How Low Self-Esteem Sabotages Relationships

by | May 23, 2018

It’s hard to have a good relationship with someone else when you don’t have one with yourself. If you don’t think you’re good enough, how can you attract anyone else? Who would choose you except someone else who’s a loser too? When you have low-self esteem, you agree with Groucho Marx who said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

Marriage Counseling, Couples, Realtionships

If you suffer from low self-esteem, perhaps you recognize some of the following patterns:

Desperately Seeking Insecurity. You are used to being abandoned, being cheated on, being disregarded. That is how you grew up to become insecure and have low self-esteem in the first place. So you seek out the familiar and gravitate toward relationships where you’ll experience that feeling already known to you. Even when that experience is a bad one. At least it’s the devil you know.

The White Knight Fantasy. In your heart of hearts you don’t really believe a white knight will charge up on his steed and save you from a life of loneliness. But hey, you don’t believe anyone will because you don’t believe you’re worth it. So you might as well tell yourself a fairy tale. But no one can live up to the perfection of a fictional hero, and you knew it all along. Your partner may be a perfectly solid guy, but alas, he’s not perfect. Because no one is. So you undermine what might have been a good relationship.

The ‘I Told You So” Syndrome. You’ve got a pretty nice guy, but how could that be? You know, deep down, you’re not worthy of someone like him. In fact, you know he couldn’t really love someone as inadequate you. Furthermore, you know it’s just a matter of time before he’ll leave you. You test him in all sorts of ways to establish your hypothesis that he couldn’t possibly love you. Finally he’s had enough of your insecure pestering and he does leave you. Then you have the satisfaction of saying ‘I was right. I told you I’m unlovable. I told you he’d leave me.”

Giving Up Before You Begin. You never really thought anyone would want you. You are afraid of going through life alone. All your friends are married and you are beginning to panic. Finally someone shows an interest in you, because truly, your idea of yourself is not accurate—you are much better than you think. But you commit to this person because you’re afraid no one else will come along. You aren’t very picky because you feel lucky to have anyone at all. And later, you’re not surprised when you’re unhappy. Because you’re not worthy of a nice relationship like everyone else has.

If you see yourself in one or more of the situations above, it’s a good idea to take a breather from relationships altogether. At least for a time, while you work on building your self-esteem. When you do, you’ll discover you can have an authentic connection in a relationship that can bring you great joy.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:


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