An Insecure Partner

Posted by: Center for Growth Therapists

An Insecure Partner: Ever wonder why your partner has been so insecure lately? Or when the going gets tough, your partner gets going? If this sounds familiar your partner may be operating and understanding the world through a different lens. This lens is commonly referred to as an attachment-based insecurity and influences relationships. If you’ve taken a psych 101 class this may sound familiar to you, but if you haven’t or have just forgotten here’s a simple explanation to understand an insecure partner and how they view relationships:

From when we are young we get our first understanding of relationships through how our parents raise us. We learn whether or not our needs will be met. Imagine a small child reaching out to their parent for attention, or crying for food. Often due to parental stressors, parents sometimes may not provide the most adequate support and emotionality to a child. In response the child will try to do different behaviors to get a response from a parent. Once the parent acknowledges the child, the child begins to internalize certain understandings about themselves from this and then responds with same behavior to attempt to get the support from parents. This is the beginning of how an insecure partner sees relationships. Through trial and error these relationship patterns and self-understanding get ingrained. They will then serve as the template of how one operates in relation to others. If we think of the child again reaching to their parent to get their needs met, each person in a relationship has needs and desires from the relationship. The attachment-based style guides how one goes about getting those needs met.

Attachment-based insecurities are often broken down into 4 different types. Theses are broken down into 4 quadrants. A person often will not place exclusively in one quadrant and may possess qualities from neighboring quadrants (e.g. avoidant having dismissive or preoccupied tendencies):

 

Dismissive Fearful/Avoidant
Secure Anxious/Preoccupied

 

Below is a checklist and description of each attachment-based style. The first style, secure, will only have a brief description.

Secure: 

  • Generally a very accommodating person, who understands where everyone is coming from
  • Doesn’t really get too bothered about the things their partner does, but allows them the space to do it
  • If their partner is super emotional and needy all the time, instead of running away, they stick through it and try to understand where their partner is at
  • Doesn’t usually beat up on themselves 

This person is as they sound! They have a high self-esteem and often are able to understand when a partner may get super emotional/needy or if their partner isn’t emotional at all. They’re willing and open to talk through things and understand the other person’s point of view. They also usually have a strong group of close friends and others for support. They will often like being close in relationships, but also understand when distance is needed. When they’re single, secure people are generally open to relationships with others and don’t avoid prospects.

Dismissive:

  • Usually the type of person that likes to think logically, emotions get way too messy
  • If an emotion comes up, they’re able to break it down logically
  • They like to be on their own and march to the beat of their own drum
  • In the same regard their very best friend…is themselves
  • They usually have a good comeback for any conflict and never really gives in
  • They get super annoyed if their partner gets too needy or too close

A dismissive person often has great self-esteem and thinks highly of themselves. This person will often be the go-getter and usually very independent. However, a dismissive person often goes by the motto “I don’t want to rely on anyone else and I don’t want anyone else to rely on me”. When their partner gets emotional they often may feel overwhelmed and use high amounts of logic and “matter-of-factness” to defuse the situation. Sometimes a dismissive person might think they’re giving good advice, but have been told by others that they feel like they’re being talked down to. Dismissive individuals don’t mind relationships, but don’t actively pursue dating, because they have themselves, and that’s all they need.

Fearful/Avoidant:

  • They often take their time getting to know people as they like the slowness in this process
  • They generally don’t like to fight and are very careful with the words they choose
  • They often have an extensive screening process and tests to make sure that the person the want to date is just right
  • They might be a little cynical about themselves and other people
  • After the screening process, they like to remain close to their partner and do everything together
  • They might take some time to show how they truly feel

A fearful-avoidant person often approach relationships from a place of trauma (i.e. emotional, physical). They don’t really feel too good about themselves and may avoid being in relationships because of this. In a relationship, a fearful-avoidant person may come off a little cold as they can be aloof and very guarded. After warming up to their partner, an avoidant person may want to do everything with the partner and come off as needy. However, when things get tough often the natural response is to push away and avoid dealing with the emotions/conflict.

Anxious-Preoccupied:

  • They like knowing from their partner that when things get tough, everything is okay
  • They usually set very high standards for themselves
  • They like to text or call a lot and might get upset if the person doesn’t respond quickly
  • They like to spend a lot of time with their partner
  • They don’t like it when people don’t get back to them, Or if their partner seems to be a bit distant
  • They might get very dramatic when expressing certain emotions, but will quickly apologize after for it

Similar to the fearful-avoidant individuals, anxious-preoccupied don’t feel overly good about themselves.  Despite this, unlike the avoidant individual, the anxious-preoccupied doesn’t mind relationships. Their main fear is of their partner leaving them. In relationships they are highly sensitive to any hint that their partner may no longer be interested. In response the anxious-preoccupied person will often begin to reach out and seek reassurance by texting a lot, wanting to talk about the problem, and over worrying. They will often think about the partner and the situation till they get the reassurance from their partner that everything is okay.

 

Understanding your insecure partner’s attachment-based style can help build a base of empathy and start opening a new dialogue between yourself and your partner. Asking what your partner needs to help them feel better is most important. Needs in relationships are nothing bad; it’s how we go about achieving them that can go a bit sour. Opening up and understanding their fears and hopes can strengthen the bonds within a relationship and garners a new understanding of why your partner may do certain things. Please take a look at the other self-help tips that go more in depth of each attachment-based style.