Category Archives: Marriage Help

The Silence Breaks

So, I bumped into my ex-wife today and we had coffee.

Wait…what?!?

Yes, that’s actually what happened today. I dropped by a coffee shop in my old neighborhood and she happened to be there, too.

So, you may be wondering what happens when you encounter an ex-wife who had been incredibly hostile, combative, and adversarial? I have to say that my encounter today turned out totally different than I could have ever expected.

I walked into that coffee shop without knowing she’d be there. Yet there she was, sitting at a table near the place where coffee orders are picked up, so I knew I’d have to encounter her. I placed my order and went over to wait for it; this meant that I was standing about five feet away from her table and she is facing me. So, I just said her name—in the familiar form I had always used.

She looked up. I said, “Hi, how are you.” She said, “fine,” and looked back down at whatever she’d been looking at before. That was it, I guess. I thought there’d be nothing more, but at least I’d been cordial. I turned back around to wait for my coffee.

A few long seconds passed, and she says, “How are you?”

Uhhhh… what?

I walked over to her table and told her I was doing great; I read the situation very quickly and realized this was an invitation to talk. So, I sat down and we chatted—for pretty close to a half hour. We talked, we joked, we laughed, we reminisced. She asked about my family and I hers; we filled each other in on details. She told me about some of the work she was doing and I shared mine. It was like I had never missed a day with her and we were just catching up.

She revealed a couple of things to me that were very telling, however. She said that she thought she had recently seen my car nearby, so she thought I still lived in the area. I told her that I no longer had that car (it was unmistakable, but there are also a lot of identical cars on the road) and had recently traded up to something better. I had long suspected that every time she’d see a car like that one, she’d think about me, and this seems to be the case.

She also asked about our dog and told me that she had been thinking about her, “a lot, actually.” I somehow thought this would be the case as well. I shared some recent pictures and videos of the dog with her and her heart was clearly touched. I told her that she was always welcome to see the dog whenever she wanted. She initially demurred, but I assured her it would be okay.

She never once mentioned the other man, nor did she mention anything connected with him—nothing about where she lives, what she might be doing with him, and so on, even though so much of this she makes publicly available. I did not ask, and she did not offer. That is exactly as it should have been.

Some twenty to thirty minutes had passed by this point, and she reminded me that I’d better get on the road so I could get to the office. Again, I read the situation and realized I could just give her a hug on the way out. And I did. And she did not object.

I held her hand and told her not to be a stranger. I told her that I would be there for her if she ever needed anything, and that she just need to call or email. And I told her again how wonderful it had been to see her.

And then I left.

Conventional wisdom would say that things like this can never happen. Conventional wisdom would say that she would hate my guts forever and never want to see me again. Conventional wisdom would say all that and a lot of other things, too.

But conventional wisdom is just plain wrong.

I spent nearly two and a half years fighting for my marriage. My struggles, my triumphs, and my failures are all documented in the posts on this blog. I showered her with unconditional love despite everything that was happening and despite all the rather unpleasant things she felt she needed to do. This is likely a big part of why things turned out the way they did today.

Also critical to this was the fact that she saw a man today who was quite different from the one she wanted to leave behind several years ago. She saw a man who is self-assured, confident, open, relaxed, non-judgmental, caring, and kind. She saw in me an openness and a freedom that she has not known for years, and I think she deeply yearns to have that in her life again.

I do not know right now where any of this will lead. I left the entire experience on a positive note and walked away with gentleness and kindness. That was her last experience of me today, and I think it is a good experience that will stay with her.

So, my dear readers, I have asked you before, if you feel so inclined, to pray for her, and I’m going to ask you to do so again. Please just pray for her that finally her eyes be opened and that she can see her errant path for what it is. Pray that she finally want to abandon that path and walk a new one—a path that lead to wholeness, true happiness, and enduring love. Pray that she decide to walk that path with me and that our reunion can serve as a beacon of hope for those who feel their situations to be hopeless.

Clearly there is hope, but it requires both faith and action. If you’re facing a similar situation in your marriage, please do not give up hope. Please keep the faith, and have the courage to take the right action. You may be amazed at what can happen.

Run the Other Way; Or, Affairs from the Transgressor’s Side

“Run the other way! Don’t do it!” is the advice Joe Beam elicits from a wayward spouse in a truly insightful podcast he recently posted. In this podcast, he interviews a woman who had recently, albeit reluctantly, terminated a four-year extramarital affair, and who in the aftermath gives rather sobering advice to those who might be considering straying from their marriages.

Please listen to the podcast by clicking this link. As you may know, Joe Beam was several decades ago a wayward spouse and because of this fact, he truly understands the wayward spouse’s mentality. He also understands the emotional fragility they feel once the affair comes to a close. Thus, he handles this interview with dignity, compassion, and integrity, and makes every effort to not only protect this woman’s identity, but also her personal dignity. At the same time, he helps her to see some of the obvious flaws with her extramarital relationship, and gives her counsel that hopefully will be comforting to her in the coming months.

I personally feel this podcast to be timely: the holidays are a difficult time for people whose marriages have been disrupted by affairs. I’ve been out of town visiting my family and this year, three different friends of the family had spouses who committed affairs. In every case, the betrayed spouse took (in my opinion) the wrong response, filing immediately for divorce and ridding the wayward spouse from their lives. One of these affairs has ended quite disastrously—the husband now has lost the affair partner and his wife and kids—while the other two are still ongoing. To my knowledge, none of the betrayed spouses has done any introspection as to how they contributed to the dysfunctional marital dynamic that allowed an affair to occur.

Those of us who have been victim to affairs can find it hard to understand the mindset of a wayward spouse. However, as this interview shows, the majority of affairing spouses are ordinary people, like you and me, who never considered the possibility of having an affair. However, a variety of factors, including a strong lack of emotional fulfillment from the marriage, seem to make them vulnerable to the unprincipled, unscrupulous, or just naive and poorly intentioned advances of the affair partner-to-be. Affairs do really seem to be pervaded by self-deception and wishful thinking that persists even despite evidence that shows the affair to be a dead-end prospect. Therefore, I think this podcast is a very important and extremely human reminder as to why we should try to be compassionate to those who have betrayed their marital vows.

Some insights that come from this interview include the following:

  • She wasn’t looking for an affair, but the opportunity arose.
  • She violated her moral values, so she set those values aside to have the affair.
  • She was aware of what she was doing, and felt tremendous guilt because she knew it would hurt her husband. Nevertheless, she rationalized reasons to go forward and to continue.
  • There was the “halo effect” surrounding the affair partner, who was perceived as “perfect,” despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
  • One affair partner became limerent (infatuated) faster than the other; at the end of the affair, this affair partner fell out of limerence faster.
  • The affair partner became manipulative at affair’s end, wanting to stay friends; she refused.
  • She is grieving the loss of the relationship and still misses the affair partner and feels overwhelming grief and helplessness that describes as suffocating.

Joe Beam comforts this woman by letting her know that, from everything she described, the affair had absolutely no chance of success, but that her belief that the affair was something truly special was not only typical, but to be expected. He advised her that once the limerence fades, it would not come back again; furthermore, if she had married the affair partner, the limerence would still have faded anyway.

Aside from the words at the beginning of this post, the woman in this interview offered two more pieces of advice. For those who have been betrayed, she said, “Be as kind as possible [to your spouse] and pray for them; keep yourself on the right path.” Admittedly, this is hard because it goes directly against our most deeply ingrained human tendencies. For the wayward spouse whose affair is ending, she simply said, “Tomorrow will be a better day.”

May tomorrow be a better day for us all.

Note: If you want to learn more about limerence, please check out Joe Beam’s podcasts on the subject below.

Understanding Limerence (the “Madly In Love” syndrome)
More about Limerence
Three Stages of Being “Madly In Love” (Limerence)

Please Care for Your Marriage

Shortly after I got married, my (ex-)wife and I were invited to a party in our favor that was hosted by a local church. She was the accompanist for the church choir, and the pastor wanted to do something for us, as did the congregation. There was a big reception, cake, and a lot of words of congratulations and encouragement.

I distinctly remember one man coming up to congratulate me. He looked like he was in his late 50s. “I’ve been married for 31-1/2 years,” he said, jokingly, “and the first 31-1/2 years were the hardest.” I took this as a joke at the time, but reflecting back on what he said, I can see how true his words ring.

When we meet our soulmate, we are so full of love that we are convinced that we could not be wrong about our choice. Generally speaking, I’d say that most people probably are not wrong about their choice. When we get married, we are filled with joy, wonder, and optimism. Life does seem like a figurative bed of roses; regardless of how much or how little one has, everything just seems perfect. Neither I nor my new bride had much when we first got married: I had a low-paying academic job and she was still in grad school. I downsized from my two-bedroom apartment to move into her one-bedroom, yet our lives were filled with the abundance that only love can provide.

That love carried us through the first several years. We did not really need to maintain our marriage, because our love for each other was doing just that. However, sometime during our fourth year of marriage, she remarked that our relationship was shifting out of a romantic partnership and into a more long-term “friendship” type of partnership. I had sensed this as well; the passion of the initial years was fading and the reality of work and of life in general were starting to feel very present. So it seemed that we needed to move into a different mode of relating with each other.

How very, very  wrong we both were.

This point of transition arguably comes in all marriages. The lucky few out there figure out the ways to maintain the marriage to keep it at least somewhat healthy. One of my family members has been married nearly 20 years and owes this in part to the fact that they have a weekly “date night” during which the kids stay at home with a babysitter. I don’t know who told them to do this or if they figured it out on their own, but this is just one of the components every married couple needs to keep the marriage healthy.

If I could turn the clock back about 10 years or so, I would be able to intercept that message from my (ex-)wife and suggest that we do something about it. Here’s what I’d do:

  • I’d tell her that we need a weekly date night. This is so simple and obvious: dating should not stop after marriage. Dating keeps the relationship fresh and the romance alive. We wouldn’t need to do something fancy every time; we could even just go out for coffee. The whole point, however, would be that we were going out just to be together and to connect with each other.
  • I’d tell her that we should set aside all of the logistical and “business” aspects of the marriage and take care of them during one specific weekly meeting. All the scheduling we’d need to do, all the planning of events, all the managing of finances and paying of bills would be discussed and taken care of at this time. This also seems so simple; the “business” of the marriage all too easily gets in the way of the relationship itself. So, take care of the business all at once (there usually is not so much to do that it cannot be taken care of in an hour or so of concentrated effort) and leave the rest of the week for the relationship.
  • I’d make sure I gave to her every day. This does not mean that I would buy her presents every day of the week, but rather that I would give her things that she loves. I still know exactly how she likes her coffee. I’d make it for her at least a few times a week (if she didn’t make it for me on that day) and surprise her with it on occasion by bringing it to her while she’s in bed. I’d draw her bath in the evening and put in the water the essential oils in that she likes. I’d bring her a single red rose every now and then. I’d buy her chocolates, or her favorite fashion magazine. You get the picture.
  • I’d make sure that I stay in touch with her during the day while I’m at work. I’d call her for no other reason than to say hello. I’d tell her a silly story or reminisce about something we did together. I’d never call to discuss anything logistical unless it were urgent. Oh, and I’d never work a job that did not allow me to put my marriage first. Period.
  • I’d make sure that we get to spend an entire day together at least once a month. This would be our mini-retreat during which we’d do nothing other than be together. Maybe we’d go somewhere; maybe we’d stay at home. Either way, there would be nothing on the agenda other than being with one another.
  • I’d make sure that we get away for a few days each year. This would be our “re-boot” retreat where we could rekindle our romance. I’d take her out to the coast where we got engaged. Or, I’d book a cabin out in the forest near a lake. Or, we’d have a weekend in one of our favorite cities—Vancouver, San Francisco, Chicago, or somewhere else.
  • I’d make sure that I keep getting to know her better and better every day. I’d do everything I could to discover what she likes and what tickles her fancy.
  • I’d make sure that every week we do something together that we both enjoy. Perhaps we’d cook together, or we’d work in the garden. Maybe we’d just do something fun with our dog.
  • I’d always make her my priority and think about her and her needs before thinking about my own. Always. No exceptions.

That’s what I’d do. If you’re married, you should be doing all these things right now. If not, you can expect your marriage to deteriorate over time if it has not done so already. It may stabilize into something you both can “settle” for, but it will probably never be as rich as the relationship you had when you first married. Yet a marriage should mature, deepen, and blossom ever more fully with each passing year.

Really, it’s not that hard to maintain a marriage if you break it down into pieces like I’ve done above. Successful couples do these things and stay happily married in extremely robust relationships. What makes it “hard” is that these things take effort and require shifting of priorities in some counterintuitive ways. Most of us who have been married for some years begin to feel as though our careers are most important, and then next come our kids if we have any. After that comes caring for the home, the finances, and so on. In last place comes the marriage itself.

This is totally backwards. This is a paradigm that leads to mediocre marriages, or even marriages in decline. It is a paradigm that leads a disintegration that lays the marriage vulnerable to affairs, separation, and divorce. Reversing that paradigm keeps the marriage healthy and prevents anyone or anything from unduly challenging it.

I don’t know if I will ever get the chance to do all these things with my ex-wife. Yet every day I wish that I could do those things right now. I am paying the price daily for my unwitting disregard of the single most precious thing I have ever had.

Take care of your marriage by putting it first. Everything else will fall into place.

Please, care for your marriage.

Please.

Two Years; Or, A Story of Limerence

If you have read this blog in the past, you will know that I started it about four years ago because my wife was having an extramarital affair. Many have found this blog since then and have been able to find help through the various resources and links that I had posted here.

I very recently found a resource that is so important to anyone with an affairing spouse that I am going to post the link right here.  It’s a podcast that you all must hear. Please click through and listen to it right away. It will not cost you anything, your computer will not be infested with malware, and you will not be sold anything. Please, please, please, click through and listen. It’s that important. I would not post the link three times if I really did not feel it would be helpful. If you want to know more about why I am posting this link, then please read on.

Looking over this blog today, I realize that I have only written three posts in the past two years. Prior to these past two years, I posted quite regularly, as the archives will show—so regularly, in fact, that if you do a Google search for “obstinate spouse,” this blog will still be one of the top hits. There is a reason why I have not posted much these past two years.

Two years ago to this day, on March 25, 2014, my marriage ended. I was more or less obliged to play along with my (now-)ex-wife’s “let’s-destroy-the-marriage” ploy. Let’s just say that she—or more properly, the adulterer, working through her (because as we all recall, he was far to cowardly to confront me directly)—more or less obliged me to sign the papers that finalized the divorce process.

That was the last time I saw her. Two years ago today.

My last post from two months ago was one that originated in a bit of desperation. I had learned some rather unsettling news about my ex-wife and really felt quite upset. One of the things I did shortly thereafter was to have a chat with the marriage coach I had worked with over the course of the marital crisis. I had not spoken to him for nearly a year, and the previous time I had contacted him was just before the one-year mark of my being an unwilling divorcé. His advice for me then was to “take a season” and wait; he felt that she was very much in transition and that things could change.

Well, things did change in her life—she lost her mother—but the affair did not seem to show any signs of ending. It just seemed like all the traumas and turmoils of her life forced her deeper into a stupor of self-justification—a stupor that seems to persist even to this day. So, I was a bit surprised when, at the end of my most recent chat with the coach, he gave me his advice.

“I think your next move is to wait,” he said.

I asked him why, and he said that he felt that I had not been released from the force that compels me to wait. This was a very accurate assessment. I am not particularly in a hurry to start a new committed relationship with anyone at this point in my life. I am also not desperate or depressed. In fact, on the whole, life is pretty good.

“I wish I had statistics to prove to you that the affair always ends,” he said. Well, I’ve seen those statistics, and her affair certainly is a statistical outlier. Most affairs would have died by now. I left that conversation feeling somewhat buoyed but also a bit confused.

A few weeks later, I heard from an acquaintance who had also suffered her spouse’s long-term affair. Her ordeal had lasted somewhere around four and a half years before her spouse’s affair ended and he came home to reconcile. She directed me—albeit somewhat indirectly—to a podcast that I have found very helpful.

The podcast is called “Marriage Radio” and the host is Joe Beam. I had known about Joe Beam for some time and knew that he had a quite successful marriage coaching business. However, his coaching style seemed more geared toward Christians, so I had opted for a coaching system that was more secular but still strongly morally grounded. He started a workshop format around the same time my marriage crisis began and boasts success rates from that workshop of about 75%. That is, 3 out of 4 couples attending are still married 7 years later. These are pretty impressive statistics.

Joe Beam’s story is interesting, in that he knows the psychology of the affairing spouse first hand: he had an affair as a young man and divorced his wife. After three years of divorce, the affair ended and he returned to remarry his ex-wife. He then made it his life’s work to help others in similar situations.

So it was with great interest that I found this one podcast episode that aired a few days before last Christmas. The podcast title is “Why Your Spouse Loves Another (Understanding Limerence),” and is a must-listen for anyone whose spouse is committing adultery. Limerence is a concept I was already familiar with; essentially it is a very strong type of infatuation that easily is mistaken for real love. “Relationship” affairs (i.e. as opposed to short-term, sexual affairs) are typically characterized by limerence and therefore subject to the trajectory that limerence sends the affairing partners on. There has been a good amount of research done on the topic, so Beam’s remarks are really quite trustworthy.

Beam describes the three stages of limerence: its beginning stages, in which the affair partners slip into the affair and experience cognitive dissonance; its middle stage, in which the faithful spouse becomes the sworn enemy, as does anyone who would oppose the affair; and the final stage, during which the limerence breaks down and resentment grows between the affair partners. An interesting phenomenon that typically occurs in limerence is that one partner becomes limerent more quickly than does the other; during the first stage, the slower partner pulls away because of guilt and other feelings, only to be pulled back by the other partner who already is fully limerent. In the last stage, the partner who became limerent the fastest also typically falls out of limerence the fastest. Now the roles reverse: the partner who entered limerence more slowly also exits it more slowly and begins to pull the other partner back into the affair.

This characterization of the final phase, it strikes me, is almost certainly where my ex-wife is right now: she was the one who became limerent the fastest, going from cordial formailities to I-love-yous in just a few days. The adulterer, on the other hand, was far more circumspect and did pull away from her several times. I learned this at the time from others who knew what was going on. It seems like it took him a good 4 or 5 months to finally go headfirst into full-fledged limerence. I already know on good authority that the adulterer is a very insecure, controlling, and manipulative person, so it is therefore highly likely that he is pulling out all the stops to keep her there on his property.

“Limerence exists to bring people together, not to keep them together,” Beam says, and this is one of the key take-aways from the podcast. It always ends, and when it does, so does the affair. Sure, one may ask whether it is possible that affair limerence could be replaced by true love once the limerence ends; the answer seems to be, “yes, it’s possible, but highly unlikely.” This is because the seeds of the affair were planted in soil that was thoroughly poisoned by lies, deception, and mistrust. Precious little can survive long-term in that kind of ground.

And that, my friends, is why my coach advised me to wait.

So please do listen to this podcast if your life has been touched in some way by an extra-marital affair. It will truly change your outlook.

May all affairing spouses eyes be opened to the impropriety of their conduct, and may they all immediately return home to reconcile. May all of you find happiness, peace, and love with your spouses once more.

More on Love

I guess you could say the title of this post is a play on words.

It’s been a slow news week on the relationship front, but things could heat up fast. My wife has a concert tomorrow, and I’ll be there. Who knows, sparks may fly; stay posted.

Until then, I thought I’d post a link to another article by a former adulterer who reconciled his marriage, and who reports from the “other side.” Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:

Let’s get right to it shall we? Real love is never about “falling” into anything, has nothing to do with “finding a soul mate,” and actually has less to do with “getting” anything in particular you deem either necessary or [of which you feel] deserving…

So, here’s the problem: Relationships fail because we don’t know what love is or what is required to actually love someone. Most see the main problem of love as that of “being loved;” that is finding the “right” person, missing completely the real problem, namely, our capacity to love another, which is no small task…

What most of us call “love” is not love; it is a self-absorbed, conditional quid pro quo [in which] you invest something only if a return of some sort is realized on a self-determined time line… Here, “love” is actually a relational bartering system justified by our self-obsession with presumed entitlement to get needs met […], as if a relationship were some egalitarian utopia, rather than the mysterious and demanding encounter it is [—a place] where you really can only expect [returns] in proportion to what you contribute, an idea foreign to most who claim to “love.”

You can read the whole article here.

Adulterous “Love”

Today, I came across an excellent précis of the fiction that is adulterous “love.” If you are suffering from adultery, and think for some reason your spouse’s mistress (or mister) is the “real deal,” please take the time to read through the whole thing. It’s a short read, extremely well written, thoughtfully explicated, and well worth the few minutes it will take you to read.

To whet your appetite, here’s an “executive summary,” by way of a few of key paragraphs:

You confuse an emotional experience, i.e. the affair, with the person who you are having the affair with and believe you “need” that person to keep and preserve that experience. Willing to risk almost anything to legitimize the affair, you call it “love.”

Understanding this distinction can be one of the most important steps to ending an affair and recovering from infidelity.

Love, here, is a personally constructed narrative – a story – which we vehemently adhere to because we need it to be true. After all, so much depends upon it being real. The possibility of “true love”, the confirmation that “soul mates” exist, the justification for destroying families, leaving spouses, children, jobs and friends – all MUST be justified with legitimacy and purpose. Otherwise, those of us in affairs are nothing but hedonistic idiots.

The stage is set for grandiosity and narcissistic self-indulgence. On this platform, all manner of illogical and nonsensical choices are made. We are in pursuit of a valid human need – deep intimacy and belonging. Yet, we are moving toward our fated demise. Authentic love, based on friendship, history and seasoned emotionality, can never result from affair love, which is grounded in escape, deception and illicit illusions. Anything based upon deception is destined to fail. Period. Without integrity, life simply doesn’t work.

The full text is at iVillage, and it seems to have been posted on one of that site’s forum’s by a member who appears to have committed adultery. The perspective of the formerly cheating spouse can be very helpful to those who are suffering from active, ongoing affairs, helping to keep things in perspective, i.e. the affair is a fantasy, a house of cards, and it will eventually blow down. Or, as Mort Fertel would say, “you’ve just gotta hang in there long enough for it to end.”

Again, you can read the full text by clicking here. Please do read it. Believe me, if this topic is relevant to you, you won’t regret the time you spent reading it.

How Neediness and Emotional Insecurity Destroy Relationships

Today’s guest blog post comes from the staff at Hypnosis Downloads

“Please, clouds, don’t rain!” Not going to work, is it?

And neither will trying to reassure someone who just can’t be reassured. They will go on fretting, no matter how you plead.

Chronic insecurity in your relationship is a major problem. Why? Because relationships really, deeply matter. Your health, your wellbeing, your happiness are affected by your relationships more than any other factor. And your most intimate relationships have the biggest effect of all.

It’s not just the insecure person who suffers

Feeling insecure in a relationship is horrible for the one who is feeling the insecurity. The burden – of fear and obsessive thoughts, of feeling powerless, of awful awareness that all this insecurity may actually itself be destroying what you treasure most – can feel pretty unbearable.

But it’s also tough for the person on the receiving end of all that insecurity. The truth is that being involved with a really insecure person can be hell.

This article highlighted what a common problem insecurity is

I wrote an article a while back on overcoming insecurity in relationships and was inundated with feedback from all over the world. The scores of comments on the article itself were just the tip of the iceberg. My inbox overflowed with hundreds more private emails from people wracked by feelings of relationship insecurity.

That article, which explores the reasons for insecurity and offers practical tips to help overcome it, eventually became the springboard for the development of the new 10 steps to overcoming insecurity in relationships course. My article was mainly addressed to those who are themselves feeling insecure in a relationship; but I also got – and still get – hundreds of emails from people who have extremely insecure partners. A common recurring theme of these accounts is how isolating it can feel to find yourself in a relationship with someone who is deeply insecure. And this is one major reason why extreme insecurity can be so damaging.

Why reassuring your insecure partner is almost a lie

Because ‘reassurance’ is what insecure people want most, and anyone can say reassuring things, it’s all too easy for partners (and friends) to offer reassurances that everything is “really okay” in the relationship even when it isn’t.This is a kind of denial. And – ironically – the reasons it might not be okay are often the product of the insecurity itself.

Sometimes the only genuine problem in a relationship is the emotional insecurity of one partner and the effect that has on the relationship as a whole. But it’s easy to fall into a pattern of always pretending everything is fine, even when the insecurity becomes really damaging. Such pretense becomes isolating and can drive partners further apart. This is how insecurity can damage or even destroy the relationship.

Relationships thrive on intimacy, and intimacy stems from feeling you can safely be yourself with your partner. So what does it feel like to be in a relationship with a very insecure partner?

Worrying about relationship breakup creates it

Insecurity stemming from a fear of losing intimacy can actually bring on that loss of intimacy. Jake, a former client, described it like this:

“I actually feel totally disconnected from Sara now. She doubts my every word, doesn’t believe me when I say I’ve been working, and constantly misinterprets what I say. It’s driving me nuts! And the angrier I get, the more insecure she gets. I can’t win! I’ve tried being sympathetic, but now everything has to be on her terms, I have to ask myself all the time – is this going to upset her or not?”

Jake told me how he had started to feel very lonely in his relationship, like he had no one to talk to, because “Talking to Sara is like walking on egg shells – will I say the wrong thing? Will she take it the wrong way?”

He, like many who are close to someone so insecure, found himself getting more and more emotionally distant from Sara. He felt less able to speak to her about how he felt, and less able to relax around her. Loneliness isn’t about being alone so much as feeling alone with others – because you feel misunderstood by them – and that’s how Jake now felt with Sara. He’d begun to feel trapped, finding it hard to be around her but also hard not to be around her, because he knew how painful it was for her to be wondering where he was or whom he was with.

The painful truth is that insecurity can lead to the death of intimacy in a relationship – the fear of losing something can actually bring about that loss. Trying to force intimacy or love – demanding to know how someone feels, what they are thinking, who they’ve been talking to, what they are doing – can just drive them further from you.

So what should you do if you are in a relationship with a really insecure person?

How to tell if you have a truly insecure partner

It’s vital to figure out whether the person you are with isgenuinely excessively insecure. Some jealousy and insecurity is actually normal in most relationships from time to time – especially in the early stages. Insecure people are often insecure about their insecurity, because they instinctively know how damaging it can be. But if insecurity is a constant and central feature of the relationship then, yes, it is a problem and a potential cause of breakdown. Of course you can reassure your partner, reason with them, and be gentle and loving toward them, but it’s important not to make too many adaptations for them. This was the mistake Jake made. He had completely stopped spending any time with his friends without Sara. He rang her on the hour, every hour, when he had to work late. He told her he loved her so many times a day that it was more like a chore rather than a genuine expression of how he felt. And after a while the relationship no longer felt real to him.

If the relationship becomes all about reassuring and not upsetting the insecure partner, you and your needs get sidelined to the point that the relationship can start to feel meaningless for you. Jake and Sara’s relationship only improved once Sara herself addressed her insecurity, and learned to trust and relax more with not “having to know” what Jake was thinking or doing all the time. Her self esteem improved and, in turn, he then felt more valued, and no longer trapped or forced to behave in prescribed ways. At last he was being listened to and respected again.

If your insecure partner has enough insight to know they need to change, then you really can encourage them to make those changes that could make such a difference for both of you. Ultimately, no one should have to be constantly “on call” to their partner, or emotionally isolated by them. Good relationships are reciprocal, not one-sided. They flourish when partners trust each other, accept each other, give each other space, forgive each other for failings – and enjoy each other. You and your partner both deserve that. Read more about 10 Steps to Overcome Insecurity in Relationships by Mark Tyrrell

Notes

  1. See: Wikipedia entry: Exposure therapy
  2. See: Wikipedia entry: Flooding