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6 Signs You Love A Man (Who Doesn't Love Himself)

Love & Relationships

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 a man doesn't love himself?

6 Signs Your Man Doesn't Love Himself

1.He Wants You to Be a Fan More Than a True Friend.

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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.

2.He Has Absolutely No Problem Wasting Time.

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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.

3.He’s Down for Sex but Hates Intimacy.

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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.

4.You Can Never Do Too Much—And He Can Never Do Too Little.

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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.

5.He Doesn’t Deal with His Past.

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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.

6.He Wants to Look Good More Than BE GOOD.

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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.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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