Although I’ve known for a long time that insecurity can squash the romance in a relationship, this point was driven home to me with one of the couples I worked with several years ago. When I first started seeing this couple, the man had been treating his wife poorly for a couple years. He would speak to her harshly, stay out late drinking, dismiss her concerns, and, in general, act as if she was a nuisance rather than his wife. On her side of things, she would tiptoe around his harshness, shrink when he would dismiss her, and play small in countless ways. Interestingly enough, though, she—like many of the women I work with—was actually quite strong, competent and confident at work. Her strength, in fact, was part of what attracted him to her in the first place. Over time, though, his gruffness wore her down and her meekness turned him off and only intensified his poor treatment.
As you can probably guess, the work that needed to happen for this couple was that he needed to soften and be more relational, while she needed to toughen up and get stronger. One day, after several months of hard work, he started telling me about several instances where his wife stood up to him and wouldn’t let him get away with treating her the way he used to. He was actually smiling when he was telling me all the examples of her standing up to him. When I asked why he was smiling, he said it was because he found her strength to be attractive. He went on to say that he couldn’t believe he was saying that because he hates being “called out,” yet at the same time, he didn’t like her previous acceptance of his poor treatment. It left him seeing her as weak and kind of beneath him. Not surprisingly, she reported feeling more confident and attractive and had a greater sense of self-respect herself.
Insecurity in relationships can show up as hesitancy, placating, avoiding conflict, shrinking, silencing, not making decisions and not having your own back. It is anything but attractive and it keeps people in very unhealthy relationships. Although women tend to do this more often than men, there are plenty of men who struggle with this same issue—with the same result. Men and women alike do not find it attractive to watch their partners repeatedly cave in to them. Neither men nor women feel better about their partner in response to the shrinking. Your shrinking to someone’s harshness or poor treatment often leaves them feeling more anger and resentment toward you than before. It also results in a slow and steady build-up of disdain. Over time, this kind of meek behavior also chips away at your own self-respect, strength, and sense of self-worth. Nothing is worth this high cost.
If you find yourself cowering, shrinking or otherwise playing small in your relationship in an effort to be “nice,” avoid conflict, etc., then it’s time to re-evaluate your actions. This type of behavior reeks of insecurity and will invite more disdain, bad treatment and negative interactions than before. Get whatever help is necessary for you to learn to stand up for yourself with confidence, strength, and compassion.
Challenge: Insecurity, shrinking and cowering to anger, reactivity and poor treatment are unattractive and harmful to the self. Begin to stand up for yourself with strength, compassion, and authority and notice what happens as a result.
For the women who struggle with this issue, join my 3-week course on Cultivating a Grounded Powerful Strength to help you with this endeavor. It starts on Thursday, June 13th! https://lisamerlobooth.com/setting-groundwork-course/
For the men struggling with this situation, give my office a call (508) 520-6547 and I’d be happy to work with you to tackle it.