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What Are the Effects of Low Self-Esteem on Relationships?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
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The effects of low self-esteem on relationships can be severely damaging, and can often be to blame in a string of unsatisfying relationships. If a person has an unrealistically poor self-image, his or her entire life may be viewed through the lens of self-doubt, depression, and resulting hostility or defensiveness. Some of the most common effects of low self-esteem on relationships include the inability to choose appropriate or healthy partners, willingness to accept poor treatment or abuse, no sense of boundaries, and the opportunity for serious communication problems.

A person with low self-esteem is unable to maintain an objective picture of him or herself. Like blinders on a horse, a poor self-image can block out all of the positive qualities, leaving only regrets, doubts, and self-loathing in view. A person with poor self-image may believe the he or she is unworthy of love, that all bad things that occur in a relationship are his or her fault, and that a partner cannot be truly trusted to love him or her. Any relationships that fall in the pathway of this destructive mindset can be at risk.

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One of the most dangerous effects of low self-esteem on relationships is the inability to find a good partner or friend at all. People with low self-esteem may be drawn to those who are initially flattering and complimentary, even if these words are followed with poor behavior. In the twisted logic of bad self-image, a person may even realize the toxicity of his or her partner, but feel that their poor behavior is deserved. Moreover, a person with an unhealthy image might be afraid to drop a toxic friend or partner, out of fear that they will never find anyone else.

Unfortunately, one of the worst side effects of poor partner-choosing skills is the potential for abusive relationships. People may be willing to suffer verbal, physical, and sexual abuse out of a lack of self-worth. In some tragic cases, the choice to stay in an abusive relationship due to self-esteem problems can be a fatal mistake.

Even in non-abusive situations, one of the more damaging effects of low self-esteem on relationships is the inability to be honest about boundaries. A person might feel so afraid of being abandoned by a relative, friend, or romantic partner, that they will lie about their needs in order to avoid conflict. This can lead to a chronically unsatisfying situation, where a partner is unhappy, depressed, or unfulfilled, but refuses to explain the root cause of the issue.

The inability or refusal to communicate needs or desires can be one of the most destructive effects of low self-esteem on relationships. The partner of a person with low self-esteem may find themselves unable to speak truthfully about problems, for fear of causing a further episode of depression or self-loathing. In turn, the person with a poor-self image may be too afraid to speak honestly, sure that it will ultimately lead to abandonment. Until the underlying issues of self-esteem are broached and managed, the cycle of miscommunication can lead to an unhappy end for all involved.

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turquoise
Post 3

Partners with low self esteem may actually cause relationships to last longer than they would otherwise. Someone with poor self esteem may fear ending a relationship and may simply put up with their partner. The quality of the relationship is another story though.

SarahGen
Post 2

@fBoyle-- Thanks for sharing that. I think you have done your best and you were clearly a positive effect in your ex-girlfriend's life.

I also dated someone with self esteem issues. I don't know if low self esteem plays out different in men and women. My boyfriend was not like your girlfriend though. His main problem was his physical appearance and jealousy. Since he didn't find himself good looking, he had this fear of losing me to someone good looking. He was possessive and extremely jealous. That's why it didn't work out. I guess individuals' self esteem is a very influential factor in relationships.

fBoyle
Post 1

My last girlfriend had low self esteem and I think that this was the major reason why our relationship ended. I had a hard time communicating with her because she was extremely sensitive, suspicious and defensive. She often said bad things about herself which were absolutely untrue. She would say something like "I'm stupid," "I'm ugly" or "I'm a failure." Naturally, I would object and tell her why she is not stupid or a failure. But instead of feeling better and seeing things differently, she would become defensive and yell at me and blame me.

Also, she had to ask me about everything. She was never sure if she was doing the right thing and always needed me to affirm it. I always felt so on edge when I was around her. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. It was also tiring to listen to her unending rants about what a failure she is. I have no idea why she is doing this to herself. She is a beautiful, smart and successful girl. This whole notion of her being a failure is in her head and unfortunately it is taking over her life.

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