One of the biggest challenges I see couples tackle in relationship counselling, is the impact of low self-esteem on an otherwise mostly healthy relationship. Low self-esteem can lie behind various issues and how we deal with these issues can also impact self-esteem. Relationships can’t fix someone’s self-esteem but it can have a negative or positive impact depending on how things are managed.
Sounds confusing right? It can be really confusing for those in the relationship with a partner with low self-esteem to understand what is happening with their partner. Sometimes it can be a natural part of the relationship that simply needs some coaching. Other times it can be a coping mechanism for low self-esteem.
Some of the common things I see in relationships that may be attributed to self-esteem are:
- Being overly defensive of things that you wouldn’t expect to cause such a response
- Outbursts of anger over minor things
- Trying to be a perfectionist
- Not wanting to be emotionally vulnerable in the relationship
- Being overly needy
- Being somewhat controlling especially of relationships with others
- May reject your compliments
- May have trust issues that are unfounded
- Unwilling to ask for what they want in the relationship
- Always trying to please you and don’t have an opinion
Whilst some of these things may seem positive, over time, they can cause issues in the relationship. For instance, a partner who is always trying to please and doesn’t have an opinion, may seem positive to start. But it can get exhausting being the one who has to make every decision in the relationship.
Naturally not everything in this list is about self-esteem. Past relationships, childhood experiences and the relationship itself can create negative coping mechanisms. It is important to not label your partner as the problem, rather to look at these things and see if there is a different way of managing some of the issues.
If you think that perhaps self-esteem may be part of the issue, have a chat with your partner about it. Be careful to present it as a possibility rather than a conclusion. Be kind. It is something that with counselling and the support of a partner, can be changed.
Low self-esteem is very common and it can make life harder than it needs to be both as an individual and in relationships. In fact, it may not just be the romantic relationship that is impacted, it can be friendships and other relationships also.
If you think that your partner may be suffering from low self-esteem, reach out for help today. Change is possible and your relationship can thrive when you both feel comfortable being your authentic selves.
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