My husband has very low self esteem, and he projects that onto me by verbal abuse. He always feels bad after, and wants to make up. When I ask him why he does this, he says it is fun. Please help me understand what I can do to help him stop.
Thank you for reaching out to our team here at Insight Psychological.
You mentioned that your husband has low self-esteem, so since I’m not sure about the criteria you used to arrive at that conclusion, I would like to just explain some of the behaviours characteristic of a person who has low self-esteem.
Persons who have a low self-esteem usually:
- Say negative things about themselves which manifests in self-hatred and feelings of never being good enough
- Compare themselves to others, for example, comparing themselves to previous partners or close friends.
- Are sensitive to criticism from others although they often criticize themselves.
- Crave validation and reassurance from their intimate partners about the relationship.
They may also show signs of jealousy. While being jealous from time to time usually occurs in a marriage, if your partner demands all your time and attention and does not want you to socialize with your friends etc, that can be problematic.
You’ve mentioned that your partner becomes verbally abusive as a result of his low self-esteem, but is remorseful and tries to make amends and when asked why, he says that is because it is fun. I believe this pattern of behaviour requires further thought and exploration on your part:
- Have you communicated with your partner about how his projection of feelings of low self-esteem and insecurities is impacting you and that it is not “fun” for you?
- Asserting yourself and using “I” statements to communicate the impact of his actions on your well-being is critical, as chances are, he might not be aware of his actions on you or he might be doing this intentionally because “it is fun” for him.
- Using contempt and making disparaging comments about your spouse can lead to significant damage in your relationship and he needs to be reminded of that. One strategy you might employ in your relationship entail setting boundaries for yourself regarding how you want to be treated by your spouse.
Other ways you might support your spouse includes being empathetic towards him. Putting yourself in his position, considering what it is like having low self-esteem, will help you to better understand his worldview. You may also practice saying kind things to your spouse and use empowering words when discussing behaviour change. He may also benefit from support, asking his opinion when making plans, sharing responsibilities, and discussing how you benefit from the relationship.
Bear in mind that it is not your responsibility to “heal” or “save” your partner and you are not his mother. Take care of yourself and ensure that his actions will not cause you to also have low self-esteem, because this behaviour could also be masked and used as an excuse to be demeaning purposely cruel, and even abusive. If you need additional support please reach out to one of the therapists at Insight Psychological where you could engage in both individual and couples therapy. We are here for you and your partner.