Partners with low self-esteem are actually more likely to stay in unhappy relationships.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo found that partners with low self-esteem are actually more likely to stay in unhappy relationships. They may decline to object to serious relationship issues due to fear of rejection.
When we think of “perfect” relationships, we tend to focus on one thing: A lack of conflict. Happy couples don’t fight, so says conventional wisdom. Now, research from the University of Waterloo finds that seemingly conflict-free relationships may have less to do with satisfaction and more to do with one partner’s lack of self-esteem.
“If your significant other is not engaging in open and honest conversation about the relationship,” says Megan McCarthy, the study’s author and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology. “It may not be that they don’t care, but rather that they feel insecure and are afraid of being hurt.”
It makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Typically, we associate people with low self-esteem with negativity, defensiveness and avoidance. In social situations, that plays out the way you might expect — the guy or gal who’s insecure about their body might declare that going to the beach sounds dumb to avoid donning a swimsuit, for instance.
Don’t Mistake Her Lack Of Complaining For Happiness
It might even look the same for those with low self-esteem when it comes to beginning the dating process. Someone afraid of getting hurt, for example, might view dating as a lost cause or spin their singlehood as due to a lack of viable partners. But once in a relationship, those avoidance and self-preservation strategies look a lot like complacency, or even happiness. Rather than speak up about how the way you talk about her in public makes her feel like crap (and risk causing conflict), it’s a lot easier to keep quiet.
“We may think that staying quiet, in a ‘forgive and forget’ kind of way, is constructive, and certainly it can be when we feel minor annoyances,” says McCarthy. “But when we have a serious issue in a relationship, failing to address those issues directly can actually be destructive.”
Thus ends your annual reminder that responses like “nothing,” or “it’s fine” should be taken as alarm signals telling you to listen up and stop being a blockhead.