If you can't love yourself, how can you love someone else?

How we feel about ourselves can have serious consequences for our romantic relationships.

The rate at which we perceive our own worth and value (our level of ‘self esteem’, in other words) has been proven to have a huge impact on romantic relationships, not only because of the positive impact on the individuals’ happiness, but also the benefits it brings to the couple themselves.

Psychologist Todd K. Shackleford found that partners with high-self esteem enjoyed greater relationship satisfaction than those with lower levels of self esteem; these individuals were inclined to think that their partners would see them as negatively as they see themselves, which often led to excessive reassurance seeking or one or both partners distancing themselves from the relationship to avoid disappointment and rejection.

This supports research findings we come across time and time again when it comes to relationships – that for relationships to thrive, it’s important that couples not only put work into the relationship but also to look after themselves as individuals.

How our partner relates to us has a significant impact on our self-esteem and, as a result, our sense of relationship satisfaction and relationship commitment. Mutual high self-esteem between partners has been shown to strengthen relationship well-being.

Self-esteem and relationships

Romantic relationships, then, can have a positive or negative affect on our self-esteem, with our sense of worth being likely to suffer if our partner is dissatisfied with the relationship, something that is especially true for young women.

The lack of positive images and affirming role models in society can make it feel particularly hard for young women to hold onto self-belief  and keep self-critical thoughts at arms’ reach.

A loving partnership can provide a supportive environment and help to build resilience. Working together, sharing self-doubts and vulnerabilities can help both the individual and enrich a couple's relationship and make it stronger.

Looking after yourself and your relationship

Nurturing ourselves, our partner, and the relationship is therefore good in all respects as high self-esteem is beneficial in romantic relationships for both individuals and the couple partnership. Research suggests that individuals with high self-esteem are more confident about their ability to achieve goals and therefore are likely to be more effective in creating and maintaining a fulfilling and satisfying relationship.

Reaching out to our partner to help us to address issues of low self-esteem is crucial. Communicating how we feel about ourselves can be the first step in doing work on ourselves to enhance our self-worth. Letting a partner in can reap emotional dividends. Reframing partners’ compliments in positive and meaningful ways can enable individuals with low self-esteem to engage in more constructive relationship behaviors and this can initiate positive forms of reinforcement.

Self-esteem is thus not something that we should work on outside of the relationship but is part of relationship communication and emotional connection.

Dr. Jacqui Gabb is the Chief Relationships Officer at Paired, a fun, free research-backed app that prompts daily conversations between couples. Relate website users can now get 20% off the Paired Premium yearly plan to unlock the secrets to keeping their relationships happy and healthy.

A photo of Dr. Jacqui Gabb, a white woman with long, flowing white and grey hair. She is wearing blue glasses and a brightly patterned top. Her hand is moving towards her chin as if she is about to lean on it.

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