Boyfriend has low self esteem and has never had friends

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May 20, 2024
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My boyfriend is a wonderful person but he hates himself & he's extremely lonely.

I’ve been with him a long time & he changed a lot over the yrs but he's always struggled with being himself & feeling comfortable in social situations because of perceived 'awkwardness'.

When i met him at Uni he was presenting as autistic, to a degree. As a uni house we all hung out & he was ruthlessly teased for being awkward; though it was chiding, it obv really got to him & stuck with him. He had previously been bullied at school. He often retreated to his room on a night out to cry, but I could never get him to explain; he was ashamed.

I was a friend for ~2 yrs before we started dating. Over the yrs this awkwardness lessened & with me he is now usually completely comfortable/ himself. With others he can be 'off' - that's how i describe it but i'm very aware of any changes to his behaviour/ personality because i know him so well. Thus, when he says something a bit 'awkward', I know it comes from insecurity and overthinking. This is because he is so incredibly down on himself; he thinks he is 'ugly', 'awkward' and 'no one wants to know him'; this is compounded by anxiety and health OCD, which are aspects of him that have added to a toxic shame issue. He’s really struggled to communicate his feelings for years, so it was already 4 yrs into the relationship before I knew of these issues.

He says there's 'evidence' for his opinions of self because he has never made a true friend, has always been left out & no one has looked at him longingly. Whilst i disagree, It’s hard for me to contest that he can not make friends because he is in his 30s & he still hasn't got a real friend. He believes any friend he had was on account of them knowing me & those before me now do not have much to do with him. He failed to make friends at work, and has been left out of social events by most 'friends' who made little effort with him and/ or has been discarded by them over time after all efforts to do things together have been made by him, only to be mostly shot down.

He also feels that no woman has ever really looked at him admiringly, so he 'must be ugly' because everyone gets some attention. For the record, he is attractive - not that that matters, of course. Me being his girlfriend hasn't helped change this notion because he believes i am only with him because he's a supportive boyfriend and i love him through friendship. I love who he is, and I do find him attractive. However, I struggle to show desire/ sexual attraction. Unfortunately, that's part of my sexuality; it is rare for me to feel sexual attraction, and I'm working through my own anxiety with this. I think he is brilliant but no matter what i say i cant change how he feels about himself and i cant magic up the friends he deserves.

Therapists suggest he spend time living alone - out of a relationship - because part of his issues involve struggling to be alone. He has never had any independence or lived on his own. His parents speak to him daily & I have been there constantly. I agree he probably needs to live independently & maybe he even needs to date but ofc i'd struggle with this tremendously. However, I can't let him continue on a downhill trajectory, constantly crying over how unbearable it is to live this way and how he worries it will never get better. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help him, even if it means space & temporarily moving out.

When self-esteem is so cripplingly low, and it's only gotten worse and worse, how do you help someone who can’t make friends?

What do I do to support him?
Let me put you into different perspective:
Imagine he has 20 000 friends like my EX GF, and for her them being priority over me.
When some issue arrives , always friends in front of boyfriend.
When you marry or date someone , you also marry or date that group of friends.
So be happy that your BF doesn't have one. :)
Don't make problems where problem doesn't exist. :D Female gender is so fascinating. :D
Welcome to the forum. Thx for sharing your situation.

I’m afraid that you are setting yourself up for long suffering if you continue this path of trying to be his Nurse Nightingale. Your actions are admirable, but will be fruitless and frustrating. In the long run you may also feel resentment. Your bf needs to have specific help to achieve independence and a better sense of self. You can’t do it. It is a difficult situation, but you’re suffering yourself. Your sexuality/desire doesn’t help his situation either, or yours. I can see you have great feelings for him, but I think his circumstances are out of your depth.
Why do you want him to have friends? Some people are just introverts by nature and don't feel comfortable having friends.
Plain and simple, all you can do is support him. He has to want to do it for himself or it won't work and nothing you say will change that. Encourage him and support him, but he has to do all the work.

If you push too hard, he could very well retreat into himself even more. If you don't encourage enough, he could also retreat more into himself. There's a fine line and it's hard to identify where it is. Maybe living alone would help him, maybe it wouldn't. There are support groups for literally everything in today's world. Maybe suggest finding an online one if he doesn't feel comfortable going out in person yet. Once he starts having genuine conversations with people, it could boost his self esteem enough to go out and try again.
The more you get older, the more you realize people are a$$e$ in general, so I don't understand this female obsession with: " My boyfriend needs to be social and have XXXXX friends . " - like , FAQ OF . xD
The more you get older, the more you realize people are a$$e$ in general, so I don't understand this female obsession with: " My boyfriend needs to be social and have XXXXX friends . " - like , FAQ OF . xD
Because if the only person in your life is your significant other, that's going to put strain on the relationship. You have to have some type of separate life away from them. A way to get away from each other so it's not predictable and the same thing day after day after day. That's true whether it's the girl or the guy that has no life outside their significant other. It also puts A LOT of pressure on the other person because they have to be literally everyone for them and that's not really fair to either of them.
I don't think it's the OP's job or within her power to 'fix' him or help him any more than she has.
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He's your boy-friend?

If you truly love him, and want to be with him, and want to support him: grab him by the collar (enough to surprise him a bit (maybe more than a bit, maybe to scare him a little), look into his eyes, and say, "I'm your friend you dummy! And I love you! And that's enough for me! Can that not be enough for you!?" (then after knocking some sense into him with the metaphorical slap to the ego, you soften the blow a bit with a kiss)

That's kind of the whole point of finding a partner for life... A true friend, of whom you trust more than anyone else, to spend the rest of your days with...

He's not out drinking beers with the boys and ignoring you.
Doesn't sound like he's roughing you up.
He's not out sleeping around with other ladies and dishonoring you.
He's not too busy to spend time with you because he has other social obligations.

And if you happen to be a particularly social butterfly, you can always give toning it down a bit a try. It's like the video game: Street-Fighter. Anyone who sucks at Street-Fighter, isn't going to play the game for very long if they keep getting their ass kicked. So maybe your social game is just so over-powered, that, the game isn't worth it.

I suck so bad at chess, I just don't play it much. It's an okay game. I can play a few rounds, but... generally, most people are so much better at it than me, that I don't like to play it, because I'll always lose. And the times when I do find an opponent who isn't as good as me, I just don't get that much of a kick out of beating them.

People often fail to realize, that, the social-circuit, is by and large always a competition. Guys fight over who gets the girl. Girls fight over who gets the man (or try to make their girl-friends single like them, if they have a bo, heh (the old: if I can't have it, no one will)). Scientists fight over who gets the prestige. Business types fight over who gets the profit. It's all a game, all competition.

And in all of these scenarios, if you're too good, and always win: you'll either get tired of winning, or others will cheat the game so that you lose. And if you're always losing, you'll get tired of the game, and give up.

So.. I dunno. Maybe you can figure that one out.

Get a haircut, get a paycheck, get a job, get a girl. That's life. Sounds like he has the girl, sounds like he has a job and is getting a paycheck; and if he's getting those things, it doesn't really matter if his hair is cut or not. But, maybe he just needs a haircut.

So maybe after you grab him by the collar, take him to get a haircut. Then go get some icecream and take a walk in the park, and watch the ducks. Maybe life ain't so bad. And perhaps the wrinkles will iron themselves out. Maybe not, sure. But, maybe so.


(A more general message: it may seem like I'm being over-simplistic; but, who's been deciding life is so complicated? A lot of people don't actually want to pair-bond with another person. They may have negative reasons why, (they fear it), have other obligations, or they are too self-interested, and prefer the relationship with themselves, and who and what it can afford to offer them (whether they are conscious of this or not); everyone else either wants a relationship (or thinks they do), or is unhappy in the relationship they are in (or thinks it's an unhappy thing).)
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