How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Juniore, “Panique”

How To Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

OVERCOMING INSECURITY | It’s not uncommon for both women and men to feel insecure in a relationship from time to time. 

Insecurity affects more people than you think. Many of the couples who come to us searching for life coaching and personal growth discover that insecurity was one of the main issues in their relationship. Insecurity isn’t always obvious at first. It might even look like your relationship issues aren’t related to insecurity at all. That’s because when couples don’t feel completely emotionally safe and secure with each other, it tends to create conflict and problems in many other areas of their partnership. 

[For more on the importance of emotional safety and how it may be impacting YOUR relationship, access our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz and my mini-couples coaching follow up video series.]

It’s typical for people in new relationships to have some anxiety, but even people in long-term relationships sometimes worry about their partner’s feelings for them. While very common, feelings of insecurity in your relationship can create problems for both of you. 

Root Causes of Insecurity

If insecurity is an issue in your relationship — either for you, or your partner — you might be speculating about the root causes of insecurity and how to heal them. Here are six of the most common causes of insecurity, and some tips on how to address them.

Insecurity After Infidelity 

If you’ve been betrayed by a partner in the past, it’s completely natural to struggle to feel secure in your present relationship. Feelings of insecurity after an experience with infidelity or an emotional affair are very common. In these cases, the path to healing can be a long one. The person who did the betraying often needs to work very hard, for a long time, to show (not tell, but show) their partners that they can trust them again.

Anxiety After Being Let Down Repeatedly 

Insecurities can also start to emerge after less dramatic betrayals and disappointments. Even feeling that your partner has not been emotionally available for you, has not been consistently reliable, or was there for you in a time of need, can lead you to question the strength of their commitment and love. 

Trust is fragile

If your relationship has weathered storms, learning how to repair your sense of trust and security can be a vital part of healing. Often, couples need to go back to the past to discuss the emotional wounds they experienced with each other in order to truly restore the bond of safety and security. These conversations can be challenging, but they are necessary.

Insecurity Due to Past Trauma 

Sometimes people who were traumatized in past relationships can struggle to feel secure with their present partner. For some people, their very first relationships were with untrustworthy or inconsistent parents, which led them to develop insecure attachment styles, which make them feel apprehensive or protective when anyone gets too close. However, even people with loving parents and happy childhoods can carry scars of past relationships, particularly if they’ve been through a toxic relationship at some point in their lives. It’s completely understandable: Being burned by an ex can make it harder to trust a new partner, because you fear being hurt again.

Long Distance Relationships

Sometimes, insecurity has more to do with the circumstances of the relationship than the people who are in it. For example, you might feel more insecure if you’re in a long-distance relationship.  Not being able to connect with your partner, or see them in person all the time, can take a toll on even the strongest relationship. Couples in long-distance relationships should expect that they will have to work a little harder than couples who are together day-to-day in order to help each person to feel secure and loved. In these cases, carefully listening to each other about what both of you need to feel secure and loved is vital, as is being intentional, reliable, and consistent.

Feeling Insecure When You’re Dating Someone New 

Dating someone new is exciting, but it can also be intensely anxiety-provoking. In new (or new-ish) relationships where a commitment has not been established, not fully knowing where you stand with a new person that you really like is emotionally intense. If you’re involved in a new relationship, you may need to deliberately cultivate good self-soothing and calming skills in order to manage the emotional roller coaster that new love can unleash. 

Feeling Insecure With a Withdrawn Partner

Different types of relationship dynamics can lead to differences in how secure people feel. The same person can feel very secure and trusting in one relationship, but with a different person, they might feel suspicious, worried, or like they’re on pins and needles. Often this has to do with the relational dynamic of the couple. For example, in relationships where one person has a tendency to withdraw, be less communicative, or is not good at verbalizing their feelings, their partner may feel worried about what’s really going on in the other person’s head. This can turn into a pursue-withdraw dynamic that intensifies over time; one person becoming increasingly anxious and agitated about not being able to get through to their partner, and the withdrawn person clamping down like a clam under assault by a hungry seagull. However, when communication improves and couples learn how to show each other love and respect in the way they both need to feel safe and secure, trust is strengthened and emotional security is achieved.

Types of Insecurities

Insecurities can take many forms, and emerge for a variety of reasons.

Emotional security (or lack thereof) is complex. In addition to having a variety of root causes, there are also different ways that insecurity manifests in people — and they all have an impact on your relationship. People who struggle with low self esteem may find it hard to feel safe in relationships because they always anticipate rejection. The “insecure overachiever” may similarly struggle to feel secure in relationships if they’re not getting the validation and praise that they thrive on. 

For others, insecurity is linked to an overall struggle with vulnerability and perfectionism. People who feel like they need to be perfect in order to be loved can — subconsciously or not — try to hide their flaws. But, on a deep level, they know they’re not perfect (no one is) and so that knowledge can lead to feelings of apprehension when they let other people get close to them. In these cases, learning how to lean into authentic vulnerability can be the path of healing. [More on this: “The Problem With Perfectionism”]

Sometimes people who are going through a particularly hard time in their lives can start to feel apprehensive about where they stand in their relationship. For example, people who don’t feel great about their career can often feel insecure when they’re around people who they perceive as being more successful or accomplished than they are. This insecurity is heightened in the case of a layoff or unexpected job loss. If one partner in a relationship is killing it, and the other is feeling under-employed or like they’re still finding their way, it can lead the person who feels dissatisfied with their current level of achievement to worry that their partner is dissatisfied with them too. 

Insecurities can take many forms, and emerge for a variety of reasons. However, when insecurity is running rampant, the biggest toll it takes is often on a relationship.

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How Insecurity Can Ruin a Relationship

To be clear: Having feelings is 100% okay. Nothing bad is going to happen to you, or your relationship, or anyone else because you have feelings of anxiety or insecurity. The only time relationship problems occur as a result of feelings is when your feelings turn into behaviors.

If people who feel insecure, anxious, jealous or threatened don’t have strategies to soothe themselves and address their feelings openly with their partner, and have those conversations lead to positive changes in the relationship, then their feelings can lead to behaviors that can harm the relationship. Some people lash out in anger when they perceive emotional danger, or if they think their partner is being hurtful to them. Often, people who feel insecure will attempt to control their partner’s behaviors in efforts to reduce their own anxiety. Many insecure people will hound their partners for information about the situations they feel worried about. Still others will withdraw, preemptively, as a way of protecting themselves from the rejection they anticipate.

While all of these strategies are adaptive when you are in a situation where hurtful things are happening, (more on toxic relationships here) problems occur when these defensive responses flare up in a neutral situation. A common example of this is the scenario where one person repeatedly asks their partner if they’re cheating on them because they feel anxious, when their partner is actually 100% faithful to them and has done nothing wrong. The insecure person might question their partner, attack their partner, check up on their partner, or be cold and distant due to their worries about being cheated on or betrayed — when nothing bad is actually happening. This leaves the person on the other side feeling hurt, controlled, rejected, vilified… or simply exhausted. 

If feelings of insecurity are leading to problematic behaviors in a relationship, over time, if unresolved, it can erode the foundation of your partnership. 

How to Help Your Partner Feel More Secure In Your Relationship

The key here is consistency…

It’s not uncommon for partners of insecure people to seek support through therapy, life coaching, or couples counseling either for themselves or with their partners. They ask, “How do I help my wife feel more secure,” or “How do I help my husband feel more secure.” This is a great question; too often partners put the blame and responsibility for insecure feelings squarely on the shoulders of their already-anxious spouse or partner. This, as you can imagine, only makes things worse. 

While creating trust in a relationship is a two-way street, taking deliberate and intentional action to help your partner feel emotionally safe with you in the ways that are most important to him or her is the cornerstone of helping your insecure girlfriend, insecure boyfriend, or insecure spouse feel confident in your love for them. The key here is consistency, and a willingness to do things to help them feel emotionally secure — even if you don’t totally get it. This is especially true if your partner’s insecurity stems from past trauma or betrayal.

Tips to help your spouse feel more secure in your relationship

  1. Ask them what they need from you to feel emotionally safe and loved by you
  2. Give that to them (over and over again, without being asked every time)
  3. Rinse and repeat

How to Stop Being Insecure

While the partners of anxious people do need to try a little harder to help their loved ones feel secure, the person struggling with insecurity also needs to take responsibility for their feelings and learn how to manage them effectively.

[For more information of how to uncover your hidden obstacles, check out this article

Note: This doesn’t mean never worrying or feeling insecure (feelings happen y’all), but rather, learning how to have feelings that don’t turn into relationship-damaging behaviors.

Without the ability to soothe yourself, become grounded in the here and now, and get your emotional needs met by your partner (or yourself), unbridled insecurity can put a major strain on a relationship. But how? How do you manage insecurity? That’s the million-dollar question, and that’s why I’ve made it the topic of the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast! 

If you’re struggling with insecurity in your relationship — either as the person who worries, or the one who’s trying to reassure them — you’ll definitely want to join me and my colleague Georgi C., an Arkansas-based marriage counselor and family therapist who specializes in attachment therapy, as we discuss this topic. We’re going deep into the topic of insecurity in relationships and how to overcome it. Listen and learn more about:

  1. The root causes of insecurity
  2. The surprising ways insecurity can impact a relationship
  3. Practical strategies to help someone else feel more secure
  4. Actionable advice to help yourself feel less insecure
  5. How to heal and strengthen trust and security 
  6. Concrete tools couples can use to banish insecurity from their relationship

We hope that this discussion helps you overcome insecurity and create the strong, happy relationship you deserve.

With love and respect, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Georgi C., MS, LAMFT

P.S. Pro Tip: Once you listen to this podcast, consider sharing it with your partner. Doing so can be an easy, low-key way to start an important, and necessary conversation about how to increase the emotional safety and security you both feel in your relationship. xo, LMB

P.P.S. We have so much more support for you here! To access other podcasts and articles on this topic, like “How to Deal With Trust Issues,” please visit our Emotional Wellness Collection, our Growing Together Collection, our Relationship Repair Collection, and more. It’s all there for you. — LMB

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Juniore, “Panique”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast.

It is in French. I understand most of the words, not all of them. But despite that, the song does a marvelous job, in my opinion, of capturing the energetic experience of having a lot of anxiety, especially about a relationship. I thought it was a perfect lead into our show today because that’s what we’re talking about. I’ve been hearing from a lot of you that your primary struggle, one of your primary struggles is really feeling insecure in your relationship, kind of on pins and needles. Having a lot of anxiety about your partner, feeling worried that the strength of your relationship or commitment isn’t as strong as you’d like it to be. Help is here. We’re going to be talking all about that on today’s show. I have a lot of good stuff in store. 

But before we dive in, I would like to formally thank you for being here. If you are a regular listener, hello again, my friend. And if this is your first time listening, I’m so glad you found us. I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, I’m the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching, and we are growing too, I’m excited to say. We are based in Denver, Colorado, but we have offices sprouting up all over the place. We opened a new location in Fort Collins, Colorado not too long ago and have outposts and places as far-flung as San Francisco and Austin, Texas, and Bentonville, Arkansas of all places. 

So in addition to seeing people all over the place through online video and what I am doing here with you today, the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast is just an outgrowth of the thrill that I get from being in a position honestly, to be helpful to people. I love being a therapist. I love being a marriage counselor. I love being a life coach. I just get so much genuine satisfaction out of supporting my clients on their journey of positive growth and change. Also, just all of the neat people who are in our practice. We have some amazing folks on our team, and it’s just such a joy to be working with them, and bringing you guys helpful information that just supports you on your path. 

So this show is all about you and helping you feel happier and having better relationships and doing what you were meant to do. Each week, I listen to you and I look to you for what we should talk about. So I’ve been hearing from you guys on Instagram, which is so exciting. Thank you. I’m feeling more and more, oh wait, should I say, less and less insecure on Instagram lately, because I’ve been chatting with you guys. So, thank you. If you would like to join me on Instagram, you can find me @drlisamariebobby. Send me a message, I will write you back. You can also follow Growing Self on Instagram. That’s @growing_self.

And that is honestly where all the action is. Because in addition to my stuff at Growing Self, we have all kinds of things coming out on our blog regularly. We have articles and videos, and all kinds of great stuff that our team is putting out: infographics, inspirational quotes, you want it, we got it. Growing Self on Instagram. You can also contact us through Facebook at facebook.com/drlisabobby or do it the old-fashioned way. You can just go to our website, growingself.com

You can jump into the comments section of some of the articles or posts on our blog. We have a vibrant community of questioning and answering happening in there. Get in touch. Let us know what is on your mind. We might use it on an upcoming episode of this podcast. Because again, it’s all about a genuine desire to help you, and I can’t help you unless I know what’s going on with you. 

So today’s show came about because I have been listening, and I have seen so many comments coming through our website around, various articles, and things we’ve had questions coming through from Facebook lately, and the theme of many of them, we have achieved critical mass on this topic. It’s really around. “I worry about my relationship. I worry about where I stand with my, with my husband, or my wife, or my boyfriend. I worry about where they are, what they’re doing, or how they feel about me. It is driving me crazy. I really want to feel more secure in my relationship. I don’t like the way I behave when I’m feeling really anxious. I want to just have a good time, I want us to have a nice relationship and enjoy each other. But I feel like the anxiety that I’m carrying around inside me is getting in the way.” 

I’ve just been hearing this from so many people. I decided to put together a podcast on this topic. In order to make this be as effective and as meaningful as possible, I actually was thinking about who can I get involved in this little project. And my colleague, Georgi, came to mind. Georgi is part of our team here at Growing Self. She has not participated in a podcast with me yet. But I really wanted to talk with Georgi because she specializes in marriage and family therapy, specifically couples counseling. Although she works actually with a lot of kids and parents, too. And Georgia has a very strong attachment focus. 

So when I say attachment it’s looking at the strength of the connection between two people, and working with that to heal it, to build it, to repair it. Because what we know is that when that attachment feels threatened or disrupted, that is really when people start to feel insecure in their relationships. By healing and strengthening that attachment, it increases the feelings of emotional safety in a relationship, and really helps people feel less anxious. 

So I’m excited to talk with Georgi today. Georgi, let’s just do this. Thank you so much for your willingness to speak with me today about insecurity and how to overcome it. 

Georgi: Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, it’s always so fun to talk with you. And I’m so especially excited to speak with you about our topic today. Because I know, from my experience in working with people for years and years, that feeling anxious or insecure or jealous in a relationship is a pain point for so many people. It can really impact the relationship. I know that you have a lot of expertise in this area. So I’m just thrilled to be speaking with you about this today. Maybe we can start this conversation. When you think about a relationship where one person is getting really activated around these ideas of insecurity or jealousy. Tell me a story about maybe someone that you’ve worked with that has been going through this, so we can begin to connect with it emotionally.

Georgi: Yeah, yeah. No. I’d see this, I would say nearly you know, 75% of the time when I’m treating couples, is one person is having a particularly hard time investing in their relationship and having a hard time trusting their partner, which causes a whole mess of stuff. One example I can think of is I had a client once that had a past history of some pretty serious stuff at home: some abandonment issues and some just childhood experiences that really made it difficult for her to learn to trust others. When she eventually got married, she found it really difficult to kind of put herself into that relationship and be vulnerable with her husband. We talked a lot about kind of how that felt for her. But yeah, it was really hard. It was hard for him as well, obviously, where he didn’t understand all that, and so he just assumed that she was shutting down and didn’t love him anymore. That sparked a lot of anxiety for him as well, and then the cycle just kind of escalated from there.

Dr. Lisa: I’ve seen that too. Also, thinking about people that I’ve worked with, where they have this intense insecurity, jealousy. It turns into anger. Their partners, sometimes, they feel anxious and bad, and they can lash out at their partner for sort of making them –doing air quotes right now– making them feel anxious or insecure by something that they’re doing or not doing. And it can really lead to a nasty dynamic in the relationship where one person is sort of always being blamed for not doing enough or talking to the waitress too long, or coming home 10 minutes late. It’s like this big flood of energy. And it really becomes kind of the opposite, I think, of what people want, which is to feel closer and more connected with their partner. But, instead, really starts to push people away from each other in a dramatic way, that again, I think makes people feel even more anxious and insecure. Because they can feel that. It’s hard.

Georgi: I found, too, that, you mentioned the emotion, anger. Anger is such a fickle thing. It’s very deceiving. It’s usually the very first emotion that sparks in us when something happens. But it’s not telling the whole story. A lot of times we react with anger or resentment, and we shut down or we lash out. But really what’s happening is something so much deeper than just feeling angry at your partner, right? Like you mentioned, feeling insecure, a lot of times, that can look like anger on the outside. But really deep down, it’s feeling like you’re not good enough, or you can’t come through for your partner. But instead of dealing with that emotion, it’s so much easier to just say, “Oh, I’m mad. I’m angry right now.” Rather than, “I feel like I’m not good enough.” That’s a lot harder to sit with.

Dr. Lisa: It is. That is so vulnerable, that feeling, because it’s that anxiety that if I’m not good enough, therefore, my partner would obviously prefer this other person who has all these things, I don’t meet. But going into that place is really scary to be authentic and vulnerable with those feelings, and so it turns into a lashing out. This is actually reminding me, you wrote such a nice article around perfectionism for the blog at Growing Self recently. You were talking about how that sense of needing to kind of seem like all of that. And how hard it is, how painful it is to really be vulnerable in the sense of letting other people see your flaws and imperfections. Now I almost wonder if those two things are kind of related?

Georgi: For sure, yeah. Like you said, vulnerability is so difficult. But what’s interesting is, it’s usually when we’re most vulnerable with someone, that’s when we feel most connected to them. And so it’s, in a way, a lot of couples experience this kind of Catch-22 scenario where they’re too afraid. And they can’t trust their partner so that they can be vulnerable. But the only way to be vulnerable is to open up, and the only way to feel connected is to open up and feel vulnerable, right? So it’s difficult to get to that point. 

I think a lot of times, we can convince ourselves that it’s much better in a relationship to seem like you’re the perfect partner or to seem like you’re not experiencing insecurity or shame or guilt. Because that would look bad, right, on the outside. But what’s really happening there is you’re guarding yourself. You’re not letting your partner in, and then there’s never gonna be a chance for you to feel really connected. There’s not a chance for you to build that trust up some more. So, yeah, I think they’re definitely connected there.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Oh, my gosh, that’s so insightful though. And I love the way that you talk about the cycle, the system. And we talk about that so often on the show, is that people put things out there and then you reap the seeds of that. And so, while it often does feel really out of control, “How do I get” –air quotes again– “make my partner make me feel safe and secure? It’s really kind of turning that. And what you’re saying is, “How do I think about what I am doing? What am I asking for? How am I asking for it? What am I putting into the relationship?” And then, “How is my partner reacting to that?” If you see them pulling further away, that’s a good indication that it’s not that you guys are doing it together. Yeah. Wow. 

How Insecurity Can Ruin A Relationship

So let’s talk about this a little bit more deeply. Because I always, on the show, I really, I want people to walk away from this with some transformational ideas. I know that sounds like a tall order. But really, I think that that’s what we’re doing here. I think that while on some level, everyone can relate to feeling a little jealous or a little insecure in a relationship. Sometimes, especially, in a newer relationship. What’s, in your mind, what is the difference between normal transient feelings of jealousy or insecurity that can crop up for people versus something that is happening frequently, and is causing problems in the relationship, and it really needs to be managed and dealt with?

Georgi: I think, especially in new relationships, you learn so much about yourself. A lot of times some of those interactions that happen can reveal things in your own life that you didn’t know were there, which is normal. I would say the difference between the two is when that happens, when you discover a new part of yourself, are you able to kind of sit with that and process that, and then work through that with your partner? Are you able to open up about that newfound experience you’re having? Or do you find that the anxiety of that experience is too overwhelming, that you shut down and withdraw from your partner? 

I think the difference there is that over time, what the trend should look like is that the more experiences like those that you have, the more open and more trusting you can feel with your partner. Versus, the more experiences like that you have, the further and further away you feel. So it’s really, I think, a distance issue. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Also, I think you bring up a good point that in some people, it looks like that, that shutting down an end. And other people, I think it looks like a lot of anger, too. Either one of those that creates that distance in a relationship. When you feel like it’s really impacting your day-to-day, the fabric of your relationship is eroding because of that. That’s when it’s time to really think about doing something different. Okay. 

Root Causes of Anxiety

In your experience, what are some of the reasons that you’ve seen around why this happens for people? You were talking about one person that you worked with, where there were, like, really like adverse childhood experiences. But isn’t it always that? Is it like something happened when you were a puppy? Or is it sometimes like with a relationship itself that people can feel that way?

Georgi: Definitely. So one thing I really explore with my clients are what I call attachment injuries. Basically, what that means it’s just, it could be any moment in time when your feelings of connection with that partner got ruptured or poked out a little bit. That could look different for any couple. Sometimes, it’s as extreme as infidelity or breaking up. Sometimes, it’s just maybe catching your partner in a lie. Or they said they’re going to show up to this date, and then they didn’t make it in time. So they stood you up, and that really caused you to think differently about them. It’s really those attachment injuries, those moments in time that kind of convinced you to look at your partner differently, and then kind of build that wall up in between you and make it harder for you to connect.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and so attachment injuries, I mean, like so are we talking about affairs? Is that it or are there other things?

Georgi: Yeah. So affairs are the big example, the most common example you hear when they talk about attachment injuries. But, like I said, it can look, it can look different for everyone. It can be as small as just, I don’t know, just thinking that your partner is going to take the trash out every weekend, and they don’t. Every time that kind of builds, and build. Then you realize, “Oh, I trusted you to do something for me and you didn’t follow through. Therefore, I cannot open up to you. I can’t be vulnerable with you. I’m feeling insecure like I can’t trust this relationship anymore.”

Dr. Lisa: It turns into why aren’t you doing these things, that insecurity around, “Is it me? Is it that you don’t love me anymore? Is that you let somebody else? Is it our super sexy next-door neighbor? Would you take out her trash?

Georgi: Right. And it all goes back to kind of how, whatever happened, those moments in time shaped the way we view other people, and then, also shapes the way of yourself. So if we see that our partner can’t come through for us, then we think that nobody else can come through for us. But then we start questioning why–exactly what you said, “Why is it they’re not coming through? Is it because I’m not good enough, or I’m falling short here?” That they feel the need to not come through. So it just kind of creates this huge cycle of internalization.

Dr. Lisa: It feels so bad, I think, for the person going through it. I can remember a time when my husband and I, it was shortly after we got married. It was not a good time in our relationship. We had just moved out to Denver from Virginia. There were so many changes. We didn’t have friends out here yet. It was just a lot of stuff. My husband, he was in art school at the time. And he made a new friend in art school that I felt so incredibly threatened by. Because this girl was just everything that I felt like I wasn’t. I could look at her and be like, I could totally see him, like being into her more than he’s into me. I just remember, it felt so bad, but I think it was also kind of an expression of our not being in a super great place, probably me not being in a super great place at the time. It was awful. 

When I think about how I was being in a relationship, I think it made me feel kind of weird. And like, “I noticed your home late from school today, where were you? Were you with her? What were you doing? What do you talk about? What was she wearing? What did you have for lunch?” That kind of thing. I know that that’s how it felt for me, and I think that people can relate to that place of being on kind of pins and needles. Having all of these unanswered questions. We can look at this from the other side, too, because I know if my husband was sitting right here next to me, he’d be like, “Yeah, you were being a total weirdo. That was very uncomfortable for me because I always felt like I was doing something wrong, even when I wasn’t.” But I mean, if we were talking to a person who’s listening to this right now, who’s in that space of feeling fearful, or jealous, or insecure in a relationship and not knowing how to deal with it, what would you say to them?

How to Help Yourself Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

Georgi: So I think, just the biggest thing, the most important piece to remember is that it’s okay to just kind of sit with that feeling. I think a lot of times to protect ourselves, we push it away, or we project it on somebody else, or we just try to run from it. But that, like we said before, coming across as perfect doesn’t really solve the problem. And it just kind of slaps a bandaid on it. And so I think the best thing that we can do in those moments is just kind of sit with that. Like, “Wow, this is hard for me when my husband comes home late. Why is it so hard? Maybe, it’s not because I’m mad. It’s because I’m feeling really insecure right now. And I need him to be here for me. I’m not feeling that.” And so I think we just have to be honest with ourselves first. 

Dr. Lisa: Alright, now I’m going to stand in again, for our imaginary listener who says that, “Georgi, I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t want to feel this way. And what is wrong with me that I am feeling this way in the first place? What is wrong with me? He’s never cheated on me. Nothing bad has happened. I wasn’t a traumatized child. What is wrong with me? How do I just make this go away? What do I do, Georgi?” 

Georgi: Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa: Because I know somebody out there thinking that I would have been in that situation. Like, “Why am I crazy? What’s going on?”

Georgi: Definitely. But I think we have to remember that our emotions are so important for our survival. They tell us more than a book could about what we need from our partner. In that moment, instead of saying, “I’m crazy for feeling this,” taking a step back and saying, “Okay, what is it that I need? This feeling is happening for a reason. What is it trying to tell me?” I think that can be most helpful for couples. It can definitely help, I think, take away some of that shame, too. Because there is a lot of shame in feeling some of those things sometimes. But there doesn’t need to be because we need our emotions to tell us where to go next, and what we need from others.

Dr. Lisa: That’s so powerful. And I’m really kind of putting myself right now back in that. Gosh, I was only 22, believe it or not, when I got married and moved out to Denver, thinking about what did I need at that time. My life felt very up in the air. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t know what I was doing. It felt like that relationship was sort of all I had at the moment. I think I was working as a waitress in some crappy bar. There was so much riding on it. And I think that when I go there, it’s like, “You know what? I needed probably was a more fulfilling life.” I needed to feel more stable. I needed to feel more established. I needed other friends. I needed some direction. I felt very precarious. Yeah, I think of that moment, and so to have that kind of message, “Hey, let’s listen to those feelings.” And maybe it’s not just about this relationship, but kind of looking at your life more broadly. “What do you need?” And starting to create that.

Georgi: Absolutely. I think with that, something really amazing can happen. When you realize what you need, you can extend that invitation to your partner. That’s where I see the most growth in my clients is when they’re not only able to recognize what they need, but then they invite their partner in to ask if they can meet that need. A lot of times we convince ourselves that, “My husband’s never going to come through for me again because he stood me up twice.” Right? It’s this thing called negative sentiment override where we convince ourselves because one time, someone did this to me, they’ll always do it again. We miss those moments when they actually did come through. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Georgi: One of the best ways, I think, to break that cycle is just to offer that invitation and say, “Hey, I recognize this feeling. I think I need this from you. I think I need to feel connected with you. How can we do that?” And offering that moment of change to happen, instead of pushing it away.

How to Help Your Partner Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Now that’s a wonderful idea is to really let your partner into it. And risk that vulnerability that if I do put them out, myself out there in this really heartfelt way, that they will be there for me. But if it’s and this is a good opportunity, I think, to go on to the other side of that. Because there are also people out there who are living with partners right now, who are feeling very anxious and insecure. And I think the other side of that experience is often feeling like you’re living with somebody who’s always mad at you, who is jumping on your case for being 10 minutes late, who is interrogating you, or who doesn’t trust you to do things. Or there’s that feeling I think of being on pins and needles or you’re punished almost for something that you didn’t even do. 

This is because there are things like affairs. There are traumatizing things that do happen in relationships. And so we’re not talking about that. That is a different path to recovery. But we’re talking about a situation where one partner is feeling insecure, or jealous. What would you say if there’s somebody listening to this, who is not necessarily the insecure person, but maybe who has a partner who is lashing out or withdrawing or being very suspicious? And he’s like, “What do I need to do to get him or her to calm the F down?” I think that’s a clinical term for it, isn’t it, Georgi? What would you say to that person?

Georgi: I think it’s so important to recognize that relationship is two-way. It’s not just one person’s reactions causing the other, it’s vice versa as well. For that person, I would just say, “Take a moment and realize and recognize. Own your part in this cycle. Recognize what it is that you’re feeling, and the way that you’re reacting that’s causing that reaction in your partner.” And then vice versa for their partner to do the same, and recognize that, “Okay, when I react out of interrogation and I question them every time, that sparks something deeper inside of him.” And so, I think, the first step there is just to recognize that both players have an important role in this game. It’s a two-teamed effort.

Dr. Lisa: That’s a good point. Because in my experience, and I don’t know if this has been true for you. But what I’ve seen for people on the other side of that dynamic is that they tend to get very literal, you know what I mean? When their partner says things like, it goes into the situations. Sometimes a partner will be like, “You were late. And I bet that you were, you know, in class with that girl, that blah, blah, blah..” It turns into this automatic defensiveness like, “No, I didn’t. I wasn’t late. I said I would be home at six. It’s 6:07. We’re all right. You’re constantly mad at me, and I didn’t do anything wrong. What do I need to tell you so that you trust me again…” All of that. 

It is not an emotionally sensitive conversation. I think at the other, the other person will often become very invested in defending themselves and starts to develop this inner narrative of, “What is wrong with you, that you’re always mad at me and I can’t communicate with that.” I think what I’m hearing you say is perhaps inviting that other person to consider the possibility that maybe what would actually help your partner feel safer and more secure is to feel more of an emotional engagement. Instead of being like, “I didn’t do anything wrong,” to be able to move into the space of saying, “I understand you’re feeling really threatened right now. Why don’t you tell me more about that?” Having more compassion, I guess it’s a long-winded way of me saying that. Having more compassion for the fact that your partner is actually in pain. As opposed to rejecting them when they’re in pain. Because I see that a lot. Do you see that?

Georgi:  Yeah, for sure. I think another piece to that is recognizing that entertaining the idea that nothing’s entirely someone’s fault. That people have contributed to this interaction pattern that happens a lot. And so when both people can say, “Okay, I’ve done X, that’s caused you to think Y, but you’ve also done X to cause me to think Y. We’re both in this together.” If both people can get on board with that, then they can take a step back and say, “Okay, it’s not you that’s the problem. It’s not me, that’s the problem. It’s the cycle that we’re in that is the problem. Internalize it and then tackle that as the team instead of just pointing fingers.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, like what you’re like, “Okay, so this is a part of the cycle where I get triggered, then this is the part of the cycle where you get defensive and tell me that I shouldn’t feel that way. And then what happens is that I start yelling because I have every right to feel this way. That’s when you go into the garage.” Being able to talk about this is what we do that cycle.

Georgi: Right? It’s almost like being an observant to what’s happening, rather than letting yourself get carried away with it. But while doing that, not shying away from the emotions, because the emotions are a big piece in that cycle, oftentimes. So I think just being able to talk through objectively what that feels like and looks like so that both partners can take a step back and approach it together as a team.

Dr. Lisa: Right? Well, and as we are talking about this, I’m becoming aware that we’re, I think, moving past, not that I don’t think that there are a lot of helpful tips falling out of this, I mean, to be self-aware. To pay attention to the cycle and take responsibility for what you’re doing, and how it might be impacting your partner. I mean, I think that these are all things that are helpful to hear. I think that what you are describing starts to get hard for couples to do on their own. I mean, I think what you’re talking about is a lot of what we do as couples’ counselors where we’re actually sitting in the room with two people or online if you’re doing online couples counseling. But facilitating these conversations. 

What You Can Do as a Couple to Feel More Secure In Your Relationship

Because I’m just thinking about how, oftentimes people just fall back into those old patterns, without being even aware of it. And they accidentally make things worse instead of better when they try to talk about it because it turns into an argument. So I just want to put that out there because I think what you’re suggesting is the ultimate path of healing, which is absolutely correct and accurate. It’s sometimes just really hard for couples to do on their own. I don’t want anybody listening to this to think that they should easily and effortlessly be able to do all of this, because it really does require intervention, sometimes. Would you say that’s fair for–?

Georgi: For sure, I totally agree. In fact, I usually give my couples the analogy of rebuilding a house. So when you get married, and you start seeing your partner, you’re building this house together. Over time, maybe you realize that the foundation was bad, or that this one wall wasn’t secure. And it starts to deteriorate. And then you can no longer trust that the house will do what it’s supposed to do, which protects you. And so at that point, you realize, “Okay, we need to tear this down.” And that is hard work. And it is a process, it does not happen in one day. It does not happen after one interaction. So I tell my clients that every session is us getting a hammer and a chisel and taking a breakout brick by brick, tearing it down, brick by brick together. And you can certainly do that alone. But it’s a lot easier when you have somebody else’s help. Well, I think there’s no shame in reaching out and asking for someone to help take that house down and rebuild it together. But for sure, it’s a process.

Dr. Lisa: No, it really is. It really is. I’m just, I’m glad we’re talking about it in this way. Because it is hard. And I think especially when we’re talking about–emotional safety issues is what we’re really talking about. I know, we’re calling it jealousy or insecurity. But we have our How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz on our website. And I’ve told my podcast listeners about this before. But we do a lot with our clients at Growing Self. We actually do quite a bit of assessment and things to help people get clarity around what’s working in their relationship, what is not working. So that we can focus the work where it needs to be. 

We did a very short, high-level version of this–our How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz that you can take for free at growingself.com. You can also text, let’s see, I think it’s 345345. No. Text RELQUIZ  to 345345. And then you can get a link to take the assessment. But anyway, so then it turns into the assessment, and then some follow-up videos to get direction. But the very, very first, and most important piece of that assessment that we explore is how emotionally safe and secure you feel in your relationship. 

Because if there are issues around trust or not feeling cared for fundamentally by your partner, or worried that your partner doesn’t really appreciate you. Those very, very basic things, it turns into problems in every other area of a relationship. So if someone is not trusting or feeling and secure communication breaks down, it turns into resentment. It’s hard to work together as a team. What are some of the other things that you’ve seen in your couples that don’t seem like they might be related, but when you really start taking those bricks out of that house, it turns into cracks in the foundation on an emotional safety level. What do you see?

Georgi: So the biggest thing that comes to mind is parenting. I hear that a lot such as, “I have a hard time with my kids, we can’t get on the same page as far as discipline. He doesn’t help out with the kids.” A lot of times once we start working on the relationship, a lot of those parenting concerns just kind of disappear.

Dr. Lisa: Wait, hold on. You have to say a little bit more about how those are related. Because I’m not sure I followed you.

Georgi: So whenever you feel like you can’t trust your partner, you don’t feel emotionally safe with your partner. Sometimes, what can happen is parents I’ve noticed will–I think–lash out is a strong word. But they’ll project some of that insecurity or get defensive when they’re parenting. Then it causes tension with the parenting relationship. That stirs up more anxiety because things aren’t going the way that they thought they would say. So that it causes more stress in the relationship, which makes it harder to be emotionally safe, right? So it kind of feeds into that cycle.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. That has to be hard for you, though. I’m thinking because I know that you do a lot of parenting coaching and family therapy. I can only think about how many times somebody would show up in your office and be like, “We need parenting coaching.” How do you turn that into, “Actually, I think we need to talk about the emotional safety in your relationship.” Because that’s probably such a disconnect from what people think they’re signing up for, sometimes. How does that go?

Georgi: Yeah. So I’ll ask questions like, “How do you guys do this together? What does it usually look like, day-to-day as parents? Do you feel like you could ask for your partner for support when it comes to homework or bedtime and all that stuff?” And usually, that conversation starts turning into, “Well, I can’t trust him to pick the kids up because last year, he didn’t show up when he was supposed to. Or I can’t trust that she’ll–”

Dr. Lisa: “Not be controlling and let me do something without yelling at me for it.” Sorry. 

Georgi: No, that’s a big one. “She’s always telling me how to parent. So I’m just gonna throw in the towel and let her do everything.” I hear that one a lot to watch if you’re going to get yelled at. So it usually looks a lot like that.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. So that’s when you start really talking about it. It does start turning into a conversation around, “I don’t trust you. I don’t trust you to follow through. I don’t trust you to not jump all over me and tell me I’m a bad person. And I’m doing things wrong.” There’s a trust piece. And that’s how it starts turning into something more deeper. Okay. So that makes sense. I was just… Okay, so parenting. 

Are there other things that you see that are connected to those emotional safety foundational aspects of a relationship? I’m thinking about sexuality, sometimes can be really impacted by that. I think that that’s kind of one of those chicken and the egg things too, where, when people feel unsafe, there tends to be a disconnect in every kind of intimacy: emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy. But then, when there’s a lack of sexual intimacy, that often makes people feel more insecure and wondering what else could be going on and their partner. That’s a tough one, too.

Georgi:  Yeah, that’s definitely related. I’ve seen that a lot. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. What would your advice be for people in that situation?

Georgi: I think there’s two ways to tackle it. The first route that I typically take is, we can start with the sexuality and we can explore kind of ways for you to feel more sexually safe with your partner. From there, that will branch out and stem into more emotional safety. But if that feels too unsafe and too unstable, then I’ll say, “Let’s talk about it from the other side, first. Let’s build some more emotional trust, some conversation that will reassure you that you can be vulnerable, physically and emotionally with your partner there that will kind of bleed into the sexuality piece.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. It can be hard to know which side to work on that from sometimes, but okay, wonderful. Well, I think that this has been such a helpful conversation. I mean, I’m thinking back to my 22-year-old self. I would have thought you were the greatest when I met you when I was 22. But just know that there’s a lot of helpful ideas that you’ve shared about why people feel insecure in the first place. That sometimes, it’s stuff that happened earlier in life that you need to take a look at. Sometimes, it’s circumstantial. Sometimes, it’s self-esteem stuff. 

But no matter what the cause it’s really around like, “How do we listen to those feelings, honor them, take influence from them? How do we work with our partner to start changing it? Most importantly, how do we each start taking responsibility for the relationship that we are creating together, as opposed to blaming each other for the relationship that we have? No, I love that. Right. Good. Any other final thoughts you’d like to share?

Georgi: No, I just think it’s so important to reiterate that you guys are a team. This relationship is, it’s hard work. Like I said, it’s a process. But when you’re able to kind of join together to better the relationship, that’s when you see real growth. I think we can do a lot more together than by ourselves.

Dr. Lisa: Definitely. Good advice, Georgi. I so wished you were available in more than just Arkansas. But the people of the lovely state of Arkansas are so lucky to have you. We are lucky to have you here at Growing Self. So thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. Hopefully we’ll talk again soon. 

Georgi: Yeah, thanks for having me, this is fun. 

Dr. Lisa: You can learn more about Georgi, you can research some of the topics we were talking about, and you can access the perfectionism article that we were referencing all on growingself.com. Jump into the comments section, leave your questions, or get in touch through Instagram. I’ll be back in touch soon with another episode. It’s all about you.


Episode Highlights:

  • How Insecurity Can Ruin A Relationship
    • A relationship can reveal sides of you that you may not know about.
    • The more experience you have, the more open with your partner you should be.
    • If you don’t feel secure in your relationship, you will be more distant
  • Root Causes of Anxiety
    • ‘Attachment injuries’ can cause anxiety.
    • Affairs, whether by yourself or by your partner, can cause anxiety.
    • Be true to your feelings fortress anxi
  • How to Help Yourself Feel More Secure
    • Find something that makes you feel fulfilled
    • Understand your uniqueness
    • Work with a professional
  • How to Help Your Partner Feel More Secure
    • Listen to your partner
    • Do not be immediately defensive
  • What Couples Can Do
    • Be each other’s support
    • Try our relationship quizzes!

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2 Comments

  1. Great article! If one needs to make efforts to feel secure in a relationship, there is something deep which needs to be taken care of. Couples counseling can go a long way in saving a relationship.

  2. Great article! If one needs to make efforts to feel secure in a relationship, there is something deep which needs to be taken care of. Couples counseling can go a long way in saving a relationship.

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