The Connection Between Low Self-Esteem and Abusive Relationships

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The simple fact of the matter is that self-esteem and abuse are linked in so many ways. And it goes without saying that abuse can cause low self-esteem. But it can also lead to those with lesser self-esteem being attracted to relationships where abuse is more than possible.

The connection can manifest itself in any number of ways. Resolving an abusive situation does not always mean a return to positive levels of self-esteem, and the effects of abuse can be potentially permanent. Let’s take a closer look at the connection between the two.

The Attraction of Low Self-Esteem to Abusers

There are some people who seem naturally inclined to be in a relationship with an abuser. This is because there is a connection between low self-esteem and abusive relationships.

When people have low self-esteem, they feel as if they aren’t good enough to be in a “normal,” healthy relationship. Because of this, they inherently look for partners who have major flaws, which sometimes include an abusive history.

It is not that they want to be abused. It comes down to feeling as if they are not valuable enough to be treated with kindness and courtesy. They migrate toward abusive individuals and then see the abuse as being something “deserved.”

Why Do Abuse Victims Stay in the Relationship?

For anyone who has ever known someone being abused in a relationship, it can be a frustrating experience. It seems so simple: just leave! But there is more to it than that and a good reason why the abused seemingly can’t move on.

To a bystander who has no experience with being on the abusive end of a relationship, it can be impossible to understand. The mistreatment can be clear as day, which leads to feelings that the abused are masochists or that they are really only happy when they are miserable. But there are some major reasons why remaining in an abusive relationship makes sense even if those reasons are frustrating to hear.

Practical Reasons

Sometimes it isn’t about whether or not the abused wants to stay but more practical reasons. One of the most common reasons that people who are in abusive relationships stay is because they feel like they have nowhere else to go. Though there is a correlation between low self-esteem and abusive relationships, it sometimes comes down to practical reasons.

Not everyone lives near a shelter, the shelter may not have room, they might not have friends or family who have housing available, and many are not in a financial situation where they can afford to get out. They are simply trapped because of the financial implications, especially when there are children involved that require their care.


There are a lot of emotions in play when it comes to the relationship between abusers and the abused. Most abusers are far more than simply abusive. They also have some seemingly positive qualities that their partner wound up falling for in the first place.

There can be strong feelings of love between both parties, which seemingly makes it difficult for the abused to leave. There are also aspects of abuse where the abuser can instill positive feelings, making the abused feel like they are doing something wrong or are being abused for a good reason.


Many victims of abuse remain in relationships that are abusive because they have been threatened. It can be a threat directed toward the children in the relationship. But it is oftentimes threats against the abused themselves, such as threatening enhanced violence or even death, that make the abused stay.

These are the types of relationships that prove to be more dangerous and serious than anyone on the outside would understand. The fear of what may happen is what keeps the abused in these relationships for a longer time than they would prefer.


Despite the negative behavior, it can be difficult to give up on a relationship. The good times can be enough for the abused to feel as though the relationship is salvageable, that it takes a little more work to make things better. They grasp onto the honeymoon period, hoping to make a change that will end the abuse and make the entire relationship what they hoped it would be.

There is “No One Better”

Another common reason why the abused stay in abusive relationships is that they feel they can’t do better. They know that the relationship is bad for them and that their abuse is unlikely to stop anytime soon.

That said, their confidence and self-esteem can be so low that they feel like they either can’t find something better, or they believe that they “deserve” the treatment they receive. This can be manifest as the result of many past issues and oftentimes requires professional intervention to help work through deep-seated issues.


The connection between low self-esteem and abusive relationships is nothing new. Whether it involves individuals who enter into abusive relationships or those who seemingly cannot leave, one plays into the other.

The belief that one is not good enough for a healthy relationship leads to questionable choices, such as staying with an abuser. It is difficult to break this train of thought, leading to prolonged relationships where abuse is constant.


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