By Kyle Benson
Much of what we do in love happens without thinking.
Meet Katrina and Kevin. They’ve been married for 7 years, and have two little girls.
When asked about their relationship problems, Katrina starts first: “He’s pissed at everyone. Me. The kids. The dogs. We’re never enough. He throws temper tantrums that are exhausting me.”
Kevin cuts her off: “I look forward to seeing her all day, but she never misses me. I text and call but she ignores me. It’s like I’m annoying her. Do you know how many women crave a man who misses them during the day?”
Katrina eyes widen. She turns to him. “You never give me a chance to miss you. If you missed me so much, why do you come home so angry?”
“I’m angry because when I get home the kids are out of control, I’m exhausted, and you ignore me.”
“No I don’t. If I greet you I get put down.”
“I’m not the mean person,” he responds “You’re the cold one. You’ve even admitted it. When I call you during the day or ask to spend time with you at night, you’re always busy. You never say anything nice to me.”
Katrina lets out a sigh full of frustration. “You ignore the nice things I say. Or you spit them back in my face. Why would anyone want to be around that?”
Kevin glares at her, “I’m not the bad guy here. Do you know that every occasion, like our anniversary, is planned by me? Why don’t you ever plan it?” He crosses his arms. “You never know what to get me for my birthday, and if you even buy anything, it’s days late. Oh, and you don’t even want to have sex with me.”
“You’re too much.”
“I know. You’ve always felt that way. I’m just too much trouble, huh? You’re sorry you married me, don’t lie.”
My Insecurity Is Too Much
You may think Kevin is a needy nutcase. But his behavior is quite understandable when you realize that it stems from his experience with his parents. Kevin doesn’t know this, but he came to this relationship with his insecurity.
Kevin’s ambivalence comes from his desire to connect coupled with his fear of connecting. As he gets close to Katrina, he pulls back, anticipating disappointment.
Katrina doesn’t help the situation either, because her life experiences have taught her to remove herself from stressful situations in her relationships. Her removal reinforces Kevin’s insecurity.
While Kevin did receive plenty of affection from his mother, his life story focuses on the times she was upset with him. He remembers the moments she was too anxious to deal with his childhood fears or too occupied with her own life to deal with his needs.
The way that we perceive our life experiences determines the filter through which we see our present experiences. When Kevin was little, he loved to talk, play games, and cuddle. But he often felt like this was a burden. His talkative nature was “annoying,” or at least, Kevin’s parents made him feel that way.
All of our childhood experiences condition us to behave in ways that gain approval so our caretakers stay close, and avoid behaviors that lead to rejection, isolation and disappointment.
Kevin has yet to grasp why he attacks Katrina with anger whenever he reunites with her. His reaction disturbs him as much as it bothers her. During the day he really misses Katrina and looks forward to cuddling and having a great evening together. Yet, once he comes home, he is overcome with emotion. He feels that he’s drowning in a flood of anger without any indication of why.
Sometimes Katrina will greet him and say, “Hey babe. I’m glad you’re home.” And while Kevin may believe her, he thinks she might hiding her true feelings and feels defensive. So he responds, “you’re just happy I’m home so I can fix the garage door.”
He doesn’t want to insult her, but he fears what she is really feeling; that she finds him annoying. It’s been a fear his whole life. He’s afraid he requires too much to be loved. Even he says, “I’m a burden, you know. Really hard to love.” While Katrina denies her need to depend on someone, Kevin is very aware of his need to depend.
But society and his life experiences has taught him that his needs are too much for anyone. So even though he desperately craves closeness, he anticipates abandonment.
We often behave in ways that cause others to see ourselves as we believe ourselves to be.
Kevin’s anticipation of rejection is so powerful that he unconsciously behaves in ways that creates this very reaction in his partner through his anger and negativity. He pushes her in various ways until she pushes back. This creates a relationship for Kevin that confirms his self-view.
While Kevin’s insecurity can seem endless, and while his need for “constant” contact and reassurance can feel unreasonable to Katrina, neither of these are actually true. Kevin’s insecurity is maintained because both he and Katrina do not understand each other’s needs.
They have yet to focus on we-ness. If Katrina understood that contact with Kevin during the day served her as much as it served him, their relationship would transform. It would require her to overcome her “independent” tendencies and make herself available to Kevin during the day. Paradoxically, Kevin’s need to check and recheck her emotional availability would diminish. This is the Dependency Paradox of Love.
But fixing the relationship isn’t a one-sided fix. Kevin has to learn to happily respect Katrina’s need to get off the phone quickly, which helps her to manage her anxiety about feeling trapped. This creates the respect and space required for Katrina to heal her childhood wounds as well.
This we-ness would ease Kevin’s belief that their time apart was a sign of future abandonment, while alleviating Katrina’s belief that she’s a babysitter instead of a wife.
Healing their relationship requires growth for both partners. To face the anxiety of doing something counterintuitive to their nature.
Instead of pulling away, Katrina would move physically and emotionally closer. She would shower Kevin with “I missed you today,” or “Come here, angry pants, and give me a kiss. I’ve been waiting for it.” Partners like Katrina tend to laugh at such a “needy” suggestion. But this is the best way for her to help Kevin overcome his childhood injuries and change him from feeling threatened by rejection to feeling loved.
Kevin would have to make changes as well. He would have to recognize his hostile and negative behavior and apologize to Katrina when he attacks her. He would have to take responsibility for his part of the relationship problems and work in ways that lead him to see her loving behavior as loving, not a precursor to rejection. He would have to learn to respect her need for space and not see it as a sign of abandonment, but merely a need that keeps her happy.
With such a powerful shift in the way they treat each other, both Katrina and Kevin can stop pushing each other away and finally become closer.
Do you think you might be like Kevin? Do you agree with the following statements:
- “I take better care of others than myself.”
- “I often feel like I give and never get anything back.”
- “My partner is selfish and self-centered.”
Like Kevin, you may have needy tendencies that cause you to idealize others, but also have strong doubts of your own value and worthiness of your partners love. As a result, you may constantly seek approval and reassurance that you are loveable and won’t be rejected.
If your partner is emotionally unavailable like Katrina, then you are dating someone that reinforces your insecurity. If we have negative self-views, we often are attracted to partners who undermine our feelings of self-worth. If we believe that we require more closeness than our partners can provide, we often fall for those who push us away.
The way to break the chain of unhealthy relationships requires personal growth. It requires you to stand in the threshold of your insecurity so you can learn how to work with it. Learn the triggers and patterns that cause you to behave in ways that push your partner away.
It’s important to see the fights not as a sign of incompatibility, but as a signal that the relationship needs growth to occur. That both your partner and you need to find new horizons of communicating. To discover new ways of understanding each other, so when the inevitable problem happens, you understand each other well enough that both of you can repair the relationship.
Love is often seen as effortless, but that is a lie. Lasting love requires profound personal growth. It requires self-knowledge beyond what any life coach could offer. Love is the biggest people growing machine there is.
So my question to you is, are you going to continue to accept creating relationships that reinforce your deepest fears? Or are you going to stand up and create a deeply connected relationship that heals your past traumas, giving you love so powerful that you’ll feel happier, sexier, and more secure than you’ve ever felt in your life?
This was originally published on Healthy Relationships with Kyle Benson.
For more ideas on how to soothe your insecurity with your partner and create a meaningful relationship, grab my passionate relationship toolkit here.