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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

More by this author

Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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