Hi. My name is Isaac. Like many men, I find myself to be, at least from time to time, insecure about being in a relationship with a woman.
What are my insecurities? I worry about how I sound when I sing in the shower. I worry that I volunteer too much info about myself. I worry that I’ll hit someone with my car on a date. But, most of all, I worry that I will suck at love.
It’s hard for men to admit this stuff. We want to come across like we have it all figured out, like we are strong enough for the both of us. But in reality, we’re dealing with some things internally that inevitably affect our relationships. And we’d typically prefer that nobody know about it, least of all the woman in our life.
And all men—no matter how confident they appear—are dealing with this.
The man you’re with is not likely to ever tell you this stuff. But you and I, dear reader, aren’t dating, and only good can come from better understanding the men in your lives and the sort of obstacles they might be dealing with (and by extension, you’d be dealing with).
The truth is, my singing voice in the shower is the least of my insecurities when it comes to dating women. But I do worry that I’m not particularly good at choosing a partner. That I put too much emphasis on physical attraction or a magical “spark,” or maybe that I’ll allow the pendulum to swing too far the other way and find myself with someone I have plenty in common with but whom I’m not attracted to enough. This leads me to avoid commitment more often than I’d choose to admit.
But then there are times, when I am confident in the woman I’m with, that I’m worried about other things: moving too fast into a relationship and scaring someone away or moving too slowly and losing someone.
After polling my friends, I discovered that there is a common underlying fear beneath all our shared concerns: What if I don’t have what it takes?
Most guys, if not all, struggle with the possibility that someday they simply won’t be able to measure up to the challenges that they’ll face in a committed relationship. For me, that can mean anything from not making enough money to not being loving and tenderhearted enough when my partner would need me to be. But perhaps the greatest anxiety in this regard is that she’ll leave me—or worse, stay with me but be miserable as a result. Either way, there’d be nothing I could do about it, or so the narrative goes in my head.
This anxiety, of course, comes from history. Especially for those of us who have been dumped before without much reason beyond “I’m just not that into you,” those past experiences can be like dark clouds hovering overhead. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy what’s happening because you’re afraid it’ll all be over in an instant. My buddy Alex puts it well: “They’ll [past girlfriends] say no one has ever been so fun, interesting, confident, and thoughtful . . . yet they want to end it. I’m thankful now that I have a girlfriend (three months strong), but I still face that demon from time to time—despite her being completely enamored by me.”
Your man is probably not expecting or even needing you to be his savior. In fact, I personally don’t want a woman to think I need any special treatment. Frankly, just being aware that a man might have self-esteem issues or questions of self-worth or in his ability to hold up his end of the bargain is a great first step that will be illuminating and helpful in its own right.
If a woman is patient and understanding when I make a mistake? That’s huge for me. That doesn’t mean she can’t be mad when I slip up. Nor does it mean I make all the mistakes. I just want to know that we’re in this thing together and that my mistakes or shortcomings aren’t going to change my standing with her. That will go a long way in helping me feel confident in myself and our relationship, and that will help me be a better man for her.
A wise man once said, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” In my experience, even beyond patience and understanding, the best cure for relationship anxiety is simply love. Resist the temptation to withhold affection or hold grudges against someone because that can really erode a sense of trust and companionship until it becomes a tug-of-war or, worse, a competition of manipulation.
If you sense that he feels inadequate, show him how much you love him. If you find him fretting about your future together, reassure him by your love. If you have a rough patch when you’ve wondered if the spark has faded, fan the flames a little bit. Believe me, your efforts won’t go unnoticed.
Photo Credit: Taylor McCutchan