4 Ways You're Unintentionally Sabotaging Your Relationships (& How To Fix The Underlying Issues)

Fix your issues before moving your relationship forward.

How To Improve Low Self-Esteem That Sabotages Your Chances Of Having Healthy Relationships getty

It’s no secret that how you feel about yourself colors everything else in your life. But if you have low self-esteem in a relationship, that coloring doesn't just stay inside the lines. It spills over into the relationship itself and muddles the satisfaction both you and your partner feel within it.

If you struggle with low self-worth, you know how it weaves itself throughout your entire life — which is why learning how to improve low-self esteem is critical for building healthy relationships.


Without it, every aspect of your life is subject to second-guessing, self-diminishment, and self-doubt. Socially, you may be withdrawn out of a self-assigned notion that no one wants your company or your opinion.

RELATED: 15 Make-Or-Break Ways Your Self Esteem Affects Your Relationship


Finding a relationship is tough enough when you have low self-esteem. But if you're in a relationship and trying to make it work? You may be surprised by some of the ways that how you feel about yourself wreaks havoc with the vitality of your union.

Here are 4 ways your low-self esteem sabotages your relationship.

  1. Testing and sabotaging: Since you don’t see yourself as lovable, you can’t believe that someone else can either, so you test your partner. You set them up to prove their love and demonstrate how much they value you. You may go so far as to sabotage the relationship because you are convinced they are "going to leave, anyway".
  2. Guarding: You won’t allow yourself to open up to the relationship and don’t trust your partner, even when there is no reason not to.
  3. Afraid of intimacy: Authentic connection feels foreign or fake, so you back away emotionally and sexually.
  4. Settling: Since you don’t value yourself, you believe you are "lucky just to have someone". You may avail yourself to relationships that match your diminished view of yourself and leave you unhappy — not just within yourself, but within your relationship.

Perhaps your formative years fostered a fear of abandonment or denial of self-worth. Either way, the lack of self-confidence in a relationship can diminish the trust between you and your partner and lead to more conflict.

Making your relationship work in spite of your low self-esteem will involve work within yourself, work with your partner, and a shift in your mindset.


Here's how to improve low self-esteem and fix the underlying issues preventing you from having healthy relationships.

1. Understand your past

Go after your life story like a detective seeking to explain the present. You can’t change the past, obviously, but you can use it to make sense of your present choices and actions...and give you options going forward.

2. Be honest about how you express insecurities in your relationship

Do you go MIA? Are you needy? Do you test and sabotage?

It takes tremendous self-awareness to call yourself out on behaviors and attitudes you may not like. But doing so allows you and your partner to be on the same page when you can communicate your "style" of low self-esteem expression. It also gives your partner the opportunity to respond with knowledge, awareness...and love.


RELATED: 15 Ways To Improve Your Self-Esteem (That You Can Do From Anywhere)

3. Be assertive

When your self-esteem has a ball and chain wrapped around you, you may feel too insecure to express your feelings and opinions, let alone ask for what you want. Practicing assertiveness will help you find your voice. And having a voice feeds a sense of self-importance.

By not just "going along with whatever", you play an active role in shaping your relationship to look like a blend of you and your partner. You also express trust in your partner to receive your thoughts and feelings and still love you.

4. Ask your partner for help

Risk asking your partner to "listen without solving". Be honest about what you struggle with and let them know that it is difficult for you to ask for help.


While your partner can’t single-handedly resolve your low self-esteem, in a relationship the two of you can work together to grow intimacy in the context of vulnerability and trust.

5. Show self-compassion

Building confidence means acknowledging your humanness, just as you would for someone you love. Allow yourself to experience and express your emotions without shame.

Remember that they don’t define you and that how you express them can make all the difference in your relationship.

It is only natural to seek out what feels familiar when entering and building a relationship.

By doing the tough work of learning and understanding where your "familiar" comes from, you can be proactive in how it plays out in your life.


We all yearn to be loved for who we are — exactly as we are. But a healthy relationship is also about growth. It is both a balancing act and a sensitive, intuitive dance.

One step. A response step. Another small step. An adjustment as needed. And always with trust and communication as you feel the music within you and between you.

RELATED: 3 Simple Steps To Improve Your Self-Confidence

Lisa Lieberman-Wang is a relationship expert and creator of the neuroscience Neuro Associative Programming (NAP). If you need help finding your truth and living an authentic life, contact her through her website or send her an e-mail.