By: Anne Hunter
Insecurity is often a factor in preventing couples from developing a strong, healthy relationship. In general, relationships in which one partner is seriously insecure tend to falter , but this is not always the case. Problematically, insecurity often goes unacknowledged, and many people do not adequately understand it. As it manifests in many confusing ways, insecure partners get accused of aberrant behavior without any true comprehension of the cause. And, sometimes, the non-insecure partner can be exacerbating the insecurity without either realizing or meaning to. If you’re running into problems, it may be worth doing a bit of self-analysis to see if you’re suffering from insecurity yourself, or inducing it in your partner.
Symptoms of insecurity within a relationship include:
- Needing validation. Within a relationship context, insecure partners will often seek to allay their insecuritiesvia demonstrations of affection, commitment, and so on from their partner. This may go beyond what feels natural for their partner, and can become a source of conflict. If the non-insecure partner feels smothered by the insecure partner’s need for attention, they may well withdraw emotionally. This heightens the insecurities of their partner, thus exacerbating the situation further.
- Driving their partner away. This may seem completely counter to the above point, but insecurity can also manifest through challenging or confrontational behavior which seems designed to drive the partner away. This is usually happening because, deep down, the insecure partner believes that the relationship may well be doomed. Unconsciously (they don’t know they’re doing it), insecure partners may thus ‘test’ their partners to see how much they can trust them to maintain their relationship promises and commitments in the face of troubles. They may even (again, unconsciously) try to create problems in the relationship, to gain an element of control over the breakup they believe is inevitable.
- Ill health. Insecure people typically suffer a great deal of stress. Sometimes this is caused by the insecurity itself, and sometimes the insecurity comes as a result of the stress. Whatever the reason, insecurity and stress frequently bring mental ill health in their wake, and often physical ill health as well. If you or your partner frequently suffer from minor infections, or are displaying signs of depression or anxiety, it may be worth checking to see if insecurity has any part to play.
Insecurity occurs for a variety of reasons. Often it is related to past rejections, childhood bullying, or problematic emotional relationships with parents. Sometimes, perfectionism can play a role, as can past actions of which the insecure partner is ashamed. However, insecurity can also be induced quite easily by spouses and partners. Part of the committed relationship ‘deal’ includes a degree of emotional support and communication between partners. If one partner is not getting the support they need (or is actively having their emotional stability undermined), their previous secure emotional foundations can become decidedly insecure. Often, partners simply do not realize that they are contributing to their partner’s insecurities. Ways in which partners might make their partners feel insecure include:
- Not listening. In a good relationship, each partner will feel listened to. And listened to properly – i.e. understood and acknowledged for their view. It is not enough simply to quietly be present while they talk. You have to engage with what they’re saying. Not necessarily agree with it, but engage with it. This means taking it on board properly, not saying whatever you think they want to hear, or uttering soothing nothings to calm the situation down if it gets hairy (and, if they’re insecure, it will get hairy. A lot of desperation and negative emotion emerge when insecurity enters the fray). You’re not calming a dog or pandering to a child. You’re talking to your partner, and they want to feel that you understand and respect what they’re saying.
- Withdrawing. One of the all-time best ways to make someone feel insecure in their relationship is by acting like you’re not in a relationship with them. Ignoring them, withholding affection, treating them like part of the furniture – this may seem like a comfortably ‘settled’ life to you, but, if they’re displaying insecurity, it’s likely that it’s not working out so well for them. All of us have different emotional needs, and some can deal with more affection/human contact than others. If you’re the type who needs a lot of space and time, but your withdrawal into your own space makes your partner feel insecure, it may be worth working out little signs and tokens of affection which work for both of you without putting undue strain either way.
- Flirting. Some people are natural flirts. They can’t help it. Maybe they’re not going to seal the deal, and maybe they don’t even know they’re doing it. Nonetheless, there are few things more calculated to induce insecurity in your partner than apparently lining up someone else for the marriage bed. If your partner – or anyone else – tells you that you’re being inappropriately flirty, you really do need to take that on board and do something about it. And, most importantly of all, discuss the issue with your partner. They’re going to need reassurance that you’re not a philanderer. Better yet, learn how to flirt with your spouse.
Abuse. Putting your partner down, treating them to emotional abuse, verbal abuse, or physical abuse – all of these things will make your partner insecure. If you’re the partner of someone like this, get help. If you are that abusive partner, get professional help. There is no place in a relationship for any kind of abuse. Is insecurity affecting your relationship? If so, seek out additional information about this important issue. Each partner in a healthy relationship should feel secure.