Dear Miss Emily:

I have been with my boyfriend for almost three years. I am 20 and he is 23. Throughout our relationship, I have constantly been trying to build his self esteem.  He is the perfect example of a blank slate. literally!  He had no interests, no hobbies, and never did anything at all in his life. I truly don't know how how he  made it this far in life without anything. He got laid off about a year ago. Now i don't mind supporting us, but its been over a year and nothing! We were supposed to get married in May. Needless to say, that just is not happening. He is bombing every interview that comes along. I know he can do it, and he has so much experience and knowledge, but his lack of self-esteem is literally crippling him. I have tried everything from taking him to do things he never thought he could (like learning to swim, or driving), and I tell him how great he is and how much I believe in him everyday. But it's just not working.  It is affecting everything from him getting a job, to even talking to friends and meeting new people. His self-esteem was never great, but it just seems to be getting worse. I don't know what else I can do, but it just can;t go on like this. Please help me find a way to boost his confidence!

---------------------Miss Emily's advice-------------------

Question:

Do you think he suffers from depression?  I understand that self-confidence can be a separate issue, but to have no interests, to be this detached, I'm wondering if it isn't all part of what's going on with him.Your thoughts?  Emily

Answer:

Thank you for responding! No, it's not depression, and I hate to do the blame it on the parents thing, but he was just so sheltered, to an insane degree. And all he grew up with was his parents saying how much better his sister was. They never let him do anything, and when they did, they said he wasn't good enough. He truly lived in his room until I met him. I have put so much effort into building up what he parents threw away.

ADVICE:

I don't think there's anything else you can do. You may love him for reasons you did not state in your e-mail, but it's a big load to carry when you try to undo damage his parents inflicted. He may have some thoughts around changing his behavior but, clearly, he isn't acting on it. There's a limit on how much you can try.  If this does boil down to his parents, some people never transcend that experience. They often look to others to find their fulfillment without bringing much to the table. In your case, it seems as if he doesn't even know where to find the table!  He may need to be left alone to, hopefully, find his way, and maybe that time has come. You should not be a crutch, and this is not news to you because you have canceled your wedding -- although I am sure you have taken into account the weak economy and his lack of getting a job as factors. As a last ditch effort, I would go to the doctor with him to see if perhaps an anti-depressant could help.  Depression does not have to mean that someone is always down in the dumps, but may lack drive or will.  If he refuses to go, I see no hope for a happy union with this guy.