build strong relationships

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.



Relationships + Change

relationships and change.jpg

As humans we are constantly evolving, growing, and changing. As couples, we’re constantly evolving, growing, and changing, too. This growth and evolution can be great for couples, but what happens when this growth and evolution moves in opposite directions within a relationship?

There’s no question that the person you are today is different than the person you were years ago when you met your partner. Even when you started your relationship, you were a different person then than you are now...and the same is true for your partner. And with all of this change, there is bound to be some tension and tough times, but learning to accept your partner for who they are now--and who they will become--is the foundation of the next stage in your relationship.

Observing and Understanding Change:

There are times when change seemingly happens overnight, but those times are generally infrequent. Instead, change happens slowly over time, almost invisibly. If too much time goes by without addressing small changes, before you know it, these gradual changes have warped into giant chasms between you and your partner.

Whenever possible, attempt to (delicately) bring up these perceived changes with your partner. Ideally, this conversation isn’t confrontational in nature. Instead, it is more of an observational conversation. You may wish to approach your partner and state a few facts that you perceive have changed. If these are changes you’re observing in your partner (rather than your own changes), it is important to be supportive of your partner as you bring this conversation up. Depending on how you approach it, your partner may get offended or defensive, which has the potential to end the conversation before it even begins.

An idea:

You may want to start out by telling your partner about your love for them, and share a few fun, uplifting, loving memories from years ago. This will remind your partner about times when you were both deeply in love and in sync. Then, you can gently bring up some of the changes you’ve seen in your partner. During the course of this conversation, it’s important to be open to the fact that you have changed, too. If your partner wants to talk about those changes, it is important that you listen to them completely, and hear them out.

Relationships are a lot of work, and taking the time {together} to actively talk about your relationship and love for one another is important.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Well, it depends! If your conversation(s) went well, it's important to keep them going. Remember: part of the reason you had to have the “big” conversation in the first place is because you didn’t address the small changes until they became so big they were too hard to ignore.

So, now that you’ve had the talk, what can you do is schedule time where the two of you spend time with one another on a weekly basis. Turn off your phones and other distractions, and just be together. You can participate in each other’s hobbies, relive fun moments from your past, or just talk about your dreams and aspirations as a couple. These moments, though small, can really be beneficial for you and your partner in the long run.

If, however, your earlier conversation highlighted some larger rifts in your relationship that need mending, consider reaching out to family, friends, or a licensed professional for help. Sometimes, having someone with an outside perspective can be a huge benefit. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to family or friends, a licensed professional might be the best bet. Not only are we trained to help couples sort through these changes, but we’re also an unbiased third party, who has no agenda other than to help you as best as we can.

No matter what, remember that you both deserve to feel joy and happiness in your lives. Please reach out to me directly here if I can be of benefit.