Advice: My insecurities are ruining my life

Last updated 10:31 06/06/2013

She's found the perfect guy and they're in a great relationship, so why is she so terrified of everything going wrong?

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I need help. I've been in a relationship with a wonderful man for 18 months now. He's kind, thoughtful, respectful, smart, supportive, a great dad to his little girl - pretty good all round. We're both professionals, both 30 and we generally communicate well and enjoy each other's company (we don't live together though as we each own our own property).

The problem is my insecurities about myself and our relationship are crippling, although I try to hide this from him. I hate when he talks to his ex wife (even though I know it's only ever about his daughter) and I worry that he'll want to reconcile with her. I know that I'm so different from her, and that he feels cheated that I'm not fun and a party girl like she is. I'm shy and dread social situations and feel that whenever we go out with his friends, that he has much more fun talking to other people there than to me - which touches on my insecurities and I withdraw - which touches on HIS insecurities. I'm also not very pretty and I hate how I look and worry that he'll leave me for someone better looking - his ex-wife was an Australian model.

His affection for me has dropped lately, we haven't had sex in over a month and I sense he's wondering whether he really wants to make a commitment to a woman who's just not as much fun as other women he's been with. I love him very much and I've made huge efforts to step out of my comfort zone, both for my own personal growth and also because I know it's important to him. But I can't stop second-guessing myself and him (he says he loves me but does he really?) and feeling jealous of every woman he looks at. I know that my insecurities stand to destroy a great relationship, but I just don't know how to get over them. Help!

Grafton Girl

Dear Grafton Girl

You are making the first important step, and that is reaching out for help. It is easy to get caught in a hall of mirrors that just reflect our inadequacies back to us. Of course most of us feel some insecurity in relationship at some time and need reassurance. It is understandable that in your case where he has a child with another woman who is beautiful, fun-loving and social, that feelings of insecurity might get stirred up. So don't be hard on yourself, it is how you handle them that becomes important. They can be a resource to bring you closer together or a barrier to push you further apart depending on how you do handle them. It is great that you are treating this as a growth opportunity, because that is what it can be.

There will be good reasons why you are feeling insecure in your relationship (in the lingo of attachment psychology in terms of your 'primary attachment'). Generally speaking we all have one of three different attachment styles in relationship - anxious, withdrawn or stable. We can also mix these positions up a bit. It is possible that you learned from a young age that you couldn't rely on your caregivers to be there for you in a present, loving and dependable way, so you developed feelings of anxiety about connecting with others. Is this a pattern that connects for you or not? Either way It could be good to take some time to step back and consider the overall patterns of your relationship life, from you family forward, and identify your ways of connecting and handling stress in your relationships over time. A starting point for you in this is a book called "Hold Me Tight" by Susan Johnson, which provides an introduction to the dynamics of adult attachment. Once you get a handle on your style you will start to know what you need in order to help yourself.

In terms of your partner, I would suggest that you have an open conversation with him about your feelings of vulnerability. Do this is in a way where you are respectful and valuing of his position (don't attack or blame him, let him know that you love him). See if you can work out together some strategies for handling the scenarios that come up. Work on developing a collaboration with him, and maintaining the sense of connection between you. Ask questions like how can you stay connected with each other when you start to feel insecure? What do you each need in order to feel that the other person is there for you? How can you together handle him having time with his daughter or having a conversation with his ex and both stay feeling good?

The other area is how you continue to build up a good relationship with yourself. This can then help you to soothe yourself when you get distressed.

Start with loving yourself, just as you are, right now. Are you at some level rejecting yourself? If this is the case then at some level you will stay anxious and insecure. It might be a bit of a cliché, but it is as if you are telling the child inside of yourself that she is not good enough - and of course if you tell any child this they will become anxious and worry about not being accepted. What she needs is to feel your acceptance and love for her, and to know that you value her and will stand by her. This will help her/you to settle down and you will start to be able to soothe yourself. Self love and the ability to self soothe are important foundations to stable adult relationships. Remember also that'loving' is a verb, and as such it is an ongoing practice, and sometimes we will do better than other times at it. Just keep practicing!

Finally if the issues continue get some professional help. A few sessions now with a good relationship therapist will really help you and your relationship to move forward in a positive way. I would recommend finding a therapist who can work with adult attachment issues. One approach to this is Emotionally Focused Therapy. What you are talking about here is bread and butter to them and they will be able to help you quite quickly.

Best wishes with it all,

Chris

 

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.

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