Relationship Insecurity – Meaning, Signs And Effects

Emotional Stress | | , Feature Writer & Editor
Updated On: January 9, 2024
insecurity in a relationships

Personal relationships are a very important part of our lives. Our actions, behaviors, personality traits, and perspectives often revolve around them. That’s why if you’re grappling with relationship insecurity, its effects can spill over to other aspects of your life as well. You won’t feel completely at ease or give your 100% to your career if you are not happy in your personal relationship.

While being with an insecure partner drains romantic relationships, being insecure yourself can be an exhausting experience too. Anxiety and insecurity in relationships can take a toll on a lot more than just your bond. It becomes the root cause of toxic relationships. To be able to manage insecurities and prevent them from spiraling out of control, it’s imperative to understand how and why they manifest in relationships and their potential effects. The negative self-talk needs to stop. And deliberately walking on a positive path is important. Let’s dissect this subject with the help of our expert, relationship coach Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couple’s counseling.

What Is Relationship Insecurity?

“Relationship insecurity is a real problem,” says Sushma Perla, UAE-based Emotional Alignment Specialist, and Master Life Coach, NLP. She adds, “It stems from long-term conditioning, carrying emotional baggage, and the tendency to look at the world through a black-and-white lens. We usually have filters through which we see the outside world. If our past experiences were bitter, it will cause anxiety and insecurity in relationships in our present phase of life as well.”

Relationship insecurity also means an inability to trust anyone in your life. You tend to bring a lot of baggage to the table, projecting your negative feelings onto your partner instead of taking care of what needs to be healed within you. The stress is immense as a bad relationship with a key partner will influence your health and work, and spill over to all other realms of life. In that stage, it becomes hard to overcome relationship insecurities.

What Are The Causes Of Relationship Insecurity?

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, the portrayal of intimate relationships, particularly among the younger generation, often falls victim to oversimplification. There’s a prevailing misconception that insecurity in relationships primarily revolves around jealousy or possessiveness, overlooking the multifaceted nature of human emotions. Everyone can have their own personal insecurities in different shapes.

Relationship expert Nandita says, “It’s crucial to recognize that insecurity in relationships is not a one-dimensional issue. It’s an intricate web woven from various threads of past experiences, personal perceptions, societal influences, and individual vulnerabilities.” Misunderstanding or trivializing this complexity can hinder personal growth and jeopardize the quality of the connections we forge. Let’s understand a few key causes of insecurities in relationships:

Related Reading: 8 Most Common Causes Of Insecurity

  • Past experiences: What causes insecurities in a relationship? The most common answer is previous relationships or childhood experiences. These can leave emotional imprints, impacting how individuals perceive and approach new relationships. Past betrayals, abandonment, or neglect can breed insecurity, affecting trust and self-worth. That’s how your relationship history affects your new relationship
  • Communication breakdown: Lack of open, honest communication can sow seeds of doubt and uncertainty. It can cause insecurity in a relationship. Misunderstandings, unspoken expectations, or fear of expressing vulnerabilities become root causes for insecurity to thrive
  • Comparisons and social media: The pervasive culture of comparison fueled by social media can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy. Constant exposure to curated images of seemingly perfect relationships can magnify one’s own insecurities. This is the urgent point where you need to figure out how to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner
  • Self-esteem and self-worth issues: Insecurity often stems from internal struggles with self-esteem. Individuals grappling with low self-worth or low self-worth might seek external validation, fearing they are unworthy of love or acceptance
  • Fear of rejection or abandonment: The fear of being rejected or left alone can fuel insecurity. This is one of the root causes of insecurity. This fear, sometimes irrational, might stem from personal vulnerabilities, past relationships, or a fear of not meeting perceived expectations
  • Lack of boundaries and autonomy: Insecurity can sprout when personal boundaries are unclear or when individuals feel engulfed within a relationship, losing their sense of self. A lack of personal autonomy may trigger feelings of dependency and insecurity and need constant reassurance from your partner
  • Unrealistic expectations: Setting unattainable standards in relationships, fueled by societal norms or personal ideals, can create a breeding ground for trouble. This is one of the biggest root causes of insecurity. The inability to meet these expectations, or the pressure to do so, can lead to feelings of inadequacy
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What Are The Signs You Are Insecure In Your Relationship?

According to Sushma, relationship behaviors are associated with your attachment style. “Your attachment style could be of three types — secure attachment, insecure attachment, and avoidant attachment. In avoidance attachment, a person tends to run away from a problem, they are pressured easily, and fail to do the inner work.

“Secure attachment is displayed when a person’s emotional needs were met as a child and as a result, they barely face any relationship insecurity. They don’t get rattled when they face trouble in their relationship,” she explains.

Nandita sheds some more light on it, saying, “The correlation is clear: Relationship insecurity rises out of insecure attachment styles. Such people tend to be vulnerable, suspicious, and envision the worst. It leads to chaos and inner conflict which need to be resolved to be able to lead a happy life. But first, you need to understand the signs of relationship insecurity.” Here they are:

1. You are insecure in your relationship if you have limiting beliefs

People suffering from relationship insecurity have limiting belief systems. It could be because of what they witnessed as a child. Maybe their parents did not have a strong, healthy relationship. Bad childhood experiences often form limiting and negative thought patterns that prevent a person from leading a full life. This is because every thought leads to negative conclusions.

2. You believe that you don’t deserve love

Relationship insecurity leads people to believe that they are not worthy of love. They often question how to stop being clingy and insecure. They might break up from their current relationship but unless they break the pattern of their limiting beliefs, they can’t make a fresh start. They will repeat such behavior even in their next relationship.

Related Reading: 9 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem In A Relationship

3. You find it difficult to trust

Al, a 27-year-old data scientist from L.A., writes to us, “A year or two ago, I didn’t know how to stop being insecure in a relationship as a man. I’d been taught to doubt my girlfriend and to be controlling. I made her so unhappy for the first few months of our relationship.”

Insecurity stems from trust issues. One of the biggest dangers of dating an insecure woman or man is that even if you are perfect and go all out to woo them, they won’t trust you. These trust issues can place your relationship on shaky ground. A little slip-up here or there, or a few actions that rouse their suspicions — these are enough to act as relationship insecurity triggers and can lead to bigger problems. This is why a person who is insecure in a relationship and has major trust issues, always ends up distancing their partner.

4. Signs of an insecure person in a relationship: Struggles with intimacy and sex

What causes insecurities in a relationship is a person’s struggle with intimacy. Sex is one of the most wonderful expressions of love but to enjoy sex, you need to be completely in tune with your partner. Unfortunately, if relationship insecurity clouds your thinking, intimacy will always be an issue. You won’t find it easy to give your all. Stilted dynamics of sex and intimacy are some of the most telling signs of relationship insecurity.

Related Reading: How To Stop Worrying About Your Relationship — 8 Expert Tips

5. You panic very easily

One of the dangers of dating an insecure woman or man is that even the most trivial incidents can trigger their insecurity. They tend to panic even if they logically understand there’s no real threat.

Slate, a 22-year-old budding writer, tells us, “If you’re not secure, you end up feeling paranoid about your relationship with other people. For instance, being away from my partner even for brief spells used to leave me overwhelmed with separation anxiety. And my natural tendency to be suspicious and read between the lines made me imagine scenarios where none exist.”

6. You tend to get defensive if you’re insecure in your relationship

“Living with an insecure partner drains relationships since their insecurity makes them feel they are constantly under attack. They get rather defensive and it all stems from the feeling of not being worthy enough. They project their perception onto their partner. Now, if their partner also has their insecurities, it’s a recipe for disaster,” says Sushma.

7. You find it tough to accept your partner 

A healthy marriage or committed relationship is all about accepting the other person as they are. There can’t be perfection but when there are relationship insecurities, acceptance is tough. Such people can’t let go and let the other person be. The key reason is that they find it difficult to accept their own authentic self and their problems, which is why they can’t tolerate flaws in others.

Related Reading: 12 Signs Of Insecure Women And How To Deal With Them

How Do Relationship Insecurities Affect You?

signs of an insecure person in a relationship

As mentioned above, being with an insecure partner drains relationships to such an extent that you feel you are constantly walking on eggshells. There are various types of insecurities in a relationship — caused due to jealousy, money problems, sex, or emotional problems.

But the signs, triggers, and results remain the same. It becomes a relationship of stress, over-dependence, fights, and negativities. In its extreme form, relationship insecurity can also lead to violence. Even a mild degree of insecurity can lead to constant fights and unhappiness.

Nandita says, “One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with insecurities in a relationship is the unpredictability of triggers that lead to arguments. These conflicts, often stemming from insecurities, have the tendency to escalate into substantial disputes, eroding the joy inherent in a loving relationship. It’s a distressing reality that relationships tainted by insecurities, whether from one or both partners, tend to unravel swiftly.”

Here are some of the ways insecurities in your key relationship affect you, your partner, and your relationship as a whole:

1. Effects of insecurity in relationships: You can never enjoy some moments fully

You may be spending time with them and enjoying the most beautiful romantic moments but negative thoughts will creep in and spoil them. You will never be able to fully enjoy the moment you are sharing with your partner as the nagging belief that they were perhaps lying to you or cheating on you always plays at the back of your mind. This only causes anxiety and insecurity in relationships to multiply and grow.

Related Reading: How To Get Over Insecurities After Being Cheated On – 9 Expert Tips

2. You feel unhappy all the time

On most occasions, you know that your fears regarding your partner are unfounded and unnecessary but you may find it difficult to shake off the negative feelings. It takes a lot of convincing that there is nothing wrong with your relationship. Often, the insecure person tends to go through these arguments in their head, which can be rather exhausting. Such unhappiness is one of the effects of insecurity in relationships.

3. Your relationship is imbalanced

Relationship insecurity impacts both the partners — the one feeling insecure who is constantly seeking reassurance, and the one at the receiving end of it. For the latter, the need to constantly reassure their partner of their love and commitment can be tiring. It leads to a situation where one person’s needs overshadow that of the other, leading to a great imbalance. Relationship insecurity can be the breeding ground for lop-sided power dynamics between partners.

4. Your natural personality feels stifled

If your partner is the insecure one, you may find yourself suppressing your most instinctive responses to avoid their relationship insecurity triggers. You may even end up killing your natural self when you keep giving in to your partner’s concerns and anxieties. If this has happened to you, your partner is clearly displaying signs of an insecure person in a relationship.

For instance, if your husband feels jealous seeing you chat up a male friend and creates hell for you, you may consciously avoid it in the future. Gradually, you will withdraw from being a naturally friendly person since you want to avoid conflict at home. You may start feeling insecure too because of your partner’s behavior.

5. You may get caught in a vicious cycle

If you are the victim of relationship insecurities of your partner, you will be caught in an endless cycle of explaining, over-explaining, and reassuring them over every little thing. This can get emotionally draining for you. You will constantly wonder which action of yours will be misunderstood and cause more relationship insecurity. After all of this, you may want alone time but then again, it can make your romantic partner have insecure thoughts.

6. You find it difficult to form healthy relationships

Like we said, when your core relationship is unhappy, it spills over to your other relationships too. Whether you are the victim or the perpetrator of relationship insecurity, you will find your fears or feelings of insecurity being reflected in other aspects of life. You may not be able to function normally at work. You may have fights with your colleagues or bosses and may find it difficult to concentrate.

Related Reading: 8 Ways To Overcome Insecurity In A Relationship

7. Your dependence on your partner increases

Insecure partners tend to cling to each other. Being clingy is their insecure attachment style. Your fears lead you to believe that the only person who can complete you is your partner. However, being clingy can sabotage your relationship. You will never feel fully happy both with yourself and your relationship if you solely rely on your partner to make you feel attractive, fun, smart, or kind. If you are not able to feel these emotions yourself, then you will always end up feeling paranoid about your relationship.

more on dealing with insecurity

How To Reduce Insecurity In Relationships

We ask Nandita — How to stop being insecure in a relationship as a man or a woman? “In every relationship, there might be moments of doubt or worry. Insecurities in relationships are normal regardless of your gender. They become worrisome when they begin defining your relationships,” says Nandita. 

Coping with these insecurities is like strengthening the foundation of a house – it makes the bond between two people stronger. Let’s explore a few ways to make this foundation sturdier:

  • Talk it out: Open communication is necessary. Sharing fears and concerns helps a lot. Talking honestly without fear of judgment creates trust and understanding
  • Be reliable: You can’t just tell yourself to stop being clingy and insecure. Keeping promises and being consistent in actions and words builds trust gradually, and will help you manage your low self-esteem 
  • Know yourself: Understanding what triggers these feelings helps handle them better. Being aware of our thoughts and emotions is like having a superpower
  • Realistic expectations: Remember, relationships are not perfect fairy tales. Having practical expectations eases the pressure
  • Embrace individuality: It’s important to have your own interests and goals. Encouraging each other’s passions strengthens the relationship
  • Seek help if needed: Talking to someone who can guide you, like a therapist or mental health professional, can provide useful tools to deal with insecurities
  • Mind the media: Social media often paints an unreal picture and makes you constantly worried. Being aware of this helps keep our expectations real and helps us overcome insecurities
  • Self-care matters: Doing things that make us feel good about ourselves, like joyful hobbies or self-love activities, boosts confidence

Related Reading: 18 Things To Say To Reassure Your Boyfriend About Your Relationship

Key Pointers

  • Relationship insecurities spill into other life aspects, affecting career focus and overall happiness. Personal fulfillment gets hindered when relationship doubts persist. It affects self-confidence and leads to self-sabotaging behavior
  • Insecurity on either side drains relationships. An insecure partner strains the connection, while personal insecurities lead to an exhausting and anxious experience that can affect mental health
  • Insecurity on either side drains relationships. An insecure partner strains the connection, while personal insecurities lead to an exhausting and anxious experience that can affect mental health
  • Here are some signs of being insecure in a relationship: Having limiting beliefs, low self-confidence, self-worth doubts, trust issues, intimacy struggles, panicking easily, defensiveness, and difficulties in accepting your partner

In a nutshell, it is important to remember that EVERY relationship has its own share of insecurities and ego problems. These insecurities can be caused by self-fulfilling prophecy, self-doubt, and external factors. It is not possible to have a smooth sailing affair all the time. There will be occasions when your partner gives you reasons to feel insecure about them. There might be instances when your behavior leads your partner to feel slighted because of differing expectations. All this is normal. You just need to find yourselves on the same page eventually.

What matters is how each of you deals with your personal insecurities and to what extent they affect the health of your own relationships. It is important to have trust and honesty in the bond so you can be vulnerable with your partner about your worries. This is how a secure relationship is made. But if the insecurities are proving to be unhealthy and affecting your peace and that of your partner, it is best to seek a licensed clinical psychologist for therapy or outside support to unravel the deeper issues.

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