In one my therapy sessions, my therapist explained to me that some of us have hard shells, while others of us have soft shells. Me, being someone with a soft shell, am more likely to be affected by things that someone with hard shell would let roll off their back. For example, my partner might think they're giving me positive feedback, but my damn soft shell will interpret it otherwise — then I'll spend days crushed and obsessing over what was said, most notably at 4 a.m., because that's the ideal to run through all of one's insecurities.
But it's been in these moments, that my confidence takes a hit. Even if I wasn't fully aware of it at the time. I've also, in looking back, been guilty of kicking the confidence of my partners in the gut, too. Not maliciously, of course, but going back to that soft shell versus hard shell concept, you're never really quite sure the impact of your words or actions might have on someone else unless, of course, you get the opportunity to live a day in their shoes — which, would be great in understanding our partners better, but also not exactly physically possible.
Here are the unexpected things you're doing that could be killing your partner's confidence, according to New York–based relationship and etiquette expert of Relationship Advice Forum, April Masini.
1When You Say, "Let Me Do That!"
"You say it to be kind," Masini tells Bustle. "You say it to take something off your partner’s very full plate. You say it because you’re quicker than your partner at this particular task and you want your partner’s attention for something else. But what your partner hears is — 'I’m not good enough to do this'."
When you suggest to someone, even mistakenly, that they're not good enough at something, it can crawl into their psyche. Perhaps, their confidence won't be completely shattered in that moment, but after saying over and over and over, "Let me do that," it's bound to take its toll and your partner's self-esteem could be worse off for it.
2You Don't Let Them Be The Hero Enough
No matter one's gender, everyone wants to be the hero sometimes. They want to be the one who has swooped in and fixed whatever was broken, even if that thing that was "broken" was simply a missing shoe. A lot of people want to be the person who finds that missing shoe for their partner, so let them. Then praise them for it.
"Let your partner be the hero who changes the lightbulb, fixes the kitchen sink, finds the missing money in the checking account balance or walks the dog," says Masini, "so that they can feel great about who they are and what they do for you."
3When You Say, "That Looks Terrible."
Sometimes honesty isn't always the best policy. Your partner probably knows how much you care about them, Mansini says, but we all get conscious and have weak spots.
"Your partner may take that comment as an insult of the personal nature," she says. "Instead of hearing that you hate the dress or the shirt or the suit — they hear that you hate their body in it."
4You Try To Change Them
While it may not register at first that telling your partner that something looks terrible on them is trying to change them, if you really think about it, that's what you're saying in a roundabout way. You're asserting that something doesn't look good, and if you've been making your partner feel like they're not good enough in other areas, for example, demanding you do something because you lack the patience for them to do it, you're ultimately trying to change them.
When people feel as though you don't like who and what they are, of course their confidence will suffer immensely.
5You Make Them Jealous
When it comes to jealousy, we all have a different tolerance. While watching their partner flirt with a stranger is not a big deal for one person, for another, it can feel like the end of the world. This is something you need to take into consideration, especially at social events. For some, seeing their partner flirt, even innocently, can bring up feelings of inadequacy and fear that they will lose their partner to another.
"When you make a partner jealous, their jealousy is an emotion that masks insecurity and fear," says Masini. "So, whether it’s flirting with someone else, beyond the comfort zone for your partner, or remarking about how great someone else is at something, that jealousy and envy you’re inadvertently stirring up may make your partner mad — and kill their confidence as a partner."
6You Don't Take Into Account Their Insecurities
When you've been with someone long enough, you get a pretty good reading on their insecurities. This is what can make fighting with a partner so vicious — you know exactly what to say if you want to go for the jugular. But on the flip side of that, even when you're not trying to bring your partner to their knees because they ate the last cookie or disappointed in you in some other way, that awareness of their insecurities and not being sensitive to them, as Masini points out, can be truly devastating to one's opinion of themselves.
Sometimes tip-toeing around a situation is better than contributing to a self-confidence that may already be on the decline due to other things you have said or done, and not truly realized their impact.
7You Put Them Last
If you're constantly putting your partner last, and maybe not even realizing it, of course, their mental and emotional stability can take a hit. "If you take phone calls from your friends instead of spending Saturday night with your partner, or if you make their birthday or an anniversary seem ho-hum and not very important, you’re going to kill the confidence your partner has in the relationship," says Masini. "Maybe not all at once, but little by little, your partner is going to feel less than and not king or queen of the castle that is your relationship."
These things may have never once crossed your mind as being detrimental to your partner's confidence, because they're not just surprising but, for some, they're everyday interactions. But, now that you know, you can proceed with caution. If you truly love your partner, it's important to lift them up, not put them down.