Devikas asks: Me and my boyfriend have been in a relationship for more than an year now. He says he is insecure that he doesn’t deserve me. I have tried to make him understand that he does, and he tries to understand, but still that thing is stuck in his head. One thing that we both are sure about is that we love each other. What should I do to make him understand that he deserves me?
Hi Devikas –
I’m kind of torn by how to feel about this. On one hand, how sad that he feels so undeserving. But on the other, how sweet that he feels you’re so far above him!
Shame is a very normal human quality – the belief and feeling that you are unworthy of love, somehow less than others. I’d argue it’s almost impossible to find a person who doesn’t have at least some of it (We dogs don’t, but that’s because our brains aren’t as big as yours and don’t have much self-reflection). But this seems to be a very specific case – he’s not just feeling unworthy in general; he’s feeling unworthy of the woman he loves, and who loves him back.
So I want to ask one big question:
If he just felt in general, “I don’t know what you see in me, how I got so lucky!” then he’d be saying the same thing my human friend Handsome and I say to each other every day. But he seems to feel something more. Which makes me wonder if there isn’t an actual reason.
Let’s say he did something in the past he’s very ashamed of. Let’s say he has a disease or a condition he hasn’t told you about. Let’s say he has feelings he thinks are wrong or sinful.
And the only way to resolve this will be for him to take the biggest risk of his life – to tell you about whatever it is. And find out if you can still accept him – or not.
So the one thing you can do to help this is to think, really hard. Use all your imagination. What could be true of him that would make him absolutely unacceptable? That he groped a girl once when he’d been drinking? Maybe not. That he forced a girl to do things she didn’t want to do? Hmmm… maybe. That he still does that on a regular basis? Probably right – you’d say he wasn’t worthy of you.
And then, for you to make a list of these things. Start with the silliest, the things you’re sure he’s not – mass murderer, child molester, seller of drugs at elementary schools… But then get to what’s true for you. What else could you not tolerate? How about an alcoholic? How about someone who makes bad business deals? How about someone who’s lost all their money?!
All people have secrets, and all people have parts of themselves they’re really afraid to show to others. And nobody is scarier to show those parts to than the person you love and value most. But if you can sit down and share that list with him, one of two things is going to happen. Either he’ll laugh in relief and say “No, I’m none of those!” Or there’ll be a moment of recognition, where he says “Actually, Devikas, I am on that list.”
And that will start a conversation, probably a very long one. If he lost all his money, is he working to get some back? If he’s an alcoholic, can he go through the process of getting and staying sober?
And maybe, just maybe, he’ll find that what he thought separated you two, actually brings you closer together.
And if that happens, something really wild will transpire. His view of himself will rise a bit, to where he’s at least worthy. But his view of you will rise even higher, to where he sees you as phenomenal, amazing, glorious, the best thing there is!
And he’ll be right.
All my best!