Relationships: Low Self-Esteem Hurts

Taking the blame for your partner's bad mood.

By Kaja Perina, published on July 1, 2003 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

People with low self-esteem are apt to feel responsible for their
partner's unhappiness, and to unwittingly sabotage their relationship as
a result. Sandra Murray, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the
University of New York at Buffalo, found that college students who scored
low on measures of self-esteem were far more likely to feel rejected or
hostile when presented with scenarios in which their partners were
distraught, even when other factors--such as losing a court hearing--were
implicated in the partners' moodiness.

In the journal Personal Relationships, Murray warns that overly
sensitive and insecure partners may "read nonexistent meaning into their
partners' ambiguous cues, thus leading their relationships to the outcome
they wish to avoid." While misreading cues may seem to be a greater
danger in nascent relationships, researchers have found that even after
ten years of marriage, people with low self-esteem believe their partners
love them far less than they actually do.