are in a way going against some of the expressed values of American society. I think a lot of people have this issue and a priest has likely seen it many times before. Maybe therapy and/or medication would help too, but I can't tell.

Best of luck to you both.


#7

Medication is not a cure-all for depression. One of my numerous therapists suggested that it would not make me "see the world through rose-colored glasses" but, that it would instead allow me to view the world, finally, through clear lenses. Empathy and love are helpful. Therapy is helpful. Prayer is helpful. Correct diet and regular exercise are also helpful. But without willingness this man will never get out of the hole.

So how does one inspire the depressed to get out of their LazyBoys and give even one of these suggestions a shot? I had to lose almost everything, including custody of my daughter, to see that I must motivate myself from within and work, work, work at it. Some folks don't need to lose everything. Maybe your priest could encourage him. Would he come to the house? The thing is, if you get him to agree to try something, it can't be "I'll start tomorrow." It has to be right that minute or momentum will be forever lost. He may withdraw from his efforts, and at that point the two of you have lost ground. So be prepared to support him in whatever he chooses. Have his walking shoes at the ready, with a shopping bag, and walk to the farmer's market, or walk down the road to get an ice cream cone. Speak to his doctor beforehand and have an appointment on the books for that very day. Plan ahead so you don't lose the ball.

"For years, all I have heard is when we make more money, have a nicer home, nicer clothes, cars etc things will change," you say. You can tell him he was right. Things have changed. And you want some things restored to their original condition, including him. Describe to him the man you loved in the beginning. And let him know that you know that man is still inside of him.

Depression can be managed, and life can be good again. It may take a different way of communicating with him, and developing a different kind of love for yourself in the process, but don't give up. Blessings, and good luck,

tammy57


#8

[quote="onebzzymom, post:1, topic:215486"]
My husband of 28 years suffers from very low self esteem. As much as I have lovingly tried to help him overcome this, it has now become more difficult to be understanding towards him. This has afffected our life in many ways. It's difficult for him to be social and the few times we have been able to interact with either other parents or friends, he seems to find fault in everything. For years, all I have heard is when we make more money, have a nicer home, nicer clothes, cars etc things will change. I love my husband very much, but this is a big problem that I don't know how to cope with anymore. Your advice and prayers are deeply appreciated.

[/quote]

On Christian radio this week, I heard a female conference speaker lead off with the joke that a woman's position in marriage is very difficult. She has to prop up her husband on one side. and is supposed to lean on him on the other side. :)

Seriously, though, I have tremendous sympathy for you, since due to my own low self-esteem issues, I put too much psychological burden on my wife for 25 years. (Less now than in the past, though, I think.) It is definitely an unfair burden to have placed on you.

I would urge you to go to counseling together and individually if needed. For me, individual counseling has helped me become a more stable and self-sufficient person. Sadly, my wife has always refused to go to couples counseling with me, but I think it would have much more quickly helped us straighten out imbalances that have taken us many years to slowly improve on our own. (If I had it to do over again, I would have made "willingness to seek counseling when needed" as a required part of our marriage vows. :) )

Praying for us all,
- curl


closed #9

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.