Relationships are supposed to be a safe space where you feel safe and loved; accepted for who you are. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work that way. Lots of people feel insecure in their relationships from time to time or worry that their partner doesn’t feel the same way that they do.
Let’s look at why security is so important to your relationship and why it can be difficult to achieve. I’m also going to give you some advice about what you and your partner can do to build a really strong, secure relationship.
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Let’s start by being clear about what feeling secure in a relationship means.
Feeling secure in your relationship means feeling confident that your partner will be there to support you, no matter what.
When you feel secure, you trust them to care about you for who you really are and you’re able to be completely authentic rather than constantly worrying about rejection.
This kind of security is essential for building a long-term, successful relationship.
Security in a relationship helps you to be honest. Without security, you’re tempted to only show your ‘ideal self’. This means that you hide any experiences or feelings that might be negative or “too much”. Emotional security lets you be completely yourself.
Why do you struggle to feel secure in your relationship? Lack of emotional security usually comes from one of two places; yourself or your relationship. Sometimes, it’s a combination of the two.
It might be that you have something in your past that makes it hard for you to feel secure in your relationship. This is often down to the beliefs and values you learned in childhood. Alternatively, it can be the result of a traumatic event that makes it difficult for you to trust others.
If your insecurity comes from your past, you’ll probably feel insecure in many or all of your relationships. If you always feel insecure, it probably comes from your past.
If you normally feel pretty secure in relationships but you’re insecure in your current one, the problem is less likely to be your past. There might be something about this specific relationship that’s making you insecure.
This doesn't mean that you’re in a bad relationship or that your partner is doing something wrong. If you have very different communication styles or expectations, you can become insecure even though your relationship is perfectly healthy.
If you feel insecure in your relationship, you’re always left with that feeling that you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. You’re constantly on edge and worried. This can make you short-tempered and irritable and lead to you misinterpreting their actions and assuming the worst.
You might even be tempted to leave the relationship before they leave you. This is common for people with an avoidant attachment style. They feel sure that their partner is going to leave them, so they don’t allow themselves to become truly vulnerable. They stay emotionally distant and ‘checked-out’.
Feeling insecure in a relationship doesn’t just affect you. Your partner can often feel distrusted and disrespected as well. They care about you and they’re serious about the relationship. Being expected to prove that to you can be exhausting and hurtful.
I’m not saying that to blame you. Feeling insecure isn’t a choice and it’s not something you should blame yourself for. It’s important to realize that your insecurity can affect your partner. It’s another reason to take your feelings seriously and work together to deal with the problem.
Some people ‘act out’ to gain reassurance when they feel insecure. This is especially common for those with an anxious attachment style, or who have fallen into the anxious-avoidant trap.
This ‘acting out’ looks different in every relationship. Some people demand more and more time together, even though they can see their partner is uncomfortable. They also increase how many messages they send, or start ‘testing’ their partner in some way.
If security is so important in your relationship, there’s an obvious question. How can you make yourself (and your partner) feel more secure?
Your first step always has to be working on your communication skills. Feeling secure in your relationship relies on you being able to be open and honest. You need to be able to trust each other. You can’t give each other that trust if you can’t communicate about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
The trouble is that “communication skills” is pretty vague. There are hundreds of different ways to improve your communication skills. To be honest, all of them are worth doing, but some are more important than others. Let’s think about one of the most important.
Using I statements is key for building emotional security in a relationship. When you’re talking about an important or difficult topic with your partner, start by talking about how you feel. This helps your partner to listen without feeling blamed.
When you use I statements, you’re showing your partner that you’re taking responsibility for your feelings and that you’re opening up with mutual respect, rather than assigning blame. This can only improve your relationship security.
Hopefully, you’re already on board with the idea that consent is a huge, important thing, especially in bed. There’s a huge range of different, fun activities out there and we need to know that everyone involved is actively consenting and having a good time.
What sometimes gets forgotten is that consent isn’t just relevant in the bedroom (or wherever else you like to get it on). Consent is an integral part of all aspects of a healthy relationship.
Let’s take a really simple example. You and your partner might plan a movie evening. They’re fetching snacks and come in to find that you’ve put on the latest hardcore horror movie. If they’re not comfortable with that, they need to know that you’re not going to push them to watch it.
The same is true of any other aspect of your relationship. For example, if you live together, you both need to consent before getting a pet. Practice asking “is that ok with you?” or “how would you feel about…?”
This tip requires two different skills. I’ve already talked about the need to work on your communication skills, which is essential to communicating your boundaries. Having clear expectations and boundaries also means having a high degree of self-awareness.
It also goes hand-in-hand with having a consent-focused relationship. You build security in a relationship when you’re able to set boundaries and you know that those boundaries are going to be respected.
You can probably see how having clear expectations and boundaries helps the person setting them to feel secure in a relationship. They’re ensuring that their needs are met. What lots of people miss is that you can also find a lot of security in knowing that your partner is absolutely clear about their expectations and needs.
When your partner is clear about their expectations and boundaries, you can relax. You feel confident that you know you’re not going to upset or disappoint them unexpectedly. You know exactly where you stand.
To create a relationship where both you and your partner feel fully safe and secure, always be as honest as possible. But how is this different from just ‘being a good person who doesn’t tell lies’?
Of course, lying to your partner is bad. That’s not news. But lots of us sometimes tell small, innocuous lies. You might do this to avoid a difficult conversation or because you think that your partner will be upset if you don’t.
This isn’t the case. The more honest we are with our partners, even about small or hurtful things, the more trust we have in our relationships and the happier we are.
That doesn’t mean you need to be cruel. For example, if your partner asks whether you think they should go for a promotion at work and you think it’s a bad idea, you can still be kind.
You don’t need to say “You’re barely managing as it is. You’re just gonna get stressed and then you’re gonna screw it up. Plus, you’re never gonna get it anyway.”
A kinder (but still honest) response might be “I’m worried about the amount of stress that would put on you. I don’t think it’s a good idea.” This is true without being deliberately hurtful.
One cause of insecurity in a relationship is feeling as though there are things you can’t talk to your partner about or topics that are off-limits. Things we can’t discuss sit in your mind and fester, leaving worry, doubt, and insecurity in their wake.
You both need to show each other that it’s safe to talk about anything at all, even uncomfortable or difficult topics. You both need to be brave, open up, and allow yourselves to be vulnerable.
Allowing your partner to talk about anything at all isn’t always easy. You need to be ready to listen and understand. Often, they won’t say things quite right. Be curious. Allow them to rephrase what they’re saying until they feel genuinely understood.
There is one caveat to this. I’ve known guys who will use “I need to be free to express myself” as an excuse for making hurtful or sexist jokes. That’s not ok. Your partner should be able to say anything that they genuinely believe and mean. It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card to say anything at all.
Try to get into the habit of giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. Try starting from the default position that there might be some kind of misunderstanding or miscommunication, rather than believing that they don’t care.
This doesn’t mean making excuses for your partner’s poor behavior, or that they need to make excuses for yours. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean that you ignore or suppress your feelings of being hurt. You don’t need to construct elaborate excuses to explain why their behavior was ok.
It means asking them what’s going on before you jump to conclusions. For example, if you notice that they’ve started staying out late, you don’t assume that they’re having an affair. Instead, you say “I’ve noticed that you’re getting home later than usual after work. What’s going on?”
Have you ever noticed that when you find out about something new, you suddenly see that same thing everywhere?
A really common example of this is that if you buy a yellow car, you suddenly see loads of yellow cars around you. That isn’t because there are suddenly more yellow cars. It’s because of a cognitive bias where we notice things we pay attention to.
Use this bias in your relationship by actively looking out for the things your partner does to show you that they’re there for you. The more you notice ways that your partner takes care of you and supports you, the easier it is to feel secure in your relationship.
You might try using a gratitude journal or aim to list at least 3 things they do for you each day. Try using this to remind yourself of ways that you can be there for them as well.
I mentioned earlier that sometimes you’ll feel insecure because of things in your past that have nothing to do with your partner or how they treat you. Although it’s wonderful when your partner is willing to help you deal with these problems, it’s also important that you take responsibility for working on them yourself as well.
Remember that working on your insecurities isn’t the same as avoiding them. Take time to understand where your insecurities have come from and what you’re really afraid of. You might find a CBT workbook helps you find ways to counteract the beliefs that are making you feel insecure.
Another tip to help you both feel more secure in your relationship is to talk about all of the different things that you appreciate about each other. The more you talk about the wonderful, unique qualities that led you to fall in love with your partner, the more secure and valued they’re likely to feel.
When you’re complimenting your partner, make sure that you don’t just talk about their physical qualities. Being told that they’re hot is lovely, but it can actually feed their insecurities. It can leave them worrying that you won’t feel the same way about them if they gain weight or their hair goes gray, for example.
Focus on things that really matter, such as how safe and loved they make you feel. Don’t forget the little details. These can really make your partner feel understood and loved. Cute details (like how they laugh at you for buying too many houseplants but still water them for you) are especially meaningful.
Your partner feels most secure when they can predict your behavior and know that you’re going to behave in ways that fit with your values. This means that the more authentic you are, the safer and more secure your partner will feel.
Being authentic sounds easy, but that isn’t always the case. It can sometimes be harder than you expect. It’s a combination of the honesty and openness we’ve already discussed and a type of courage that helps you stand up for the way you want to be.
Try to get into the habit of asking yourself questions like “Will I be proud of this?” and “Is this who I want to be?”
Another way to improve the security in a relationship is to really double down on your commitment to each other. This isn’t intended (or advisable) as a way to fix insecurity in your relationship, but it can help deepen your trust and confidence if you’re already doing ok.
The more you open up and let each other into your lives, the easier it is to develop a sense of security in a relationship. Building a shared social life, rather than each maintaining your own independent circle of friends, is one important way to do this.
This is why you will often feel more secure in your relationship if you’ve met their family, or been introduced to their friends. It’s a clear sign that they want you to be firmly embedded into all aspects of their life. They’re showing you they’re thinking long-term.
It’s ok if you need help feeling secure in a relationship. There is lots of help out there. Options include individual counseling, or couples therapy. Think about what feels right (and achievable) for you at the moment.
It can also be helpful to turn to close friends and family to support you when you’re feeling insecure and nervous. Friends and family can be helpful but remember that your relationship is something that you share with your partner. Other people can offer an outside perspective, but relationship problems need you to work together as a couple.
Insecurity in a relationship can come from many different sources. You might struggle to accept love, not feel as though you deserve your partner, or you might communicate differently from your partner. Working this through as a couple takes patience, courage, and honesty, but it is possible.
It’s normal to sometimes feel insecure in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it. Communicate your feelings to your partner and work together to build your trust and confidence in each other.
You can help your partner feel more secure in your relationship by being open, honest, and deserving of their trust. Make sure they feel safe to talk about their fears and insecurities. Don’t just tell them how much you care. Show them.
Feeling insecure in a relationship can feel awful. It’s important to build a strong foundation of mutual trust and respect to help you feel secure. The more great communication and honesty you can manage, the healthier and more secure your relationship is likely to become.
Did you enjoy this article and was it helpful? Let me know in the comments, and please share this article with anyone else who might need help feeling more secure in their relationship.