The Best Way To Help A Partner Struggling With Low Self-Esteem

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

When you have low self-esteem, learning to love yourself can be one of the most difficult things in the world. Everything about you just doesn't seem good enough. While getting into a relationship with someone who makes you feel loved and supported can help, when you're still lacking self-confidence, research shows it can really do a number on you and your feelings toward your partner. According to a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, people with low self-esteem end up regretting the sacrifices they make in their relationships and end up feeling unappreciated and unsupported by their partners.

Social psychologist, Francesca Righetti from the VU University Amsterdam and colleagues conducted a study of 130 couples in the Netherlands to see how people with low self-esteem feel after making personal sacrifices for their relationship. Would these people end up regretting those sacrifices and how would it affect their overall wellbeing?

People with low self-esteem don't see their personal sacrifices as being beneficial for their relationship.

Couples who've been together for at least four months were told to fill out emotional assessments every two hours for eight days straight. They also kept a daily diary, which they filled out at the end of the day. After those eight days were up, participants were then contacted a year later.

As the study found, there's a link between self-esteem and regret. In this case, people with low self-esteem don't see their personal sacrifices as being beneficial for their relationship. Instead, they regret those sacrifices to a greater extent. Researchers believe one of the main reasons behind why some people end up regretting their sacrifices is because they don't believe their partners really appreciate or support them. "It's really difficult at times to be in a relationship with a partner who has low self-esteem," Dr. Lisa Herman, licensed psychologist and owner of online mental health therapy site, Synergy eTherapy tells Bustle. "But there are ways to help."

If your partner is struggling with low self-esteem, here's what you can do:

1Find Time During Your Day To Actively Be Together

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"Active means you are intentionally interacting with one another," Dr. Herman says. "Sometimes people think looking at their phones or reading their own book independently but together in the same room is quality time. It really isn't. Actively engaging with one another takes effort, attention, and desire."

Some examples of this include talking. Just take 10 minutes out of your day to debrief and go over how the day went. Other examples include spending about half an hour enjoying dinner together or playing a game that you can can enjoy. "Life gets busy and monotonous," she says. "But being intentional keeps couples together. It says, I want to be with you; I want to have fun with you. This helps with self-esteem."

2Take Turns Enjoying Each Other's Hobbies

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You won't always want to do what they like to do, eat what they like to eat, or even go where they want to go. But it's important to compromise — relationships shouldn't be one-sided. And who knows? "This selfless act may just be fun for both of you," Dr. Herman says.

3Get Intimate

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"At the beginning of relationships the 'spark' is lit quite bright, our hormones get carried away and the feeling of being in love is physically, emotionally, and spiritually intoxicating," Dr. Herman says. "But once the newness wears off, make sure you remain intimate."

Touch is particularly important, she says. Being intimate helps with feeling connected to your partner. "Those feel good chemicals flood our body when we kiss, hug, and hold hands, etc. Intimacy does not have to mean intercourse all the time, although some people would beg to differ!" Dr. Herman says.

Intimacy can come in all shapes and forms. It can be a spontaneous kiss in the middle of the day or even a sexy text. Most importantly, intimacy is also emotional. "People plow through the day with all sorts of thoughts and feelings but we ten to keep them to ourselves," Dr. Herman says. So make regular time to talk about how you feel, what your hopes and dreams are for tomorrow, or the next year or the next decade even. Let each other know what makes you happy, sad or angry. Rely on each other to be supportive.

"Emotional intimacy typically increases the desire for the physical intimacy to increase, especially in women," she says. So keep working to keep that spark alive.

4Make Sure To Get That "Me" Time In

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"It may seem counter intuitive but it's important that each person get time just to themselves, whatever that looks like," she says. "Being by yourself can help foster self-esteem as well."

So whatever that looks like to you, whether it's reading, working out, or taking a breather somewhere, being able to have space away from your partner can help you recharge. Your relationship will be better for it.

5Always Show Gratitude

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While all of Dr. Herman's pointers are great, there may be something even simpler that you can do. As the researchers of the study concluded, showing your partner with low self-esteem that you care and appreciate them is very important. You can't just assume they know you're grateful. So taking the time out to say those two small words (i.e. thank you) can make all the difference.

Overall, it doesn't matter if your partner has low self-esteem or all the self-confidence in the world. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, especially if personal sacrifices are involved. So saying "Thank you," and showing your partner how much you truly appreciate them can mean the world.