Fuhrer: Self-esteem and intimate relationships

People are likely to partner with womone with similar self-esteem

“There is no greater barrier to romantic happiness or a fulfilling relationship than the secret fear that I am undeserving of love or that my destiny is to be hurt.”

American psychotherapist and best-selling author Nathaniel Branden

“Let me tell you, I’m not feeling very loved, honoured or cherished.”

“Uh, yes,” I replied. “The promise of the wedding vows and expectations unfulfilled.”

“That’s just it,” he said. “I’m in this loveless relationship. There no talk. There’s no intimacy. As time goes by, I am beginning to let go of more and more of my ‘love’ expectations.”

Here’s an insight you might find interesting: you are likely to partner with someone who has similar self-esteem to your own. New research suggests at an unconscious level our low self-esteem may prompt us to attract others with low self-esteem. Conversely, our high self-esteem is likely to attract others with high self-esteem.

This generalized statement will obviously not apply to every relationship. For example, some people with low self-esteem may be attracted to others with high self-esteem, because they recognize the security or fringe benefits that relationship could provide. Alternatively, someone with high self-esteem could be attracted to someone with low self-esteem. Though less likely, this does happen, especially if the attraction is based on physical appearance.

When it comes to the long-term success of relationships with a “mismatch” of self-esteem, there are two common outcomes. The first is that the relationship ends — especially after the “infatuation” period has passed. Breakups commonly occur due to insecurities and self-sabotaging behaviours on the part of the person with the low self-esteem. For example, if the female in the relationship has many male friends, then the partner (who has low self-esteem) may become jealous. This could then lead to arguments, controlling or manipulating, or passive aggressive behaviour on the part of the low self-esteemer leading to resentment and a lack of trust.

The second outcome in a mismatched relationship is a type of harmonizing. As the relationship progresses over time, both partners begin to adopt each other’s level of self-esteem, ultimately striking a balance somewhere between the two extremes.

The most common form of harmonizing occurs when the person with lower self-esteem adopts his or her partner’s higher self-esteem. In other words, being with the partner causes the individual to feel better about him or herself, more confident and valued as a person.

If you suffer from low self-esteem, you may be reluctant to begin a relationship in the first place. With low self-esteem, we often experience feelings of being unworthy or undeserving of love. Thus, we may conclude that a loving relationship is something we could never attain or ultimately sustain. Consequently, this self-defeating belief may cause us to hold back, to move away from actively pursuing love, or to simply avoid love should it appear.

A lack of self-love invariably leads to a state of emotional impoverishment. If unable to bring forth feelings of love and acceptance from within, we may look to other people as a source of approval or validation — viewing others not for who they are, but what they can do for us.

There will always be congruency between what we think and what we do. Believing we are unworthy of love and affection may prompt us to unconsciously connect with someone who can confirm the fact. It stands to reason then that having low self-esteem could cause us to miss out on connecting with a positive, loving partner.

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings you joy,” wrote American psychologist and best-selling author Jean Shinoda Bolen, “care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”

Healthy self-esteem plays a significant role in finding love and maintaining a loving relationship. If successful love is something you desire, then continue to improve your self-esteem.

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His most recent book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca

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