I've been in the relationship game for a long time now. If I'm not going through my own stuff, I'm coaching someone else or I'm writing about matters of the heart.
Through my years of experience and observation, there's one thing I'm certain about—in spite of all of the information that's offered on relationships and even self-love, if there's one thing that we don't see nearly enough intel on, it's what to do if you love someone who doesn't happen to love themselves (very much).
What made me do research on this topic is, I used to be that girl. When it comes to loving a man who doesn't love himself, although I am not a woman who refers to men as "dogs," the best way to illustrate where I'm coming from is dealing with a stray canine.
Have you ever seen one walking along the side of the road looking beaten, hungry and worn? You feel so sorry for it that you want to help in some way, but when you reach out to feed or even pet it, it goes on the attack?
It's not that it's a "bad dog." It's that it's so damaged and has been used to suffering on its own for so long, it doesn't know how to react to well-intentioned treatment. Sadly, neglect and mistreatment are what it's used to. This is what loving someone who doesn't love themselves is like. And, I used to do it…a lot.
What broke my pattern?
First, it was revisiting one of my favorite definitions of love; the Love Chapter that's in the Bible (I Corinthians 13). When someone loves anything or anyone, including themselves, they are patient and kind. They are not rude, jealous, or easily provoked. They love truth, they are optimistic and as far as failure goes, it's simply not an option.
Keeping that in mind, when two people are in a healthy and loving relationship, they will mutually express love in this same fashion. They are patient and kind with each other because they are first patient and kind with themselves. They aren't easily provoked and they don't fail each other because first they are even-tempered and committed to doing what's best for themselves.
It took me years (almost times infinity) to get to the point and place of really understanding and embracing this. Now that I've learned how to love myself, it's easier to detect how—and why—I fell for some men who didn't love themselves very much, even as they were in the midst of claiming to love me.
What are some of the telling signs?
He Wants You to Be a Fan More Than a True Friend.
Recently, I was sharing with someone that the more you love yourself, the more you want to become the best you that you can be. This includes being open to receiving advice and even constructive criticism that will help you grow. It also includes being aware of your weaknesses and doing what's required to strengthen them. Self-love knows that self-awareness leads to self-improvement; it's willing to do whatever it takes to evolve, even if it's challenging, at times.
People who don't love themselves? They are so insecure that their definition of love is receiving constant affirmations and compliments. In fact, the moment you bring up something about them that they don't want to hear, they take it as you displaying a lack of love rather than you doing what you can to help them to win.
Bottom line, a man who doesn't love himself isn't looking for a lover who's a true friend. They'd much rather you be their fan (or is it groupie?); they want you to be someone who is constantly enamored with them—even if that means overlooking things they are doing that are unhealthy, immature, counterproductive, or all of the above.
He Has Absolutely No Problem Wasting Time.
One of my favorite quotes by author M. Scott Peck is, "Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it."
A man who doesn't love himself tends to make decisions "in the moment". Meaning, he doesn't really think—or even care really—about how what he says and does will impact his future. So long as he's having fun or it's scratching some sort of immediate itch, it's all good.
And since he doesn't care very much about his own future, he's not too pressed about yours. He will pull you into his randomness and recklessness because time is not a factor. Consequences rarely are either.
He’s Down for Sex but Hates Intimacy.
One of the most intimate relationships I've ever had, we never even kissed. What's interesting is that he propositioned me many times over the years and I know many women he's been with. To him, his "hit list" wasn't that big of a deal. Oh, but get that guy to talk about some innermost fears or desires and suddenly he was all kinds of uncomfortable. He can get physically naked, but emotionally? Not so much. To me, that revealed a lot.
When a man truly loves himself, he doesn't just want to share his anatomy. He wants to give all of himself and he expects the same in return.
When a man doesn't, he settles for sex-only situations because he's too afraid to let someone into his heart so that he can have a multi-dimensional and lasting relationship.
You Can Never Do Too Much—And He Can Never Do Too Little.
One of the reasons why a healthy relationship consists of a whole man and a whole woman is because they are giving to one another out of their abundance, not what they lack.
Unfortunately, a lot of us miss this important fact. Instead, we end up being severely malnourished (especially emotionally) because rather than looking for someone to complement us, we are in a desperate search for someone who will fill our voids.
Not loving yourself? That's one of the greatest voids there is. If you decide to love a man who is already empty in this area, the more you give in in order to satisfy him, the more he will take…and take…and take. What's worse is because he doesn't have much love for himself, he won't have much—if any of it all—to give to you either.
He'll take a lot—and give little. Constantly.
He Doesn’t Deal with His Past.
People don't come out of the womb not knowing how to love themselves. A low self-image was either modeled to them or there was damage in their past that broke them somehow. A close-to-home example is a man I once deeply loved who was severely-wounded due to quite a bit of childhood abuse that he experienced.
Whenever I tried to get him to talk about it, he'd dismissively say, "I don't live in the past." Oh, but based on his commitment-phobia, erratic temper, and the extreme co-dependency that he displayed when it came to his grown family members who always wanted him to take care of them – I think the past was exactly where he dwelled.
Since he wouldn't go to therapy (although several of us recommended it), he remained constantly in his toxic patterns. He also seemed pretty emotionally stunted. Watching him suffer in that way taught me that when a man loves himself, he is proactive about his healing. When he's not, as Iyanla Vanzant would put it, he'll fight you – and anyone else who tries to help him out – for it. So much that if he has to remain stuck in the past to the point where he can't build a future with someone else, so be it.
He Wants to Look Good More Than BE GOOD.
This one is HUGE. I recently watched a pretty insightful video from a self-love coach on make-up. She wasn't against wearing it, but her perspective was: It isn't something we should be so dependent on that we can't show our true selves. We shouldn't hide behind the mask of cosmetics.
Guys may not wear Maybelline, but some "hide" behind their looks, their physique, their charm—even their platform. So long as their IG gives off the appearance that they are living their best life, they are OK with being emotionally erratic, having toxic patterns, and breaking hearts left and right offline. As long as their appearance is on point, their character is not that big of a deal.
A man who loves himself is too busy being a good person to be posting selfies every day. He's focused on treating one woman right instead of being out here running through randoms. He wants to treat people right rather than charm the pants off of them.
A man who doesn't…does the opposite.
Am I saying that you shouldn't love a man who doesn't love himself? It's more like, if you decide to take something like that on, you shouldn't expect to be in a healthy relationship with that kind of individual. I'll take it further and recommend just being friends until they do some serious self-work.
Why? You wouldn't expect grape juice from an orange, would you? Along those lines, you're only playin' yourself if you expect someone to give you what they don't have. In order for a man to give you healthy love, he needs to love himself in a healthy way first.
Love yourself enough that if you recognize any of the signs that I just shared that you don't ignore them.
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