24 Ways You Could Be Hurting Your Partner’s Self-Esteem Without Realizing It

Self-esteem isn’t something you gain or lose overnight. It can take years to build it, but only days to destroy it. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re not hurting your partner’s self-esteem in ways you didn’t know about. Sure, it’s your partner’s responsibility to work on their own issues with low self-esteem, but it’s also your job as a caring partner to make that process as easy as possible.

There are a lot of simple, everyday things we do and say that can have a negative impact on your partner’s self-esteem, and many of them are things that are so common and seemingly benign that our minds are blown when we realize we’re hurting them. And then there are the common sense things, like name-calling, or refusing to support their interests. When I worked with couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate, and as a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I saw a lot of people hold in all these little things their partners did that made them feel less than. Holding those feelings in not only negatively impacted self-esteem, but littered their relationship with resentments.

I also saw partners who didn’t really care how their actions affected self-esteem, too. You don’t want to be that partner. Scan this checklist to make sure your snark isn’t too snarky and your guidance isn’t too patronizing. Your partner’s self-esteem will thank you.

1. Eye Rolling

Body language is powerful. Often, it’s more powerful than words when it comes to healthy communication. Your eye rolls might just mean “I think what you just said is ridiculous,” but it’s easy to take it as “you’re an idiot and I’m judging you in my head.” While we’re on the subject, crossing your arms, looking at your phone when your partner is talking, and generally looking disinterested are also ways you could be subtly sending signals that come across as “I don’t care” or “stop talking” or worse. Be mindful of your body language.

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