Feeling insecure in a relationship is quite possibly one of the most distressing experiences within all of mental health.
For starters, insecurity in a relationship is “all-consuming” and takes up all of your concentration (even distracting you from things you love).
Secondly, you tend to feel like you’re going “crazy”.
And thirdly, you’re likely to see yourself pretty poorly in the relationship. I often hear people describe themselves as “needy” or “too intense” for their partner.
Despite the distress caused by insecurity in a relationship, most people surprisingly know quite little about the causes and how to manage it.
And there is A LOT you can do to cope with insecurity in your relationship.
The first and most important thing is to understand the cause of your relationship insecurity. More often than not, relationship insecurity is caused by a dynamic in your relationship, where one partner craves more intimacy and connection than the other. If the imbalance is not too extreme, then there are some simple coping tools you can use to increase your security. However, if the imbalance feels more extreme, with one partner wanting much more than the other, then individual therapy perhaps with couples’ therapy, is the most helpful next step (blog post Time to Seek Relationship Help? may help you decide whether professional help is the best next step for you).
Before I go on, it’s important to note that often people may feel insecure, but not voice their needs or vulnerability. In fact, avoiding seeming “needy” or “clingy” tends to be the most common way of dealing with insecurity in a relationship.
However, there are more productive and helpful ways of improving security in your relationship.
Tips for coping with insecurity in relationships
Shift your perspective. When you feel insecure in a relationship, your attention tends to be biased towards focusing on examples where your partner has been absent – for example, you may feel anxious they took hours to respond to a text message. Similarly, you’re more likely to ignore examples where your partner has shown care and love. This bias in attention perpetuates insecurity. Therefore, it is helpful to actively focus your attention on moments and events where your partner has shown love, affection and care.
Ask for your needs to be met. This may sound daunting, because you may fear seeming “needy” or “clingly”, however, the opposite is actually true: Your partner will find you more attractive for voicing your needs. By voicing your needs you’re demonstrating self-respect and self-worth. However, make sure to be specific when asking for your needs to be met, otherwise your efforts will be lost. For example, “could you please plan a date for us in the next two weeks to make me feel special?”. At first, you may cringe at the idea of these conversations, so it is best to practise beforehand. However, over time your partner’s loving response will build your confidence.
Remember “this too shall pass”. If you’re in a moment of deep insecurity and anxiety, you may be compelled to react via an angry text message, yelling down the phone or snooping in your partner’s phone etc. However, more often than not, people tend to regret these impulsive behaviours. Therefore, it is helpful to remind yourself that the anxiety will pass and use your imagination to picture the next day, morning or night where you’re not feeling anxious anymore.
Rationalise your thoughts. In moments of insecurity, it can be hard to think clearly. Therefore, it can be helpful to check your thoughts for their accuracy. For example, if you’re feeling insecure because your partner hasn’t replied to a text message, you may think “they don’t love me as much as I love them”. To check this thought, examine the evidence “for” and “against” this thought. Similarly, you may consider a friend’s relationship and test whether you could imagine a similar event – that is, test out whether or not taking a few hours to reply to a text is normal.
Breathe, breathe, breathe and distract. Most people don’t realise when they’re anxious they are breathing either rapidly or irregularly. This reduces oxygen in the blood, which worsens anxiety symptoms. Therefore, you can turn down the volume on anxiety by doing a simple controlled breathing exercise (read blog post Anxiety, Help I’m Drowning! for a simple breathing exercise). Once your body is calm, your mind will become calmer. Follow this by then distracting yourself with watching a favourite TV show, exercising or socialising.
Understand why you’re insecure. Insecurity always stems from a “story”, whether it’s directly related to your relationship or embedded in your upbringing, or both. Understanding what has caused your relationship insecurity is the first step to change. Given psychologists understand the psychological theory behind insecurity in relationships, it’s worth engaging with a psychologist.
How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help with insecurity in relationships?
We have several psychologists in our team of Melbourne-based psychologists who take a special interest in relationship difficulties including relationship insecurity. Our psychologists will help you understand your “story” behind why you’re feeling insecure, as well as work towards goals to increase your security in your relationship. Contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology if you would like some professional assistance to achieve a healthy relationship .