11 Ways to Stop Feeling Insecure in a Relationship

As a psychologist, I’ve heard my fair share of stories from people who want to stop feeling insecure in a relationship.

Unfortunately, many people get discouraged about ever getting over their relationship insecurities because it’s starting to become a pattern. So they assume it must be some core part of their personality that’s causing the trouble.

But here’s the thing:

Feeling insecure is about your habits, not your personality.

In the rest of this article, I’ll walk you through 11 of the most common habits you can either build (or break) that will help you to stop feeling insecure in your relationships and become confident and at peace.

Let’s get to it!


1. Your insecurities come from your present, not your past

One of the biggest mistakes people make with relationship insecurity is to assume that it’s all about their past—the way they were raised, the fact that one parent or the other didn’t love them enough, they never had good role models for healthy relationships, etc.

Now, while your past does obviously have some influence on the quality of your relationships, that’s missing the forest for a handful of trees…

It’s your habits in the present, not the events of your past, that cause you to feel insecure.

For example:

  • Maybe you didn’t have the greatest role models for healthy relationships in the past. But the fact that you’re in the habit of asking your partner for reassurance every time something might be a little off is a MUCH bigger reason why you continue to feel insecure now. We’ll talk more about this habit of reassurance-seeking in #7 below.
  • Or maybe you have a hard time opening up with your partner and being emotionally vulnerable because of a history of trauma or abuse in your past. Of course your history makes it hard to be vulnerable. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s the habit of avoiding vulnerability and keeping people at a distance that is causing your insecurity in the present.

Regardless of your past, the quality of your relationship depends on your actions in the present.

If you want to stop feeling insecure in a relationship, definitely acknowledge and validate what happens in the past. In fact, go ahead and explore it in depth with a therapist or counselor.

But at the end of the day, remember that whether you feel insecure or not is going to come down to your present—what you do or don’t do now on a regular basis.


2. Stop worrying about the future of the relationship

In my experience, the single biggest and most common reason for feeling insecure in a relationship is this:

You’ll never be truly present if you’re always worrying about the future.

No relationship can thrive and grow if both people aren’t genuinely present and attentive to how the relationship is going in the moment.

Trouble is it’s really hard to be genuinely present and available for what’s going on in the moment if your mind habitually is lost in worries about the future.

For example:

  • Let’s say you need to have a tough conversation with your partner about taking the next step in your relationship.
  • But as soon as you start thinking about that conversation, you get lost in worries about what might happen if the relationship doesn’t improve.
  • As a result, you get hit with tons of anxiety and stress, which leads to one of two outcomes, neither of which are good for your confidence in the relationship:
    1. You avoid that important conversation altogether because it causes you so much anxiety and stress.
    2. You have the conversation, but you’re so anxious during the conversation (because of your worry habit) that it’s hard to be present and focused and actually say what you need to say (much less listen attentively to what they’re saying).

If you want to stop feeling insecure in a relationship, you need to get a handle on your habit of worry.

💡 Learn More: If you’re serious about getting control of your worry habits, I teach a short masterclass on chronic worry called Worry Free: Essential Skills to End Chronic Worry for Good


3. Resist the urge to dwell on past relationship mistakes

Dwelling on the past is just the flip side of worrying about the future:

When you waste your mental energy dwelling on past mistakes and failures, you have that much less to invest in the present.

And if you are chronically not investing quality time and attention to your relationship in the present, why wouldn’t you start to feel insecure?

I mean, relationship insecurities aren’t always irrational. For many people, feeling insecure in a relationship is a perfectly valid message from your brain that you’re not cultivating the relationship well—in this case because you’re stuck in the past.

Also, keep in mind that while the past is often a predictor of the present, that’s far from a guarantee. Just because you made some big mistake in a previous relationship doesn’t mean you’re doomed to repeat it again in your current relationship.

That said, keep this in mind:

Dwelling on past relationship mistakes can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you spend all your time and energy ruminating on past relationship mistakes, that’s all time and energy not going toward investing in your present relationship. And if you don’t invest enough into the present relationship, it could end up failing.

It’s important to reflect on past relationship mistakes and learn from them. But don’t confuse that with unhelpful dwelling on them.

The first will improve your relationship and your confidence in it; the second will leave you feeling insecure and your relationship less strong.


4. Get control of your defensiveness

A common cause of feeling insecure in a relationship is defensiveness.

Now, most people think about insecurity in relationships and defensiveness like this:

Being insecure → defensiveness

And while that is frequently the case, it’s important to realize that the reverse can be true too:

Acting defensive → feeling insecure

For example:

  • Let’s say your partner criticizes you for something unfairly.
  • Immediately, you feel a rush of emotion—some combination of anger, shame, and sadness.
  • Instinctively, you lash out by criticizing them for something similar they did recently.
  • A huge argument follows.
  • And even after the argument is over, resentments and distance remain.

When you act on your defensiveness you contribute to the deterioration of the relationship. And deep down, this makes you feel insecure about your ability to be in a healthy relationship.

A great way to stop feeling insecure in a relationship is to break the habit of defensiveness. But to do I this, you need to realize a key distinction:

Feeling defensive vs acting defensive.

It’s perfectly normal and not unhealthy to feel defensive after being criticized (whether it’s fairly or not). Everybody feels defensive sometimes. And because emotions are not something you’d can control directly, it doesn’t make any sense to try and stop feeling defensive. And it certainly doesn’t make sense to judge yourself for feeling defensive.

However, acting out your defensiveness is something you can (and should) try to control.

Ironically, the best way to break the habit of acting out your defensiveness (and avoid all the conflict and insecurity that follows) is to learn how to validate feeling defensive.

💡 Learn More: How to Validate Your Emotions in 3 Simple Steps


5. Be more skeptical of your thoughts

The mind is a messy place.

For every interesting, creative, or helpful thought your mind generates, it’s going to generate at least as many boring, unhelpful, or downright false ones.

That doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. Far from it: your mind’s job is to generate lots of possible ideas, guesses, and plans. But it’s YOUR job to sift through all those ideas and decide which ones make sense and are worth your time.

Think about it like this…

  • Your mind is like a meeting at work where the whole team is brainstorming ideas. As the team leader, your job is to be aware of all the ideas.
  • But ultimately, you have to decide on the ones you’re going to select and implement.
  • Because if you believe or take action on every single idea that crosses your path, you’re either never going to make any progress or you’re going to end up making a lot of bad decisions.

Similarly, in your relationships, your mind is going to throw out all kinds of ideas, beliefs, worries, predictions, etc. about where the relationships is and where it’s going:

  • He didn’t smile at me when I got home. He must be mad at me…
  • I know it’s only a first date but shouldn’t she seem more into me? She probably doesn’t like me. I knew I shouldn’t have asked her out…
  • I know he wishes he had married someone else. I just bring everyone down…

And like the examples above, a lot of these brainstorming ideas your mind throws out are worthless—neither true nor helpful.

But if you assume that every thought your mind throws at you is important and worth thinking more about, you’re quickly going to get lost in your own thoughts and feel even more uncertain and insecure about the relationship and what you want.

In fact, in addition to making your constantly second-guess the relationship and feel insecure, being too trusting of irrational or unhelpful thoughts is one of the biggest reasons people get stuck in major struggles with anxiety and depression.

So, for the sake of your relationship and your own sanity, cultivate a healthy skepticism of your own thoughts.

I’ll leave you with two little mantras I like to remind myself of in order to stay healthily skeptical of my own thoughts:

Just because it’s a thought doesn’t make it true.

Just because it’s true doesn’t make it useful.

Remember: Your thoughts are suggestions from your mind and you’re free to elaborate on them or not. Choose wisely.


6. Practice self-compassion

As a therapist, I often heard a lot of very sad stories…

  • Stories of terrible abuse or trauma
  • Stories about giving up on dreams and aspirations
  • Stories about terrifying panic attacks or bouts of depression

But you know what was worse, even, than hearing those stories themselves… The worst part was hearing people criticize and judge themselves for struggling.

And this is true of feeling insecure in a relationship as much as anything.

For example:

  • You feel anxious that your girlfriend isn’t as “in to” the relationship as you are. But then you spend hours per day criticizing yourself for feeling anxious about the relationship and being “too neurotic.” Now you feel ashamed on top of anxious and insecure.
  • Or maybe you feel sad and regretful because of some mistakes you made early in the relationship and you worry that your partner might not ever truly forgive you and be able to move on. That’s hard, for sure. But on top of that sadness, regret, and fear, you’ve developed the habit of judging yourself as being “too emotional” and spinning stories in your mind about how no one would want to be with someone who’s “emotionally high maintenance.” Now you’re feeling bad about feeling bad, which—as I’m sure I don’t need to explain—leads to a whole other level of feeling bad and insecure.

The point is simply this:

Feeling bad is hard enough without feeling bad about feeling bad.

When you get into the habit of being self-critical and judgmental with yourself for how you feel, you cause yourself to feel bad about feeling bad, which is a key factor that causes and maintains feelings of insecurity and low self-confidence.

To counteract this habit, work on building a habit of self-compassion.

Self-compassion just means being kind and understanding with yourself when you’re struggling rather than harsh and judgmental. And luckily, it’s probably a skill you already have…

In my experience, most people who struggle with self-compassionate are actually perfectly good at being compassionate toward others… friends, family, coworkers, etc. The trick is to just apply the same standard of compassion to yourself as you do other people.

I guarantee you that you are not going to criticize yourself into feeling more secure in your relationship. But you just might compassion yourself into it.

💡 Learn More: 5 Habits for Greater Self-Compassion


7. Stop asking for reassurance

It’s perfectly natural to want to feel reassured when you’re feeling anxious or insecure in your relationship…

  • You’re worried about whether your partner still finds you attractive, so you constantly ask them for feedback on everything from the way you do your hair to the color of your shoes. When they reply that you look nice, you feel relieved (for now…)
  • You feel anxious about your sexual performance, so you compulsively pepper your spouse with questions about “how it went,” which—obviously—kinda kills the mood afterward. But it makes you feel reassured (for now…)
  • You’re nervous that you’re not smart enough or interesting enough for your partner, so you routinely bring it up despite the fact that they’ve told you they do find you interesting. And each time they say it’s not an issue, you feel a little better (for now…)

As my not-so-subtle (for now…)s suggest, even though reassurance-seeking makes you feel better in the moment, whether it’s a good long-term strategy in the long-term is more questionable.

Actually, it’s really not all that questionable. Reassurance-seeking is very definitely unhelpful in the long-run. Here’s why:

Feeling insecure and then asking for reassurance is a vicious cycle that leads to more insecurity on your part and more resentment on your partner’s.

The problem with reassurance-seeking is that you’re training yourself to depend on your partner to feel good. And by extension, absolutely killing your confidence in your ability to feel good and get on with things on your own.

In other words…

Each time you ask for reassurance, it’s a vote of no-confidence in yourself.

And your brain is paying attention. So while it might briefly make you feel relieved, you’re going to feel even more anxious the next time that fear shows up, which is going to make you even more likely to ask for reassurance. See where this is going? Yeah, a major lack of confidence in yourself and your ability to manage your own fears and insecurities.

But it’s not just your own confidence that’s suffering when you habitually ask for reassurance…

Whether they admit it or not, chronic reassurance-seeking leads to resentment in your partner.

Which makes total sense because you are literally using them. And no one likes to feel used.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s bad to ask your partner what they think about things. Or disclose to them that you’re feeling anxious or afraid about some aspect of your relationship.

The problem is when this reassurance-seeking becomes chronic and habitual, even compulsive and addictive.

Ultimately, your fears and insecurities are your responsibility. And while there’s nothing wrong with asking your partner for help, relying on them to be your emotional support person isn’t good for either of you in the long run.


8. Ask for what you want assertively

A lot of people’s insecurity in relationships comes down to poor assertiveness.

When you are assertive it means you’re willing to express yourself in a way that’s honest about your own wants and needs as well as being respectful of the rights of others.

That’s kind of a mouthful, so here are a few examples:

  • Telling your girlfriend you’d rather watch an action movie tonight instead of a rom-com
  • Explaining to your partner that you’d like to have sex more often
  • Asking your spouse to be a little more affectionate in public

For a lot of people, simply asking for what you want in a relationship is pretty simple. But for others, especially people who were raised to believe that it was selfish to ask for too much of what you wanted in a relationship, being more assertive can be a challenge.

But here’s the problem:

If you always put other people’s needs before your own, you will always feel insecure.

Which makes sense… from your brain’s perspective, if it constantly sees you deferring or putting on the back burner all the stuff you want in order to accommodate other people, it’s going to assume you and your wants aren’t very important.

And this is a core cause of feeling insecure in a relationship: You’ve taught your brain to see yourself as less important as the other person.

I know I should be more assertive, but I’m just too insecure and afraid in the moment to actually ask… it’s so hard!

Saying you’re too insecure to ask for what you want assertively is like saying you’re not strong enough to lift weight: It’s putting the cart before the horse.

Of course feeling insecure makes it hard to ask for what you want assertively. Just like having small muscles makes it hard to lift heavy things. But the only way you end up living heavy things is by practicing despite the fact that it’s hard and slowly getting stronger.

Similarly, the only way to become more confident and assertive asking for what you want is to practice doing it despite the fact that it’s hard.

If you want to feel less insecure in a relationship, start standing up for yourself and practice asking for what you want assertively.

💡 Learn More: A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming More Assertive


9. Set healthier boundaries

As we discussed in the point above, a big part of becoming less insecure in a relationship is practicing assertiveness—specifically, asking for what you want and expressing your needs courageously.

But asking for what you want is only one half of assertiveness… The other equally important part of being assertive is saying no to what you don’t want and setting healthy boundaries.

Because here’s the deal…

It’s hard to feel secure in a relationship where your boundaries aren’t respected.

For example:

  • How could you possibly feel secure in a relationship when your partner constantly overrides your suggestions for how to spend your time?
  • How could you possibly feel secure in a relationship when your boyfriend criticizes you as selfish any time you decline to hang out with him and spend time with your friends instead?
  • How could you possibly feel secure in a relationship if you never enforce your boundaries with your wife’s drinking habit?

Of course, the inability to set and enforce healthy boundaries means you’re going to be subject to all sorts of behavior and experiences you don’t want. And that’s bad enough.

But here’s the real reason why healthy boundaries are so important for feeling more secure in your relationship:

It’s hard to respect yourself if you never enforce your boundaries. And you won’t feel secure in a relationship without that self-respect.

But be careful what you wish for: Once you do start setting (and enforcing) healthy boundaries, your self-respect will rise. And when it does, your tolerance for bad behavior and unhealthy relationships will lower dramatically. And this means you will actually have to confront some big decisions about some of your most important relationships.

Feeling secure in your relationship depends on self-respect. And self-respect depends on healthy boundaries.

💡 Learn More: 5 Rules for Setting Healthy Boundaries


10. Spend more time doing things independently

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably picked up on a consistent theme throughout these pieces of advice:

If you want to stop feeling insecure in a relationship, it’s about you and your behavior, not the other person and theirs.

The primary reason for this is that you and your behavior is the only thing you have control over. No matter how much you wish your partner was more compassionate, or how much you believe with every fiber of your soul that your spouse should be more supportive, they are who they are.

This means that trying to get your partner to change as a mechanism for feeling more secure is a losing battle.

On the other hand, there are plenty of things you can do differently that will positively affect how secure you feel in your relationship. And one of the best things you can control to feel more secure is how you spend your time…

Ironically, most people who want to feel more secure in a relationship probably need to spend more time doing things outside of the relationship.

In my experience, people who feel insecure in their romantic relationships often depend too much on their partners…

  • They depend on them for what to watch on TV and what to eat for dinner
  • They depend on them for where to go on vacation and how to spend Christmas break
  • They depend on them for what friends to hang out with and what hobbies to get into

The problem here is that if you spend all your time with your partner, it’s very easy to lose your sense of self and end up unconsciously adopting their sense of self as your own.

On the other hand, when you regularly spend time independent of your partner—either alone or with a variety of other people—you allow yourself to grow as an individual and expand your sense of self.

And the richer and more confident your sense of self is, the healthier and happier your relationship will be.

💡 Learn More: Know Your Values: 7 Ways to Discover and Clarify Your Personal Values


11. Stop getting involved with emotionally immature people

Most of what we’ve talked about so far involves strategies for how to stop feeling insecure in a relationship you’re already in.

But like the old saying goes…

Prevention is the best medicine.

In other words, a really good way to stop feeling insecure in your relationships is to not get into relationships that make you feel insecure in the first place.

Now, as we talked about earlier, ultimately whether you feel insecure or not comes down to you and your actions. That said, there are certainly factors that make it far more likely that you will feel insecure in a relationship. And one of the biggest has to be getting romantically involved with someone who has low emotional maturity.

When you’re in a relationship with an emotionally immature person, it’s going to be much, much harder to feel secure in the relationship.

For one thing, emotionally immature people are going to be far less likely to respond to you and your suggestions in a reasonable and flexible way:

  • Emotionally immature people often don’t have enough self-awareness to realize when they’re part of the problem.
  • Emotionally immature people frequently struggle to follow through on commitments to work on the relationship.
  • Emotionally immature people commonly are less willing to try out new things or listen to suggestions for doing things differently.
  • And emotionally immature people will almost certainly be less likely to respond well to your attempts at asking for what you want assertively or setting healthy boundaries.

In other words, most of the tips we’ve talked about in this article so far are going to be easier to do and more likely to succeed when you’re in a relationship with an emotionally mature person. On the other hand, everything we’ve talked about is a lot harder and less likely to be effective if they’re not.

So do your future self a favor and be thoughtful about the type of person you get into a relationship with in the first place.

Specifically, if you can learn to identify the warning signs of emotional immaturity, your odds of feeling confident and secure in your relationship will go up dramatically.


All You Need to Know

If you want to stop feeling insecure in a relationship, remember these 11 key ideas:

  1. Your relationship insecurities come from your present, not your past
  2. Stop worrying about the future of the relationship
  3. Resist the urge to dwell on past relationship mistakes
  4. Get control of your defensiveness
  5. Be more skeptical of your thoughts
  6. Practice self-compassion
  7. Stop asking for reassurance
  8. Ask for what you want assertively
  9. Set healthier boundaries
  10. Spend more time doing things independently
  11. Stop getting involved with emotionally immature people

4 Comments

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This is sage advice Nick. Thank you. If you’re lucky enough to share a good laugh together and you both can apologise without fear of permanent ego deflation…you’re half way there. There is so much strength in humility.

“Emotionally immature people commonly are willing to try out new things or listen to suggestions for doing things differently.” How is this an unhelpful habit of them ? Maybe you forgot to type ” less willing “? 🙂 apart from that I always appreciate your structured and direct way of psychoeducation and share the articles with friends and patients

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