The Importance and Impact of Reassurance in Relationships
Have you ever had moments where you were second guessing yourself for just about any situation? What about a fear or worry of doing or saying something wrong and losing important people in your life as a result? Maybe that one action or phrase that could lead to something bad happening to your relationship?
As people, we have relationships and within those relationships, we most likely would like to feel comforted by our friends and romantic partners. Even the most secure of us can have moments of doubt or insecurity about ourselves or our relationships. Asking for that little piece of validation and reassurance can go a long way in helping us feel more secure and heard when we most need it.
What is reassurance?
In therapy, reassurance is basically a technique used as a means of support, to encourage someone to explore their personal relationships and feelings. As a result, this allows one’s anxious thoughts to diminish. It’s an important tool that therapists use to help clients understand that what they are feeling and experiencing is okay and normal. But what about outside of the realm of therapy?
Outside of therapy, reassurance can be both similar and different. When we talk about reassurance for a romantic relationship, reassurance can be very powerful in helping a partner feel heard about the worry in the life they are building together. This response can provide a sense of understanding and empathy, which often can be what reassurance looks like for many people, rather than false reassurance which might sound more like “There is nothing to be stressed about”.
How normal is it to ask for reassurance?
All of us at some point have had experiences of doubt and question, and being able to ask our partners for reassurance is very courageous and powerful. It allows us to be vulnerable with each other and feel the positive interaction and validation, and healthily express each other with our partners. Especially in those moments of doubt, people like receiving the affirmation that says we are valued and loved by our partners. At the same time, the flipside is that sometimes there comes a point where too much reassurance is being sought, which can also impact the relationship.
Reassurance itself is normal in any relationship. The occasional words of comfort can feel pretty good and natural, and might be expected of anyone periodically. When sought out continually, however, there might be more beneath the surface.
Why do I need constant reassurance?
The need for reassurance can most likely be thought about through the lens of attachment theory by Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby. In a nutshell attachment theory focuses on the idea that our earliest relationships, usually with our caregivers but not always, which set an expectation for how we view other relationships in life.
There are typically 3-4 attachment styles
- Secure: Where individuals have learned through their relationships with their caregivers who were available and responsive in a consistent manner that other people can also be trusted and dependable.
- Avoidant: This is when people “learn” others can be hard to trust or depend on because caregivers have typically been unresponsive emotionally or critical of our expressions.
- Anxious: When there are inconsistencies of availability in parenting styles, such as mixed signals of support and care then switching over to disengagement and distant, this has been theorized to create anxieties about the reliability of our relationships. This anxiety might feel overwhelming and we seek reassurance to make sure everything is okay.
- Anxious-Avoidant: Essentially a mix of both anxious and avoidant styles, we seek affection in the relationship as well as reassurance; but also have a reluctance to develop close relationships.
For further reading, also take a look at our article about attachment styles.
Some research has suggested that not being able to have secure attachments in early life can potentially impact behaviors and relationships in older life. Consistently seeking reassurance in relationships can stem from the anxieties that our partners do not care or love us in the way that we ideally expect them to. Going back to the anxious attachment style, people might feel insecurity about their relationships based on a worry that partners might leave. Validation is sought out in order to satiate that sense of worry.
Excessive seeking of reassurance can feel crucial for those needing to decrease anxiety about their relationship. Anxieties might become heightened based on past experiences with loved ones, drawing out a feeling of uncertainty.
Ways to Manage Seeking Reassurance
While it is okay to be reassured in a relationship, it is also important to recognize how much might be too much. This might depend from relationship to relationship, but also recognizing our patterns and behaviors can help with actively mitigating the need to be reassured by others. By having an insight into the roots of our relationship anxieties, we can be active in reacting differently.
Here are some actionable strategies to consider:
- Breathe: A way of practicing mindfulness in our everyday life, slow and steady breathing can help start the practice of being aware of your physical self and the current moment. Mindful breathing has been suggested to reduce stress and emotional reactivity which might also lead into the anxious need for reassurance. The square breathing exercise mentioned in one of our other articles can be a useful method of taking a step back to bring focus to ourselves, calming our mind from the “what ifs” about your relationship.
- Self-Soothe: A strategy to utilize when feeling overwhelmed or anxious, self-soothing can be done in many ways. One helpful method is by engaging your 5 senses slowly so that you can take in the present moment around you. The idea is to focus on your self and what your senses are allowing you to acknowledge.
- Self-Care: It is important to take some time for yourself. Self-care can be an essential path to self-love and confidence. Being able to utilize personal care to combat anxiety can be helpful in minimizing the need to highly rely on others, particularly our partners, for assurance about your relationship.
- Reassure Yourself: Based on the reassurances that you want from your significant other, an encouragement here might be to ask yourself what kinds of reassurances you want to give yourself. There may be words that you are looking for from others that you can try giving yourself such as “Things are okay”, or “We are good”. As important as it feels for your partner to give you that reassurance about your relationship, you are also a part of that relationship yourself. So it can stand to reason that you can also provide that reassurance for yourself as well.
Seeking reassurance from your partner can be a comforting response to the fears and doubts that show up in a relationship. Our attachment styles can be a strong factor in why some of us might want reassurance more than others. Being able to take notice of our own responses and needs for reassurance and attachments can be a great first step to mitigating the compulsion to frequently want the confirmation that your relationship is okay.
While a partner providing reassurance is not necessarily a bad thing, it is also important to reflect internally and think about the roots of why reassurance might be so important for some of us. A reminder that being able to reassure yourself can be powerful as well, since you are also one part of the relationship your concerns might be geared towards.
Additional Readings to Consider
All material provided on this website is for informational purposes only. Direct consultation of a qualified provider should be sought for any specific questions or problems. Use of this website in no way constitutes professional service or advice.