Many people come to therapy with complaints such as:
- “I don’t understand why my partner has such a difficult time opening up and being vulnerable with me.”
- “What can I do to make my partner trust me more?”
- “My partner feels that I rarely acknowledge her needs even though I feel like I’m quite attentive in the relationship.”
Statements like these may indicate that your partner is feeling insecure in the relationship. Emotional safety and security are the bedrock of a healthy relationship; they contribute to greater intimacy, stronger emotional well-being, and even better physical health.
For example, one study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that when people feel that their partner values them they are more likely to sleep better. Another study published in Psychology and Aging revealed that an unhealthy relationship can shave years off your life by increasing the rate at which you age.
Sometimes, your partner’s insecurity could be due to unprocessed trauma. It could also be due to your actions—actions that you may not even be conscious of.
Even if your partner’s insecurities are not caused by you, there are things you can do to make your partner feel more secure in the relationship. Here are three.
1. Stall your judgment
As the honeymoon stage wears off, the love you have for each other might be tested in ways it hasn’t been before. As you and your relationship grow, increased comfort and vulnerability might make your partner’s flaws seem more apparent to you than ever. You may even discover previously unknown and possibly unpalatable parts of their personality.
It is important to remind yourself that you don’t have to correct or fix any problems your partner might be having. Instead, what you should do is "hold space." If your partner is having a moment of extreme anxiety or anger (that might be more about them than you), try your best to let them know that you're in this together.
When faced with a difficult situation, replace dismissive comments like, “You should have known how to handle the situation better,” with ones like, “I see that you tried your best. Navigating challenges can be really tough but we can do it.”
Simple validation and acknowledgment can go a long way to instill a sense of security in your partner. Acceptance is one of the keys to a happy relationship.
2. Ensure accountability
It can be draining to be around someone who is habituated to pretending like everything is okay until they can’t hold it in anymore. Repeated inconsistent behavior is actually a form of relationship sabotage.
To save your relationship from disintegrating, start practicing accountability. Try to be reliable and dependable by being consistent with your words and actions. Don’t say things you don’t really mean. In order to make your partner feel more secure, you have to act with integrity.
For instance, if they tend to overcompensate after a fight, fearing what you might think of them, you have to let them know that disagreements are okay and having them does not mean that you suddenly don’t like your partner anymore.
Additionally, show interest in your partner’s life and be available for them. Little things like prompt and regular date nights and conversations before going to bed can be meaningful.
Sometimes, going out of your way also proves that you are putting in effort and that you are committed to the relationship. These small steps add up to build longstanding trust between you and your partner.
3. Have conversations around emotional security
For every disagreement and argument you have, there is a parallel opportunity to have a conciliatory conversation around creating emotional safety. Relationships often grow stronger through the process of rupture and repair. If we try to circumvent fights, we might also lose the chance to get to know our partner on a deeper level.
Use the time right after a fight to let your partner know exactly how it made you feel. Talk about the areas you can both work on instead of trying to assign blame. Apologize when it’s appropriate, or at the very least, say that you feel bad for hurting their feelings.
Be curious and check in with them on what you can do next time they feel stressed, anxious, or sad. Genuine security also comes from being heard and understood. It can remind your partner that, despite all difficulties, you still want to make it work with them.
Research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships explains that it is completely normal if partners’ feelings for each other change every now and then. But this can be a difficult experience for someone who is insecure. At the end of the day, if your relationship is a safe, judgment-free zone, both partners should be able to weather most difficulties and come out stronger.