Can the insecurities of your partner or yourself lead to an affair? Cheating in a romantic relationship? The answer may surprise you. That’s what we’re talking about on today’s podcast.
Let’s talk for a minute about the nature of why insecurity can be such a significant problem in a romantic relationship. Essentially, what’s happening when you are insecure is you have a different vision of yourself than the rest of the world typically has of you.
It could be that you don’t have a certain feature or attribute of your character and the world sees it, but you’re usually placing way too much emphasis on that void and not enough emphasis on all the great things that you bring to the world. And that’s where that sense of insecurity and the lack of self-confidence comes from.
Now, why is this so disruptive in a romantic relationship? Because what’s happening on a psychological level is you have a relationship with one person, right? Be it a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, whatever it is, right?
You have a relationship with that person and that person has a vision of who you are in their mind, and I can almost guarantee you that they’re not with you thinking: “Gosh, you’re so perfect except for this huge problem you have”. They’re not focusing on that insecurity, and when you focus on that insecurity, you’re essentially rejecting the vision they have of you.
A Permanent State of Self-Doubt is Annoying
Once in a while, if you’re insecure and it doesn’t come up much, it is not going to make a huge impact. But if it’s a perpetual problem in the relationship, or even with your own sense of self-confidence, then it’s going to come up constantly. And when that constant nagging or lack of confidence is verbalized or manifested, it eventually becomes annoying.
Because again, they don’t look at you through that lens. What happens over time is you are slowly changing their perception of who you are because you’ve rejected the version of you in their head. And when that happens, it’s a really interesting thing to watch, because what ends up happening is they will either cheat or break up, or fight all the time.
They feel they’re dating someone who is a completely different person than who they started dating. Because they had a vision of who you are in their mind, and you’ve ruined it through your own insecurities. And so now when they break up or cheat on you or fight with you, they’re fighting with a different version than they thought they were going out with.
Why Does it Happen?
The reason this happens is because of our individuality. A sense of character is not something you can define so simply. If I were to try to define myself, I don’t know exactly where I would start. I’m a man, I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a coach, I’m a counselor.
All these are labels. But I’m much more than all of that. And so are you. You have a certain amount of generosity. You have certain talents and hobbies, and the more a person gets to know you, the more facets of who you are they get to learn.
And usually, we don’t focus on the negatives of someone who we’re in a romantic relationship with, but as individuals, if there’s a part of our character that we don’t like and we harp on it, it becomes part of us that is exposed to our closest friends and family, and of course to our romantic partner in an exaggerated fashion.
And that exaggerated fashion of the one thing you’re not proud of can drive that person away from you. I see this all the time in both men and women, and there’s a stereotypical insecurity that each sex typically has.
Stereotypical Insecurity in Women: Looks
I’m not going to say that it doesn’t have crossover, because it does, but in my own private practice, I see women having a lot of insecurity about the way they look. It could be after they had a few kids and their body changes, or as women grow older and it’s harder to lose weight. This is especially common in couples that are going through in-vitro fertilization and there are hormone pills and different things that can change a woman’s body type.
Another thing to keep in mind when you have a physical insecurity is that it often can be an inhibitor of sexual exploration. If a woman is very self-conscious about the way she looks because she has gained weight or she has gone through some medical procedure (I’ve seen it happen when they’re scarring and they get different body types and energy levels) there are certain sexual positions she might not be as comfortable engaging in.
She might not want to try certain things. She might insist that the lights be turned off and that sexual inhibition, especially if it takes a sharp right turn to where the relationship was previously, can be disheartening for a partner, especially when the partner still sees that person as gorgeous.
That sexual inhibition can push their partner away. That’s another thing to keep in mind.
Women get very insecure about their physical appearance and what’s ironic about it is that while physical appearance is an attracting factor, when you’re with someone, you’ve bought into many other things that ignite the sexual chemistry.
It is the familiarity, the friendship, and the confidence that you have in your own skin. I’m going to be a little personal here. I am a little overweight and I’ve noticed that because I’m a little overweight (or a lot overweight, depending on who you ask, right?) I pull at my shirt because I don’t like the way my stomach looks sometimes in a shirt.
I’m just being completely vulnerable and open about it. But I notice that I pull, and I tug at the midsection of my shirt because the idea of a fabric wrapping tight around the part of the body that I don’t like is embarrassing to me. But if I’m comfortable in my own skin and I’m not wearing something inappropriate for my body type.
To Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin Is Attractive
If I don’t worry about it, that’s going to ring a lot more sexually attractive to people because I’m not sitting there nervous and wondering: “Oh no, are somebody going to see the one part of my body I’m insecure about?” That’s not attractive, right? People want to know that whatever I have, a long torso, short legs, unsmooth skin, I won’t make a big deal out of it.
And that instead, I will focus on aspects of my personality and my character that are attractive to others. Be it whether you’re funny or mysterious or engaging, whatever it is, there’s going to be something that attracts people to you, and that familiarity and confidence are what get people to want to spend more time with you, and sexual chemistry comes from that comfort.
Yes. If you’re trying to have a one-night stand or a fling, you can parade a very good body that’s been at the gym for several hours a day, like a piece of meat, and parade around the pool, or the beach and find somebody to engage with you in that physical way.
But generally speaking, in a long-term relationship, that’s not what we’re after. It’s very far from it. And to be honest, when the lights are off (if you don’t mind turning the lights off) your physical appearance isn’t even seen that well. And here is a Pro Tip from the time when I did movies in Hollywood. A little candlelight or dim light makes everybody look a lot better. So there’s no reason to get hung up on these things unless your partner is verbal about it.
Then you have to have a discussion on why it’s bothering them so much. And yeah, sometimes it’s their problem and not yours. The most interesting thing about this, which is also soul-crushing, is that in my own anecdotal experience, about half the time when a man has an affair with a woman, the woman that he’s having an affair with is not as attractive as his partner.
And the reason for that is they’re getting tired of the insecurity. The insecurity has driven a wedge into their friendship. And when the man keeps complimenting his wife or his girlfriend about how great she looks, and she keeps saying: “No, you’re ridiculous. I look horrible”. Eventually, he gets tired of hearing it, and when he compliments someone else and they say “Thank you” with a smile.
Then he’s able to engage in a conversation that isn’t frustrating and build a friendship, and that friendship, unfortunately sometimes can lead to an affair.
Stereotypical Insecurity in Men: Finances and Profession
Men stereotypically will be insecure about their finances or their profession. I see that happen quite often. And it has a lot to do with the way men are painted in society versus women. Typically, a man with a bad job, unless he’s got the body of an Olympic athlete, is going to feel a little insecure.
Insecure in terms of his status and appeal to the opposite sex. So if the woman is the main bread earner in a relationship and the man is between jobs, the insecurity could be pretty debilitating.
I haven’t seen this situation leading to affairs unless the man (or the woman, because the roles, in this case, can be reversed very easily) gets neurotic and starts talking about how bad he feels about not having a job, and he starts using expressions like: “I’m worthless”, or “I’m a failure”.
When a man feels like a failure he externalizes that through the way he talks and the way he acts, and that could be a huge turnoff and extremely frustrating for any partner and can lead to someone looking for someone who feels a little bit better about themselves.
We Miss Perspective
The funny thing is that we all get older and when we are in our eighties, we realize that money and looks aren’t as important as we thought they were when we were in our twenties, thirties, forties, or even fifties.
And what you want is that sense of loyalty, of comfort, that sense of home that your partner can bring to you, and insecurity ruins that feeling. What you learn in your seventies, eighties, and beyond is that on a subconscious level, insecurity was the driver for why people leave the relationship, but they can’t articulate it.
How To Deal With Insecurities
How do you deal with them? How do you deal with the insecurity? If that is the problem indeed, my advice is to seek help and understand that your vision of yourself is vastly different than what the world at large and your partner see in you. It always is.
Our own versions of ourselves tend to be very harsh. Unless narcissists, we tend to judge ourselves very harshly compared to the way other people look at us. And learn to accept a compliment with grace, it’s an important quality to have whether you’re in or out of a romantic relationship.
To have the ability to say: “Thank You” with a smile and any self-doubt that’s in complete opposition to that compliment needs to be addressed in a journal, in therapy, or with a friend or confidant, someone who’s not issuing you the compliment. Because it is a character flaw.
The ability to accept compliments with grace (and gifts for that matter, as a compliment is a verbal gift) is part of being an adult, and you should work on it if it’s something that you’re struggling with. And If your partner is struggling with it, then bring it up in a way where you want to help them, where it’s not a criticism.
Instead of saying: “You need to work on taking compliments” with an angry tone, make it about your own feelings. If you make it about how you are hurt that your partner won’t accept your compliments they will look at it with a slightly different perspective.
Try something like this: “You know, it hurts me when I compliment you and you reject the vision I have of you because that’s the vision I’ve fallen in love with. And I know that you might not see yourself that way, but that’s how I see you. And it would be really nice for me if when I compliment you, you say Thank You.”
See how it shifts the conversation to make it about you. Why is that important? Because people can’t argue with your emotions when you say: “I’m hurt”. No one can tell you you’re not hurt. It exists solely inside you. Making that shift in the conversation so that your partner realizes they’re hurting you when they reject a compliment of your vision about them.
My Recommendations to Deal With Insecurities
- Seek professional psychological help
- Soften your self-judgment
- Learn to accept compliments with grace
- Discuss it with a friend or confidant
Insecurities Can Be About Anything
Let’s take a look at some other insecurities that might happen because this can happen across the spectrum. I just talked about money and physicality, but it can really be anything. I once had a client who grew up in a modest upbringing. They didn’t go out to eat too often. When they did go out to eat, the idea of anyone in the family ordering something to drink other than water was ridiculous because the water was free.
And why would you pay $5 for a soda when you can get it for a few pennies at the grocery store? I’m using exaggerations, but you get the idea. And she ended up marrying somebody who was successful in his career and grew up in a very affluent family. Her insecurity about the way she was raised caused her to not want to go to these high-society events.
They were on the East Coast and there were balls, galas, and fundraiser events where they were black tied and she didn’t feel equipped. It was like that scene in Pretty Woman where she didn’t know what forks to use.
He found it charming that she was down to earth and wanted her there but she felt so uncomfortable that she didn’t go to these events after a while. And he was obligated because these events were related to his business dealings. So he ended up meeting somebody else who would also frequent these high-society events, and it led to some friction in the relationship.
Luckily for them, they stopped it before it became an affair, she worked through her issues and he was much happier to go with his wife than with this other person that he met in those circles. But it was dangerous for while. So it can be any insecurity that comes up.
Warning Sign: Your Partner Stops Complimenting You
What are some warning signs that these insecurities are becoming an issue and might lead to an affair? The big one. The huge one is if your partner stops complimenting you. If you were with someone who was verbally very effusive and talked about how pretty you were and through your rejection caused by your insecurities they eventually just stopped.
That’s a red flag. Because that means they once bought into this vision of you and now they’re so annoyed with your insecurity that they just moved on. And once they move on from one part of the relationship, moving on to another part and moving out of the relationship eventually becomes easier.
So if someone was complimenting you before about any part of your character and they’ve stopped because you’ve essentially told them not to compliment you about that, that is a very big red flag. I would take that to heart. Insecurity is something we all deal with. How you let it manifest in your life and how you let it manifest within a romantic relationship is very important.
Final Thought. Don’t be a Thief
You want to keep in mind that the vision you have of yourself will always, 100% of the time, be different than the vision others have of you, and in a relationship, it’s important to honor the vision that your partner has of you.
So if in your mind you are this decrepit little, ugly, poor, lazy slob, but your partner has these rose-colored glasses on, and thinks of you as the most beautiful creature who walks the earth and who spreads kindness, and is productive, and a huge contributor to society, who are you to steal that vision from them? That is theft in many ways.