The Effects of Self-Image on Relationships

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The way you and your partner perceive yourselves -- negative or positive -- affects your relationship. If one or both have a poor self-image, it can show up in the relationship in many different ways, and can cause a lot of damage. If both partners have a positive perception of themselves, they are more likely to have a successful relationship.


Self-image is how you view yourself -- your personality, physical appearance, status, etc. -- according to the “Webster's New World College Dictionary” definition of the term. Your self-image is influenced by how you believe others see you, and how you measure up to your own standards. Your self-esteem -- the way you feel about yourself -- is directly affected by your perception of yourself. Having a poor self-image -- and consequently low self-esteem -- can get in the way of having a happy relationship. If you don’t love yourself, it can be difficult to love someone else, according to psychosexual therapist and couples counselor Julia Cole in "Loving Yourself, Loving Another." This is because it can be difficult for someone with low self-esteem to accept that someone would love him or her.


The way you see yourself can have an effect on how you communicate with your partner. Having a positive self-image means you’re confident enough to own up to your mistakes. For example, if you get into an argument with your partner, you can recognize where you went wrong and apologize (with the comfort that you are not perfect and the confidence that you can improve).


Having a positive self-image and feeling equal to your partner is good for the relationship, according to “Choices in Relationship: Introduction to Marriage and the Family” by David Knox and Caroline Schacht. If you feel unattractive or inadequate, you may get jealous easily because you may find it hard to trust that your partner can be happy with you. This can bring up more insecurities and unhappiness in the relationship.

Interdependence or Dependence

A good self-image helps lessen unhealthy dependence on a partner and allows for interdependence instead. This gives you a chance to develop your own identity outside of the relationship, which can be healthy for both parties.

Someone who has a negative perception of herself may look to her partner to validate her self-worth. This puts pressure on her partner, who is expected to constantly confirm her worth. If her self-esteem is bad enough, she may stay in an unhappy relationship out of fear of loneliness.


To be sexually fulfilled in your relationship, it’s important to have a positive self-image and self-esteem. People who do not feel attractive in their body or confident in their abilities may doubt their partner’s attraction to them. This could affect the person’s desire to have sex and be intimate. If someone has low self-esteem and a negative body image, he may feel uncomfortable being naked around his partner, dislike being touched, and feel out of touch with his body.