elf esteem is a key part of being happy and mentally healthy. Low self esteem may be a problem in your relationship whether or not you’re aware of it--improving your self esteem and your partner’s self esteem could solve the root of other issues in your relationship. This post will teach you:

  • How self esteem relates to relationships
  • Signs low self esteem is a problem in your relationship
  • How to improve self esteem in your relationship 
A happy couple drinks coffee at their breakfast table.
Good self esteem is essential for making a relationship last happily. 

What Does Self Esteem Have to Do with Relationships?

Relationship Satisfaction

Good self esteem is linked to relationship satisfaction. This is because how you feel about yourself impacts how much love you’re able to receive and changes the way you treat others. When people have low self esteem when they enter into a relationship they experience a  steep decline in happiness that those with high self esteem are less likely to experience. 

There are lots of variables in a relationship, including communication skills, emotional availability, and stress. While these are all extremely important, past experiences and personality are the two factors that influence how relationship issues are managed.

Past Experience

So where does low self esteem in a relationship come from? A lot of the time you develop low self esteem in one relationship and then carry it with you as emotional baggage through other relationships. 

In some cases, the relationship that creates low self esteem is the one with your parents. Parents in a dysfunctional relationship provide no positive model for how people in a relationship should act or be treated. People who grow up in a dysfunctional family can develop low self esteem through:

  • Feeling they have no voice
  • Not having opinions or desires taken seriously 
  • Watching parents with low self esteem 
  • Watching parents unhappy in their relationship
  • Having personality traits or feelings shamed by parents

Growing up in these conditions creates a sense of not being good enough or worthy of acceptance, love, and attention--in other words, low self esteem.

Your low self esteem could also be from a past romantic relationship. Toxic relationships cause low self esteem by making you feel like a victim, making you blame yourself, and making you question your self worth through manipulation and reinforcing negative beliefs. 

None of these past experiences mean you’re doomed to have low self esteem affecting your relationships for life. It’s important to make yourself aware of the problem so you can then fix it and move past low self esteem into a good and healthy relationship. 

A couple on a bench struggles with communication.
You’ll be surprised how many issues in your relationship can be traced back to low self esteem. 

Signs of Low Self Esteem in Your Relationship

How to Identify Low Self Esteem in Your Relationship

There are a few tell tale traits people with low self esteem tend to exhibit in a relationship. Think about whether you see these things in yourself or in your partner. If you can identify low self esteem as an issue in your relationship you both can work on improving it. 


Because people with low self esteem don’t feel they are worthy of love and affection, they sometimes go overboard trying to make their partner happy. While this doesn’t sound like a bad thing at face value, this level of work to keep a relationship is not sustainable. 

A person who tries constantly to please a partner spends all their time thinking about what their partner wants and then trying to make those things happen. This means they’re not really focused on the relationship itself or their own happiness.

A relationship like this is also all consuming, which makes it exhausting and impossible to maintain. 


Another way people with low self esteem try desperately to keep relationships is by taking it upon themselves to fix any and all relationship issues. Any time a problem arises, this person feels the need to fix it at any cost. 

Fixing problems in a relationship is important, but it needs to be done by both partners in the relationship. Being the one to fix issues over and over often means allowing verbal and even physical abuse. These people demean themselves and let their partners do what they want in order to keep the relationship afloat. This is obviously not healthy relationship behavior and a sign that low self esteem may be at play. 

Feeling Lonely

We all get lonely sometimes, but a person with low self esteem finds it impossible to be comfortably alone. It’s important to learn how to be alone with yourself. Spending time alone gives you a chance to reflect and get to know yourself better. 

This fear of being alone often results in people with low self esteem not giving themselves time between relationships. When one relationship ends, they immediately feel lonely and jump quickly into a new relationship, bringing with them the same insecurities and issues from previous relationships. 

Acting Needy

Feelings of loneliness and never being enough for a partner can also translate into neediness. A person with low self esteem may feel the need to be constantly validated in a relationship. Neediness caused by low self esteem can look like:

  • Always wanting to be with a partner without time apart 
  • Wanting to hear “I love you” or other forms of verbal validation all the time
  • Abandoning friendships and family relationships to be with a partner
  • Expecting a partner to abandon friendships and other relationships 

A successful relationship requires time apart, maintenance of other good relationships, and trust in the solidity of the relationship without frequent reminders.These signs of neediness suggest that low self esteem is affecting your relationship. 

A happy couple embraces outside.
Praise, appreciation, and acceptance are key for improving self esteem in your relationship.

How to Improve Self Esteem in Your Relationship 

Making Your Relationship Better with Self Esteem

If you recognize some of the signs of low self esteem in yourself or your partner, take these steps to build self esteem in your relationship

Limit the Criticism 

The feeling of not being good enough for a partner is amplified every time that partner is overly or unreasonably critical. A relationship fueled by judgement and blame is not healthy or sustainable. 

Before you criticize or judge your partner, think about the reason behind your feelings. Is your intention to provide constructive feedback on something negative in order to work on resolving the situation? Or are you trying to make your partner feel shameful and bad about themselves? If you stop to think before laying on criticism you may realize that your intention is not productive.

Too much criticism or judgement in a relationship brings us back to the causes of low self esteem--if you’re constantly told you’re not good enough you’ll start to believe it. Talk to your partner about how much criticism exists in your relationship and see if you can improve self esteem for both of you by limiting judgement. 

Accept Each Other

You probably already know that trying to change your partner does not make a good relationship, but it can be hard to recognize these behaviors in your actual relationship. There is a difference between a bad habit that you can help your partner break and a personality trait they really can’t change.

Psychology Today lists the “big five” personality traits that are unlikely to change:

  1. Openness to new experiences vs. preference for the familiar/safe
  2. Conscientiousness vs. carelessness
  3. Extroversion vs. introversion
  4. Agreeableness vs. argumentativeness
  5. Neuroticism vs. emotional stability 

If you want to get to know yourself and your partner better, there are many online personality tests like this one that will help show which personality traits you have. 

Accepting behaviors in your partner that are unlikely to change instead of criticizing or trying to change them will help your partner’s self esteem. You also won’t waste time and energy trying to force each other to be different--accept each other and build a strong relationship around that acceptance. 

Accept Mistakes

Don’t be a perfectionist. “Nobody’s perfect” is a cliche, but it’s still true. If you’re a perfectionist, you should probably start with accepting mistakes in yourself before you can work on accepting the rest of the world.

Expecting perfection results in fear of making mistakes. This causes a lot of negative feelings about yourself, your partner, and anyone else you’re expecting to be perfect. You can vastly improve self esteem in your relationship by shifting your expectations and not looking for perfection.

Praise the Good

Sometimes in a relationship it’s easy to slip into patterns and forget to pay attention to the good things. Psychology Today says “Speaking genuine words of appreciation is one of the six major ways that we express love for others.” 

Think about all the traits and behaviors you value in your partner and then praise those things. Doing this will improve your partner’s self esteem by making them feel appreciated and valued. It will also serve as a reminder to you about all the things you love, which will make your relationship stronger and happier.

A couple hugs in front of a sunset on a beach.
When you improve self esteem in your relationship you make room for love and connection to grow. 

A relationship suffers when one or both partners feel insecure and unworthy. Low self esteem shows itself in a relationship in a number of ways, but can be solved with a little attention, appreciation, and patience. Improving self esteem will make your relationship stronger and help you learn more about yourself and your partner. 

Jul 29, 2020

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