When someone loves you, the whole world changes. Those changes aren't always good, even if they feel good at the time. There are a lot of ways in which your relationship can be bad for your self-esteem, no matter how happy it seems to be.
It's an easy trap to fall into. Healthy relationships were my life (as both a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and a Planned Parenthood-Certified Responsibly Sexuality Educator), and even I got blinded by love. I spent years in a relationship with the sweetest, most loving woman in the world, who spent all her time trying to make my life better. In the end, all that happened was we both made our lives worse. We were stunted by love.
True, healthy relationships give each other room to fail, to feel sad, to experience conflict, to venture out into the world, and to bond with other people. They don't protect you and coddle you to the point that you never leave your love bubble.
It's a fine line to walk, because support, love, protection, and closeness are some of the best parts of being in a relationship... when there is balance. When there isn't balance, they can become chains that keep you from becoming your best self and having healthy self-esteem.
Here are some examples of some of those self-esteem squashers that a lot of people mistake for true love.
If your partner is so nice to you that he or she doesn't ever make you take responsibility for your actions, own your drama, or change unhealthy habits, that's not kindness. It's enabling. Enabling behaviors keep you from accomplishing difficult but important goals or becoming your best self. This self-esteem killer is tricky, because it's masked as unconditional support.
2. People Pleasing
If you act the way you think people want you to act or tell people what you think they want to hear, even if you're trying to be nice, you're doing so at a cost to your own self-esteem. People with healthy self-esteem value themselves enough to say how they really think and feel. A true partner also values your authentic feedback.
3. Keeping Quiet
Your opinion matters, and so does your partner's. Not saying what's on your mind to avoid an argument is not only unhealthy, it reinforces the idea that your feelings are not important enough to merit an argument.
4. Faking Sexual Pleasure
You may disagree with me, but sometimes a great sexual acting performance has it's place. It can give your partner a confidence boost or wrap things up if the moment has passed for you. But if you're always faking sexual pleasure, you're basically saying that your needs aren't important. And that's not OK in any way, shape, or form.
5. Diminishing Your Other Relationships
Healthy friendships are a critical component to having healthy self-esteem. Who makes you feel better about yourself than your besties? But if you're so swept up in your romance that you barely make time for your friends, you're missing out on all that validation and camaraderie.
6. Defining You
You're a you, not an us. Being all wrapped up in the warm bubble of a happy relationship feels so good that it's easy to mistake your relationship as the core of your identity. If you do that, you're missing all the self-esteem boosts that come with making your own friends, accomplishing your personal goals, and nurturing your own interests. It's about balance.
7. Not Doing You
You don't have to be the Bonnie your partner's Clyde. If he or she is about to make a bad decision or head down a questionable path, you do not have to go. Sometimes expressing love is more like putting your foot down and less like going to jail. You don't have to blindly support anyone you love.
8. Being On A Pedestal
Healthy self-esteem is about having a realistic and positive opinion of yourself, not an inflated one. If your partner treats you like a king or queen, or vice versa, that's one thing, but if he or she literally worships you, they're likely just falsely inflating your ego. Self-esteem is not the same thing as narcissism.
9. Losing Yourself
We've touched on this a little already, but it's so important that it bears repeating from a new angle. You are an individual. You cannot sacrifice everything you are, everything you love, everything that matters to you, and all the people in your life for a relationship. It seems romantic in the movies, but it's anything but healthy. People with healthy self-esteem practice creating boundaries, even with (and especially with) the people they love.
All of these things can feel like true love and not self-esteem killers. In reality, a healthy relationship with both your partner and yourself is what improves your self-esteem.