As human beings, none of us are ever going to be truly confident and certain about every aspect of our lives (after all, we’re not God), and these moments of uncertainty can lead to us feeling insecure on occasion about ourselves. It could be uncertainty over our appearance, our life choices, or even something as insignificant as whether we got on the right bus to work today. The point is, we all have some sort of experience when it comes to facing insecurities.
However, why is it that some people tend to face more insecurities than others, with seemingly greater frequency and intensity? This becomes far more apparent during relationships when emotions are involved, and sometimes we end up feeling drained as a result of our partner’s constant projections of insecurity wearing us out. It could even be the other way around and you’re the one who faces insecurity, but you don’t know what’s causing them in the first place.
Either way, if you feel that your current relationship has a potential future, but the main obstacle putting it all at risk are insecurities, then being able to identify the root cause behind you or your partner’s insecurity, as well as understanding how to overcome them, could very well go a long way to help you save your relationship.
Causes of Insecurities in a Relationship
Here are the 5 main causes behind insecurities in a relationship that you should not overlook.
1. Low Self-Esteem/Confidence
We’re only ever as secure in a relationship as we allow ourselves to be. But if we’ve already been feeling uncertain about almost every aspect of our lives, then how can we expect our relationships to be any different?
Low self-esteem and a general lack of confidence is arguably THE top cause for relationship insecurity and typically links back to a person’s upbringing.
Getting teased and bullied in school, being constantly told you weren’t good enough, or perhaps even the lack of proper affection growing up… all these experiences would definitely have long term implications on a person and if left unresolved, will continue on into adulthood.
Regardless of where it’s rooted from though, the resulting outcome would remain relatively unchanged, and they often grow up constantly feeling insecure about everything because of the conditioning they received over the years.
If you’re constantly doubting their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, not only would you end up projecting these doubts onto your relationship and your partner, but it’ll also lead to a series of irrational thoughts and worries, which only further amplifies those feelings of insecurity.
2. Negative Past Experiences (Emotional Baggage)
Many of us have walked away from certain relationships either because something bad happened (unfaithful, dishonest, etc.) or perhaps the very nature of the relationship itself had just been too toxic (abusive, emotionally unavailable, etc.). As we walk away from such relationships, the healthy thing to do would be to also leave those negative memories behind and eventually move past them to start afresh.
However, some of us end up holding onto those negative emotions and we even bring them into our subsequent relationships as unresolved emotional baggage. This creates insecurity and anxiety that we end up projecting onto our new partners, because we’re subconsciously holding them against whatever pain or hurt our ex inflicted on us.
As a result, we develop certain insecurities towards our partner and there may even be difficulties when it comes to placing trust in them, even if they haven’t actually given us any reason not to.
When we bring past emotional baggage into a new relationship, we automatically create an environment where there’s insecurity, and we essentially sabotage the new relationship by holding our new partner guilty for something they didn’t even do.
3. Attachment Styles
Based on psychological research (theory of attachment), it has been identified that a child develops different attachment styles (secure or insecure) depending on the way their parent interacted with them.
It was also found that these attachment styles could continue into adulthood and would play an important role on the way individuals form their relationships. Having a neglected childhood could result in a person having greater insecurities as an adult and because their emotional needs had not been met while growing up.
This causes major insecurity projections especially in a relationship, because the individual with an insecure attachment style has little to no experience when it comes to getting their emotional needs met. The moment they finally understand what it feels like to have their emotional needs catered to, an unhealthy reliance is created. That individual has no other perceived means of receiving such affection.
With anything perceived as precious to someone, there also comes the general fear of losing it. And a person who has an insecure attachment style would probably end up projecting these fears in obvious ways. They could get jealous easily, extremely sensitive, are constantly seeking validation from you, and could even become extremely clingy because they feel threatened by anything that could pull their partner’s attention away from them.
4. Personal Life Fulfilment (or Lack Thereof)
As two distinct individuals prior to finding each other, the both of you are going to have unique aspects about yourselves that would make you, uniquely you. Your career, your hobbies, your goals, your views, and even your favourite food, are all tailored aspects of yourself that not only create your personal identity, but would also provide you with a sense of fulfilment.
Many people tend to lose their individual identities after getting into a relationship and consequently, also lose that sense of personal life fulfilment. As a result, they turn to their partners instead, and start relying on them in order to provide them with life fulfilment and meaning.
This factor by itself while considered unhealthy, may not necessarily create insecurities in a relationship. However, when we develop a reliance on someone else to bring our lives meaning and fulfilment, there’s usually also a subconscious expectation for the other person to feel the same way about us, that comes along with our reliance.
This could cause insecurities and even jealousy to form, whenever our partner experiences an external form of happiness unrelated to us, or when there’s a positive change happening in our partner’s lives. Instead of feeling happy and supportive of our partner’s achievements, we end up feeling bitter and insecure, all because something else (aside from us) had been able to make our partners happy and give their lives meaning.
5. Unequal Past Relationship Experiences
By a certain point in everyone’s adult lives, we’re going to eventually exhaust all of our relationship ‘first times’. We may have previously even called someone from a past relationship our ‘soulmate’ before, or perhaps ever came close to settling down. We all progress at a different pace and even the amount of relationship experience will vary for every individual.
If you’re not a confident person to begin with, getting together with someone who has significantly more experience than you or previously involved in a serious relationship could easily cause relationship insecurities.
If you’re constantly making comparisons between you and your partner’s exes or the emotional connection they once had (which would probably be greater than yours), feelings of inferiority could easily take shape as you begin to doubt yourself and wonder if you could ever quite measure up.
What Can You Do to Overcome Insecurities?
If you find yourself being the insecure one in the relationship, here’s what you can do to overcome your insecurities (or help your partner overcome theirs).
The first step in overcoming any problem is to realize and acknowledge that one exists. If you don’t even know that your insecurities are negatively affecting your relationship or worse still, don’t realize that you’re acting insecure to begin with, then there’s no way you’d ever be able to move past it and those insecurities are just going to be a recurring problem.
It’s not enough just to know that a problem exists though, if you aren’t willing to do anything about it. You need to develop a greater self-awareness over your own emotions if you ever hope to improve the way you feel and act about certain matters.
Ultimately, having awareness and mindfulness over your individual self is essential in overcoming insecurities and preventing yourself from subconsciously acting needy, getting jealous, or even manipulating your partner whenever you feel insecure about something.
Open and Honest Communication
Regardless of whether it’s you or your partner who faces insecurities, one of you is going to inevitably bring it up at some point during the relationship. The main question here is when and where.
Will it come out as ammunition to hurt the other person while in the middle of an argument? Or as an open discussion that both parties can comfortably talk about without getting defensive or feeling offended?
Without a healthy line of communication with your partner, feelings of frustration and negativity are only going to bottle up and progressively worsen with each additional insecurity ‘episode’ that takes place, causing the relationship to slowly deteriorate.
If you see potential with your current partner, then you’re going to have to start working on establishing an honest, open, and healthy line of communication with them. Don’t be so worried that you’re going to end up hurting the other person’s feelings that you avoid confrontations altogether, because the alternative of bottling it up is only going to result in a far worse outcome.
Find the time to sit your partner down and let them know that there’s been something on your mind (NOT when you’re in the middle of an argument or there’s any sort of tension between both parties).
First, start off by making a disclaimer that whatever you’re about to say isn’t meant to ‘poke’, hurt, or put them down, but rather because you see a future with them, and would therefore wish to be honest and open about your feelings so that the both of you can grow stronger as a couple by working together to overcome it.
Be careful when choosing your words, especially if you’re trying to tell an already insecure person that they’re being insecure. Avoid using confrontational words like ‘you’ (i.e. you’re always acting insecure!) and instead, choose softer alternatives that are less likely to trigger them so that the discussion can continue in a positive manner (i.e. I’ve noticed that there has been some insecurities in the relationship lately).
Your objective at the end of the day is to not just get them to realize and acknowledge that they do have these insecurities, but more importantly, to let them know that you’d still be by THEIR side no matter what (remember that their insecurities aren’t going to magically disappear just because you brought it up) and you’re still going to have to make certain compromises when suggesting ways to improve the situation.
Engage a Professional Therapist to Help Address Deeper Rooted Issues
Unfortunately, not all issues can be overcome through self-facilitation, and there are certain people whose insecurities will be so deeply rooted that professional help may be required before any improvement can be seen.
If you or your partner’s cause of insecurity is linked back to more serious issues like poor childhood upbringing or experiencing a certain incident that may have brought about severe trauma/anxiety, then the two of you simply aren’t going to be able to overcome these issues alone, and a professional therapist or counsellor should be engaged to help better facilitate.
How can we ever hope for others to love us if we aren’t even capable of first loving ourselves?
There’s a certain truth to this cliched saying, and someone who has major insecurities about their partners would tend to usually also have a low sense of self-love. When a person lacks confidence and has low self-esteem, their self-worth will also get affected and this leads to insecurities developing as a result.
An insecure person constantly doubts and questions their partner’s decision to be with them, simply because they’re incapable of seeing their own worth. They constantly feel insecure about why their partner would choose them when they don’t believe they’re even worth loving in the first place.
If you’re someone who’s constantly insecure in your relationship – There was a reason why your partner first chose you and it wasn’t by coincidence or by accident. Your partner chose you because they saw certain qualities in you that they felt attracted to; qualities that you have been constantly failing to take notice of and sometimes even stubbornly remaining in denial over.
You need to learn to start embracing these qualities and foster greater love for yourself, because the key to having a secure and loving relationship all starts with you.
At the end of the day, insecurities are essentially a projection of a person’s manifested doubts, fears, and uncertainties. There’s never just one single clear cause behind a person’s insecurities and it tends to be a combination of several factors (both past and present) that would create those uncertainties.
Identifying the root cause behind you or your partner’s insecurity and understanding how to overcome it are both essential processes to work on, if we ever hope to create a lasting relationship with our partners.
Featured photo credit: Justin Follis via unsplash.com