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Last Updated on September 18, 2017

A Subtle Sign of Insecurity Can Kill a Relationship Silently

A Subtle Sign of Insecurity Can Kill a Relationship Silently

When you’re in a relationship, you can develop some funny habits with the person you’re with. It could be constant sharing of an inside joke, the expectation that they will always finish your meal at a restaurant, or something less cutesy. For instance, I have a friend who used to ask her boyfriend to say, “I love you” to her 3 times a day, in the morning, in the afternoon and before she went to sleep.

Maybe at first you’re thinking, okay? So what? But this need for validation was coming from an unhealthy place. When you’re dating someone, especially long-term, you should want to hear sweet words like that, but you should also be able to trust their feelings. Even if they don’t verbalize them frequently.

My friend had a strong desire for her partner’s love and attention. She looked to her partner to provide a sense of completeness in her life. This can also be a red flag. Your partner should absolutely add value to your life, but he/she shouldn’t define you as a whole person.

Sometimes her boyfriend would be too busy at work and forget to do it once or twice. Rather than understanding he couldn’t drop what he was doing to call or text her, she would get very upset – even angry. She felt that forgetting about her “simple request” is a sign of him neglecting her, or wanting to leave her. She has trust issues with her partner.

The relationship lasted for only a few months. It didn’t end well because my friend was very upset and her partner felt exhausted.

Insecurity in a relationship is not obvious most of the times.

While reading that example seems like a clear example of why insecurity can wreck a relationship, it’s important to realize that it’s only that obvious to us reading it. See, for my friend and her boyfriend, her insecurity caused big arguments about why he didn’t care about her, and the fact that he wouldn’t do simple things for her.

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Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for insecurity to exist with no obvious signs. You or your partner can feel insecure without voicing, or even realizing it. It’s that sick feeling in your stomach you can’t explain when the person you’re seeing doesn’t text you back right away or show up to hang out on time.

The need for proof of love prevents a relationship from reaching the next level.

Needing to be approved, or needing to see proof of love and self-worth prevents building an authentic relationship. You know the old saying, “actions speak louder than words”? It’s especially true when it comes to creating a long-lasting romance.

When you’ve been with someone, especially for a long time, little things really show they love you and only you. Maybe they did the laundry for you because they knew you had a ton of work to get done and wouldn’t have the time. Maybe they surprised you with your favorite thing from a nearby restaurant ‘just because’. In either of these examples, they didn’t have to say, “I love you and only you and you can trust me!” But you knew it.

Behaviors caused by insecurity wreak havoc all too quickly. If you’re always asking for reassurance, dealing with jealousy, accusing, and even snooping, you’re eroding trust.

Such behaviors are not attractive, and can push a partner away.

Most people tackle insecurity in a way that makes the relationship worse.

People handle insecurity in different ways, trying to make themselves feel better in the relationship. Yet they don’t realize the way they try to fix their insecurity issues is worsening their relationship.

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Some fiercely seek security.

Security in a relationship isn’t something tangible, but some people want to hold on to it. To feel secure all the times, they seek some kind of solid reassurance. In this case, a person will demand security from their partner by asking them to do something to prove their love. This tactic is not much different from peer pressure amongst teenagers.

But if you’re asking your partner to say I love you a certain number of times, or asking them to do favors constantly, things can get out of hand. And if you’re desperate enough to ask them to reply to you immediately when you text, things are going downhill fast.

When a partner is overwhelmed by ridiculous requests, he or she will be unable to perform perfectly 100% of the time. The problem of insecurity cannot be fixed this way. Actions do speak louder than words; but when they’re actions requested by the insecure party, they’re inauthentic and exhausting at best.

Some show insecurity in a subtle way.

These people tend to believe that it’s weak to admit feeling insecure, but also secretly hope to be cared by their partner. However, when the partner doesn’t pick up on what’s going on, it can cause more fights and insecurity.

They’ll give subtle signs and say things like, “I’m okay. Don’t worry,” or “Go ahead do what you want,” but then ignore their partner. While this is meant to show they are bothered by the action, it isn’t effective.

Assuming that couples should understand each other well, even without talking about things, is unrealistic. Even if you’re embarrassed about how insecure you feel, or you can’t explain the reasoning behind it, it’s still important to let it be known.

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When an insecure person relies on subtle clues and actions, their partner won’t understand what they really think and take their actions personally. This causes a lot of miscommunication because one of the partners has to always be guessing what the other is thinking, and it’s not likely that they can guess it right all the time. The passive aggressive behaviors such as ignoring a partner or throwing temper-tantrums can also hurt the partner’s feelings, and even anger them.

Some act like they are secure.

Some people choose to suppress their real feelings out of fear or embarrassment. While they may intend well because they don’t want their insecurity to affect another person or affect the relationship, they are only making things worse.

It may seem to work at first because whenever they meet their significant other, the happy time together can temporary make them forget about the insecure feelings. But because of trying so hard to suppress their feelings, they may tend to take in all the sadness.

Not letting out of the negative emotions or sharing them with anyone, these people are likely to overthink (about bad things that may not happen). This prolonged sadness may even lead to anxiety or depression.

In the long-run, the relationship is not healthy. Despite how much these people try to pretend nothing is going wrong, their partner will eventually feel the negative vibe and the relationship will not last.

The only way to fix insecurity is to be vulnerable.

Being insecure is not a mistake. Having insecurity issues doesn’t make one a weak person.

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Once you realize you feel insecure, reflect and determine where these feelings are coming from. It could be from past experience. Maybe you lacked attention or gained too much attention from your parents when you were small? Maybe you were in a relationship with an insecure partner? Maybe you lack confidence in yourself? Shift the focus from blaming your partner to digging into your inner thoughts.

After you have found out why you are feeling what you’re feeling, share it with your partner. Talk about the emotions you feel. Tell him/her how you feel when he/she does something, and why you feel such way. Share with him/her the reason why you think these things trigger you those feelings.

Figure out together with your partner what to do to make both people stay aware of the issue. Both partners need to work on certain aspects to minimize and fix insecurity together. For instance, if you ask your partner to text you immediately, take baby steps to stop that. Maybe he/she can agree to text you when he/she gets to work and let you know he/she’s going to have a busy day and may not be able to reach out until his/her lunch break.

No matter how you two agree to take steps to resolve the issue, it’s vital you have the discussion. Otherwise, things will never get better. Whether it’s nightly conversations about how you felt that day or something more personal like journalling, you have to make an effort to realize the issue and resolve it. Remember to be patient with yourself and your partner. It takes two people to make a relationship work, especially when overcoming a challenge.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Anna Chui

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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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