Amy and John have been married for 3 years. They both had a pattern of bad relationships before getting together. Amy in particular had a lot of insecurities around trusting her partner to be faithful, after numerous times of being cheated on by old boyfriends. When Amy and John started dating, everything clicked. They had great chemistry, communicated well, were very compatible, and had similar values. Like all couples, they had a few problems here and there that they were able to resolve. They thought that their relationship was great, and that all of the bad relationships that had happened in the past were behind them. Sounds fabulous, right?
Fast forward to three years after getting married, and it’s a totally different story. A few months after getting married, John had the realization that he really needed to start taking care of himself better; for his own sake as well as wanting to be the best husband he could be to Amy. He started a total lifestyle makeover. He started working out daily, eating better, paying more attention to his health and appearance, and changing his daily habits and routine. He never discussed the changes or the motivation behind them, and thought that Amy was just as happy as he was with the results he was getting from this new lifestyle. Why would she not love the new healthier, happier version of John?
What John didn’t realize is that every time he made another change in his habits, Amy had a corresponding surge of insecurity. She viewed all of his changes as signs that he was interested in or involved with someone else. From her negative relationship experiences, changes in patterns, an increase in fitness or awareness of appearance meant that her mate was looking outside of the relationship. Of course, when she doubted her own perceptions, every magazine article she read on how to tell when you are being cheated on supported her fears.
Amy did not discuss her insecurity with John, and John never brought up the subject because he assumed Amy knew why he was working so hard at being his best self. Subsequently, there relationship began deteriorating. Amy became completely untrusting and defensive. She would check in with him constantly, get angry with him often, and acted resentful about the time he spent at the gym. John didn’t know what he was doing wrong, so he started spending more time away from home, talked to Amy less, and did not engage when she tried to talk to him. This pattern continued for many months, until one day, Amy reached her breaking point, accused John of cheating and stormed out. John, understandably, was baffled and offended by her accusation.
Can you see where things went wrong?
Both Amy and John played a role in derailing their relationship, but Amy’s insecurities about fidelity were the catalyst. If John had known that his changes would lead Amy to doubt him, he may have made more of an effort to discuss it with her in advance. If Amy hadn’t been feeling insecure, she probably would have asked why John was putting so much effort into his new lifestyle.
We all have insecurities about ourselves and our ability to hold on to the ones we love. Maybe our insecurities, like Amy, are linked to trust, or maybe it is something more personal such as a negative body image or an area of low self-esteem. Whatever the insecurity, it is our responsibility to make sure we work through it and engage our partners as our support system. So, how do you do that?
1. Identify your insecurities
Everyone has at least one area that can be identified as an insecurity or something that you are sensitive about. Think back. Did something that happened to you as a child cause you to be extra sensitive to something? Was there a particular past relationship that caused you to doubt yourself in some area? Is there a particular emotion that you handle badly because of a past trauma or experience? Identify as many of them as you can. This can be an ongoing search as things come up.
2. Discuss with your partner
After you and your partner have identified at least one potential problem area, discuss it. What happened to cause you to feel the way you do? How has this sensitivity or insecurity impacted your life/relationships?
3. Plan a strategy
Once you’ve determined the issue and how it impacts you, it’s time to figure out how to resolve it. Depending on the topic and the severity, different approaches may be necessary. For slight sensitivities, it may be enough to just identify the emotions as they occur and choose to think differently. Many topics have specific self-help books with step-by-step instructions for managing/eliminating the problem. Often it is beneficial to do individual therapy to address your fear or insecurity. Whatever method you choose, come up with a plan and stick to it.
4. Ask for support
Ask your partner to support you while you resolve your insecurities. Explain to them what you plan to do to keep these things from negatively impacting your relationship, and ask them to help you in specific ways. Maybe all you need is encouragement and love while working through something. Maybe you need them to help you identify when a particular pattern arises. Maybe you just need more affection or particular reassurances during difficult periods. Whatever it is, ask. Just be sure not to shift the responsibility to fix it onto them.
Repeat these steps as often as you need to when you identify an insecurity that is getting in the way of your relationship. We are constantly growing and changing, and things impact us differently at different times throughout our lives. Be aware of how you are feeling and communicating. It’s important to remember that both people in the relationship will never run out of things that they can do to improve themselves and the partnership. Keep communicating and be kind to each other.
Now that you know the steps, it’s time to get started. Are there insecurities that are cluttering up your relationship? You can resolve them. Are there insecurities that have come up in past relationships that you fear will resurface? Discuss them and come up with a plan to keep them from getting in your way. You deserve to have the best possible relationship, and working towards decluttering it will show how much you value your loved one.
What’s cluttering up your relationship? Share in the comments.