Let’s work backwards. The opposites of confidence and security are doubt and insecurity. If we explore habits that foster doubt and insecurity, maybe doing the opposite would build confidence and security instead. What makes you doubt your partner or feel insecure about your relationship? While actions our loved ones do or things they say can ignite doubt and insecurity in us-and it’s great to communicate openly about those things with each other-how we think and respond ourselves is just as important. This article by Psychology Today explores the difference between reacting and responding. Reacting to one another can trigger a downward spiral of doubt and insecurity while responding to each other can build confidence and security.
According to Psychology Today, reactions arise when we sense threats to our psychological survival. Our brain interprets these very similarly to threats of physical survival, which explains our often physical reactions during arguments when we experience threats to our psychological survival-heart racing, shortness of breath, shaking. Threats to psychological survival include matters of self-identity (how we describe ourselves), self-esteem (how we evaluate ourselves) and our goals (educational, career and financial aspirations). Some examples of instincts we’ve developed to protect our psychological survival are perfectionism, fear of failure, need for control and the need to please. Thankfully, there’s another way. Our “prefrontal cortex” gives us the ability to engage in deliberate thinking and thoughtful decision making, helping to guide our behavioral responses and emotions.
When two different people with different life experiences and past hurts or fears are in a close relationship, we will inevitably do or say things that unintentionally threaten each other’s identity, self-esteem or goals. It’s how we respond when we feel threatened that builds true confidence and security in a relationship. Here are some ideas to get started building healthy response habits:
Taking a few deep breaths when you feel frustrated helps your brain get the oxygen it needs to think clearly. Plus, it gives a small buffer of time between an incident and a response.
Ask more questions to gain clarity on a situation before reacting. And take the opportunity to explain how you are interpreting the situation. Most often in a conflict, how we interpret a situation and what the other person meant are very different. Give them a chance to share and hear how they have affected you.
Ask for more time before jumping into a discussion. If you find something really distressing, it might be worth it to ask for some time to step away and process before asking questions and discussing the matter any further. And make sure to respect your partner if they ask for some processing time and don’t press them to resolve right away.
Believe the best. Underneath all these tips, we should have an attitude of believing the best in our partners. Feeling believed in and trusted makes us want to work through conflict in a kinder, more loving way, which in turn builds more mutual confidence and security!