How to Tell If You’re Insecure In Your Relationship (And What to Do About It)
Can you name one person who doesn’t have some insecurities? I can’t. Even the most confident people are insecure about something. And, sometimes this makes them act in cringe-worthy ways. I’m certainly guilty of this. Recently, I felt insecure about meeting my son’s girlfriend for the first time, hoping to make a good impression. This made me ramble and ramble. Ugh.
Perhaps more troubling is when someone’s feelings of insecurity in their relationship makes them rather awful to the one they love. For example, a recent study found that people with more attractive partners often feel more insecure. This makes them more likely to put their partner down in front of others to make them seem less attractive.
Susan Valentine, a Toronto relationship therapist, says: “Most of the time our bad behaviour in a relationship is because of insecurity.”
Insecurities stem from our childhoods
Valentine says that while most of us don’t want to intentionally hurt our partners, we act out when we feel vulnerable or insecure. And, the way in which we deal with our insecurity often stems from the quality of our earliest attachments with our primary caregiver. Valentine says that there is a lot of evidence to suggest that how secure we felt as a child influences how secure we feel as an adult.
Attachment theory has become very popular in therapeutic circles. One style of attachment is “insecure avoidance” where the primary caregiver was mostly absent or neglectful. Someone having grown up with this type of caregiver would be accustomed to having their needs ignored. Not surprisingly, when entering into a romantic relationship as an adult, they may have a tendency to “flee” a situation. This means they will shut down, withdraw, stonewall, or push their partner away when their insecurities are triggered.
Alternatively, someone with “insecure anxious” attachment had a parent who was often inconsistent or overly intrusive. For example, the parent was constantly asking their child, “What do you need? What do you need?” People with these kinds of early caregivers will have a tendency to “fight” when feeling insecure. This means they can be very demanding and critical when they feel their own needs are not being met. They will try to gain control or power over their partner, such as criticizing them, making unreasonable demands, or always having to be right.
These “fight” or “flight” behaviours are flags of insecurity and can cause a negative cycle. For example, if we belittle our partner, it makes them feel bad about themselves. This can cause them to pull away, thereby making us even more insecure that our partner isn’t there for us.
Insecurities can strengthen a relationship
The good news is that insecurities don’t have to be a deal breaker. There are constructive ways to deal with them and strengthen your relationship. Here are two of the strategies that Valentine offers:
Be Mindful: Take some time to reflect on what “triggers” your insecurities. For example, is there something your partner says or does that evokes a strong reaction? Does this happen all the time, or just every so often? Learn to recognize the signs, and try to soothe yourself so you can respond constructively rather than either “fighting” or “fleeing”.
Check-In Weekly: Staying connected and showing each other affection can minimize insecurities. It is helpful to check in every week, by asking: “Is there any way I made you feel insecure this week, and is there anything I could be doing better?” It’s also important not to take your partner’s behaviour too personally. For example, they may be pushing you away because they are feeling insecure, and not because they don’t want to be with you.
Valentine says that you can heal old attachment wounds in your romantic relationship. Gaining a better understanding of your own insecurities and sharing them with your partner can improve responsive to each other’s needs. “That’s actually how we gain trust and intimacy,” Valentine says.