No matter how loving and supportive a relationship can be, personal insecurity is like the cockroach of feelings. Similar to the burrowing insect, insecurity can chew through walls. It can linger even after you stomp on it. And it can hide away for a while, only to return at the worst of times. Even in the most supportive and communicative relationships, it sometimes can be hard to tell if your partner is hiding an insecurity from you. Whether your boo is feeling some negative feelings about their job, their relationship with their mom, their body, or anything else — it's completely natural if your partner has a hard time opening up about their insecurities.
"Insecurities are those aspects and characteristics of ourselves where we have the least confidence, are the most anxious, and often (not always, but often) distort reality in terms of what is really true about what we are insecure about," Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Host of 'The Kurre and Klapow Show,' tells Elite Daily. "Your partner may or may not come to you verbalizing their insecurities, however you will likely notice them long before they decide to talk."
You and your partner probably work hard to communicate openly, and provide support for each other. While your relationship may make you feel strong and supported, having a partner doesn't guarantee that all that all of your personal insecurities suddenly vanish. If you're starting to think that your partner could be hiding some form of self-doubt from you, their insecurity could have started long before your relationship. "Because every person has insecurities, each partner brings their own into the relationship, and those insecurities will impact how the partner functions as an individual as well as how they interact with their significant other," Dr. Klapow says. "We would like to think that with our closest partner, with the love of our life, with our soul mate — our insecurities disappear. However, what is critical to remember is that many of our insecurities we bring into the relationship."
But how can we tell when our partners are holding onto some lingering insecurities? According to the experts, their actions may speak louder than their words (especially if they struggle to verbalize their feelings). "Insecurities can manifest in so many ways. If your partner is particularly grouchy about a certain area of life that they also sometimes indicate is an area where they would like to see change — chances are there is an insecurity hanging out I that area," Shula Melamed, MA, MPH, and well-being coach says. "If their reactions to situations seem disproportionate to the situation at hand they might be working with/through some insecurities."
Dr. Klapow agrees that if a partner harboring some insecurity, you may be able to sense it from their behavior. "Insecurities are often brought to light by defense mechanisms that arise when the topic of insecurity surfaces," Dr. Klapow says. "So your partner may avoid the topic or try to change the topic or discussion. They may seem allusive and do what they can to avoid conversations, situations, or settings where the insecurity arises." According to Dr. Klapow, other common insecurity- driven behaviors are acting defensively or overcompensating, which may manifest itself as pushing back when confronted with sensitive topics, or going overboard in order to prove a point.
According to Dr. Klapow, taking note of these behaviors can offer a gentle segue into a conversation about said lingering insecurity. "The key is to ask about the specific behavior, why they do it, what it means to them and that it seems out of line with who you know them to be. Start gentle and see if after prompting a bit on specific behaviors they don’t bring it up," Dr. Klapow says. "If you don’t couch the conversation as an insecurity but rather, begin to be curious about their specific behaviors what you will see is either the automatic defense mechanism or possibly over time they may come to you and admit they feel insecure."
Of course, it may seem daunting to breach this topic with your boo. Still, Dr. Klapow attests the importance of acknowledging your partner's insecurities as the first step to ultimately combating them, especially if they are starting to inform your relationship. "If their insecurities are impacting the relationship it is important not to ignore things," Dr. Klapow says. "We need to be there not to convince them they have nothing to be insecure about but to provide a safe place and environment for them to acknowledge their insecurities without judgment, and to practice, often in a state of fear or hesitation at getting better."
Even though you may love your partner and want the very best for them, confronting their own personal insecurity is ultimately their fight to fight. If your partner is acting defensively, overcompensating, or utilizing defense mechanisms — your job as a partner isn't to fix all your boo's problems, but rather, to offer a judgement-free zone, patience, and support. "Listen to them, allow them to share and hold space for them but understand they will have to do the deep work to escalate all the negative ides they have about themselves," Melamed says. "Let them know that you love them and accept them — the rest is up to them to create change from within."
Single, dating, married, or celibate forever — it's natural to feel self-doubt, to question yourself, or to wonder if you're doing enough. If you're starting to think your partner is hiding an insecurity from you, try talking to them about your observations. Being specific and non-accusatory, and keeping the conversation about direct behaviors may make it easier for your partner to open up. Your partner's insecurities are perfectly natural. If one or more members of a relationship harbor an insecurity, it in no way means that there is a loss of love or even that the relationship is struggling. All relationships require room to grow, and that is nothing to hide.