If you're in a healthy relationship, then your partner likely builds you up and makes you feel amazing. (And, of course, you do the same for them.) But sometimes, even when things seem to be going great, it's still possible for your relationship to damage your self-esteem.
This often comes in the form of a nagging feeling that something is a bit off, even when things look great on paper. Maybe you don't feel like yourself, never put your needs first, or you are constantly worrying. Whatever it is, you don't feel good, and it's making you wonder if your relationship is to blame.
To figure out what's up, think back to how you felt before the whole thing started. "You will need to consider your baseline self-esteem before the onset of this relationship and compare individually, as it might have been a pre-existing condition," says Dr. Michele Barton, in an email to Bustle.
If you were pretty much OK pre-partner, this dip in self-esteem could be due to current issues with your SO, or bad relationship dynamics. Of course, coupling up often means going through a lot of changes. But if it doesn't feel like they're mostly changes for the better, Barton suggests trying to focus more on yourself. Read on for some signs that it's time to build yourself back up so you can get your relationship — and your self-esteem — back on track.
1. You Constantly Feel Like Everything Is Your Fault
Does your partner tend to win arguments by shifting all the blame to you? They may not be doing it on purpose, but if it happens often it could explain why you feel so crappy all the time. After all, "no one is entirely responsible for their problems," said Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D., on Psychology Today. "Put simply, most problems in life are co-created." If you have trouble remembering this, it could be that your lopsided relationship is damaging your self-esteem.
2. You Live In Fear Of The Whole Thing Ending
A good relationship will feel secure and stable. But that won't be at all possible if your SO has, say, cheated in the past, or said things to make you feel insecure. If you constantly feel like the whole thing is about to go up in smoke, it could be their negativity that's sticking around and ruining your confidence.
3. Your Partner Tells You What To Do
It may seem romantic at first, but there's nothing cute about a controlling partner. As relationship writer Jessica Dawson said on LovePanky.com, "You may think your [partner] loves you, but when you really think about it, you may realize that you’re being controlled by an unintentional deceptive schemer." And when that happens, your low self-esteem won't never far behind.
4. You Constantly Test Them
Do you constantly call your partner's intentions into question? Or pick fights to see what they'll do? If so, it could be that you're testing the relationship in order to feel reassured that they want to stick around.. As professional counselor Jamie Simkins Rogers said on YourTango.com, "People test when they feel insecure or unsure." Clearly it's a sign of self-esteem issues, and it's not going to be fun — for either of you.
5. You Let Your Partner Call All The Shots
Letting your partner choose the movie, or decide where to eat, is perfectly fine. But take note if you find yourself whisked along for their ideal date — with little to no thought cast in your direction. Relationships are all about balance, so there's likely something wrong if you feel like your opinion doesn't matter.
6. You Feel The Need To Change Yourself
It's normal to change a bit during the course of a relationship. You might pick up some of your SO's hobbies, or find yourself adopting some of their opinions. And that's all totally OK. "It only becomes a real issue when you feel the need to change who you are at your core to satisfy your partner," licensed marriage and family therapist Virginia Gilbert told Brittany Wong on Huffingtonpost.com. This could be because you never feel like you have your partner's approval, and that's not good.
7. You Feel Responsible For Their Unhappiness
Does your partner have depression, or horrible anxiety? If so, it can be hard to convince yourself that it's not your fault — especially when your partner sucks at convincing you otherwise. “Whether your partner is in a pit of despair or erupting in anger, he or she makes you feel that you are somehow to blame, and it’s your job to change whatever it is that you have done or said to make them feel bad,” Gilbert said. A person with high self-esteem will be able to make this distinction and realize it's not actually up to them. But it might be tricky for someone who's been blamed or broken down.
8. You Watch What You Say (And How You Say It)
You should be able to say whatever you want in front of your partner. This won't be the case, however, if you're dating someone who often makes you feel silly or stupid. If they do, it's common to second-guess things before you speak, or edit what you say before you say it, according to Gilbert.
9. You Never Say "No"
If you can't say no to your partner, for whatever reason, it could be that you're in the type of partnership where your opinion doesn't matter. While it could be due to a bossy partner, it could also be that you simply feel like you don't have the right to disagree. This inability to say no, according to Alice Boyles, Ph.D., on Psychology Today, is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. And one that is likely damaging your self-esteem.
10. You Never Get To Make Any Big Decisions
Someone with high self-esteem would never stand for their partner making all the decisions. If your partner is the one who decides where you guys will move, or whether or not you'll go on vacation, it might be time to reevaluate the relationship, according to Gilbert.
11. You Feel Like The Whole Thing Is Bringing You Down
Like I said, a good relationship will build you up and bring out your best qualities. So if you feel worse about yourself than you did at the start of the relationship, clearly things aren't great for your self-esteem, according to Boyles. And that's not OK.
If any of this hits close to home, it may be time to rethink things. As Barton tells me, there's really no such thing as a relationship that is "going great" if you feel this bad. "At this point it is important to talk to someone not emotionally invested in this relationship, or seek counseling for a reality check," she says.
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