Guilty of anxious texting, anyone?

"It feels like he hasn’t called or texted in a while. . . . Should I reach out to him? Or will that be annoying? What if he doesn’t respond? What if he doesn't care? What if this is his way of trying to leave the relationship? What if he's breaking up with me? Does he think I'm too needy? Wait—am I too needy?"

Does the above train of thought ever transpire in your mind? If so, rest assured you're not crazy, and you're definitely not alone. As a therapist, I hear these monologues all the time.

When you start to feel this way, your knee-jerk reaction is to seek affirmation from your partner: to call, to text, to see if he really does still care. However, the problem is that seeking too many reassurances can sometimes backfire, and your need for confirmation winds up sabotaging the relationship. But sometimes he may be up to no good—and your monologue is on point. Making you wonder: How do you know if you’re feeling needy because of something he is doing or an insecurity that you’re experiencing internally?

I've come up with a list of questions to ask yourself the next time your mind gets caught up in the infinite loop of self-doubt so that you have a better idea of what to do:

01. What’s my attachment style?

Knowing your attachment style is probably one of the most valuable pieces of information to know when you’re feeling needy. At its simplest, your attachment style refers to the way you bond to others in a relationship. As Verily contributor Amy Chan explains, if you frequently feel needy and insecure in relationships, you may have an anxious attachment style.

“When anxious attachers sense that their romantic connection is threatened, their attachment system goes haywire," she shares. "They desperately try to reestablish connection by calling or texting repeatedly, or they’ll try to punish their partner by withdrawing or resorting to some sort of destructive behavior.” 

If you know you have an anxious attachment style, this could mean that you are sensing a threat to your relationship that really isn’t there. If you experience this kind of anxiety regularly, take a quiz and find out what your attachment style is. Identifying this will give you some perspective the next time you feel like there's a Grand Canyon-sized gulf between you. 

02. What emotions am I feeling right now?

I hear you, sending him a quick text would be such a simple way to get rid of the uncomfortable needy feeling you’re experiencing, but it’s not an effective long-term solution. Before you hit send on that text, try to name what you are feeling. Are you feeling scared? Overwhelmed? Stressed? Often, our tendency can be to acknowledge that we don’t feel “good” and then react rashly to make that feeling go away. Taking the time to specifically name your emotion gives you more power over the situation, and yourself. 

03. What happened to trigger these emotions?

There’s a reason why you are feeling needy, but sometimes it takes a little digging to figure it out. Often, my clients will tell me how they felt needy about their relationship but they’ll have trouble pinpointing exactly what triggers those emotions. So ask yourself: What happened this time to make the fact that he hasn’t texted you a big deal? In most cases, for my clients who have an anxious attachment style, something stressful outside of the relationship sparked their needy emotions. For example, being assigned a large project with an impending deadline can spark feeling stressed which, in turn, can spill from your work life into your personal life. In a case like this, you might think you’re feeling insecure in your relationship when really it’s something else entirely.

04. Are my responses proportionate to what happened?

So he hasn’t asked you what your plans are for the weekend and you’re feeling a tad insecure. Take a step back and ask yourself if the intensity of your emotions matches the situation at hand. If your thoughts are telling you he’s breaking up with you because it’s Monday and he hasn’t asked you what your plans are for the following Saturday, you might be overreacting. If it's Friday night, and he's thirty minutes late picking you up, and there's no sign of him—your panicked reaction may be warranted. 

05. Have I reached out to someone I trust for advice? 

When you’re worried, it’s easy to get trapped in your own thoughts. Our brains are champs at taking us down the worst case scenario path. “Of course he’s breaking up with me! Never mind that we had a fantastic date last night. He hasn’t called me today, and that means the relationship is over.” Dramatic? Yes. But you get the point. Reach out to a trusted friend as a sounding board to help you figure out what is just in your head and what’s really going on.

06. What am I hoping will happen if I call/text/message him right now?

Let’s say you reach out to him. What do you hope will happen? You’re probably hoping he’ll respond back with words of reassurance which will help you feel better. But I can guarantee that if texting him at the first hint of insecurity becomes your M.O. it won’t be as effective as you may hope. When he responds, you’ll initially feel validated but that validation will fade, and your insecurity will creep right back in. So get in the habit of being concrete and realistic in your expectations before you decide to press send.

07. Has something like this happened before? 

After you've identified what exactly happened to spark this insecurity—ask yourself if this has happened before. If so, how did you handle it then? Reflecting on similar situations and how you responded to them can be helpful as you’re deciding what to do this time around. Use prior experiences as a blueprint for what to do and what not to do.

08. Is there a better way to respond? 

Reaching out to him isn’t the only way to deal with your insecurity. If feeling needy has more to do with you than with any real sign if withdrawal or lack of affection on his part, you might consider trying to remind yourself of how he’s shown you that he cares for you in the past, and go on with your day, focusing on something else, and making other plans involving other things you enjoy. 

09. If I don’t reach out, will my worst fears come true?

Sometimes our insecurity hijacks our brains and tells us that dire and very terrible things will happen if we don’t do something right now. Maybe he will suddenly decide he doesn't care for me and I will never hear from him again! Try to identify when this happens, and take a pause, and a step back, and ask yourself what are the actual chances that this will really happen? If it's low, don’t let your insecurity pressure you into taking actions that you wish you hadn’t.

Remember, there’s a difference between expressing your needs in a relationship and being needy. These nine questions will help you cut through the confusion and zero in on what’s really happening in your heart. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true: Knowledge is power, especially self-knowledge.