Can a partner with low self-esteem induce low responsive behaviour in their relationship?

Dealing with the difficulties they have liking themselves, people with low self-esteem also tend to have poorer relationships. Previous investigations into why this may be haven’t made easy reading for the sufferers. For example, while they tend to claim that their partners have more negative views of them and love them less (than do people with more typical self-esteem), studies of their partners simply haven’t backed this up. This suggests that the needy are projecting their insecurities and imperilling their relationships in the process.

But that is not the end of the story. People with low self-esteem also tend to report that, when they need them most, their partners are poor at responding and being supportive.
Is this all in their heads too? Until this point, researchers have pointed the finger at those with low self-esteem as the likely cause for their lower quality relationships. However, our this new study suggests that low self-esteem individuals may not be the only ones to blame.

This study asks us to place a lot of trust in the memories and interpretations of these participants, but if we take their answers at face value, they suggest that partners with low self-esteem want as much support and understanding, but that they go about sharing their bad news and their distress in a rather counter-productive way, for example, they’ll be inconsistent, sometimes downplaying their feelings, sometimes exaggerating them. Or they’ll be indirect, acting as if something is wrong, but not saying why, as if expecting their partner to be a mind reader.

In short, the findings from all three studies suggest that the consistent claim of people with low self-esteem that their partners are rather unresponsive has a small element of truth to it. However, it takes two to tango, and it seems those folk who are less assertive and self-confident probably don’t make it very easy for their partners to be responsive and supportive. Sometimes if you’re hurting and you want a shoulder to lean on, the best strategy is be transparent and to ask for help.
Hopefully these findings can be useful for those suffering with low-self esteem as a bit of a reality check on how their mood and behaviours impact their most cherished relationship. To those who are the partner of someone suffering with low self-esteem here are some pieces of advice for helping to support your partner in their hour of need:

Help List

  • Show you are listening: when your LSE (low self esteem) partner comes to you with a problem, they may have rehearsed how they will tell pass over this information as quickly as possible not to waste your time and actually miss out on some important facts which could lead to the inconsistent behaviour described above.
  • Ask questions: try to establish for yourself if your LSE partner is under or overreacting but asking for more information around the story. This will also show you are engaging and interested in their issue too regardless of how big or small it may be.
  • Don’t be afraid to recommend external help: behaviour from an LSE shouldn’t be effecting a relationship by creating new norms such as non-responsive partners due to inconsistent LSE behaviours. There is no one cure but here are some courses or activities that can help your partner remove themselves from the negative core beliefs they hold:
    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness; meditation and yoga
  • Joining the gym or sports club
  • Or an activity together such as walking or cycling through the countryside

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