Anxiety within Relationships

Relationships are wonderful and difficult at the same time. People who enter their intimate relationship secure and confident within themselves are much better equipped to give that to one another. People who are basically confident and secure in their own separate ability to handle conflict do not readily fold when it occurs.

Unfortunately, when one or both partners enter their relationships without their individual security intact, they rely on the relationship to define their value. If challenges occur in the partnership, their individual insecurities are likely to emerge.  

As insecurity increases in any of us, so do the symptoms that are associated. Anxiety, paranoia, fears of loss, instability, and increasing needs for reassurance begin to diminish our capacity to think and act effectively. Even if the more secure partner the relationship tries to do everything right to help the other feel safe.  

Imagine how you would feel on the other end of someone you deeply care about who is constantly fearful and anxious. You would naturally try as hard as you could to heal those feelings of uncertainty and reassure that special person that everything will be okay. No matter how deeply you love, no matter how committed you are to the relationship, no matter how much you want to help, you are human. At some point in time, you will begin to feel helpless and powerless, then insecure in your own ability to make a difference.

If you are a relationship partner who becomes insecure, you are not alone. There are things you can do. There are six common causes that make all people feel insecure within their relationships.

Once you have identified where your insecurity stems from, the next step is to learn how to lessen the impact of those drivers and to change those responses in the future.

The Six Most Common Causes of Insecurity

1) Genetics

All people have a built-in alarm system to protect them from harm. Whenever threatened, their bodies produce chemicals that help them to survive by fighting, fleeing, or freezing. Some people have a more physical trigger-ready response to threats from birth. Those individuals naturally react more intensely to perceived threats and are more likely to anticipate future ones.

2) Environmental Stressors

People who have suffered trauma in childhood often have a more intense fight or flight reactions when they feel threatened. If a person has been abandoned or wounded during those episodes, their confidence and innate sense of security will become more vulnerable in subsequent losses.

3) Fear of Disappointing

Many people are terrified to be discounted by those important to them. They have assumed responsibility for lost relationships by feeling that they did not measure up. If losses accumulate, they become even more reticent to express their reactions for fear they will again push the other partner away. That kind of insecurity feeds upon itself and can reinforce their feelings of being basically unlovable.

4) Conflict Aversion

Confidence increases when people are able to triumph over adversity. If relationship partners are innately insecure, they are less willing to take chances that might give them the opportunity to develop alternative options and more resilience.

5) Dependency

People who feel that their partners are only with them because they haven’t yet found someone better, often become hyper-vigilant and increase their dependency on their partner’s supportive responses. They tend to narrowly focus on only the behaviors that keep things in order and become totally dependent on those outcomes.

6) Broken Trusts

Intimate partners who have been abused, abandoned, or betrayed in the past, are going to be naturally warier in subsequent relationships.

Steps to Becoming More Secure

Ultimately your success in relationships will boil down to getting a handle on your own insecurity. Your fear of loss might keep you from fully expressing those values in any relationship.


Make a list of all the people in your life who you believe in your heart care about you. To whom have you truly mattered? Ask yourself what each would say about you, and why they felt that way about you. As you let yourself feel that safety and comfort, listen for any voices in your head or heart that have made you doubt those positive feelings.

Avoid Avoidance

Avoidance is arguably the main factor that allows anxiety to develop and propagate. If you’re avoiding things that most other people think are safe, then you may need to deal with what may be inappropriate anxiety. Avoiding the things that make you anxious never allows you to find out the reality of the threat – it may not be a threat at all. But you don’t discover there’s no monster in the closet if you continue to avoid opening the closet door. Message to self: “Anxiety feeds off avoidance, I’ll try and find a way to face my fears.”


Every person needs to feel that what he or she says or does affects the people who are important to them. Think about relationships where you have felt you’ve made a difference, where the person on the other end of you is truly affected by who you are and what you’ve had to say.

Fall-Back Networks

No intimate relationship can survive and prosper if it is the only meaningful connection a person has in his or her life. Secure people seem to know that innately and maintain many quality relationships they can fall back on if their primary one is in jeopardy. They continuously keep those networks alive and available. Trusted and committed friends, family members, co-workers, spiritual advisers, communities of like-minds, and sacred causes are all places to regenerate that do not depend on only one person in one relationship.

Acknowledgment of One’s Own Marketability

Although it may be a very difficult concept to accept, accurate and honest assessment of our own value is crucial to knowing what we can expect from others. You must believe in your own value, no matter who you are with and be realistic in terms of where that puts you in the current partner-availability process.  

Not Letting the Past Define Your Future

The past is for lessons. The present is for experiences. The future is for dreams. Insecurity increases when the past continues to become the future when people have not resolved their past fears or failures.

Understand the Difference Between Abandonment and Disappearance

The fear of abandonment is a common driver of insecurity for many people. Everyone wishes they could control fate and fears being alone and unwanted. Most people do not thrive when disconnected from others.

For Help:  

If you or someone you know might be experiencing anxiety or insecurity in a relationship or in general, utilize Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits to seek services from highly qualified, licensed professionals.

Psychological Health Roanoke provides the EAP services for Family Service of Roanoke Valley and provides these updates on a monthly basis to help our employees manage their own lives, emotions and responsibilities.


  1. Gunther, Randi, Ph.D., Insecurity. Psychology Today, retrieved on January 31, 2018 from

  2. Davey, Graham, Ph.D., 10 Tips for Managing your Anxiety. Psychology Today Retrieved on January 31, 2018  from