3 Ways Your Insecurity Hurts Your Relationship + What To Do About It
It's understandable to be apprehensive or even anxious at the start of a new relationship. Perhaps we had several relationships that started out promising only to deteriorate over time, or maybe our former partners blamed our flaws for the eventual breakup. Our past experiences (or even our lack of experience) can make us feel insecure about our intrinsic value and lovability.
More fundamentally, our insecurities may be related to our experiences growing up and may have little to do with the person we are currently in a relationship with. Insecure feelings can arise from a deep—likely injured—place within and need our compassionate attention. And until we learn to provide a secure base for ourselves, our insecurities will hurt the relationships we try to form with others.
If we don't attend to our insecurities, they often incite fears of inadequacy and abandonment, which can wear down both people in the relationship. No matter how supportive and reassuring our partners are, they will not resolve our deep-seated feelings about ourselves. As a result, they will likely become frustrated at their inability to help alleviate our suffering, which will place a great deal of stress on the relationship.
For this reason, we need to become aware of how our insecurities manifest and learn ways to calm and center ourselves in the face of such powerful and potentially misleading feelings.
A few behaviors to watch out for include:
Constantly looking for rejection.
Our insecurities about our lovability make us think that our partner might abandon us at any point. As a result, we may vigilantly watch and listen for any sign that our relationship with our partner is over. This constant scrutiny, common in those with an anxious attachment style, is exhausting for both parties and can drive us to seek our partner's reassurance regularly.
If the other person does offer reassurance, we need to accept their word and refrain from asking for it again. The next time we feel our insecurities resurface, we can remind ourselves of our previous conversation. We might also notice all the things that indicate that we are not about to be rejected: our partner's kind words, their actions, and the fun times we have together.
Perhaps we take it a step further and focus on the aspects of ourselves that the other person enjoys. Maybe our partner expressed admiration for our sense of humor, our insightful observations, or our unique sense of style. The next time our insecurities threaten to overtake us, we can recall these observations that affirm our lovability.
Regularly deferring to the other person.
When we always go along with the other person's suggestions or points of view, we deny our own voice. Perhaps we don't tell our partner that we don't like the same music he is interested in because we are worried that we'll lose a significant common interest. Or maybe we don't challenge her restaurant choice because we don't want to seem disagreeable. Insecurity overtakes our will to speak up because we fear that our partner will not like who we really are.
If we notice that we are stifling our voice to keep our partner happy, we need to remind ourselves that doing so creates a relationship based on illusion. A healthy relationship happens when two people are honest and genuine with each other. In this kind of union, each partner is eager to know what the other feels, thinks, and wants. But if we deprive our partner of this honesty, we prevent the relationship from deepening and maturing.
If we still want to appease rather than speak up, we should ask ourselves, "What do I really want or believe?" or "What is true for me?" Once we commit to speaking our truth, we need to talk without qualifiers and dismissive comments, saying, "I would like to eat out tonight," "I actually don't like that band," or "I don't agree with your political views." When we say what we think, feel, and believe, we allow ourselves to connect in a real way with our partner—or we summon the conclusion of a relationship that was not right for us to begin with. Both scenarios lead to a better outcome for everyone involved.
Being overly sensitive.
When we are insecure, it is easy to misinterpret what our partner says or does. And while most of us can occasionally take something personal that is not, frequently doing this can become a problem. If we see the other person's behaviors through our lens of anticipated rejection, we will likely misinterpret them. Perhaps we think he doesn't want to see us anymore if he reschedules dinner with us (when really, he just had an unexpected deadline to meet). Or maybe if she insists on taking her own car, we assume she doesn't like the way we drive (when actually she just wanted to run a few errands before picking us up).
If we discover that we are jumping to conclusions or being overly sensitive, we need to pause, breathe, and listen to what the other person says. Unless our partner's behaviors are in stark contrast to their words (understanding mixed messages in relationships is important), we do well to trust them and allow their clean track record to settle our insecure misgivings.
The bottom line.
As we bring our insecurities into our romantic relationships, we create strain by speaking and acting out of our doubts, which often results in exhausting conversations and unnecessary arguments. But all of this is fixable.
It is a healthy human desire to want to feel secure, and we can embrace that sense of well-being by addressing our own past attachment insecurities and learning to calm ourselves and our fears. When we refuse to be swept away by our insecure impulses, we empower ourselves to respond mindfully and welcome the healthy relationships we all long for.
Nancy L. Johnston, MS, LPC, LSATP, is a licensed counselor, substance abuse treatment practitioner, and mental health specialist in private practice in Lexington, Virginia, treating adolescents and adults. She is a Diplomate and a Clinical Mental Health Specialist in Substance Abuse and Co-occurring Disorders Counseling through the American Mental Health Counselors Association. She has a bachelor's degree in Psychology from the College of William and Mary and a master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Nancy has practiced mental health and addiction counseling for 43 years. She has worked in public and private psychiatric hospitals, juvenile corrections, public mental health, colleges, and private practice. She is also the author of Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else. She offers presentations, workshops, and retreats for self-recovery.