Insecurity is a normal part of being human, and it’s only natural for that insecurity to manifest in your relationships from time to time. But what happens when insecurity starts straining the relationship? Keep reading to learn how to stop being insecure in a relationship.
Insecurity stems from low self-confidence, often caused by negative past experiences or relationships. Relationship insecurity is a deep-seated belief that you’re not “good enough” for your partner or worthy of a loving relationship.
You might worry that you’re not attractive or fun enough for them, that they don’t enjoy having sex with you, or that they’re going to leave you. After a while, these beliefs make you question the security of the relationship.
“Feelings of insecurity in a relationship are often the result of attachment injuries,” explains Krystal Mazzola Wood, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “These injuries are traumatic experiences that happened within relationships either in childhood, adulthood, or both.”
Perhaps you were cheated on in the past, or an ex-partner was emotionally distant from you. Or maybe you grew up in a toxic household or were bullied in school. “Any sense of being ignored, devalued, or hurt by someone you trusted can lead to attachment injuries,” explains Mazzola Wood.
“Often when hurtful experiences happen in relationships, a person will internalize these events [and] think that because they were betrayed, hurt, or ignored in important relationships previously that such rejection is inevitable.”
Occasional pangs of insecurity aren’t a cause for concern, but chronic insecurity can drive a real wedge between partners and harm the relationship. Learning to be less insecure takes a lot of work, but it can be done. Below, we asked experts how to overcome relationship insecurity.
“It’s completely possible to overcome relationship insecurity,” says Mazzola Wood. “The first step is to acknowledge the anxiety that you have. By acknowledging it, you can find healthier ways to cope with this insecurity.”
“Be kind to yourself about the fact that you have insecurities; if you didn’t have them, you’re probably not alive,” says Evie Shafner, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Cultivate a mindfulness approach, by noticing when they come up, do not judge yourself for having them.”
“If we go into relationships with very unrealistic expectations such as, ‘I’ve met the person who is going to meet all my needs, who is always going to be a beacon of approval,’ then we haven’t taken enough responsibility for our own insecurities,” says Shafner.
“Being in a relationship means we’re going to have disappointments. Maybe it’s the third time this week that your partner has had to work late, and you interpret it as ‘they don’t love you enough’, and then you act out by accusing them.”
Shafner cautions you to not project your own insecurities onto your partner. “It’s too heavy, no one wants to feel so responsible,” she says. “When you or your partner take things too personally, the insecurities and unrealistic expectations make for an unstable relationship.”
A helpful way to cope with insecurity is to look at the situation through an objective lens. “Remember that thoughts and feelings are not always facts,” says Mazzola Wood. “There are many times when a person interprets a situation based on past trauma that has nothing to do with current reality.”
A past event might be the reason why you’re feeling insecure in your relationship, even if you have no reason to be. “Just because you feel insecure doesn’t mean your partner is doing something wrong or is responsible for you becoming less anxious,” Mazzolla Wood adds.
When you feel your insecurities taking over, take a moment to acknowledge them and ask yourself “am I making an assumption? What did my partner say/do? Am I making this something that it’s not?” If you can’t come up with any concrete evidence for your insecurity, chances are your feelings are just that — feelings.
Once you’ve acknowledged how you’re feeling, try to figure out what caused your insecurities to crop up.
Did you and your partner argue? Did you compare yourself to someone on social media? Were you feeling particularly tired or stressed that day? Insecurities don’t come out of nowhere, so pay attention to any patterns that emerge and take notice of what situations set off your insecurities. Journaling can be a useful way to make sense of your emotions, track your triggers, and break the cycle.
Although your partner isn’t responsible for fixing your insecurities, it’s a good idea to tell them how you feel. Your partner is not a mind reader, so they likely have no idea that you feel insecure.
“One of the most tender, connecting things to do in a relationship is to be able to share these insecurities in a relationship. Vulnerability is where connection happens — it cultivates a ‘warts and all’ kind of love,” says Shafner. Putting all your cards on the table fosters a safe space where intimacy and security can prosper.
“Practice the art of loving yourself right now, the way you are, not when you’re ‘better’,” says Shafner. It’s easier said than done, but building self-esteem starts with self-care and self-compassion. And remind yourself that your partner is with you for a reason!
Therapy can help you gain more self-awareness and figure out why you feel insecure. “If feelings of relationship insecurity persist it’s very helpful to seek therapy,” says Mazzola Wood.
“Often, whether you can consciously identify it or not, insecurity is rooted in past trauma. A therapist can help you heal from trauma, even if it’s not currently obvious to you.”
If your partner is open and willing, couples therapy can also help. “After all, it’s common for relationship insecurity to lead to a problematic cycle between partners,” she adds. “This cycle is not either partner’s fault, but both can intervene to fix it.”
In some cases, insecurities could be a warning sign. “If your partner is someone who activates insecurity in you, pay attention,” says Shafner.
“We can’t expect our partner to heal all our wounds, but if they’re flirty with others, don’t have good boundaries, are not complimentary, you can’t count on them showing up, they are withholding, etc, you won’t be able to get a secure feeling from someone who can’t give it.”