Insecurities are tricky business.
70% of heterosexual relationships fall apart within the first year, and a great majority of this boils down to couples not overcoming insecurities.
There isn’t a person on this planet who feels 100% confident 100% of the time. We like to think we hide it well, but deep down, we are all insecure about something or another. Yet, this lack of confidence can be overcome thanks to the love and words of kindness from our friends, S/Os and our family.
However, prolonged contact with insecurity can cause significant issues in a romantic relationship. When one partner is too clingy—and refuses to work on it—the more confident partner is almost always inevitably pushed away. Unless—of course—both partners are clingy, which results in both of them staying out of fear of losing one another. The first scenario is painful and sad. The second is downright tragic. Insecurities are how abusive relationships are made.
Behavior 1: Infidelity
Let’s just get this one out of the way from the get go.
There are two reasons a couple breaks up after infidelity:
1. The cheater is insecure in their personhood and they feel the need to repeatedly cheat on their S/O in order to feel satisfied.
2. The victim is insecure and unwilling to forgive the cheater and work through the pain as a couple.
This reasoning may sound harsh, but the reality is: all cheating stems from a place of insecurity, and every relationship which falls apart as a result fell apart because one or both partners was too insecure to work through it.
Don’t get me wrong. Infidelity hurts. It hurts on the level of losing a child. Yet every act of infidelity has a root. That root may be that your partner is feeling unsatisfied sexually. It may be that they were deeply hurt as a child and are running for easy comfort because truly opening up to you is painful for them. Whatever the reason for cheating, cheating is wrong—but the majority of the time it isn’t purposefully malicious.
When you’ve been cheated on, you are fully justified in being angry. You are fully justified in feeling possessive. However, just because you feel a certain way does not make acting on it the right thing to do. Forgiveness does not just mean swallowing your feelings and forgetting. Forgiveness means, “let’s work through this together. Let’s heal our relationship together.”
To overcome insecurities surrounding infidelity, the pair of you need to be 100% transparent. You need to be willing to accept constructive criticism. You need to be willing to listen to your partner’s side, emotions and thoughts. There is an unimaginable amount of pain on both sides in these cases—even if your partner is a serial cheater.
That said, both partners need to be willing to repair the relationship for mutual healing to occur. If you have talked with your partner—be they the cheater or the victim—and they continually shut down, throw accusations, cast the blame or emotionally abuse you, it may be time to walk away and heal on your own. However, this should only be an option once you have exhausted every single resource to salvage the relationship.
Behavior 2: One-Sided Pursuit
Another signal of insecurity in a relationship is a one-sided pursuit. When one partner is constantly showering another in gifts, romantic dates and compliments at first it seems so romantic. However, as the relationship progresses through the natural stages, the infatuation wears off and most couples settle into a comfortable rhythm. This rhythm is still romantic and leaves room for great romantic gestures to be made. However, these are not constant.
If one partner is always offering these gestures, it demonstrates that they might be hiding a fear of their partner leaving. They are attempting to buy their affections, trying to prove that they are worth loving because they keep serving their partner. However, this is just a mask to their inner insecurities.
The problem with this sort of behavior is that the relationship will never reach maturity. The partner constantly showering the other with gifts is actually putting up a barrier which keeps the couple from ever reaching a depth of emotional intimacy. So when something truly turbulent happens in the relationship, the gift giver’s fears are finally realized. Either their partner leaves, or they confess their deep insecurity.
If the latter happens, the pair can begin to build towards establishing a true trust based on love and action. If the former, well… sadly the cycle usually continues from relationship to relationship until the insecure party begins to actively pursue individual healing.
Behavior 3: Mutual Identity
A mutual identity is when two partners inextricably wrap themselves in each other’s lives so you cannot tell one without the other. They attend every single function together, must complete every project together, and it one is out of town the world comes to a crashing halt until they are together again.
This sort of relationship usually stems from each individual being unaware of who they are as a singular person. They do not know who they are, do not know their purpose, or are afraid of one of those two and are running away.
Whatever the reason, these relationships are almost always doomed to fail—or make the couple extremely unhappy—because life requires us to be able to fend for ourselves. Yes, it is healthy to be able to rely on your partner to pick up the slack when you are struggling. Yes, it is healthy to be able to cry on their shoulder when life is just too overwhelming. However, it is never healthy to stop living unless they are there by your side holding your hand through every little thing.
Time apart as partners is good, healthy even. Partners are able to develop their own interests and skills, pursue their dreams. Then when they come back together at the end of the day, they have plenty of interesting developments to discuss.
To overcome insecurities in this requires partners to find out who they are separate from each other. This does not necessarily mean splitting up, but rather pursuing different interests to develop their own skills. Once your individual skills are developed, you will be able to help each other pursue your dreams.
Behavior 4: Constant Interrogation
A small amount of jealousy from time to time is acceptable. However, the jealousy which results in your partner getting angry when you go out, rifling through your internet history, and constantly asking where you’ve been is a little scary. These are the kinds of relationships that result in stalkerish tendencies—the kind that Netflix warns us about.
While most people who struggle with insecurities are no cause for that degree of alarm, someone with a snooping partner needs to have a serious conversation with them. Oftentimes an insecure partner is rifling through your schedule because they are afraid of losing you, and they will do anything to keep you. This fear often stems from a form of childhood neglect.
When your partner is struggling with abandonment issues, you need to be patient, understanding, but firm. Reassure them that you are with them in this present moment. They will want constant affirmation because they do not believe you. Rather than continually saying “I love you,” which they will not truly hear anyway, do your best to bring your partner to the present moment.
Overcoming fear of abandonment requires the partner to return their mind to the present moment. They are drawing on old feelings and mistaking the present for the past. Take your parter through emotional grounding techniques to help them recognize that the present is now and that you are here. In time, they will begin to realize that you are staying and they will begin to calm down. Talk with them about your boundaries, but even more, be willing to serve them by helping them learn to self regulate these fears. If you are in a truly committed relationship, eventually these fears will fade and be replaced by love.
Behavior 5: Constant Apologies
People who struggle with insecurities have no idea why you are with them. Literally no clue. They are thrilled when they find out that someone is interested in them, but that thrill is quickly replaced by a crippling fear that once their partner truly knows their imperfections, their partner will leave forever. Then begins the game of constantly trying to be enough for you.
Which means, they will always be apologizing.
Because your insecure partner can never live up to their expectations of perfection.
They will apologize for breathing too loud, for buying you the wrong shampoo, for crying when something truly tragic happens to them. They will apologize for every little thing.
Overcoming insecurities requires much of the same tactics as outlined in the previous section. You need to reassure your partner that you love them and reminding them that they are allowed to have emotions, and allowed to make mistakes. Remind them of the grace they give you when you mess up, and encourage them to extend that same grace to themselves.
Final Thoughts to Overcome Insecurities:
Ultimately, to overcome insecurities in relationships requires a great deal of work and determination. Both parties need to be willing to help one another cope with their own emotional baggage. At the end of the day though, the only person responsible for your own healing is you. Your partner can be there to support you—and you to them—but it takes two to tango, and the two of you need to provide your own emotional support and regulation to be able to help one another.