Help me break this self-destructive cycle of insecurity and clinginess
May 7, 2014 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I am a very insecure person (who is working on it, in therapy/in recovery/rocking it). I get in these head spaces where I feel crippling insecure, especially with my boyfriend. I want verbal validation from him, but my asking for it makes him feel pressured. When he feels pressured, he gets distant, and then I feel even more insecure. We both know this is happening. What tricks can we use to make it stop before it gets out of hand?

To be clear, our relationship is generally pretty loving and fantastic, but sometimes my insecurity makes me get in this horrible headspace that's really difficult to climb out of. I'm in therapy/on medication/in recovery and working really, really hard on this and know it's something I will continue to work on, but I want some kind of brain hack or some kind of trick I can do to talk me out of this when I start panicking/feeling self-destructive while I do the bigger work on the larger problems. Thank you so much!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
How about asking me to write you a love letter/validation letter as a gift for a gift giving occasion (birthday/anniversary/holiday that denotes gifts). When you're feeling insecure, you can read the letter on your own to give you the validation you need as a stop gap while you're working on the underlying issues in therapy. This way, he isn't pressured on a regular basis to validate you (in whatever form that may take) and you have something to help mitigate the insecurity.

Also - it is not super common these days to get love letters and you have a nice keepsake with your relationship.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:37 AM on May 7, 2014

InnerBonding - this site helped me so much because it really explained in detail the idea of loving yourself first. Then you'll have extra love to share with your partner rather than trying to get/take love from him. It uses terms like "wounded self" and "inner child" and that turned me off at first but it really made a huge difference in my life. I haven't had that panicked feeling since it really clicked for me. Mind you, it took months of reading this site and her books and articles (check them out on Huffington Post) for me to internalize it and stop looking to others to take care of my needs.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:38 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Write a list of all the awesome things he's done for you and the ways he's cherished you.

Refer to the list when you feel those anxious feelings arise.

Believe in the list.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:41 AM on May 7, 2014 [11 favorites]

A couple ideas I can think of:

Find other sources of validation. Really. Your therapist is one of these, but friends can also help. Reality checks are something everyone needs every once in a while. Take the pressure off of your boyfriend by not relying solely on him.

Code words and shorthand so you don't get into too much drama and pressure. Rather than specifically saying, for example, You know I have abandonment issues so promise me right now you will never leave me, and that I am more brilliant and gorgeous than any woman you have ever been with!, you can just signal to him that you are feeling a bit more needy in general. It can be as simple as, "Honey, I am having a banana slug day" (or whatever).
posted by misha at 9:42 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm working on this right now, too. One of the things my psychologist suggested I do that has been very helpful for me is to ask myself a series of questions, "Are my feelings of insecurity reasonably justified? What does this feeling do for me?" Every time I start to get that pang of anxiety, I try to walk myself through these questions. Most of the time, I figure out that my feelings, while valid, aren't reasonable; they also don't really serve me in any positive or productive way.

In that moment, I try to figure out how I can validate myself...because really, that's what this all boils down to. The ability to find that validation from within seems like something one must practice to do, either by meditation or positive self talk or some other means.
posted by singinginmychains at 9:46 AM on May 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think he needs to find ways to help you validate yourself, and maybe needs to be told that's what you need. "When I ask for this, what I really need is for you not to shut down, and to understand that what I need is a bit of a metaphorical kick in the ass. Remind me that you love and cherish me, and that my insecurities don't reflect reality." If that's the task, then be clear about that and express your hope that he is equal to it; he doesn't need to be put on the spot to fill the void you yourself are leaving.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:50 AM on May 7, 2014

What works for me is to go ahead and think about the worst-case scenario, and think through how I would survive it...and thrive, to boot. In your shoes, rather than try to convince myself of how unlikely it is that he would leave, I would think, OK, what if he left. I would grieve (there are stages of that), and I would get help from friends, and take care of myself, and rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and find love, and live a joyous rollercoaster of a life.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:51 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hello! I am exactly like this! I have been That Girl, who is constantly asking her partner if he loves her, really loves her. It's the worst, for everyone.

My best advice: Change so that the primary source of validation in your life is from yourself. Do things and let yourself be proud of them. Be someone you would want to be friends with. Change your inner dialogue so you value your own opinion about yourself. Confidence.

This is very, very difficult and I don't mean to be glib. It's something I work on every day. But in the long term, it's so worth the investment. It will transform love and relationships into something you feel like you're adding to, not something you feel you're drawing from all the time.

Short term: Work out with your boyfriend something he can do that makes you feel reassured. Something non-verbal - a long hug, or whatever. Then you can ask for that when you need it. May defuse the heaviness of asking if he loves you, which feels loaded and unfair.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:10 AM on May 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

In CBT my therapist has me write an "appreciation journal" for myself. Every day I have to write something I appreciate about myself. It helps to have to think about this every day, and it's a good thing to look back on when I'm feeling insecure.

Another CBT tool is to do a "thought record" when you're having an anxious thought. It helps you reframe so that you have a more balanced thought.
posted by radioamy at 10:25 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think what you're describing is anxiety, a pressure and panic that's hard to resolve, that's physical. Even his reassurance may not be enough to make that feeling go away. For me, treating anxiety includes learning that it's a feeling that doesn't have to be obeyed. I can experience it, examine it, and decide if there's something real to worry about. If there's something real, I can make an action plan. If it's just generalized anxiety that has become attached to something in my life, I can wait it out, go for a walk, play with the dog, call a friend, etc. Work with your therapist to develop coping strategies. Just recognizing what's going on is a huge step that sets you up for success.
posted by theora55 at 10:57 AM on May 7, 2014

This is not pleasant, but my boyfriend trained me out of similar doom spirals by walking out if verbal reassurances didn't work. He would walk out of the room, or sometimes even out of the apartment and around the block. It was just shocking enough that it always brought me back to a "act like a polite adult" headspace. It was also effective because he always, always came back. Eventually I learned that even when I was acting in a way that upset him, he would come back. It's been six months since he last had to do that and I don't think he will have to again.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:30 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Since this is a "love language" thing, maybe you need a translation guide. You could even write these translations down so that you don't have to try to think of them in an anxious state (which is sort of the whole problem).

For example, if you start worrying that he hasn't said "You're an important part of my life." lately you can just go to your guide and see that translates into "Gave me apartment key" "Introduced me to parents" "Turned down party invite to hang out with me" "Sent me a 'just thinking of you' text", etc.

I'm not saying you should try to change who you are or that he shouldn't want to make an effort in being more verbal, but if you keep adding to the guide maybe having the "hard evidence" will help cut through the worry.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:36 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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