better communication with your partner

Working Through Insecurity

working through relationship insecurities

Lately my practice has been presenting with couples who have a lot of insecurity issues.  Why is this? Both partners are very successful, emotionally aware and appear to be great parents!

As much as I know that self-doubt and insecurity affect people in a variety of ways, and for a number of reasons; as a clinician, when a couple walks into the room with insecurity issues, I still wonder where the root of the issues lie.

Here’s what I see: when it comes to insecurity in a relationship, it can feel incredibly jarring and is emotionally unsettling when one partner is behaving in a way or acting out for some reason. But what causes such anxiety in these relationships? And if the causes are known, what can be done to lessen the feeling of insecurity people feel in their relationships with their partners?

If you’re feeling insecure in your relationship, there are definitely ways in which you and your partner can build or regain confidence that may be missing right now. I’ll outline them below.

Anxiety and Insecurity in Romantic Relationships

Feeling anxious and insecure in a relationship is more common that people think. In fact, hundreds of studies have been commissioned to understand why this feeling is so prevalent. One of the leading theories behind this is called Attachment Theory. To paraphrase the premise of attachment theory:

Attachment theory is the proposition that affectional bonds between individuals and patterns of early life interactions between caregivers and children produce internal working models that serve as templates guiding interpersonal expectations and behaviors in later relationships. Caregivers who are stable, consistent, and predictable tend to encourage the development of internal working models of the self as valued and others as trustworthy and reliable sources of nurturance. Unstable, inconsistent, or unpredictable caregiving in early life can produce maladaptive internal working models that are reflected in insecurity and anxious forms of attachment.(1)

In other words, there is a direct link in how people approach their adult relationships, and it is usually tied with their upbringing. People brought up with predictable caregivers tend to view adult partners in the same way: with positive, unconditional regard. On the other hand, people who have unstable or inconsistent upbringings may bring more insecurity to their adult relationships. Of course, neither upbringing is a guarantee that someone will have anxiety in a relationship or not, so it’s important to have compassion either way!

What to Do to Feel More Secure

When one or both partners in a relationship feel insecure or anxious, it’s important to know that no one is alone.  Typically, both people are experiencing similar feelings and are just acting out in different ways.  A few ideas to consider:

Open Communication

Clear lines of communication come easier for some than others. Having an open and honest discussion about relationship insecurities can often be the quickest route to feeling more confident and secure. When feelings are discussed openly and respectfully, root issues can be identified quickly and (ideally) actively worked through in therapy.

For instance, if one partner feels inadequate in their partner’s eyes, simply bringing it up may help the partner realize that their actions are contributing to this anxiety.  In other words, “normal” behavior for one partner may unknowingly be exacerbating insecurity in their partner. By addressing this together, one partner may be able to change small aspects of their behavior, which in turns builds confidence and security in the relationship.

Step Out of the Comfort Zone

If a relationship is approaching--or is already in--the zone of insecurity, sometimes doing something out of the ordinary can be helpful. When couples find an activity they can share where both people need to step out of their comfort zone, it can actually help with the feeling of insecurity. When both partners are out of their comfort zone, it can open the lines of communication and in turn; that vulnerability can help with the insecurity, too.

Be Kind +  Be Strong

Bottom line: working through insecurity takes trust, strength and patience. However, finding ways to talk about relationship insecurity with your partner is a step in the right direction.  And from what I’ve seen; with time, it is possible for partners to rekindle that spark that led them together in the first place.

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3330635/


Relationship Refresh

Intimate, loving relationships are one of the most amazing things in the world. Finding a partner with whom you can share life’s adventures, tragedies, and joys is an incredibly wonderful gift. Like anything worthwhile, though, relationships require constant work, communication, and ongoing attention in order to thrive.

What do you do when your relationship begins to show signs of wear or is fraying a bit at the edges? Every relationship has its problems, so understanding ways in which you can identify problems and work towards a resolution is of paramount importance if your relationship is to survive and grow.

In this post, we’ll explore 3 common relationship problems and possible solutions.

Recognize and overcome relationship problems

Regain Balance

We often hear that relationships are a balancing act, requiring ongoing repositioning and adapting to our partners’ cues in order to maintain a healthy symbiosis. There is a lot of truth to this, but relationships also have ability to become lopsided and imbalanced.

But what does it mean to really be “balanced,” and how do we get from a place of imbalance to balance? For our answer, we need to understand how our emotions, and the actions that impact those emotions in relationship, are regulated by our bodies.

Our bodies produce and release all sorts of chemicals depending on what a situation calls for. When we work out or push our bodies physically, the body releases endorphins, which lessen the pain from these strenuous activities and leave us feeling good. Afterall, if the body didn’t release those feel-good endorphins after a killer spin class, why would we ever want to go back!?

From the relationship aspect, though, in order to understand why a relationship may be off kilter, it is important to realize that the way the body reacts chemically to certain situations may be at the root of relationship problems. Consider the fact that other feel-good brain chemicals such as oxytocin (aka the “trust” hormone), serotonin (an antidepressant), and dopamine (a “reward” chemical) all have the potential to play significant roles in our, and our partners’ behavior.

Think of the phrase “having too much of a good thing” and how it may ring true in relationships. “Feel good” chemicals also have the potential to serve as a crutch when we’re feeling low or stagnant in our relationships. The release of dopamine, for instance, feels good and is rewarding, but those same characteristics can make it more addictive. In other words, the actions you or your partner take to get that rush of emotion may actually be harming your relationship, but the addictiveness of the feeling may make it harder to stop the behavior that is causing the body to release those feel-good chemicals.

When you recognize that you or your partner may be seeking “too much of a good thing” in terms of these chemical releases, you’re on the right path to fixing a broken part of your relationship. However, it is important not to impose this on your partner: they may feel attacked and emotionally vulnerable if you do, which may actually encourage more of the behavior that you’re trying to solve!

Look Inward

When you’re trying to find your balance with your partner, you may be wondering, “If we’re hard-wired to release these chemicals, then what can we do to break the addictive nature and regain balance with our partners?”

The first thing that we can each do is to look inward. All of us are in control of our own selves and emotions. When we are able to take emotional stock of our actions, behavior, and feelings, we gain a clearer understanding of how that may affect our relationships. For example, if we recognize that we’re constantly engaging in behavior that has a negative impact on our partner, the question then becomes: what can I do to change my behavior?

Similarly, it is equally important that your partner take the same emotional inventory. Often in relationships, bad (or if not bad, damaging) habits form early on but don’t manifest until much later, because one partner or the other shrugs it off thinking it isn’t a big deal or that it will end soon.

By talking with your partner about your own process you can encourage them to evaluate themselves. This relationship “work” has the potential to bring you closer together during tough phases of your time together. When your partner recognizes not only your emotional vulnerability and confidence in expressing these emotions in a self-aware way, you may just give them the confidence they need to start their own inward journey.

Stay Strong

We won’t be so naive to think that every relationship can be fixed by finding balance and looking inward. The unfortunate truth is that some relationships are just toxic, or even downright dangerous. Understanding the difference between a relationship needing “work” and a relationship that is causing emotional or physical harm is paramount.

However, sometimes you do need to seek balance and look inward to recognize you’re in a toxic relationship. If you come to this realization, understand this: you are not alone. Seek the guidance of trusted friends or family.

Our friends and family (and, if necessary, professional help) often see our strengths even if we cannot. Their support, love, and encouragement in times of struggle are often the boost we need to confidently recognize the impact unhealthy relationships can have on our lives.

Toxic relationships can be saved if the other partner is truly willing to make the necessary changes, but having the strength to recognize that your partner isn’t letting you be the Best You is a giant step towards a healthy Self.

No matter where you are in your relationship with your partner, never be afraid to seek the guidance of friends, family, or professionals. Alone, it is hard to see the forest for the trees or to recognize patterns that others may see immediately. Give yourself time to look internally to understand yourself. Trying to mend fraying or broken relationships is never easy, but it is possible, and it starts with you.

Nurturing your Relationship

build better communication as a couple

Relationships are very, very challenging- but they can also be so wonderful and fulfilling. Quite possibly, the most important relationship in many of our lives is with our significant other. Unfortunately, this relationship often doesn’t get the nourishment and focus that it needs to grow and thrive. Why is this?

The business of life seems to get in the way and everything else seems more pressing.   Let’s face it- work demands, family obligations and dealing with children’s needs are all taxing. It’s easy to let life take precedence over love and not give the relationship with our partner attention. Intimacy can become challenging and growth halted as communication falls to the wayside. However, a relationship can be fostered and flourish through some simple actions.

Below, I will outline four tips to help communicate better with your loved one:

  1. Check In – Once a week, find a time and way to check in with each other, whether it’s a date night out, an evening in, or any other activity that is just the two of you. Hold each other accountable for this time together and make it a priority it to show up for it.
  2. Little Things – Simple, thoughtful gestures can make a big impact. Something as small as a sweet text message to let your partner know you’re thinking of them, or a sweet hand written note can go a long way in aiding better communication.
  3. Tune In – Keep electronics OUT of the bedroom. Date your partner NOT your phone. When you’re out for a dinner, make sure to keep phones and other electronics tucked away so that you can focus on each other and really tune in to your partner. Even when you’re at home, take time without your phones, iPads, computers and televisions to just focus on one another.
  4. Plan something – Having a big event or trip to look forward to as a couple is important. Whether it be a weekend trip or a night away, special time blocked off is a space in which to reconnect as a couple. When you’re away, your roles at home (Mom, Dad, Boss, etc.) are set aside and you become a different person. Relaxation helps let barriers down and can provide the space needed to further communication.
Communication with your partner

Remember, no relationship is perfect and all relationships take work. You’re not alone.  I hope these tips are helpful reminders. As always, if you or someone you know is looking for relationship advice or counseling, please reach out! I’m here to help.