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How To Overcome Insecurity and Change Your Negative Relationship Patterns

“Sometimes our thoughts are backed by so much insecurity that they create lies we believe.” ~Unknown

After nearly a year of being single and after going through my fifth breakup, I found myself involved with someone new.

It was the typical guy-meets-girl story you read about all over the Internet. We met for dinner and drinks and there was an immediate attraction. We laughed and talked and overall had a great night. By the second date, he stayed the night at my house and didn’t leave for four days.

This time I felt I was more prepared. I had studied relationships. I had learned about communicating. I was sure I was going to get my needs met and everything would be perfect.

I thought I was changed and that meant everything would be different this time. Surprise! Life doesn’t work that way.

I’m not sure I noticed it at the time, but I was still feeling a little insecure and unsure and wasn’t ready to let go of my fears. I made sure to continually tell him what I wanted and needed in a relationship. Little by little, I was pushing my agenda on him.

Naturally, he started to back away. I don’t think he even knew why and I certainly didn’t know either. I only knew I was feeling out of control and was perpetually pissed at him for being a jerk.

Slowly, we stopped spending all weekend together. He wasn’t coming over after work as often. His texts were more sporadic. Then, one Friday went by with not a word. Then a Saturday and then Sunday went by. It had been three whole days with no text, no call, no plans, no nothing.

Who did this guy think I was? Didn’t I deserve some sort of contact? What was I to do? Certainly this behavior was not acceptable!

The Breakup

So I cried and blamed him and told myself I had chosen wrong again, and that I wouldn’t be put in a position of feeling “less than.” Then I texted him out of the blue with the words, “Don’t ever call me again.”

I thought this was the totally mature way to handle things and that I was only “protecting myself.” I was, right? Wrong.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had done. I felt awful. I knew what I had written wasn’t what I wanted to say or what I felt. I realized that yet again I was acting out of fear, and if I wanted to change my patterns, I had to change myself.

I wanted him to be wrong, but I realized he wasn’t and that he was just reacting to me.

I also realized that I was the only one who could change my world, so I did. I thought long and hard about what I wanted and read some more. I realized that my style of communication was still failing, and that if I wanted things to change with him, they had to change with me.

So after about two weeks I called him and apologized for the way I ended things. I told him I'd reacted out of fear and that I was confused and scared and didn’t know what else to do. I knew that in addition to apologizing I had to change my patterns of interacting with him.

This time, instead of making everything about me and my wants and needs and fears, I began to take an interest in him and his life. I completely put myself aside (for the moment) because I knew that if I wanted a different result, I had to try a different path.

Go Slowly

First off, I went slowly. I let him contact me at his own pace. He had to feel comfortable with talking to me again and realize I wasn’t going to freak out or push some needy agenda on him.

I had to learn to calm myself, which is something I thought I had already done, but apparently I had more work to do.

Oftentimes we reach out to others in the expectation that if they respond correctly, we'll be reassured of our worthiness. Don’t let someone else dictate how you feel about yourself. If someone calls or doesn’t call or texts or doesn’t text, you need to be okay with it and realize the world won’t end.

Have some patience (which is hard for many of us), and try and sit back and enjoy every moment of the conversations or time together you do have. Stop living in the past or the future. Be present and go slowly. Life is not a race to the end, but a journey with laughter and love and joy and pain all along the way, and you can’t escape any of it, so stop trying.

Listen

Secondly, I listened. I listened to what was going on in his life and asked questions. I took an interest in the struggles he was having and was sincerely concerned and understanding.

If you want to know someone and want them in your life, listen to them. They don’t need to know your entire story right off the bat, (It’s been four months and he doesn’t know mine).

People are generally egoistic, and showing your potential partner that you want to know about them, what moves them, what motivates them, and what type of person they are will go a long way.

I'm not saying you should listen with a goal in mind. Don’t think to yourself, “Aha, if I listen to him or her, he/she will want to be with me.” Listen because you care. Listen because the world doesn’t revolve around you and your needs all the time.

Human beings are amazing creatures, and every single one of us has different fears, needs, and desires. The more time you invest in understanding your potential or current partner, the more you will get in return.

Stop Assuming You Know

Thirdly, I learned how to stop assuming and start asking. Never assume how someone feels. Never assume what they want or what they need.

Some days we would be in the middle of texting and he would suddenly *poof* disappear. I was left confused and irritated.

The next time it happened, instead of assuming he didn’t want to talk to me or he didn’t care (which is what I would normally do), I asked him about it and he told me why it happens. And of course it had nothing to do with me. Victory!

Instead of saying nothing, I said, “I’m trying to understand you, and sometimes when we’re in the middle of talking and you suddenly disappear. Why is that?”

I asked because I truly wanted to understand. I didn’t blame him. It took a lot of courage to ask, as I normally just make up answers in my head and put up walls, so I was really proud of myself for doing it.

Most of us tend to jump to conclusions about how others feel because we view the world through our tinted lenses. This is fairly normal, but it can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and anger if you do it all the time. Try to step outside yourself and see how others may perceive you or perceive the world.

When you ask someone a question, come from a place of love and wanting to understand, not from a place of blame or frustration. Be straightforward and say, “I’m trying to understand you better. When xxxx happens I am often confused, and I’m wondering if you could explain it to me.”

When you want to share your feelings or communicate what is going on with you try not to say, “You make me feel x, y, z when you do x, y z.”

People don’t make you feel anything to you. Their actions may trigger certain feelings, based on how you interpret them, but it's also possible you are already feeling depressed or anxious or lonely or scared, and only think the other person is making you feel that way.

We all choose what we believe and how we interpret the things other people do, and those beliefs and interpretations create our feelings. The other person can't possibly know what's going on in your head unless you explain to them that you have these insecurities and that it isn’t their fault, but you want them to know.

When you come from a place of insecurity, you will often project blame onto the other person when it’s possible that what they did or said had no negative connotation whatsoever.

Sometimes people are clueless, sometimes thoughtless, sometimes self-absorbed, but most of the time their intention isn’t to hurt your feelings. Try to remember this before you speak.

Learn to Communicate From Love

Love and intimacy are scary. There are days when I still struggle with whether he cares, and I suddenly go quiet and retreat into my world.

My natural reaction when I’m falling in love is to want to run, and run fast. I want to put up walls and let the other person try to climb over them, as I’m sure many of you do as well. I’m sure you also know this isn’t remotely healthy and is only a protective mechanism.

Communicating from love means letting down your walls, even if just a little, and accepting the possibility of being hurt.

One day I was talking to him about my blog and how it means a lot to me when people are thankful for what I write or appreciative of my stories. Because he was playing on his computer and didn’t seem to be listening, I felt unimportant.

I became quiet. My plan was to say nothing. I assumed he just didn’t care to listen. My old patterns were creeping back in. However, this time I realized that if I want to keep moving forward and keep changing, I had to share my feelings instead of running inside myself.

I know that most of my fears of not feeling important stem from my childhood and my issues, and it isn’t fair to push them on him. I told him, “Sometimes I don’t feel important to you.” Just saying it was a relief.

I could tell he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. He said, “Of course you’re important and I care about what you have to say.” I realized in that moment the fears I had were my own and weren’t rooted in any truth.

It can feel monumentally scary and overwhelming to share even little fears, but if you do it in a way that shows your vulnerability and if you are with someone who has any capacity to love, then you will be amazed at the results you get.

In the End

By doing all those things I mentioned above, I changed my relationship. When I gave to him he gave back. The more I put out the more I got in return. I stopped making the entire relationship about me. Everything has changed, and it's all because I chose to change it.

Remember that in the end you have no control over anyone but yourself. If you want or need something, stop looking to the other person to give it to you and start looking to yourself.

You can change your life and your relationship patterns. It may not happen overnight and it may not be as fast as you want, but have some faith and keep moving forward. Love will happen.

About Carrie L. Burns

Carrie L. Burns is a blogger on a mission of self-discovery. As a sexual abuse survivor that struggled for years with depression anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of self-love, and relationship issues, she found her purpose through writing and sharing her story with others. Check out her other writing at www.acinglife.com.

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  • DB Hoster

    Thank you so much for this post. The things found in this post could flip my life and relationships. I want to let it. Best.

  • Laura Smilski

    Beautiful Article Carrie! I also learned these things in a similar way to you and have continued to learn so much more about myself in relationships. Its such a beautiful school to be in. Thank you for spreading the self-love message!!
    Laura

  • Greg

    OMG Carrie! Did you write this for me??!? Lol As I started reading it i I almost fell over….thank God I was laying down! This is exactly what I needed this morning. I mean it answers a prayer of a few of the questions I have swimming in my head in regards to what we were just talking about yesterday!! This represents my story so well, and spoke to me mostly of her potential experience but as well echoed things I’ve learned about my “self” over the past months, and, where i still need some work or fine tuning! It helped me to understand more clearly what she has been going through ~ believe it or not it parallels your feelings to a T. Thank you sooo much for sharing your story, and I again can’t emphasize enough how excited I am for you! I’m so lucky to have your friendship!!

  • lnichs83

    I don’t like this article. I was with someone for 3.5 years that made me confront a lot of my fears. I took things slowly, spoke my concerns and told him how I was feeling most of the time. Yes, his words did comfort me some times because he always claimed he loved me, cared about what I had to say, etc….but in the end his actions were speaking louder and the red flags were there from the beginning. I feel like this article is just making women think to themselves, “He’s not being a self-centered jerk at all. As long as I voice my opinion, fears and listen lovingly to everything he has to say, then it will be OK.” It’s not right if you know EVERYTHING about his life and he knows little to none about yours after 4 months. This article sounds like an imbalanced relationship to me. If you’re feeling anxious, nervous or insecure in the relationship, it’s not ALWAYS all your problem to deal with. Some times his actions are speaking to your subconscious need to be with someone who supports you more and actually tries a little harder. Just because he has chosen you doesn’t mean he’s worth submitting yourself to a man who ignores you while he’s on the computer or doesn’t ask about your life with the love and compassion that you ask about his. This is reinforcing the old, dumb gender roles that are keeping women in bad relationships in 2017. I understand that relationships are supposed to help you learn more about yourself, your boundaries and your capabilities of asking for what you need. But when it becomes a regular process that you are having to think about how to say “I feel unloved/unimportant/unwanted/under appreciated” in a different way from the week before, I think it’s time you take a look at the relationship and move on to learn how to get that from yourself and eventually someone else.

  • Lauren

    I can’t help but think that the poster kinda cheapened the relationship by having the guy she had great chemistry with back on the second date… Maybe it’s just my own personal morals/way of doing things but I’d never even consider taking a guy that I know I’d want a r/s with back to my house (bed?) on the SECOND date…

    Anyone else like this?

  • Ari Maayan

    Thanks for a great article Carrie. I have been a practitioner of the same dysfunctions in the past. I put aside relationships for 5 years (some of us learn slower than others) in order to do a good job of self discovery and purging of my negativities. I learned a good lesson about not making assumptions about what is going on with the other person. I was building a relationship with an exciting woman. We spoke sometimes 3 or 4 times a day and texted each other about 20 times a day. One day, I collapsed on a sidewalk and was taken by ambulance unconscious and ended up in an ICU for 2 weeks. For the first 9 or 10 days I was in and out of consciousness and off in a dim universe far, far away. They had taken away my cell phone anyway. So, my romantic other received no calls or texts from me and I didn’t answer any of her voice mails or texts. She assumed that I had bailed on her. When, after 2 weeks I was transferred to a downgraded ward and got my cell phone back I listened to her voice mails and read her texts filled with all of her emotions….finally settled on hatred of yours truly. I finally was able to call her back but she had blocked my number. So, I used my son’s phone to call her and as soon as she heard my voice she heard my voice, she blocked my son’s number as well. I guess it was good that I didn’t get into that relationship with her.

  • Carrie Burns

    Wow Ari-that is harsh and obviously she was coming from a place of fear and hurt. I’m glad you are better though!

  • Carrie Burns

    Thanks Greg! Self reflection-never ending, right?!

  • Carrie Burns

    Thank you for the appreciation Laura! I love that so many of us on this site are open to growth and change…truly inspirational.

  • Carrie Burns

    Go for it DB! What do you have to lose??!! Let me know how it goes for sure!
    Mine has been going strong ever since I made that fateful decision…

  • Carrie Burns

    I’m sorry you feel that way. I can see how you might interpret as being unbalanced and that is certainly within your right to believe. If you don’t agree you needn’t apply any of my tactics. I wish you the best!

  • Greg

    Just what I needed to read today. Guilty. Thanks so much. My life has often been a race to the end. I have finished the race in relationships many times. Never did receive an award for doing so.

  • Mosheng

    ah that’s too bad. It would be nice to let her understand what happened. She could probably been hurting too from past experience. I know for me I’ll do the same thing and ignore you but until I understand what happen.

  • Michael Clarke

    I somewhat agree with Inichs83’s inference. The article overall hits the spot, but in my most humble opinion, this type of behavior is better suited if coming from both parties in a relationship. It is not a one to one relationship but at least as much as possible with an effort to improve.

    I personally can relate to quite a few things. I have also been on the receiving end of text disappearance, always felt my priority was after her family, friends, dog, cat, and misc people.and a few other items. I talked to her about all of this, multiple times, sometimes in a calm collected way with the “I feel like” statement and sometimes when pushed there was an argument. However there was never any shouting, cursing or name calling from either side. I always tried to keep it calm and collected to the best I knew how. But I got kicked to the curb under some interesting pretexts. I showed patience as much as I could,was always open to talking about things, always up front about how I felt and always conveyed feelings instead of bottling them up. But I got left behind.

    Hence I feel, this works best if both parties are working towards doing this. Just an opinion. Thanks.

  • Carrie Burns

    Keep searching Greg-don’t give up hope! Someone will appreciate you one day.

  • Michelle

    Wow, Carrie this too is exactly what I needed to read. I have been single for almost 4 years now, and though I have had small romances here and there, I recently just got into a relationship recently. I too thought I had done some inner work while I had been single so I thought my inner projects were done. However, just this weekend my boyfriend and I had a party with our friends and family and somewhere along the line my insecurity came up and I made a bit of a spectacle with him. Now, some drinks may have exacerbated the drama I created, nonetheless it came up out of nowhere. This drama reminded me of how I was when I was kid in an immature, insecure, codependent relationship. I allowed this unexpected insecurity, resentment, and lack of confidence to take over (as it once did) and project on him. I don’t recall every detail of the occurrence, but I can tell you the next day I felt terrible emotionally and physical. I was utterly embarrassed at not being able to hold it together. While I am still working on balancing myself since Saturday, I surprised myself that I still had much work to do on me. It was a traumatizing experience, but perhaps something I wasn’t aware of or that I kept hidden. Nonetheless, I know what to work on… Thanks for the article!

  • Carrie Burns

    It’s amazing that you were able to recognize the pattern! Don’t be too hard on yourself…as long as he knows why it happened he should understand. I find that relationships trigger every one of my issues. When I’m alone I’m fine, but once intimacy comes into play it’s a whole new ballgame. Hang in there. You’re doing great!

  • sunshine114

    Hi, a lot of what you’ve addressed really applies to a variety of people and situations, and really shows true self-awareness. However, the part where you say he is playing with his computer so you thought he wasn’t listening, is probably true. People need to learn to put down their devices and interact one-on-one with one another. If two people are conversing, and a text comes in, it’s not okay to interrupt to answer it. It can wait, just like in person. If someone approaches a conversation in progress, they don’t just walk up, interrupt, and start talking about something else. I think as a society we have allowed this to be normal, and it shouldn’t. Immediately responding to a text while deep in thought with someone in person does detract and remove you from the thought process, the feeling, or tone of the conversation. I think people should start becoming more aware of this and realize that the text is like someone tapping you on the shoulder. It’s ok to say “one moment please”.

  • Katie Schultz

    I actually agree with this perspective. Was in a 2 year relationship with someone I constantly felt like wasn’t listening to me…but he always assured me yes, he was listening and cared and loved about me. I felt like if I only expressed myself more and didn’t make assumptions and just confronted him only with love, surely it would work. Nah, still felt unheard and unappreciated…and whether that was truly down to him or me, I’m still trying to understand but at least now I’m doing it on my own. Anyway, I think you make some good points Inichs83 and Michael Clarke, below, also does that it’s important that both people are in on this method of communicating and openness, otherwise it sets one person up to be taken advantage of. I hate to sound like a skeptical pessimist (I’m not!) but I think what rubs me wrong about this article is that it assumes that the other person definitely always has your best interest at heart…unfortunately people are by nature pretty selfish so I don’t think this is always the case.

  • lnichs83

    Sames Katie. My relationship was imbalanced and I approached it with love, openness, and genuine understanding. I was taken advantage of and I thought because I was being open and confronting my insecurities that it would work out. It didn’t. I am also still trying to make sense of it all. Thank you for your reply!

  • Carrie Burns

    Very true Sunshine144…..the key is always to be aware of the importance of both parties needs.

  • Carrie Burns

    I totally agree that sometimes WE change and THEY don’t or what we really need from a partner we will never get (my last relationship). But, that is irrelevant because if you have set boundaries for yourself then you leave that person and you have changed for the better and will attract someone new and better. I also agree that many people are selfish and self-absorbed. I didn’t change to make HIM happy. I changed because I wanted to and because I felt I had insecurities I needed to work on and when I changed he changed and our relationship grew stronger. If it doesn’t they aren’t the right person, but it doesn’t mean you don’t do anything on your end because of someone else. Make sense?

  • Carrie Burns

    Michael- Yes, both parties should always work at a relationship but recall that I was the one who ended the relationship-quite abruptly-and quite immaturely. The changes I made were for myself and when I changed he changed-it doesn’t mean everyone will or that every person is right for you. But, in the end if you have made the changes and it doesn’t work out then you have a ton of new skills for the next relationship.

  • lv2terp

    Inspiring post, and great reminder!!!! 🙂 Thank you for sharing this message and perspective!

  • lv2terp

    Carrie, I definitely understood where you were coming from. Evaluating which issues/frustrations/in-balances are self inflicted, and working to change those things to see if that enhances and changes the dynamic of the relationship. If not, and/or the other person is not willing to adjust as well then that relationship is not meant to be. Change the way to see things, and the things you see will change. That very much applies to relationships, their health is dependent on our own growth, self improvements and working toward self love and less codependency. You’re article made complete sense to me as a person that has worked on self while in relationships to see if the changes that I wanted to make within myself to become a better person/partner did change the relationship. It is true, that we receive a lot more when we allow the other person to be who they are instead of expecting them to meet the expectations to calm our conditioned fears. Very proud of you and the strides you made to become self aware of your part, and to adjust and grow to see if that relationship was truly a good one covered in the mess we create from fears and insecurities! GO YOU! 🙂

  • Mann

    You said about creating Walls in Mind to let the other climb and prove other a great lover. That is right we have to drop every Wall in Love

  • Carrie Burns

    That is EXACTLY it! You don’t become a victim “oh poor me, I just gave and gave and got nothing in return so I’m not giving anymore”….you give with the intention to create love…if the other person doesn’t value that then you find someone who does…you don’t just STOP trying to become better. Thanks!

  • Berenice Santana

    You definitely make a great point and I see how your thought process comes around full circle at the end there. I think we can all agree that the key takeaway here is self – self reflection/growth/confidence/love/tolerance/accountability/happiness. The idea is that you address and accept your fears as your own, regardless of the root cause or causes. Recognize that dating is a risk you decide to take because there’s never guarantee of any “reward” and dating should not be treated as such an exchange. No one owes you for choosing to date them so if you choose to date just seeking for your own self in return that sets things up for failure. Power in positivity! When she says communicate from love, your approach overall should be selfless. How often can you say you’d take the blame for a situation you had no part in causing? Not often, I hope. If it’s something you wouldn’t do then it’s unreasonable to expect it. In any relationship a person should act in ways they would appreciate back in kind, without holding anything over anyone. And I believe this mindset applies to all of us, not just women! There isnt a “one size fits all” approach to relationships so there’s no right or wrong way! It’s figuring out what works best for you. Each person plays a role but only you can control your part in it.

  • Berenice Santana

    Also, this definitely includes establishing boundaries regarding any behaviors or situations you arent on board with but as they occur. No one should feel they have to stick around for unhealthy circumstances or for someone that wont try. This is where expectations should be let go without taking personal offense to things not going in a way you hoped or thought cause not everyone will be on the same page or want the same end goal like stated in other replies. Assess each relationship honestly while also keeping an open mind and being tolerant and accepting of things as they happen.

  • Claire Taylor

    I totally agree x and thank you reading this has helped me a lot x