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6 Signs You Are Insecure in Love, and What to Do About It

Observe, identify, and uproot your relationship insecurity.

Key points

  • Securely attached people are often happy in their relationships.
  • People with a preoccupied attachment style often protest to get attention.
  • Attending to your inward struggles, rather that outward problems, can help you nurture happier relationships.
 Keira Burton/Pexels
Source: Keira Burton/Pexels

If you are anxious and insecure in your romantic relationships, you might also notice that you feel emotionally needy, fear rejection, and are prone to jealousy. Though you might long to feel more secure and happy in a relationship, you don’t understand why you are so anxiety-ridden, or how to change that. At least part of the answer to these questions likely lies way back in your childhood relationships with your parents or caregivers.

John Bowlby, the originator of attachment theory, explained that infants are wired with attachment systems that compel them to look to others for comfort when they are distressed. If all goes well, over time, they internalize comfort from their caregivers so that they can then comfort themselves as well as look to significant others for comfort. They are securely attached.

But some children are not easily comforted. They need frequent reassurance from their parents, and they often mature into adults who need frequent reassurance from their partners. They have what psychologists call a preoccupied attachment style (a type of insecure attachment). In other words, they are preoccupied with trying to earn the acceptance, comfort, or reassurance of their attachment figure (the person they turn to when distressed). With frequent and increasingly strident cries for attention, which Bowlby calls protests, they feel highly anxious and “stressed out”—technically speaking, they are hyper-activating their attachment system.

To determine whether you struggle with a preoccupied attachment style, consider the degree to which you relate to any of the six common types of protests described in my book, Insecure in Love:

Being needy. You often turn to your partner for comfort or for help with practical tasks. You do this without trying to take care of things on your own. In fact, you might even look for opportunities to do this.

Re-establishing connection. Distance makes you uncomfortable, so you almost continuously text, call, or email your partner. You might even do things to create the need to reach out or devise plans to “accidentally” run into your partner.

Maintaining physical contact. You are physically affectionate. Nothing wrong with that. But if you think about it, you might realize that you are hugging, kissing, and generally being physically affectionate so that you can avoid feeling rejected, abandoned, or a sense of separation.

Game playing. You don’t trust that the person you are dating will choose to be in a relationship with you or that your partner will want to stay with you. So, you do things to keep them interested. Maybe you have sent yourself flowers to stoke some jealousy. Or maybe you have feigned a passion for their interest in hiking. If your adage is all’s fair in love and war, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach to trying to nurture a secure, trusting, and emotionally close relationship.

Expressing anger directly. You can be mean. You aren’t proud of it, but you can’t seem to help it either. You might get so angry that you even get verbally or physically abusive sometimes. Even if you don’t go that far, you know you are pushing them away. Still, underneath it all, what you really want is to be understood and cared about. You want your partner to be concerned about you and step in to comfort you and make you feel better.

Expressing anger indirectly. When you feel hurt and angry, you might shut down, walk away, or not return calls or texts. You secretly hope that they will persist in trying to connect, showing that they truly love you.

If you can relate to some of these types of protests, which often lead you to act against your own best interests, your fear of rejection and desperate need for reassurance may be deeply rooted. Once you recognize this, you have an opportunity to change, as I explain in the brief video below: “Why You Do Things That Undermine Your Relationship.”

By choosing to focus inwardly on your struggles with insecurity instead of outwardly on trying to get caring from others, you are beginning a journey of healing. With effort and persistence, you can nurture a sense of security in yourself and your relationships.