Insecurity in Marriage - Part 1
Lindsey was insecure in her relationship. She had been insecure in every romantic relationship she ever had. She always had the feeling she was not enough which eventually led her partner to the same conclusion. Mostly her insecurity paid out as jealousy. She often accused her bewildered partner of holding his gaze too long at another woman. Even when she knew her partner was faithful, she felt he eventually wouldn't be. She felt that staying on her toes and keeping a close eye would avoid being played the fool. Maybe she could spare herself the heartache.
However, Lindsey did not avoid the heartache because her suspicion was the source. Accusations led to heated arguments and the emotional pain she inflicted left behind a chilling effect. The distance grew, which created more suspicion and fueled stress eating which led to weight gain. It was a vicious cycle that needed to end for Lindsay's sake and the sake of her relationship. How could she convince herself she was enough when her past relationships all pointed to the contrary. She couldn't seem to stop her jealousy even though she knew it was irrational. Desperate, she turned to a marriage counselor to help her navigate these treacherous feelings.
The first thing her therapist noticed was how Lindsay felt vulnerable and insecure but interacted with her partner in an attacking manner. When her partner felt attacked, he either responded by defending, attacking or withdrawing. All of these interactions were damaging to the relationship. There was rarely resolution and it took a while to recover from the exchange. Each one of these fights seemed to tear the relationship and Lindsey knew from experience it was only a matter of time before it was torn apart.
Her therapist listened as she described the blow by blow of their last fight. Then he asked one very important question, " What were you needing from your partner?"
Lindsey was confused for a moment. "What do you mean?"
"You were clearly in need of something from your partner. What did you want? What could he have said or done that would have gotten rid of your jealous feelings?"
This was not an easy question. She had never given any thought to the idea that her partner could have said something to reassure her. As she struggled to formulate an answer, her therapist encouraged her to be honest about her feelings. When Lindsay still didn't seem to understand her therapist said, "Why don't you tell your partner when you are feeling insecure or jealous? Why not ask him for some reassurance?"
"You mean I should just say I'm feeling insecure?"
"Sure, why not? It sounds more honest than your jealous accusations."
"Yes, but it sounds so needy. I don't want him to think I'm that needy."
"Because nobody wants someone that needy."
"No one? Really? I disagree. Personally, I would prefer a needy partner over a jealous one. How about you?"
"Well, when you put it that way, I guess I would prefer a needy partner over a jealous one."
"Instead of accusing the man of something, why not just tell him you're feeling insecure and ask for some reassurance."
"I shouldn't have to ask for reassurance."
"So you expect this man to know exactly when you are feeling insecure? Not to stereotype, but this doesn't seem like a realistic expectation for most men."
"If I have to ask for reassurance then it won't be sincere."
"It might be, it might not be, but it seems like you are more likely to get what you want than your current strategy."
Lindsay silently agreed. "But what if it doesn't work?"
"Then you are no worse off because what you're doing isn't working either. But more importantly it's honest, you are admitting something about yourself rather than assuming something about your partner."
"It just feels so vulnerable to be needy like that."
"It is. But isn't being vulnerable the whole point of a relationship?"
"Why not try it? It can't be worse than what you're doing."
"You're right," said Lindsay reluctantly.
"So the next time you feel jealous, tell him you're feeling insecure and ask him to reassure you."
Again she asked, "What if it doesn't work?"
"Then get really specific. Men sometimes need specific direction. Tell him you're feeling insecure and you would like him to kiss you or tell you he loves you, or whatever would reassure you."
"What if he refuses?"
"If he refuses, then you have a different problem. You have a partner that's not reassuring and you seem to need a reassuring partner. He may not be the right person for you. But I think you owe it to yourself to find out."
Lindsay had to admit she was kind of needy and she really did need a reassuring partner. Her therapist pointed out to her that it didn't make her wrong or bad. It wasn't about being enough. It was about finding the right match for her. How could she ever find the right partner if she wasn't honest about her feelings and needs. It was a risk...one she owed herself to take.
Before the end of the session her therapist gave her a few other thoughts to ponder. "You have to find a way for this man to win with you. You can't just say he's not reassuring, if it is impossible to reassure you. I've seen jealous people who want their partners to give up everything so they won't be jealous. But this will kill a relationship quicker than the accusations will. Ask yourself, are you asking him to give up something or give you something? If he can give you something, he will probably feel closer to you and feel enriched by the relationship. If he has to give up something, he will probably feel more drained or depleted by the relationship. Finally, you need to consider whether you are asking him to do something only you can do for yourself. He can love you and adore you but he can't make you love yourself.”
This gave Lindsay a lot to consider. She had always thought it was the man who was causing her to feel jealous rather than coming from her unfulfilled and unexpressed needs. This meant she needed to not only consider her needs but also consider how she wanted them fulfilled. This required honesty with both herself and her partner. She needed to communicate what she wanted rather than just expecting him to know. Finally, she needed to ask herself, was she asking for love from him, when she needed love from herself?