For some, it’s an aphrodisiac. For others, it’s a repellant.
By Leigh Norén — Written on May 08, 2023
Photo: MS_studio / Shutterstock
Relationship insecurity can impact your sex life in two completely different ways.
For some couples, feeling insecure in their relationship stimulates their sex drive. It’s like their insecurities kick up their interest in sex and their sexual connection is more on fire than ever.
And for other couples, relationship insecurities are like being splashed with cold water on a freezing day. They make everything worse, and then some.
So, whether your sex life is in overdrive but you don’t feel close to your partner, or it feels like the cold of winter between you, this article aims to help you understand the impact that feeling uncertain about your partner can have on your sex life, plus what to do next.
When insecurity is an aphrodisiac
It may sound counterintuitive, but for some couples, relationship insecurity actually turns things up in the bedroom. And while this might be lovely in and of itself the problem still remains. Because passion isn’t enough to fix their worries about their relationship.
They may feel unsure if the relationship will last.
Or, they may worry their partner isn’t as interested in them anymore.
That their partner doesn’t find them attractive anymore.
Fears like this can lead to a revved-up sex drive but higher libido doesn’t necessarily heal the emotional disconnect.
How jealousy increases interest in sex
This kind of jealousy can include fears of another person moving in on your relationship. Or perhaps your partner has wandering eyes.
Emotional jealousy can also rear its head. Sometimes this is sparked when your partner opens up emotionally to others outside of your relationship.
In cases where jealousy is present, it’s important to understand that the jealousy you’re feeling, is kicking in as a protective measure to help bring you closer to your partner through sex.
Essentially, your sex drive gets turned up by fear.
Because on a subconscious level, your brain and body believe they’re protecting you from your partner leaving you. Because their mind believes more sex equals more closeness therefore there’s less risk of abandonment.
Fear — the off-button for desire
This is the more common story you hear from the movies or in pop culture.
That the fear of a relationship ending or some insurmountable problem between you causes both parties to turn away from each other instead of toward each other.
In my work as a sex therapist and coach, this typically presents as couples with mismatched libidos. Whether one person wants sex all the time and another never wants it the intimacy between them feels broken. And this is because the deeply held worries listed above act like a paralyzing agent where both parties want to get close yet have no idea how to.
If this sounds like you it’s important to dig into why this happens. Because when you experience relationship insecurities, the details about your present-day relationship or marriage only tell part of the story.
Because more often than not your insecurities are about what is happening between you now and what has happened in previous relationships.
Oftentimes this goes all the way back to your childhood and things like how your parents showed you love. Essentially, we’re looking at your attachment pattern and what this says about how you relate to your partner.
How your attachment pattern affects your sex drive
Attachment patterns are something we all have. Basically, they are the imprint on our psyche and body from our parents (from the time we were born) showing us how relationships work and what we can expect from those relationships.
They affect what you’re like in romantic relationships and how you treat your partner. But it’s even deeper than that, too.
Attachment patterns also affect how you think of your relationship and how you interpret what your partner does or doesn’t do.
This can lead to misinterpretations that can have deep effects on your relationship or marriage.
For instance, when it seems like your partner is pulling away, or you two aren’t getting along your fear and worry might actually be something triggered from the past.
Because your reaction to what’s going on now is being interpreted through the lens of your past. And the same goes for your partner, too.
So when you’re anxious about your relationship you’re vulnerable to what you were taught about relationships when you were young.
And if you have what’s called an “anxious preoccupied attachment” pattern, it’s very likely relationship insecurity is something that heightens your desire for sex. This happens as a protective mechanism to help you secure your partner so you don’t need to worry about them leaving you.
On the flip side, if you have what’s called “secure attachment” then you might not experience the same increase in desire.
Instead, you might feel like you don’t ever want sex because you’re not feeling emotionally connected to your partner.
Your romantic past also plays a role in your attachment & desire patterns
Beyond what your parents taught you about love and relationships your previous romantic relationships have taught you things as well.
For example, if you have previously been cheated on, you’re likely more vulnerable to picking up signs of a partner who isn’t as emotionally attached as they used to be. And this all occurs as a way to try and protect you from future hurt. Even if there’s no factual evidence to be found.
Take a step back from your relationship insecurities and ask yourself some questions
When you feel insecure in your relationship it’s important to take a step back and put some of the pieces of the puzzle together.
This will give you a greater understanding of why your interest in sex has changed (and what you can do about it).
Because when look past the surface of what’s going on you can gain a greater understanding of where your relationship insecurity is actually coming from.
And once you have those answers and understand all of the underlying factors that might be contributing to your relationship insecurity that’s when you can do something about it.
And that something is usually to have a conversation with your partner about how you’re feeling.
Together you can pick it apart and really get to see what’s happening
Does your partner feel the same way you do?
Are you interpreting your partner’s signals in the correct way?
Are you perhaps interpreting them in a more negative way because of past events in your life?
Or maybe you’re interpreting them negatively because of how your parents educated you about love and security?
The truth is sometimes your interpretation is faulty. And there’s not actually something wrong with your relationship or how your partner feels about you.
For instance, say your partner comes home at the end of the day and you feel like you can’t really connect with them. Perhaps, they’re a bit standoffish and they don’t really open up about what’s happened during the day.
Because of your backstory, your mind instantly goes into a tailspin thinking of all of the possible reasons why your partner is doing this and how it surely must have to do with you.
Your mind is filled with messages like:
“They’re tired of me” “They’re bored of me” “I’m unattractive”
You’re consumed with thoughts about what you’re doing that’s causing your partner’s distance. When in fact your partner is just exhausted at the end of the day. They don’t have the bandwidth to connect with your emotions.
They may be still preoccupied with thoughts about work and they’re not even thinking about how they’re coming across to you because they’re so comfortable with you.
In a situation like this, it’s easy to make up all kinds of ideas in our own minds. And the solution? To have a conversation with your partner.
Because when you do, it will inform you much better than your mind can ever do. and it might actually show you that some of your thoughts are just merely catastrophizing. This means you’re having “catastrophic thoughts” or “doomsday thoughts” that might be linked to feeling insecure in your relationship.
And these kinds of thoughts can often be the catalyst to start down the path of desire differences.
Another major source of friction is fighting
For a lot of couples, being in conflict a large portion of the time and fighting more than enjoying each other’s company can be a major source of relationship insecurity.
Because many of us believe that relationships devoid of conflict are the healthiest ones.
The truth is that while conflict in and of itself isn’t enjoyable it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong with your relationship or that you’re doomed.
Quite the contrary.
There are actually studies that show that when the arguments stop and you become complacent (such that you can’t even be bothered to argue anymore), that’s when your relationship is the most vulnerable to failing.
The very act of being in conflict means that there’s still love there
Fighting is a great source of stress, but it’d also be a sign you still care.
It means you still want to be together because if you didn’t there would be no point in arguing.
What the arguments are really saying is that there’s something still worth fighting for.
By taking a step back and having a look at the conflicts and what they’re about you’ll get closer to what’s really going on.
Perhaps you’re fighting as a way to try and get through to your partner. Or maybe your partner is picking fights about the laundry yet again. Not because laundry is their top priority but because they want so desperately to feel in connection with you.
Even if you don’t want to change anything about your overall relationship, the fact that you’re in a sexless relationship can be at the root of your relationship insecurity.
And if you’d like help addressing this head-on so you can create the kind of intimacy and toe-curling sexual experiences you deep down still hope to experience there’s help for that, too. Seeking the help of a sex therapist is the best way to work on both your sex life and relationship, with a trusted professional who knows how to move forward together.
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Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and coach with a Master of Science in Sexology. She helps people reduce stress, shame, and anxiety surrounding sex so they can get their sex drive back and enjoy their partner again.
This article was originally published at Therapy By Leigh. Reprinted with permission from the author.