We all feel insecure from time to time in our relationships; it’s completely normal. However, some people feel like this most of the time, to the point where it becomes overly consuming for both partners. Knowing how to handle and manage insecurity in a relationship is something that can truly make a difference between a relationship’s flourish and failure.
Signs of Insecurity In a Relationship
Insecurity in a romantic relationship can feel like:
- The constant fear that your partner will leave you
- Feeling you don’t have enough to offer
- Ruminating about all the times in the relationship when you looked or behaved imperfectly
- Feeling like a fraud destined to be exposed
- Seeing yourself as boring, overweight, stupid, ugly…
- Feeling like you don’t deserve lasting love
- Experiencing guilt and shame often
- Being hungry for attention and reassurance, but even when you get it, it rarely seems convincing enough
- Switching between doubt, anxiety, anger, and guilt back and forth
- Consuming jealousy that leads to unhealthy thoughts and actions such as obsessively questioning your partner’s whereabouts, privacy violations, controlling behaviour, etc.
These feelings can especially exacerbate when we are in a relationship with someone we have intense feelings for. The more important the relationship is to us, the more we think we stand to lose. This is where our insecurities become super uncomfortable – they spike anxiety, fear, suspiciousness, anger, and other unpleasant and unhealthy emotions.
What Causes Insecurity In a Relationship?
At its core, insecurity usually comes from a deep sense of inadequacy. The frequent underlying belief is that we are not enough the way we are. That we are flawed, ugly, or unworthy of love. Often, this sense of “low worth” comes hand in hand with one or both of these unhealthy patterns – a harsh inner critic and the belief that others will love us only if we are behaving a certain way.
Acting strong, fun, compliant, agreeable, beautiful, hard-working, always there for others, whatever the set of criteria is, we may believe that it’s the only way to make our partner stay. Sometimes, this can even feel like tricking our partners into loving us. Maybe not explicitly, but somewhere between the lines, we may fear that the moment they discover our true colours, they will leave.
On the other hand, we may feel powerless before our inner critic that throws insults at us all the time. It may become so embedded in our daily self-talk that we are not even aware of how much of an impact it has on our overall self-esteem.
The Impact of Our Past to Our Current Relationships
All these beliefs are usually the product of our early experiences. They come from the ways we interpreted and incorporated those experiences into our belief system the best we could with the limited resources we had. Some examples of those early experiences may be:
- attachment styles we built with our primary caregivers, that we, later, transfer to our other relationships
- main messages we received from our environment that tailored deep beliefs about ourselves, other people, and life in general
- observing relationships around us and “learning” what we absolutely should and should not do to avoid ending up hurt
- hurtful experiences, like being rejected, neglected, or humiliated by someone we cared about
While it can be easy to blame our partner’s behaviours for our insecurities, the truth is, most of the time, insecurity in a relationship really comes from inside of ourselves. Indeed, being in a relationship with someone who regularly judges most of what we do can surely shake our confidence. Putting up with repeated criticism and rarely getting affection or appreciation from our partner can increase our self-doubt. But pay attention, the word is increase, not create. It may be good to remember that other people cannot make us feel or behave in a certain way. Only our thoughts and beliefs can.
Can Insecurity Damage a Relationship?
It is completely normal to feel insecure once in a while. In small amounts, it can even be beneficial at times, because it may motivate us to put more effort into our partnership. It is chronic self-doubt that can negatively impact our mental health and interfere with our relationships.
One of the key elements of successful romantic relationships is an authentic connection between partners. Deep connection comes from authenticity, and authenticity requires us to be open to showing our vulnerable side. To do that, we need to believe that, even with our vulnerabilities, we are still beautiful and worthy of love. In other words, we need to be comfortable with who we are, at least to a certain extent. Chronic insecurity can stand in the way of engaging with your partner in an authentic way by preventing you to be completely yourself.
Constant worry in a relationship can be mentally exhausting, robbing you of peace and happiness. Instead of enjoying the journey and having a good time with the person you love and care about, obsessive doubts can turn your head into a truly uncomfortable place to be. And like if that’s not enough of a pain, if you let your insecurities get out of hand and impact your behaviours, it can lead to a set of unhealthy interactions with your partner where you’re both unsatisfied and the relationship suffers.
We Fetch For Clues To Confirm Our Toxic Beliefs
For example, insecurity in a relationship can sometimes cause you to misinterpret some situations or to exaggerate problems. It may not sound intuitive but we, as humans, are constantly in search of clues to confirm our beliefs. This gives us a sense of structure and control. We have all kinds of beliefs, and most of them are accurate and help us organize and interpret information. However, some of these beliefs can be unhelpful and unhealthy. But our brains can be stubborn and instead of letting go, they seek to confirm those beliefs too.
In the context of relationships, this means that, if you believe your partner will hurt you, leave you, or betray you, there is a high chance that you will, consciously or unconsciously, try to find proof for your fears. This is a natural response to anxiety – you’re trying to feel prepared if the worst-case scenario happens. However, this causes your anxiety to spike up. Not only that, but this may even lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where you start behaving in a way that induces the exact reaction you wanted to avoid. Simply put, you may start finding problems where they don’t exist. This not only fuels your insecurities further, but also leads to unhealthy behaviours like putting your partner down, jealousy, accusations, and constantly asking for reassurance, just to name a few. All those behaviours push your partner away and disrupt intimacy and trust in a relationship.
How Do I Stop Being So Insecure?
Depending on where your self-doubts come from, there are several strategies and steps you can take to tackle them down.
1. Tame your inner self-critic
People with a strong inner critic know how hard it is to suppress the annoying voice that’s putting them down. Sometimes this little voice is so persistent and so convincing, that we accept it as our reality. Since it can be so loud sometimes, and so embedded in our thought patterns, the solution is not to shut it off; it’s often impossible. Instead, pay attention to what the voice is saying and then actively stand up for yourself. Treat your inner critic like a misbehaving child that you’re trying to teach how to be civilized and stop firing insults. This way, you’re becoming mindful of your self-diminishing thoughts, taking a step back, and then take an active effort to reframe them. It allows you to reject unhealthy attitudes toward yourself and accept a more realistic approach as an accurate reflection of who you are.
In the beginning, this kind of self-talk can feel a little bit unnatural, like you’re faking it. However, with persistence, it usually starts feeling less and less like labour, and more and more like something authentic.
2. Make a list of your strengths (short-term solution)
As an emergency boost to your self-esteem, it can be helpful to make a list of all your positive traits. This list represents what you bring on the table in a relationship. This is not the time to be modest – get creative and write down every positive detail you can think of. Maybe you have a gorgeous smile or you’re a good kisser. Maybe you don’t have a smokin’ hot body but you’re supportive and make your partner feel appreciated. Or maybe you’re not that funny but you’re trustworthy and, on top of that, a great cook. Nobody is perfect. But it’s important to know that it’s not necessary to be perfect to be loved. Imperfections are what make us human. Learn to love your uniqueness.
One important thing to have in mind is that this list does not represent the reason you deserve to be loved. It should just serve as a reminder of how many positive traits you have, because during the times of strong self-doubt, they are easy to forget. You, with all your quirks and experiences and scars and mannerisms, you as a unique human, are loveable. Let that sink in. Sometimes this is hard to accept.
3. Let go of conditions you imposed on yourself to deserve love
The underlying belief: “They will only love me if I am this or that” is what can often be seen behind insecurities in relationships and what fuels self-doubt further. On some level, when you hold this belief, you send yourself a message that you are not truly loveable at your core, for who you really are, but that you need to deserve love by doing certain things and behaving in certain ways. But you don’t. We choose our partners and our partners choose us.
Of course, you need to invest in a relationship for it to be healthy. It’s necessary to put work in your partnership to thrive. It’s good to do nice things for your partner, to show respect and affection, to build trust and make them feel safe and appreciated. But you don’t need to do certain things to be the person worthy of love. There is a difference between the two.
If we feel worthy of love only if we meet certain criteria, that feeling stands on an unstable ground simply because we will sometimes fail. Inevitably. Everybody does. This is why it’s important to start loving yourself for who you are and not for what you do. To recognize that you are enough. To realize that your partner is with you because of you (even if you’re super not sure about it right now). Self-compassion can be incredibly helpful with this!
4. Communicate with your partner openly and effectively
It’s important to get clear about what you and your partner both need in a relationship and discuss realistic and reasonable ways you can help each other fulfill them. Be aware that this kind of talk requires both partners to ditch defensiveness and assumptions, and be kind, honest, and open with each other. Intimate connection creates a safe environment in which you can work to overcome insecurities and meet each other halfway. Sometimes this is not easy, especially if there are perpetuating problems and frustrations in a relationship, but with mutual effort, it can be done.
Coping with insecurity in a relationship can be tough because it requires you to deal with your core beliefs and take an active effort to break the patterns that influenced your thinking for years. Still, with consistency, self-reflection, and effective communication with your partner, it is possible. And please remember that it doesn’t have to be a lonely battle. Support and help from someone you trust, like a friend or a therapist, can make it a lot more bearable. Learning to manage your insecurities will increase not only the quality of your mental health but the quality of your romantic relationships as well.
P.S. If you like this article or know someone who may find it useful, please don’t hesitate to share it on your social media.
I was browsing through my Instagram feed tonight when I came across the profile of one of my colleagues in Atlanta, Georgia. One of his blog posts about self-love caught my eye, because many of the clients I’ve worked with have had similar issues.
Rather than trying to rephrase his posting, I’ll quote it for you. He says it best.
Chasing the Cheat’a
May 23, 2015
Solomon E. Stretch
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now and I just hadn’t been inspired, until one of my beautiful friends posted this quote to her Instagram feed. “Don’t let the mixed signals fool you. Indecision is a decision”.
Why do we play the fool? Apparently, everybody does it.
Why do we choose to waste our time on people who don’t choose us?
Now that’s a question for you! Seriously?! I bet it’s a pride thing, something that Freud would say stems back to our dismissive caregivers. I’m sure there was something lacking that our parents OR our first love (boyfriend, girlfriend, crush, or someone we casually stalked and never caught a charge for) didn’t give us. But us being prideful humans are determined to make that void whole- even if it kills us.
3 C’s of Your Addiction:
Control: Trying to make someone love you
Compulsion: Having the need to do all the things you said you weren’t going to do. Yup, you compromised who you are
Consequence: hurt feelings, wasted time, and you just might look like an ass
Self-love is so important. Clearly understanding your values, what’s important to you, and being confident with your own boundaries will help you create healthy relationships in your life. Be patient with yourself. If you don’t have all these yet, slowly work towards improvement little by little. Surround yourself with a supportive and empowering circle of people. If you don’t have many of those around, consider professional help.
Give yourself some love. It’s one of the most important things you will do in your life.
Finding the person for you can turn out to be pretty frustrating. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. If you are single and looking for a long-term relationship or marriage but are having trouble finding a partner or spouse, here are some suggestions for you – and they don’t involve an Internet site.
Specify What Kind of Person You’re Looking For
What qualities do you value in a mate, and how do you judge whether a person has those qualities?
Do you have a clear picture of what your relationship with your partner will be like, including how you will treat each other, how you will deal with conflict, what your social life will look like? You see, the clearer your values are and the clearer your picture of the kind of person you are looking for, the likelier it is that you will end up with what you want.
Are You Allowing Yourself to Be Happy?
Do you have issues with your family of origin or other relationships that might prevent you from enjoying this kind of happiness? Would some counseling or group support help eliminate these obstacles?
Are You the Right Person for What You’re Searching For?
Finally, do you live in a way that is consistent with what you want in a relationship? Because in the end, it is far more important to be the right person than it is to find the right person.
You can’t attract anyone who is better or more successful or kinder than you are comfortable with, or believe in your heart of hearts you deserve. If you work on your mental pictures and your growth as an individual first, you will recognize and be ready for the right person when that person comes along.
Aaron Beck is an American Psychiatrist and professor emeritus in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. In the field of psychology, Aaron Beck is known as one of the pioneers of cognitive therapy – you can call him the Father of Cognitive Psychology.
I’m reading Aaron Beck’s 1988 published book: “Love Is Never Enough – How couples can overcome misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and solve relationship problems through cognitive therapy.” Here are my thoughts on it.
A Short Review of “Love Is Never Enough” by Aaron Beck
Aaron begins his book describing the Power of Negative Thinking. The way we think about people, situations, ourselves, so powerfully influences our moods and the way we interact with others. Throughout Chapter 1 he gives great examples identifying different “thinking trap” conversations we have with ourselves. These patterns of thoughts can hinder what we feel for our partners. What stands out for me the most is Chapter 4, where he gives examples describing the tyranny of the Shoulds that we place on our partner’s behaviors.
One of the main challenges in a romantic relationship (or marriage) are the unwritten rules/expectations that each spouse has for the other. For example, these rules include how to give and receive love, how much time to spend with friends, how to raise children, how much time to spend with the in-laws on vacation and any other number of things. These unspoken expectations create havoc in a relationship precisely because they go unspoken. Furthermore, they lead to criticisms about the other person that are general rather than specific.
Without proper training, it’s usually difficult for the couple to discuss these expectations aloud for two reasons. One – they are unaware (only semi-conscious) of these expectations in the first place. Two – they are usually too wrapped up in conflict to properly examine these automatic thoughts, let alone express them properly. Usually, these expectations become evoked as the couple grows closer and more intimate. Usually.
Overall, “Love Is Never Enough” by Aaron Beck is great. I am more than happy with the content of the book. It brings enlightenment to the power of our thoughts, and how to work through changing your own cognitive distortions.
Most people believe we have many emotions. However, according to Dorothy Lee, all our feeling and reactions are based on just two basic emotions – love and fear. The closer you can come to identifying your emotions as love or fear, the closer you are to determining which emotion is driving you. Further, knowing the base of your emotions will lead you closer to inner peace and personal empowerment.
One of the most important things that will help you live a happy and healthy life is to get rid of your fears. We also talked about fear in our article: “Overcome Your Fears and Transform!” According to Dorothy, fear is the background for numerous negative emotions that can cause physical and mental health problems. For example, emotions such as anger or hate have their roots in fear. We can all choose how we react and how we feel; emotions are not something out of our control, as many believe. Here is the whole article: http://www.edgemagazine.net/2010/03/you-have-a-choice-love-or-fear/
So, what is your choice today?
What makes a great relationship? That’s the question many try to find the answer for, and there are numerous different answers to it. Yet, all these answers narrow down to just s few basic things, one of them being “feeling appreciated”. Dr. Gottman suggests that the happiest couples are the ones that share at least five positive things with their partner with every negative one. We talked about the 5:1 rule it in our article “Why Being Kind is Important”, so take a look.
However, here is one interesting founding about relationships. The NMP study recently indicated that sex in a relationship is even more important than being kind to your partner. That, of course, doesn’t make kindness any less important for a good relationship. But these results emphasize how important sex in a relationship is for being happy and staying together, which many couples seem to forget.
Sex and feeling of appreciation are inevitably connected for both partners, especially for women. Thus, what happens outside of bedroom affects the things bedroom on a large scale. So, here is a suggestion: why don’t you tell your partner some kind words, including how sexy they are to you? Try to keep doing it for a couple of days and see what happens.
If you want to read more about the importance of kindness and sex in a relationship, here’s a nice article: “Be Kind And Have Sex ‘Till Death Do You Part”. Enjoy!
Here are some fun exercises, all inspired by scientific studies, that you can use to deliberately create emotional intimacy with a partner—even someone you barely know:
1. Two as One
Embracing each other gently, begin to sense your partner’s breathing and gradually try to synchronize your breathing with his or hers. After a few minutes, you might feel that the two of you have merged.
2. Soul Gazing
Standing or sitting about two feet away from each other, look deeply into each other’s eyes, trying to look into the very core of your beings. Do this for about two minutes and then talk about what you saw.
3. Monkey Love
Standing or sitting fairly near each other, start moving your hands, arms, and legs any way you like—but in a fashion that perfectly imitates your partner. This is fun but also challenging. You will both feel as if you are moving voluntarily, but your actions are also linked to those of your partner.
4. Falling in Love
This is a trust exercise, one of many that increase mutual feelings of vulnerability. From a standing position, simply let yourself fall backward into the arms of your partner. Then trade places. Repeat several times and then talk about your feelings. Strangers who do this exercise sometimes feel connected to each other for years.
5. Secret Swap
Write down a deep secret and have your partner do the same. Then trade papers and talk about what you read. You can continue this process until you have run out of secrets. Better yet, save some of your secrets for another day.
6. Mind-Reading Game
Write down a thought that you want to convey to your partner. Then spend a few minutes wordlessly trying to broadcast that thought to him or her, as he or she tries to guess what it is. If he or she cannot guess, reveal what you were thinking. Then switch roles.
7. Let Me Inside
Stand about four feet away from each other and focus on each other. Every 10 seconds or so move a bit closer until, after several shifts, you are well inside each other’s personal space (the boundary is about 18 inches). Get as close as you can without touching.
8. Love Aura
Place the palm of your hand as close as possible to your partner’s palm without actually touching. Do this for several minutes, during which you will feel not only heat but also, sometimes, eerie kinds of sparks.”
Honest, fulfilling love is what we all want, but it’s sometimes so hard to find. I hear many of my clients struggle with the difficulties of finding the right partner for them. They’re feeling lonely or unattractive, hopeless or like outcasts. Counseling can really help you get out of that rut of negative thoughts. But there is also another innovative method to help you find, grow and maintain a happy long-term relationship.
Dr. Epstein’s Love Counselling
Dr. Epstein is helping to create a new proactive kind of counseling—Love Counseling—that will help people build solid, lasting love relationships supported by the Four Pillars. He has also created an innovative, comprehensive new test of Love Skills—the seven essential skill-sets we need to be successful in long-term love relationships. The test, the Epstein Love Competencies Inventory (or ELCI, pronounced like the name “Elsie”) is a result of thorough scientific research on what makes long-term relationships successful. It has been empirically validated with a sample of more than 11,000 people in the U.S. and fifty other countries. You can take the test free of charge by clicking here or by visiting MyLoveSkills.com. ”
Dr. Epstein also created the test that will tell you if your partner and you are a good match. The test is called “Are We Good Together”, and shows how compatible your and your partner’s relationship needs are. The test is based on a premise that if two people meet each other’s basic relationship needs, and if they also feel mutually attracted, they have a good chance of being able to create a happy, long-term, loving relationship. It is also free of charge and you can take it here: AreWeGoodTogether.com.
If you’re having trouble finding the right one, maybe you should check out our article: “Throw Away the Checklist“. It might help you reorganize priorities and get a new perspective on dating.
Research on what makes a marriage work shows that people in a good marriage have completed these psychological “tasks”:
1. Emotional Independence from Primary Family
Separated emotionally from the family you grew up in; not to the point of estrangement, but enough so that your identity is separate from that of your parents and siblings.
2. “Together” Space and “Me” Space
Build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity, while at the same time set boundaries to protect each partner’s autonomy.
Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship. Work together to protect it from the intrusions of the workplace and family obligations.
4. Staying a Happy Couple With Children
For couples with children, embrace your roles as parents and absorb the impact of a baby’s entrance into the marriage. Learn to continue the work of protecting the privacy of you and your spouse as a couple.
5. Together Through the Good and Through the Bad
Confront and master the inevitable crises of life together. Learn to cooperate when times are hard instead of blaming each other.
6. Your Marriage is Your Safe Place
Maintain the strength of the marital bond in the face of adversity. Marriage should be a safe haven in which partners are able to express their differences, anger, and conflict.
Use humor and laughter to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom and isolation.
Nurture and comfort each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.
9. Keep the Spark
Keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time.
Why Him? Why Her?
I like being around people who are in love. They have a contagious energy.
Helen Fisher wrote a nice article about how our personality influences our choices when it comes to romantic relationships. Among other interesting things, she says that “our primary personality type steers us toward specific romantic partners. That is to say, our biological nature whispers constantly within us to influence who we love”.
Here are some interesting parts of the article that explain different personality types in romantic relationships, and which personality types they gravitate to.
Personality Types in Romantic Relationships
- Explorers: it seems like traits of these individuals are associated with specific genes in the dopamine system – the propensity to seek novelty; the willingness to take risks; spontaneity; heightened energy; curiosity; creativity; optimism; enthusiasm; mental flexibility.
- Builders: individuals who inherited particular genes in the serotonin system tend to be calm, social, cautious but not fearful, persistent, loyal, fond of rules and facts and orderly. They are conventional, the guardians of tradition. Further, these men and women have fantastic skills in building social networks and managing people in family, business and social situations.
- Directors: although testosterone is often associated with males, both men and women are capable of expressing particularly strong activity in this neural system. Moreover, those who inherit this chemistry tend to be direct, decisive, focused, analytical, logical, tough-minded, exacting, emotionally contained and good at strategic thinking. They get to the point; many are bold and competitive. They excel at figuring out machines, mathematical formulas or other rule-based systems. Additionally, many are good at understanding the structure of music, too.
- Negotiators: traits linked with estrogen. Women and men with a great deal of estrogen activity tend to see the big picture. In other words, they think contextually and holistically, expressing what I call “web thinking”. These people are imaginative. They display superior verbal skills and excel at reading postures, gestures, facial expressions, and tones of voice. Also, their social skills are on top of the game. Lastly, they’re intuitive, sympathetic, nurturing, mentally flexible, agreeable, idealistic, altruistic and emotionally expressive.
Who’s Attracted to Whom?
- Explorers are attracted to other Explorers—people with many similar traits of temperament.
- Builders also gravitate to people like themselves, other Builders.
- Directors, however, gravitate to Negotiators. And Negotiators are drawn to Directors. These two personality types gravitate toward individuals with a complementary temperament. Moreover, these patterns occur whether one is a male or female. No wonder so many scientists and laypeople think that “opposites attract” while so many others believe “birds of a feather flock together.” Both patterns occur—depending on your primary personality type. I felt as if I had sneaked into Mother Nature’s kitchen and stumbled on her recipes for who we love.
Read the whole article here: https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/article/481/why-him-why-her
If you’re in a search for the romantic partner that will be right for you, our article “Finding the Person for You” can help you on that journey. Check it out.