We all feel insecure at times. But when it leads to manipulative behavior, it can be harmful.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 20, 2020. It has since been updated.
Insecurity is a complex experience. It is important to acknowledge that all of us feel insecure at certain times and it is natural to be uncertain of ourselves at times. But if it is so deeply rooted to the point it affects the power dynamics in the relationship, it can affect the mental health of the people in the relationship. Sometimes, it is necessary to understand where the person comes from and what experiences have led them to feel insecure about themselves. "This may occur when a person wasn’t loved properly in childhood, but can also occur from an accumulation of traumatizing relationships in adulthood," writes Jill P. Weber Ph.D. for Psychology Today.
At the same time, it is important to take care of our emotional needs and psychological wellbeing. A study published in the Journal of Computer-mediated Communication has shown that social networking sites provide an avenue for insecure partners to be more envious and insecure in their own relationships because of what they see out there. It suggests that insecurity culminates from low self-esteem and social media could fan that feeling. Some might believe that some level of jealousy or possessiveness are inevitable in a committed relationship. But when do you know that your partner's insecurity can harm you in the long term?
It starts with what might seem like little, harmless things. They give you a strange look when you are on the phone with a friend, they ask you who you are out with when you have already told them, and they don't seem happy especially when you having a nice time. Soon it could come to the point that you tell them everything before you do it almost as if you need their approval. Where you go, who you meet, who you text, who you befriend on social media almost everything becomes a subject of an argument. In extreme cases, it could even come to your personal, lifestyle choices like what you wear, where you workout, etc.
All the time! They constantly need to be assured that you love them and that you will stand by them. This is reasonable to expect to an extent, but not when it consumes them to the point it suffocates you. Your emotional independence scares them. And pretty soon you find yourself having to always go the extra mile that they matter the most to you. This could get draining because they might feel that nothing you say or do is enough. This is a classic sign of co-dependency, where they believe two halves need to come together to become a whole. In reality, you are a complete person yourself and they are expected to be so, too.
It could cause you to constantly pick them over your friends, family, or alone time.
Insecurity is not a sin. But it can become a trigger for manipulation if your partner projects their insecurity onto you. If you are doing well in your career while your partner is not in the best phase, you both can talk about it. But if they instead criticize you or mock you just to break your confidence, they don't mean well. They want you to feel as broken and unsure about yourself as they feel about themselves. If you feel a need to downplay your success, joy, talent, friends, looks, or lifestyle choices, then you are dimming your light and shrinking yourself to fit into your partner's version of you. This is not healthy.
Insecure people are so afraid of being abandoned that they need to constantly feel in control. One of the classic ways they do this is to make you feel guilty for taking care of your needs. If you have had a long day and want to spend time alone, a supportive partner must acknowledge your needs and be okay with taking your time. Or if you want to spend the weekend having fun with your friends, it is normal for your partner to miss you. But if they make you feel guilty and selfish, every time you want to live your life, they are emotionally manipulating you.
Small hiccups like you not replying to a text or arriving late for a date may seem like a huge deal for them. But if you do this often, then there is a reason behind their anger. If not, they may be reacting from a deep fear of abandonment. Talking about it will help you both understand the fear better.
A supportive partner feels proud and happy when you accomplish things on your own. They want you to learn, grown, and be happy. But an insecure person will view your personal success and abilities as a threat to the relationship. They confuse need with love. So if you don't need them, they believe the relationship is at stake. This can lead to a crippling, lifelong situation where you will be forced to choose between what you love vs. what you are forced or manipulated to do for your partner's sake.
Disclaimer: This article is based on insights from different sources. The views expressed here are those of the writer.