Low Self Esteem and Relationship Disasters


dysfunctional relationship

I’ve written a lot about my childhood belief system; how it developed and how I came to believe that I always had to try harder; that it was my fault if others were unhappy and even that it was my job, my task to make others feel better about themselves. This all tied in to why I ended up in such serious depressions and need so many coping methods. It was in realizing some of this stuff that I was able to move forward and recover my life. Taking a look at the mother daughter relationship with my mother and how one sided it was, and the father daughter relationship with my father and how nonexistent it was; adding individual events, and adding the way that I was regarded, (before, during and after) mixed in with the way that I learned to regard myself, all added up to the bigger picture of who I was and where my problems started.

With the back ground that I had from my unhealthy dysfunctional relationships to my parents, believing that I was not worthy, not lovable, not good enough for the love and regard that I thought other people had, coupled with the fact that I had learned to try harder and harder and was willing to get angry and frustrated at myself when I “failed”, is it any wonder that I started to have trouble in relationships as I got older?

I was attracted to guys who were “troubled” and I thought that it was my job to love them enough that they would feel better about themselves. Deep down I was pretty sure that if I could love them enough ~ they would realize that they were lovable, and then they in turn would love me back. I was very attracted to these broken guys but I went into the relationship with the idea that I had to “earn my love” from them. I didn’t realize that I felt that way, but I looked back on my relationships and that is the way that it played out.  I carried the beliefs about myself and about the way life worked, into my relationships.

The guys had their own belief systems that they brought to the table with them.  I picked the ones that needed me to “restore” them, and it seemed that what “restored them” what made them feel good about themselves, was if I put up with devaluing treatment. It was as though they were saying “Will you still love me if I do this?” (for example, forget to call me and ignore plans with me) And if I did accept that treatment, (I always did), then they upped the ante. “What about if I do this….?” and maybe the next thing would be flirt with another girl in front of me or call me a nasty name, or stop talking to me (punishment) because I made a better joke then he did which took some of the attention away from him. There are a billion examples and ways that we can be “asked” to prove our love; their worth, and our worth (or lack of it) in a relationship. There are a million ways that we can be “manipulated” and taught that the way we are isn’t acceptable ~ and if I wanted to be accepted/loved then change was the silent message. I was used to not being accepted.

When I was 17 I had a big crush on a neighbour who was 20. He drank, but I didn’t mind because he liked me better when he was drinking. I didn’t have the self esteem to take that as an insult. I wanted him to notice me. All the girls thought he was dreamy, and I thought that if he noticed me, then I must be okay. I sought my value through other people, just as I had learned to do my whole life.

He used to come over to my house at around 10:00 pm at night and with no prior phone call or any prior arrangement, he would beep the horn from the driveway, and I would grab my jacket and go with him.  I was “sure” that I could prove to him that I was the right girl friend for him, but I never considered that he was the wrong boyfriend for me. I accepted that kind of treatment from him for almost 5 months until on New Years Eve, he didn’t ask me out, but he showed up at my house at 1:00 in the morning after the party he was at, raped me, and then demanded that I call him a cab. That was what it took for me to realize that he was “not the one”.  That was also when I reached a new depth in giving up on myself.

Darlene Ouimet

P.S. It isn’t surprising that I had these beliefs, I have written a few blog posts about how my mother expected me to define her; to make her feel loved and valued and how by her actions it was obvious looking back on our mother daughter relationship, that she thought my purpose in her life was to restore her value. I just accepted that as “my job” and carried that with me into all my future relationships. See ~ The beginning of Broken ~ Family Foundations about my mother’s expectations in our dysfunctional mother daughter relationship.

The Emerging from Broken bookThe Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

Categories : Mother Daughter



It is as if you were reading my diary. I went through all of the same things growing up. I have to say this and it may be off topic a bit but it all ties together and I am sure you will understand. I reached a point in my recovery for many years where I thought I had arrived. I have a healthy happy marriage and it is the best thing in my life period. I became proud of myself for coming so far. Just because a person is married and protected doesn’t mean they should let their guard down.
I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. It was inflammatory breast cancer which is fatal. I have since been healed. But in my vulnerability I reconnected with old high school friends. It seemed comforting at the time. But one friend who was a platonic friend in school had now become an abusive jerk who made hard core porn movies. When I accidentally found out and viewed just seconds of the movie on line I relapsed. My husband and I have an agreement we don’t spend any time with anyone of the opposite sex alone. I think if it was not for that agreement he might have raped me. He tried hard to get me alone. Thank God , God intercepted it. My husband started to realize something was wrong but I was starting to act out in old patterns of relating. Just a mess and needless to say he is not in my life now though he tries to be. But I am saying all of this to say ladies guard your heart like the bible says. I lost a lot of ground by letting him into my life. I was in a vulnerable place. It will never happen again. It took me over a year to get back to who I am. Just from trusting an old friend. So once you reach a place of healing and purity don’t let anyone steal it from you! I thank God for my marriage. Together we are at peace in Christ and have healthy loving patterns of relating.


Hi Pinky,
Welcome to the blog!
I can relate to your post.
When I was 29 years old I finally married a good man and for a while my issues didn’t seem to be a big deal. But my belief system eventually caught up with me when my kids reached a certain age anyway, and I started to fall apart again. My marriage suffered, and we both ended up getting help. This stuff happens how it happens ~ as you say. Things happen that trigger other things, memories, issues that we think are long over, become problems again… yes.
It is great that you have been healed from breast cancer and that you have a wonderful husband and marriage now. Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey!
Hugs, Darlene


I dated someone for an entire year, who flat out told me he was only interested in me for sex. At the time, it didn’t even bother me that he admitted it. I remember thinking “what an honest guy!”… ugh! Going straight from an abusive husband who raped me because it was “all I was good for” to someone who wasn’t abusive, but admitted to using me only for sex was not ok! Looking back, it’s pretty clear I believed I was only good for sex… I just couldn’t see it at the time. I did go on to marry a wonderful man, who made a huge positive impact in my life. I thought this had fixed all of my problems, but I was wrong… everything I chose not to deal with at the time came back around to be dealt with later. Still working on it, but so much further along than I was!

Thanks, Darlene!




Your comment really “hit” me today as I received it while I was taking a
break from writing my next blog post ~ another examination into the “how I
came to believe” that I was only good for sex and how I just couldn’t see it
at the time. I married a really great guy too, but just as you said,
everything that I chose not to deal with at the time, came back around. I
guess that it a good thing! There are a few things that still pop up ~ and I
face them when they do. It never ceases to amaze me that there is still
stuff to face!! LOL I like your attitude though ~ that you are so much
further along then you were!! YES! That is something to celebrate!
Thanks for being here!
Hugs, Darlene


Wow. Another post that hit me right in the heart. Im still in the early stages of realizing all this, it was only a few months ago when my therapist, who asked me every session if my husband was abusive, and I always told her no….told me one day, when I was telling her a little of my relationship history (various boyfriends, their ages, my ages, relationship dynamics and whatnot) that it seemed to her that I had NEVER been in an appropriate relationship, that even my “normal” (in my own mind they were normal) relationships had been abusive, and most were actually very abusive, and I didnt even realize it, until she said that. I am in my third marriage, and had too many “relationships” to count….and my first husband was undeniably abusive in every possible way, and even went so far as to bring home his girlfriends (while we were married) and kept pictures of them together around the house and when one of his girlfriends passed away from pregnancy complications (she was pregnant with some other man’s baby but was living with my husband…and at least I had enough sense to kick him out when I found out about her) he came to me and asked me to make funeral arrangments for this girl and her unborn child, and take care of her other living child (who was a toddler at the time) till he could find someone to take care of her….and while I realized that was totally absurd, thats the kind of things that it took for me to understand that I was being devalued, and my second husband raped me very early in our marriage and I divorced him immediately because I wasnt going to go through that anymore, and my current husband, who compared to those two is a saint…but is the one who my therapist kept asking “is he abusive?”….has anger issues and other problems that I am only now seeing as while maybe not abuse (definitely not severe abuse if abuse at all) are harmful to my well being in some ways. He is very triggering to my eating disorder issues and my body image issues (he comments on my weight frequently) and has unknowingly triggered my sexual abuse trauma issues (he only recently found out about the abuse, so I cant blame him for what he Iand I) didnt know) and because of the anger issues, he repeatedly triggers my dissociation and “freezing” PTSD response mechanisms and Im only now seeing that as something that has to change….I never even imagined that wasnt “the best of the best”. I am in no way trying to bash my husband, he is a wonderful man in 99% of every way, but he is not perfect, and I have a LOT of issues and traumas to work through that are stressful to both of us, but Im starting to see my value as a human being and how I have allowed him to continue to devalue me by allowing things to be said and done that would not be tolerated by someone without self esteem or other abuse related issues.

I just last week was roleplaying with my therapist trying to get up the courage to tell him “that hurts my feelings” when he says things about my weight, or my eating, or any other things that are not positive, even though it might be a joke to him, it does still devalue me in my own mind, which makes it unacceptable….and I couldn’t even tell my therapist (who was roleplaying my husband) that “it hurts my feelings”, so I still have a long way to go with that, and its definitely a HUGE issue for me and it impacts my relationships every single minute of every single day….and I never saw the low self esteem and anger problems that my husband had until recently because I thought he hung the moon, because he never raped me or beat me or cheated on me. So I had come to accept being nothing to everyone, including myself, and this is just another piece of the puzzle that has to be dealt with on the road to healing.

Knowledge is power 🙂


Good stuff again. I would also like to hear how you recovered your self esteem and realized you didn’t need to put up with treatment like that anymore. Years ago, I also reached a low in a relationship with a boyfriend who was verbally and emotionally abusive. He was a pro at switching into Mr.wonderful when he could tell I was pulling away and having doubts. Because of that I stayed way longer than I needed to and finally woke up when he pushed things to a new level of abuse. After that I was determined to respect myself and not settle for that kind of treatment. I believe this a common experience for many women. Thanks for sharing.


Thanks Gretchen,
It was a really big combination of things that helped me make it through and pick better men (who were just more subtly abusive and I didn’t realize it but that is a whole other topic) until about 7 years ago when I started to do this work on belief system “uncovery”. (thanks to Christina Enevoldsen from Overcoming Sexual Abuse for that word) When I found out WHY I thought that I deserved no better treatment then what I was getting, I was able to FIRST realize that I believed a lot of lies, and then through a series of replacement exercises ~ which really is awareness of the a) head chatter and b) catching it when someone devalued me in favor of placing their own needs first ~ those two things combined with setting those lies straight over and over again, was the process (in a nut shell) about how I recovered my self esteem.

I had several men in my life exactly like the one you describe! ~ pro’s at switching into wonderful as soon at they realize they are losing ~ and that is a whole other BOOK! LOL One day I am going to talk about how my husband and I got through all this… because he also got really good at controlling me .. but when I married him the foundation was in place; I was ready to serve him and restore his self esteem…. =)
Thanks so much for your comments!


Hi Amira
I totally relate to your history with men!!! Even the stuff about your present husband, different details but still some problems. My therapist asked me if I was having any marriage problems (when I first went back to therapy about 7 years ago now) and I said NO… because like you I didn’t know what a good relationship was. My husband was 1000% better then anyone in my past was… so I felt guilty for even being depressed. I was adamant that it had nothing to do with our marriage… and it wasn’t until I uncovered all the belief system stuff, that I even realized that there were a few problems in my marriage and that my husband saw himself as “more important” then me. I bought that, because he was the man, the bread winner etc. I was used to putting everyone else ahead of me in value anyway, so it was easy. After I got some of my depression and mental health issues on the road to recovery, my husband ended up having to also get help with his own issues and his own belief system and then we had joint therapy for our marriage ~ and things are really great now. (he even comments on the blog sometimes! (jimmy b.) We have a much more mutual relationship today and our children are flourishing as a result of that. =)
Thanks for sharing so much and for being SO honest, Amira, it is so valuable for me to read others stories as well as for the other readers.
Hugs, Darlene


Gonna have to come back to this one again and do some actual reflecting and writing work of my own and not supress the trigger, lol!

Wow… profound really… great potential for starting some of that dealing with unfinished business work I avoid… just read and move on.
When I choose to go deeper and take the time, I will read this again and the comments then too!

Thanks Darlene for your openness


I to lived most of my life believing I needed to fix someone to be loved. I also picked the meanest baddest men i could find, in hopes of being protected. mostly it was in my mind, the unspoken fear that incest leaves in you. I truly thought if I was with the worst man, then no one could hurt me, never taking into account that I might need protection from them myself. It always ended that way, with police involvement, busted lips and black eyes. I raised my two older children running from one violent relationship to another.
I have two new little ones today, and I have been single for past 5 years, and I really love myself today. I love being single and learning to value myself. I am today willing to wait for the one God thinks is worthy of His Princess.:) I want my little ones to grow up with self value and the only way I know how to do that is to by valuing myself, and modeling that skill for them.


Being sexually and violently abused for most of my childhood years, as I moved into my teen years I was only attracted to older boys and young men who only had sex on their mind. It was a way of life for me. If a boy did not want sex I immediately thought he was gay. I observed my mother’s behaviors with men and adopted them. She was a sex addict and I followed in her footsteps by the time I was thirteen. I was gang raped on several occasions in my early teen years. It truly is a miracle I am alive. Sex was an act and it remained that way for me until my early forties. I was raped by a ‘friend’ one night as we were walking through a field to a party. I gave in to him as i felt fear rising up inside of me. He left me to find a bus home on my own. Instead of going straight home I walked to another boy’s house and seduced him. This was after telling him I had just been raped. Actually, I did not even have to tell him; all he had to do was look at me.

The attraction for me was that I would give them something that other girls would not. Even after repeated betrayals and severe emotional scarring, I could not see what I was doing to myself. The hunger I had for any form of attention and affection was all that mattered.

After my marriage of sixteen years ended, I found myself in a relationship with a man who was also a sex addict. He also happened to be a sociopath. I found myself in new territory. Though he never physically harmed me, he slowly alienated me from all my friends.

Years before, I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. However, I was not discipled and did not know of the things that would keep me on the right path. My flashbacks and addictions began to resurface and I fell back into old familiar behaviors. Nights with biker clubs were frequent and I often fell into giving myself to as many of them that would have me. It was like reliving my teen years all over again.

It was not until one night, on New Years Eve, that I realized I had withdrawn from God. My eyes opened to what was missing. Once I called out to God and recommitted myself to putting him first in my life, everything began to change.

There was a divine intervention which removed the spirit of fear. This enabled me to walk away from this relationship. I prayed to God to make me pure; something I never knew. He responded and removed my sexual addiction. Sure, I went to a 12 week group for women survivors of child sexual abuse. And then there was some intense prayer counseling for a couple months. In the midst of all of this, the Lord had me on this healing journey. After four years I have not slept with a man. I walked away from nearly every person I knew and created a new life within my community Christian friends. I now know purity and am prepared for my soulmate the Lord is preparing for me.

There was always God watching over me. I witnessed so many women beaten and taken into the sex trade. That never happened to me. Men did not go that far with me and I know that is only by the grace of God.


Almost my entire life I have had no self love and a mother who took abuse and didn’t do anything for herself. Oh and she just knew she was ugly and wasn’t worth anything good. Needless to say I have attracted messed up men my whole life and finely at 50 years old I realized I can’t fix anyone but myself, but I suffered a lot of abuse in the mist of all the unhealthy relationships almost dieing in the last mess. Anyway i still struggle with how I look but at least I take of myself better and I don’t stand for bull crap anymore like I used to. And I have learned to stand up for myself and not allow myself to be abused anymore cause I’m worth it.


Hi Lisa
My husband read this post this morning and he commented that it was a bit deep. =)
About suppressing the trigger, I can really relate to that.. just don’t forget the power in dealing and facing!! That’s where the freedom is hiding!
Thanks for being here Lisa!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Pamela
This is a fantastic and inspirational comment! YES ~ I could print your statement out and take it to the bank!
You Said; “I want my little ones to grow up with self value and the only way I know how to do that is to by valuing myself, and modeling that skill for them.” That is so very true!
Thanks for sharing the horror and the victory! Thanks so much for this comment!
Hugs, Darlene


Hello Justice!
Thank you for sharing your horror and then victory story too! There is hope for healing ~ that is the heart of my message here. You describe the progression of where your belief system took you, and how deeply you believed that this self sabotaging behavior was all you knew, and you kept believing it was real love. I never got addicted to sex, but I certainly was addicted to the false definition of love. Always searching, always running and finally finding the truth!
Thank you for sharing your inspirational story with us!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Diane
When you say that your mother “knew she was ugly and wasn’t worth anything” I am not sure what context you mean that in… do you mean that she “thought that” or she believed that, or that it was true?? Having said that, I will answer your comment the following way, although you may already know this; Our looks do not define us any more then other people do. We are not worth something because of looks, money, a job, success, failure, our bodies or by any other thing! So I am thinking that your mother thought she wasn’t worth anything, and she passed on that belief to you. (as I said I might be taking this the wrong way, please feel free to comment again to clarify!)
Your last sentence is wonderful! Another victory statement! ~ your wrote~ “I take of myself better and I don’t stand for bull crap anymore like I used to. And I have learned to stand up for myself and not allow myself to be abused anymore cause I’m worth it.” YES YOU ARE WORTH IT!! absolutely!
Thanks for being here Diane!
Hugs, Darlene


Diane–thank you for posting that. One of my biggest fears is that I will pass on my “crap” to my kids somehow. I have never physically abused them, I have done some pretty stupid things in anger (thrown chairs and whatnot) but never direct harm to them…and I try very very very very conciously to never treat them badly or say anything negatively to them, but I KNOW that they know how I feel about myself…and that I feel like Im not worth much, which is changing now, but for most of their life (they are preteens) I was treated with disrespect and abuse from everyone I knew, and everyone they knew, so I modeled all those abuse patterns for them, without actually abusing them….and even now that I am working in therapy and they know that something isnt “right” with me, without knowing any details….I worry that I am modeling acceptance of abuse and negative treatment and that devaluing yourself and eating disorders and poor self esteem, poor body image, all the “crap” thats inside me to them, especially my daughter, who seems to be ok at this point….but I do also have both kids in therapy (they have special needs so its a bit easier to get them in therapy than maybe some other kids…and I knew that I wanted them in therapy early on because that way if I was ever “in denial” or “not sure” about some action or thing that I did or said and how it affected them, or if something I was unaware that was affecting them somehow, that their therapist would be able to help me sort it out to cause them the least amount of possible harm) and I talked to their therapist yesterday and she said she is working with my daughter on saying “positive self statements” and she says that she doesnt say negative things about herself, but she never says positive things either…and I really try not to talk negatively to or about myself or anyone else in front of them and provide them with the most “normal” (I have no idea what normal is, I know its somewhere between abusive and pollyanna…and Im constantly trying to find that middle place) upbringing I can….and I know that with that alone, I am doing a decent job as a parent….but it is my constant fear that they will grow up and be abused or treated badly (in my daughers case) or be an abuser (in my son’s case…because he at times says negative hurtful things to me and his sister) and I dont want that to be what they learned from me, I want them to know and learn the opposite and I conciously “blow sunshine up their ass” to use my husband’s phrase, I tell my daughter she is fantastic and beautiful and wonderful a million times a day, and the same with my son, and I worry that its not enough because they can see that I dont believe that about myself….I dont want them to come to me in 20,30,40 years and say “mom, why didnt you teach me I was valuable? why didnt you teach me I was good enough?” and all the things that I dont believe about myself, but I guess really by being in therapy and changing those patterns in myself, it will change it in them too….at least Im hoping. I just worry that its too late and the damage is already done, considering they are preteen years and I am just now getting the help I need.


I could have written your comment myself. I have 3 kids, and when I finally got the right help that I needed, I was the most worried about them. My youngest was 6 and the oldest was 12. I worried about all the same things that you wrote here, and I did all that same stuff too, showered them with love/compliments etc. I also had that deep down suspicion about what I was actually modeling for them as far as my own self esteem though. I agonized about all this with my therapist and he just kept telling me that it was never too late. It turned out that my therapy process, and turning myself around, learning to do self care and self value, learning to take care of myself, etc.. has been the biggest thing for my kids to learn from! My middle daughter was a lot like me.. and she showed signs of low self esteem etc. and I was really worried about her… but this past year she completely changed, she started to stand up for herself the exact same way that I learned to stand up for myself.. it is SO cool to watch my children grow into self sufficient young adults now. I know that what you are doing now is exactly what everyone in your family needs now. It was not too late for my kids and I don’t believe it is ever too late to be a role model in your children’s lives!
Thanks so much for sharing about this extremely important subject!
Hugs, Darlene


“I was attracted to guys who were “troubled” and I thought that it was my job to love them enough that they would feel better about themselves. Deep down I was pretty sure that if I could love them enough ~ they would realize that they were lovable, and then they in turn would love me back. I was very attracted to these broken guys but I went into the relationship with the idea that I had to “earn my love” from them”



Hi Cyndi,
Interesting isn’t it? My parents taught me that I had to “earn love” and I never did deserve it.. so it comes from no where strange when we take that with us into life after childhood.. looking for love, and not having a clue what LOVE is!
Hugs, great to see you!


wow most of this i can relate too,the expectations of men an relationships mainly.i neva had a mother daughter relationship,not one filled with love any way.it is helpful to know im not the only one who has put up with abuse in relationships because of the way i felt about myself or was made to feel.


Hi Christal, Welcome
Changing the way that we feel about myself through finding out how I came to feel that way about myself has set me free! I am no longer attracted to relationships with male or females who treat me with less then I deserve. You are not alone,
Hugs, Darlene


[…] was attracted to them because I was comfortable always trying harder and that I truly believed that love was something I could “earn” and eventually deserve once I earned it, or because that type of devaluing person was so familiar to me, or if it was a […]



I just wanted to say that you are not alone, and you did a great job writing out the relationship dynamic you sought out because of dysfunctional relationships with your parents or what they exhibited. I am so sorry that nasty guy took advantage of you. I hope you are doing better recently. Thank you for reminding me to go for the “good” guys and not the “broken” ones that need “fixing”, which I often am drawn to, but know it is not wise to get involved with.


Laci, I can well relate to low self esteem and relationship disasters. Not only did my mother destroy my self esteem by constant belittling and calling me ugly, but she also taught me that woman are only valuable for being pretty and catching a man. As I went through my teens I was so anxious about being liked and trying to be attractive to guys. My anxiety and neediness showed and guys either didn’t want to be bothered with me or they mistreated me. I had the boyfriend that made fun of my teeth, and told me I was way too skinny or that some other girl was prettier. When he came back from a vacation, he asked me if I wanted to see pictures and he deliberately included pictures of him with his arm around another girl. He didn’t call when he said he would, and the kicker was when a girl that was with our group one night was very nasty to me he twisted it around saying it was MY fault and that I was cold and cruel. That was finally my breaking point ( I was 16 at the time) and we broke up the next day. Then he spread vicious rumors about me saying I was promiscuous. Another guy , when he wanted to end the relationship, took me out somewhere and didn’t speak a word to me all night! The date before that, everything had seemed just fine. Silent treatment is one of the cruelest ways to treat someone who cares about you. I had many other guys treat me in a condescending way and I just took it . Fortunately, I did eventually learn to go for the good guys. The first date I had with my now husband, I felt so comfortable with him. Good conversation, and I felt like I was treated as an equal. Several months later I knew he was a keeper. I was right! Still together today after many years of marriage! I hope you will find your good one as well, Laci!


Hi Laci,
Thank you and welcome to EFB ~ I am totally wonderfully fine now!
hugs, Darlene

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