Feeling insecure in your relationship? Is it you or your partner's fault?
Insecurity is a warning sign. But you can treat it with self-compassion and use it as a signal to take stock of your relationship.
A relationship is a dynamic flow of energy between two individuals. While it's great to be in love and feel the warmth and intimacy of a relationship, it also is a potent ground for one of the most unsettling of feelings to emergy: insecurity. Well, it isn't really a feeling per say, but it's that gnawing mesh of fear, self-doubt, anger, and shame that mixes up with unending thoughts of not being good enough or feeling a constant sense of lack. In short, it's complex. And it's messy.
The best way to deal with it is to know where it arises from.
Is it you or is it your partner?
Often, it's a mix of both, but the origin of it can be traced to either one of you. Let's take the case of Nate and Katie. Let's assume they are a typical couple who started out as two independent individuals who have their own life outside the relationship and seem to come off as confident, smart, and reasonable. Let's start with Katie. After the first six months, she notices that Nate doesn't text as often or bring her little gifts. She's fine by that.
Fast forward another year, Katie feels Nate is not how he was early on. He often takes time to respond to texts, doesn't make plans ahead and she feels he isn't as attentive to her when she speaks. She begins to doubt herself and wonders if Nate is starting to lose interest in her or worse if there is someone else holding his attention. A classic scenario, right?
Here's when the insecurity has nothing to do with your partner and has to do with YOU.
Do you carry self-doubt from your past?
Is there a particular aspect of your life or anything about yourself that you are not very happy with? Self-doubt, in any context, is like a dent on an otherwise leveled surface. No matter what people say or do, if there is a dent, the words are likely to run to the weak spot and affect your self-esteem. Have you always felt insecure about your body or did you grow up hearing how you can never do anything right the first time? If so, your partner's remarks that seem insensitive may have more to do with how you feel about yourself than what he thinks of you.
E.g. Let's say Katie was always compared to her sister as a child, and as stupid as some adults can be, they called Katie the smart one and her sister the pretty one. It's possible that Katie feels a bit unsure at times about her looks. When compliments begin to reduce during the course of a relationship, Katie might assume Nate doesn't find her as attractive anymore and begins to feel insecure when he mentions other women.
What you can do: Be honest with yourself. It's okay to feel vulnerable or insecure about your looks, abilities, talent, skills, etc. Be compassionate with yourself and take time to figure out if you are carrying self-criticism and self-doubt from your past. When you can acknowledge this to yourself, it would be easy to talk to your partner and tell them how they can help you get over this.
Is there a touchy subject that gets you worked up?
Some of us are pretty darn confident in all aspects of our life except just one area that can make us feel awkward, vulnerable or wound up. It doesn't matter how successful, independent, happy we are, if there is a wound we carry from the past or have had to face a bad experience, we might project the same emotions toward our partner.
If Katie is very successful professionally but had a bad experience with an earlier boyfriend who told her she can never make a man feel at home, Nate's joke about an unsuccessful attempt at cooking might make her feel insecure and not good enough to create a home with him. Sounds a bit of an over-reach? Talk to couples who've gotten through constant fights and you'll always find one of them discovering a trigger from the past.
What's your relationship with members of your own gender?
Competitive or nurturing? If you always tend to compete with members of your own gender and view them as a threat to your sense of self, you are likely to bring this unhealthy insecurity into your relationship. Both men and women do this unconsciously. If someone better-looking walks into the room, do you immediately feel less sure of yourself or do other people's talent and success make you feel insecure or jealous?
If so, your partner might be trapped in a mental drama that involves just you and your supposed competitors. God forbid he or she says something nice about them! The green monster in your head will break loose.
What you can do: No one's beauty, talent, creativity, or success is a threat to yours. When you do enough inner work to feel grounded within yourself and you know who you are beyond external identities, you will find it easy to let others own their beauty and talent without feeling threatened by it. This is your responsibility, not anyone else's.
There will come a time when you not only accept but feel good to see others being their best selves. The feeling of warmth and sisterhood/camaraderie felt for others is beautiful and shows how confident you are about yourself.
Here's when the insecurity stems from what YOUR PARTNER does or does not do. If you find yourself in these situations often, it's time to take stock of how much value this relationship is adding to your life and if it's worth losing your confidence or self-respect over.
Your partner flirts openly with others or on the sly
This is a clear sign of disrespect. Partners who do this might tell you that they were just being friendly or that you are overreacting. If it bothers you and you feel really weird about it, you have the right to voice your concern. Don't let them discount your feelings or label them as silly or stupid. If she/her repeats this despite you discussing it with them, it's time to take a call.
On the other hand, your partner might be sly about it. If they tend to be too protective of their phone or you find awkward smiles or glances being exchanged that ring an alarm, listen to it.
Your partner makes you question yourself
If your partner says things that make you wonder if you really are as awesome as you thought to be, that might just be a reality check, at times. But if they constantly say things that make you doubt yourself, your looks, your abilities, choice of friends, hobbies, taste in food/music etc., then it's important to be aware that the insecurity you feel does NOT belong to you.
It's your partner's insecurity that they want to shift onto you so that they can feel better about themselves. Or, your partner might try to make you feel less confident and unsure of yourself so that it gets easier for them to manipulate you.
For example, Katie holds a high-profile job that she is very good at. If Nate constantly tells Katie that she has to dress better to leave an impression or wear more makeup, or that she doesn't spend enough time working out or on grooming, Katie might dismiss it the first few times.
She knows her colleagues and clients are impressed by her work. But if he continues to say things about her appearance and never minces compliments when it comes to other women, Katie is likely to feel insecure and doubt not just her looks, but also her ability to do her work well.
Your partner's online activities
If your partner spends more hours online than with you and seems to be reserving all his "Likes" and "Love" for his online friends, it's normal for you to feel insecure. This can get worse if he/she has stopped complimenting you or appreciating you for all the good you bring to the relationship.
For example, if Nate finds no time for phone conversations with Katie, but there is always a green dot against his name suggesting he has all the time to be online on social media and to top it, he likes and leaves winky smileys and hearts for a common friend's photos, Katie isn't neurotic or worked up to feel unsure or vulnerable. Katie's insecurity is caused by Nate's activities.
When it is neither's fault: You might just be different folks
Let's say Nate appreciates how independent Katie is in making decisions concerning her life. Over the years, he has begun to rely on her abilities to make the right judgment and never questions her choices or worries to give his ideas. Katie might assume that him not getting involved in decision making is a sign of disinterest.
She might get ticked off that he can talk at length about his best buddy's life choices more than he does of hers. If Katie grew up in a home where the family took decisions together, she might feel hurt by his disinterest, while according to him, he respects her right to make independent choices.
What you can do: Ask for what you want from your partner and tell them what that means to you. Katie could tell Nate that she would love to know what he thinks of her choices and give his inputs. Nate could be more frequent in complimenting Katie's ability to make great decisions.
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