20 Things Therapists Want You To Know About Insecurities In Relationships
It's troublesome enough to feel insecure about yourself. Feeling insecure in a relationship can add to that discomfort. Turns out, however, a lot of people feel insecure in relationships — in one way or another. Therapists, though, have seen it all, and are ready to pass some wisdom on to you.
From the outside, it may be hard to believe that a lot of other people feel insecure — even if their relationship looks great from the outside. If you break it down, however, the psychology behind it makes sense. "Relationships bring out insecurities because they involve keeping another person in your life, and in some senses winning this person over on a regular basis," David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "So, we can become highly attached to a person, and worried that we may not be 'good enough' to keep that person in our lives." All of the sudden, you may end up zooming in on your perceived flaws, and in the worst case, stop being able to see what's great about your relationship. But often, that might be all in your head.
One good thing is that the person you're with is indeed choosing to be with you. The second is that therapists and mental health professionals have explored the most common issues in relationships for decades. What they've learned doesn't always need to be picked up by attending therapy (though often that helps). Sometimes, little reminders can give you a bit of the boost you need to feel secure in yourself and your relationship.
Here are 20 things therapists want you to know about insecurities in relationships.
1. Insecurity Is Common
Perhaps the most important thing to realize about insecurity in a relationship is that it's completely common. Even though these feelings may not always be healthy, they are something that many couples probably deal with too.
"Insecurity is normal in a relationship, particularly a new relationship," clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly, tells Bustle. "Once a relationship has its own framework and 'ground rules' (understandings and agreements), the level of insecurity often dissipates." Finding ways to communicate your needs and expectations can help the worst insecurities go away.
2. A Lot Of People Feel Like A Burden
If you've ever felt like a burden in your relationship, it may be helpful to know that many other people have felt this way as well.
"A common insecurity is that you are a burden on your partner," LGBT-affirming therapist Katie Leikam tells Bustle. "People can feel like this when they have to lean into their partner more than usual. Remember that you are in a partnership and at times one of you might have to depend on the other more and that is how good relationships work, a balance of a give and take at different times." Throughout the course of your relationship, feelings of dependence may ebb and flow, and talking about these feelings can keep them from becoming harmful insecurities.
3. A Lot Of People Feel Like They're Not Meeting Their Partner's Needs
Another common insecurity is the fear that you're not meeting your partner's needs. Luckily, this insecurity is generally easy to disprove.
"People don't usually stay in relationships unless at least some of their needs are being met, so if you are still partnered, you are probably meeting at least some of their needs," Leikam says. If the fear absolutely won't go away, an honest conversation or even a shot at couple's therapy might help.
4. A Lot Of People Feel Like Their Partner Is No Longer Attracted To Them
In relationships, mutual attraction is largely a given, but many people still fear that their partner is no longer attracted. This insecurity largely reflects insecurities the person has about themself.
"We worry about this because of our own self-image and what the media tells us," Leikam says. "Something to keep in mind is that your partner was initially attracted to you in some way and that probably hasn't gone away, or it has grown deeper." Relationships grow and change, but if your partner expresses their attraction, they probably aren't lying.
5. A Lot Of People Feel Like Their Partner Will Leave Them For Someone Else
When you've been dumped before, especially for someone else, the insecurity that your partner may leave you can creep up in even the strongest relationship.
"Something to remember is that your partner chose you," Leikam says. "They had a choice and they decided that you are the best person for them and after a bond is formed, it takes a lot to change their mind." Trust is important, even when healing from the scars of past relationships.
6. Really Severe Insecurity Could Be A Sign Of Something More Serious In The Relationship
While a lot of insecurities in a relationship are common, and some are harmless, there are some times when these feelings could be a sign of something more serious, like issues within the relationship.
"If insecurity remains high in a newer relationship or chronically exists in a long-term relationship, this may be a sign that there is a lack of trust or safety in the relationship," Dr. Manly says. If you have an inkling that their may be a more serious cause, then bringing your feelings up to a professional may be a good idea. And if you are not feeling safe in your relationship, consider seeking help from a loved one or professional to get out of it.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
7. Insecurity Can Be Caused By Mental Health Issues
Similarly to insecurities being caused by serious issues in a relationship, insecurities can be caused by serious issues in regards to your own mental health as well.
"At times, insecurity may arise from an individual’s personal history or mental health issues rather than interpersonal issues of trustworthiness," Dr. Manly says. If you and your partner find this to be a possible root cause, seeking help from a mental health professional can likely help.
8. Insecurities Can And Should Be Talked About
While it may seem daunting to bring up the things you fear most (because, of course, they're scary), that doesn't mean they should be avoided forever.
"When insecurity is an ongoing factor in a relationship, it is very important that the issue be addressed openly and honestly," Dr. Manly says. Broaching the subject with your partner, or talking to a mental health professional if the feelings continue, can be an incredibly helpful step towards feeling better.
9. It's Important To Be Compassionate To Yourself About Your Insecurities
Accepting that insecurities are common is one thing. Accepting that you deserve self-compassion during the worst of these feelings can be a lot more difficult.
"It's normal to have insecurities in a romantic relationship, and you're not weird for those overwhelming feelings of jealousy, doubt, or even insecurity about your own ability to remain in the relationship," Bennett says. "Have some self-empathy and compassion instead of beating yourself up." This way, you're less likely to feel doubly-frustrated.
10. Brain Chemistry Could Be At Play
Love changes your brain chemistry. This transformation can affect you in all sorts of ways, including affecting your insecurities. Your brain may find your partner irresistible — and this can cause some less-than-rational worries.
"This [change in brain chemistry] explains why you are always worried your partner may be cheating and you're analyzing every syllable in their text to make sure they still love you back," Bennett says. "Recognizing that your brain is in a sense playing tricks on you can help you cope with your insecure thoughts." Your partner has chosen to be with you, and it's important to keep in mind.
11. Identifying Your Harmful Thoughts Can Help
Identifying distorted thoughts is helpful to almost all aspects of mental health — and that includes relationship insecurities. This technique is often used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help identify harmful thinking patterns that contribute to things like insecurity.
"One common distortion is 'catastrophizing' which is assuming the worst outcome without knowing all the facts," Bennett says. "So, next time your partner doesn't respond for an hour on text or you think they might not love you, recognize that these thoughts are likely just your brain sending out automatic negative thoughts that probably aren't true." Identifying when you're having these thoughts may make them less powerful.
12. It's Important To Remember That Your Relationship Doesn't Determine Your Value
Your insecurities may end up having more power over you if you see your relationship as the most important thing about you. Recognizing that you're good enough, and that your relationship is a bonus, may help the insecurities have less weight.
"It's pretty common to let your relationship quality determine your personal value, but remember that your value as a person is intrinsic, that is, it comes from the inside," Bennett says. "When you start to realize that your life is good with your partner, but can also be good without them, then you'll start to become secure from within, and not rely on a partner or relationship for security." Some of your insecurities may dissipate when you acknowledge your own strength.
13. Social Media Can Breed Insecurity
Insecurity may seem like something that exists only in your head, but there is a chance that concrete things in your daily life are contributing to it: like social media.
"Remember that social media can give false impressions that everyone else is having great relationships and every morning is breakfast in bed," Steven Reigns, licensed psychotherapist and founder of Therapy For Adults, tells Bustle. "Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your life with the lives you see on Instagram." Unfollowing accounts that make you feel insecure, or taking an occasional social media break, may help with these feelings.
14. Insecurities Can Build A Relationship Up, But They Can Also Drag It Down
Insecurities aren't all bad. They aren't all good either. Finding a balance is important to having a healthy relationship with your relationship trepidations.
"If our insecurities keep us alert, make us aware of changes coming around the corner, make us try harder, ask more questions about what our partner wants and needs and compel us to care, then their power is put to good use," Dr. Brian Jory, a relationship therapist and director of the Family Studies Program at Berry College, tells Bustle. "On the other hand, if our insecurities drain off all the romance, make us whine, cause us to become paranoid, distrustful, and needy, that’s no good for you or your partner." Remembering that you can find balance in your insecurities may help you feel more power over them.
15. Understand That Trust And Insecurity Are Opposites
Trust and insecurity are oppositional in a relationship. If you feel too much insecurity, you may begin to struggle with trusting your partner.
"Another thing to keep in mind is that trust and insecurity are polar opposites, so ramp up trust in yourself and your partner; believe that you can weather storms together and you very well might," Dr. Jory says. If you cannot combat each insecurity at its face value, then maybe it's a good idea to work on building trust instead.
16. It's Valid To Feel Insecure If Your Partner Isn't Sharing Their Feelings With You
While all relationships need a certain amount of privacy, feeling insecure when your partner keeps things from you is completely valid. It's hard to have open communication and trust if one partner isn't putting in the work.
"Transparency and honest, intimate communication quells insecurity in relationships, so I recommend having the difficult talks — about sexuality, past life events, hopes, dreams, and aspirations — as early as possible in a new relationship," Dr. Jory says. These conversations can be difficult, but they can act as a sort of insurance policy against future insecurities bubbling up.
17. Jealousy Is More Troublesome Than Other Insecurities
Although there are many common insecurities, and many of these insecurities can be considered parts of a health relationship, there are some feelings that are worth diving into deeper.
"Although jealousy in a relationship can be common, that does not mean it’s OK for a healthy relationship," Christianne Kernes, licensed therapist and co-founder of LARKR tells Bustle. "Beware of partners who try to control your actions and keep you from spending time with other loved ones, or try to persuade you to do things that you don’t like." Jealousy can transform into something darker, like emotional abuse, and these signs are flags that you should seek help outside the relationship sooner rather than later.
18. Phone Calls Can Help Relieve Texting Insecurities
For a lot of people, insecurities come from unknowns. If too many things are being left open for interpretation in your relationship, then insecurities may have more room to grow. Being clearer in your digital communication can help.
"When you want to convey tone, pick up the phone," licensed clinical social worker Rebecca Kronman, tells Bustle. "So many insecurities arise from misunderstandings and miscommunications when we try to have complicated conversations through text. If there’s a doubt about what the person means, or if you’re spending more than a couple minutes drafting a text because you don’t know how to word something so it won’t be misconstrued, a better idea is to just call or say it in person." If you and your partner can establish this as a habit, then you may be able to quell some communication insecurities.
19. Visualizing The Worst Case Scenario Can Help
Sometimes, when you let one particular fear exist in your head without really addressing it, it can take on undue power. If the fear is that your partner may leave you, think about that worst case scenario for a moment.
"There’s always a chance that our partner might leave us," Kronman says. "Though it may seem counterintuitive, a helpful thing to do if we start ruminating about this is to explore the worst case scenario. If they leave you, then what? What would you do? How would you carry on? Usually when I ask my clients about this the answer is something like 'I would be devastated for a while, then pick up the pieces and move on.'" The same is likely true for you, and can help remind you the power you have over your insecurity.
20. Your Insecurities May Say A Lot About Your Emotional Needs
Your insecurities may actually say more about you than they say about your relationship. By examining what your fears are rooted in, you may actually get to know more about yourself and your needs.
"Insecurities relate to our emotional needs and our fear of them not being met or understood," therapist and personality trainer, Jami Kirkbride, tells Bustle. "Everyone has different emotional needs, it's just the way we are wired. It is part of our personality." By being able to identify these needs, you may be more likely to communicate them and even achieve them.
Insecurity in relationships is complex. A small amount of insecurity can be a completely common reaction by your brain to falling in love. Too much, however, may say something about the nature of your relationship, or the state of your mental health, or both. By examining what therapists want you to know about relationship insecurities, you may be able to feel at least some control over an otherwise overwhelming set of emotions.