People who lack self-worth often display these 7 behaviors in a relationship

In the summer of 2023 (I cannot believe that was only last year) I thought I found my person. 

They thought the world of me. They were kind. They were generous. They were enthusiastic about me and all of my creative endeavors.

But it didn’t take long for the cracks to show.

It was different from my past relationships, in the sense that when things got tough or there was a miscommunication, this person would lean in, rather than lean out. It was refreshing… at first.

But then they never stopped leaning in—and the cling became real.

I’m not going to write someone off for being clingy. Nor am I going to be one of those people who base the status of their love life or something like getting the dreaded “ick”, but it soon became clear that this person loved me way more than they loved themselves—and I couldn’t do it any more.

I still miss them everyday, but I don’t regret the breakup. 

Of course, a partner’s low self-worth won’t spell out the end for everyone’s relationship. 

Most of the time, it will require an honest and open chat, and maybe even some counseling sessions.

If you’re not quite at this stage yet, but you’re trying to make sense of your partner, here are some of the signs they might be struggling with feelings of low self-worth.

Starting with the constant check-ins.

1) They often ask if you are okay, despite you being okay

Is your SO incessantly checking on whether you’re ok, even when you’re radiating nothing but joy?

In my situation, I thought this was undeniably sweet at first. I thought, hey, I have found myself such an empath.

But then I realized it wasn’t even about how I was feeling, it was more so about their fear and deep insecurities.

When a partner insists on questioning your mood, convinced they have somehow upset you (when they absolutely haven’t upset you) it can derail your time together.

You might be at a mate’s house party, or on a romantic date at a moody speakeasy, and this question (particularly when thrown out more than once) can become an immediate vibe kill.

In my experience, this behavior almost always circles back to the underlying issue of low self-esteem.

Unfortunately, people with low self-esteem often project their insecurities onto their relationships—especially their romantic ones.

Those without a sense of self have a real knack for internalizing everything. And I mean everything.

They unfortunately can’t grasp the fact that someone could genuinely be okay and happy when they themselves are not.

When this becomes a pattern, it becomes exhausting. You will find yourself swatting down their concerns as they surface one after another.

Remember, when this happens, though it might be frustrating—don’t get in the habit of believing it’s your fault.

I used to do this when I was with my very insecure partner. I thought: oh my goodness, does my face really look that miserable all the time?

Spoiler: it didn’t.

You might find it comforting to know that it’s not about you, rather, it’s about their internal battle with low self-esteem.

2) They might be obsessed with your ex-partners and constantly wondering if they measure up

If your partner is spending an unhealthy amount of time openly wondering if they will ever match up to your exes, then we’ve got a problem.

Here’s a game-changer: it’s not really about your ex-partners, it’s about their low self-worth.

Confident people don’t engage in endless comparisons. Instead, they know their worth and are secure in their identity and what they bring to the table.

So, if your SO is focused on your past, it’s time to call into question why they aren’t confident in their own attributes.

With my most recent partner, they were consistently probing, inquiring about my exes, comparing themselves, and wondering if they were up to par. 

At first, they posed it as “wanting to get to know more about me” because our identity was made up of our “past relationships”, but after six months of them doing it, I kind of fell apart.

And if your partner is fixated on the past, they’re missing out on the joy of the present with you—and building a future with you. And to me, that’s one of the most exciting, fulfilling parts of being with someone.

3) They often seek constant validation, repeatedly asking “do you still love me?”

phrases men use in relationships when they feel insecure People who lack self-worth often display these 7 behaviors in a relationship

When a person needs constant validation in a relationship, it can create a whole lot of instability.

After all, trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships, and that isn’t just about having trust in your partner, but trust in yourself. Seriously, without this, you’ve got nothing.

To be honest, I cannot help but empathize with people with low self-worth. Five years ago, this was me!

Fortunately, with therapy and a whole lot of soul searching, I was able to cultivate a stronger sense of myself. 

Honestly, I don’t know where I would be today if I had not given myself this life-changing gift.

Those with low self-esteem tend to seek reassurance because deep down, they grapple with the belief that they don’t truly deserve love. And for me, this is a heartbreaking thought.

Often, they desperately, desperately want love, but when they receive it, they cannot accept it. They push it away.

Of course, we are all only human, and seeking the occasional dose of validation is normal, particularly when we have moments of vulnerability. 

But what I’m saying is that if it becomes a daily occurrence, it has become toxic (for the both of you).

Also, it places an unfair expectation on you: one of emotional labor. Which brings me to my next point.

4) They unhealthily depend upon you to be their main source of confidence

Strong, long-lasting, and healthy relationships are built on self-love and confidence. 

When a partner unhealthily relies upon you to boost their ego and confidence, they are basically outsourcing their self-worth to you.

A healthy relationship should be an equal partnership, not one person having to carry the other person all the time.

And from personal experience, I can tell you that this is not a sustainable or healthy equilibrium. In fact, it is a huge burden.

While this might be initially flattering and you might think, “Hey, this person really must trust me!” you will likely soon start to feel constrained by it, and afraid to disrupt their very fragile way of relating to themselves.

A resilient, self-assured person establishes confidence from various sources, be it their achievements at work, their contributions to their family, their sporting ability, or maybe even their ability to pain.

So, if they are solely relying on you to boost them up, it is truly not sustainable.

5) They will want to spend excessive amounts of time with you, and be fearful when you are busy

The desire for constantly being together might not be as cute as it first appears.

When your SO insists on being with you all the time, it’s like they’re not secure in the idea of being away from you.

If you’re busy or unavailable, their anxiety levels skyrocket. 

Usually, this fear of losing your attention stems from a deep anxiety about abandonment or a lingering doubt about whether they deserve love.

If your partner shows this clingy behavior, it’s time to have an open and honest discussion. 

Encourage them to explore new hobbies, call old friends, and all in all find fulfillment beyond the relationship. Most of the time, this is easier said than done—but it’s entirely worth a shot!

6) They become nervous when you don’t reply or contact them in a relatively short timeframe

relationship has no future People who lack self-worth often display these 7 behaviors in a relationship

My most recent partner would panic when I didn’t respond to their messages or calls throughout the day.

Turns out this behavior was a dead giveaway for low self-esteem.

My well-meaning ex was not thinking that I was busy (which I absolutely was!), they were picking apart their entire self-worth based on my response time.

A healthy self-esteem doesn’t topple down due to a lack of instant acknowledgment—it accepts the reality that people have commitments and priorities.

Sure, it’s okay for your partner to miss you, but they should not automatically assume you’ve abandoned them. 

7) They will be overly concerned that you will leave them

Is your lover fixated on the idea that you might just up and leave?

Surprise surprise, this manifestation of low self-worth also harkens back to that curious aforementioned thing: a fear of abandonment.

For many of us who were lucky to grow up with a stable home life (ahem, not me), this fear might feel pretty foreign—because you were conditioned by your parents to know that you would never be left or deserted. Your needs were met.

But for those who were not dealt this hand in life, a fear of abandonment can haunt them way beyond childhood, melting into most of their adult relationships.

It can take years of therapy and self-work to undo this painful manifestation—and I know this from personal experience.

Final thoughts

A partner with low self-esteem might become clingy, jealous, or even sabotage the relationship, convinced they don’t deserve real joy in life.

If you find yourself in the situation of having a partner with low self-worth, open communication is key—I cannot stress this enough!

And remember, having low self-worth doesn’t always spell out the end of a relationship, like it was for me.

Don’t be afraid to talk deeply about their fears, foster understanding, and consider seeking counseling if necessary. (I would recommend that they go solo first, rather than it being a joint session.)

A happy, resilient relationship requires both partners to bring a healthy dose of self-love.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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