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seekingwolf's avatar

How can I help my boyfriend be less insecure?

Asked by seekingwolf (9493 points ) April 11th, 2009

As some of you may know, I have a boyfriend of nearly a year. Despite some differences (he’s filipino and 15 years my senior) we are happy together.

Lately though, his insecurity is annoying the crap out of me. I love him dearly but this is really starting to bug me.

Now let me just say, it’s not that he’s always jealous; that doesn’t happen that often (when he does get jealous, he’s not mad, just sort of sad.) Anyway, he’s mostly insecure about how he is in our relationship..is he good enough? smart enough? interesting enough? He worries that he won’t make me happy and I’ll leave and he’ll be heartbroken. He doesn’t worry about me cheating, just about me being bored with him, not loving him, and then leaving.

here are some things that he does..
1) He needs frequent reassurance that I love him.
2) He fishes for complements
3) He gripes about himself and his “many” faults
4) Sometimes, he won’t open up to me about certain things because he’s worried what I’ll think…I have to pry to get information.
5) He calls me a lot more than he used to.

I can tell he’s unhappy…there are some money issues, some family issues (sickness), etc. He’s under a ton of stress. I believe this may be in connection with him becoming insecure and needy, because he hasn’t always been this bad, esp with the calling.

How can I help him be less insecure? I’ve already approached him about this and he says that he’s just this way because of bad past relationships and that it won’t change overnight. :(

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35 Answers

funky_princess's avatar

Ok well he right in what he says about it not changing overnight, and i honestly think there isnt a lot you can do, its his issues and only he can address them. As long as you dont give him any reason to doubt you there isnt anything more you can do if he isnt willing to help himself aswell.
When he is ready then maybe sit down together and have a really good chat about you relationship and the strains on it.
Sorry i couldnt be more help
Hope all goes well :) x

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

You can only reassure him so much. It sounds like he needs to do something to increase his confidence level.

I’ve seen where this path leads. The guy thinks he’s not good enough for his girlfriend and is convinced she will eventually leave him because of it. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy that allows him to stay in his comfort zone. Maybe the two of you could benefit by going out this weekend and doing something simple and fun like maybe a picnic. If he’s going to just sit around and mope that becomes a drag incredibly quick.

qualitycontrol's avatar

I’m like your boyfriend. If he’s looking for compliments, give him some unexpectedly to make him feel good. Guys like compliments about themselves too. Make a point to tell him what you like about him and why you’re with him. Also, actions speak louder than words. Do something nice for him to make him feel loved. Although it is his issue you can help him feel better. Maybe call him first before he calls you to let him know you were thinking about him and that you care.

seekingwolf's avatar

Thanks for your help guys.

I already spend a lot of time telling him that I love him and complementing him, but it doesn’t seem to be enough…I’m honestly at my wit’s end. If he doesn’t get better I don’t know how much longer we are going to make it. :(

He really has no reason to doubt me. I’m in college, but I only have about a few friends that I see on occasion. My time mostly revolves around studying and I don’t go out at all. I don’t see what he’s so worried about. Also, being older than me, he’s already been through college and knows more than I do!

Danielzilla's avatar

I suggest telling him how ridiculously awesome he is until he becomes an arrogant jerk. It worked for me!

Seriously though, give him some encouragement until all the crap in his life blows over.

seekingwolf's avatar

@Danielzilla

I know you’re right, but I don’t know how much longer this is going to take.

Things started to get bad in mid Feb and now it’s April. Normally I’m good at supporting people through hard times, but this is really wearing me down. I just don’t like clingy people and he’s turning into that!

I’m seriously considering taking a break and then coming back after my exams are done. I’d have even more time to study and just be by myself. I wouldn’t have to put up with it.

Danielzilla's avatar

There are two ways to look at this.

1. You leaving him would be the final crushing blow to his already failing ego that would send him spiraling into a self-destructive rampage of hellish doom.

2. You leaving him would make him realize that there are worse things in the world than money and family problems, like his amazing girlfriend leaving him, and he’ll straighten up.

I guess a third option is that he’d just roll with it. Things like this are tough, there’s no definite answer you just have to kind of play it by ear I suppose.

Zen's avatar

Call me later, we’ll have a talk, dear. I have some ideas, I don’t want to take up too much space here.

seekingwolf's avatar

@Danielzilla

It could go either way, I have no idea.

I remember the last time I said I needed some space…we didn’t talk for a few days, I was just stressed out and needed space. He ate his feelings, literally.

I have NO Idea how he’d take it if I actually broke up with him. It’s not something I like to think about.

kevbo's avatar

My gf is 15 years older, and I experience similar behaviors and dynamics although not nearly as severe as you describe. Before I get into that, though, recognize that he is probably clinically depressed and needs counseling. No matter what effort you put forth, his problems won’t get any better until he decides to get help.

Beyond that, I would try keeping things as normal as possible. What I mean by that is to take his attempts at wallowing and breeze through them. For example, he feels bad about himself for x, y, or z reason and tries to get you to validate the way he is feeling. Instead of trying to talk him out of it, agree with him, but do it in a way that is makes it obvious you are joking or teasing. You can also exaggerate it beyond what he thinks and well beyond what is reasonable for him to think. That way, you are at the same time acknowledging his feelings and creating some intimacy or caring for him by joking with him. If you do it right, it’s no longer a serious convo, it’s “yeah, you’re my boring, old boyfriend. i can hardly imagine why i’m still with you. what should we do for lunch?”

You’re never going to be out of the woods with this, (because the age thing, at the very least, never goes away), so bear that in mind going forward.

Also, she and I have been together 4 years, FYI.

nikipedia's avatar

1a) You can never change someone else’s behavior.
1b) If he is unhappy and he wants to change his behavior, he needs counseling.
2) How would you want to be treated in this situation? If you were feeling down on yourself, and he was annoyed with it, how would you feel if he told you he wanted to take a break so that he “wouldn’t have to put up with it”?
3) @kevbo is brilliant.

seekingwolf's avatar

@kevbo Hmm I never thought of that…I’ll give it a go. I already joke around a lot with him but never about stuff like his age, weight.

@nikipedia

Well, he wants to change his behaviour. Like I said, he’s not happy.

Honestly, a relationship needs to have both parties happy. I’ve addressed this situation with my boyfriend and he hasn’t done ANYTHING to try and improve his mood. Why, I have no idea. All I know is that I am not that happy. I have every right to be taking a break. I’ve had a previous boyfriend do the same to me and I was fine with it.

YARNLADY's avatar

This sounds like it could possibly be related to a medical disorder as well. Make sure he has a complete check up with his doctor to rule out diabetes, thyroid, or other hormonal cause.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I think it sounds like your boyfriend needs to work on his self-esteem. He can do this by getting involved in something, anything. A sports night with the guys, volunteering anywhere, potlucks weekly. Anything that puts him around other people and where he is being productive at something. That way his self-esteem won’t rely soley upon your relationship. If I were you and I really cared about this guy I would seek out these activities and encourage him to do them until he finds one that sticks. Dont’ devote too much time to it but just casually do so.

As part of your relationship I would make sure that once a week, without being solicited, you have some couples time and during this time in particular you make sure to compliment him. Give him what he wants without him having to ask for it. And you know what else. Every couple of days send him a text or leave him a note with a nice little thing about him. You might be surprised at how good it feels to give in this way or your probably already know what I mean.

I also want to ditto that it could be medically related. Stress, hormones, and poor diet/lack of excercise can change someones mood drastically. You might try asking that he take some fish oil supplements for his health. They even out mood. But you don’t have to tell him that’s why, lol.

Also I wouldn’t point out that his behavior is “bad” or “annoying”. If he is depressed, which it kinda sounds like, then it isn’t helpful to point these things out unless you do so to encourage him to seek counseling and then you should only do it say once every three months (unless of course you feel he is in danger).

Keep in mind if he is depressed it is very unlikely he will take steps himself to deal with it. Most people don’t seek help for depression until it is quite advanced and they have lost a lot. Also it will be quite hard on you. Depression is a beast.

I’m going up and reading what you said about taking a break and perhaps this relationship isn’t that serious for you in the first place?? If you really care about this gentleman it wouldn’t be so easy to just break it off.

qualitycontrol's avatar

You talk about him as though he is a burden on you. If you feel you can’t “put up” with his behavior then maybe he isn’t the one for you. This sounds like a bad time for you to dump him though. Like you said he is worrying that you will stop loving him and leave him heart broken. If you really want to be with him then you won’t let that happen. This could just be a phase. The whole world is under stress right now because of the economy plus the other stresses/problems of ordinary life. Do you want to become one of his past relationships that hurt him because he is going through a tough time and is in need of someone to be there for him when feels lonely? Why don’t you give it some more time?

emilia_eclaire's avatar

When a man 15 years your senior still has these sort of insecurities, not a lot will change. It IS a self-fulfilling prophecy, and what he really needs is a woman he thinks he deserves (someone not as great and awesome as you). Only then will he be comfortable with himself. You as a hip young college girl have no obligation to hang around and try to work through his poor self esteem issues. I don’t blame you for looking to bail out asap. You’ve only been with him a year, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t all that long.

seekingwolf's avatar

@RedPowerLady I’m starting to think that he may have depression. I’ve already done the “couple’s time” and it hasn’t really worked because he’s still just as needy and insecure, but I guess I’ll just continue with that. I was diagnosed with depression myself when I was 12 but it was because my parents noticed and forced me to the doctor.

Interesting about the fish oils! I never heard about that! I’m trying to get him to take better care of himself because he doesn’t exercise and doesn’t always eat healthy. He is overweight but that doesn’t really matter to me – I am just really worried about his health!

As for the break, just because I’m willing to take a break doesn’t mean that the relationship isn’t serious for me. I’ve always really needed my space and have taken breaks in the past when I felt it was “too much” or I just needed some time to think. In the end, I NEVER flirted/dated anyone during that time either. I benefited and so did my partner when it was over. Taking a breather is my way of dealing with difficult issues.

@qualitycontrol

You need to understand what I’m going through. I’m taking several high-level difficult classes in college and I have a jam-packed summer ahead. I’m pressured to do well and because I need to study a lot, I have little to no social life. Exams are coming up and the stress isn’t going to get better once school is done because I have a LOT of work to do.

The truth is (and call me selfish), I don’t want his insecurity/depression to weigh down on me and drag me down, and I know it may even though I am trying to help. I’m very susceptible to this. If I feel someone is going to drag me down, I will either leave or take a break until things blow over. I want to be there for him, but how can I do that if it will affect my grades negatively or whatnot?

It’s not an easy choice and I’m still struggling with it. I don’t want to leave him because he’s really the only true friend I have, and he’s a great boyfriend. He’s been my first in many respects and I know I need to support him, but I don’t feel like I can…I can’t stand it when guys are clingy!! It’s so hard for me.

seekingwolf's avatar

@emilia_eclaire

I’m so worried/scared that you’re right. :( It’s not a very nice though, but it’s realistic.

The thing is, he hasn’t always been so insecure, this is a recent thing (started mid feb) but it’s really severe. It was nothing from what I did either.

He’s my first age gap relationship and so I’m dealing with some new issues…like his insecurity, his back pain, his receding hairline, and his views that are more rigid than mine. These will never go away, but thus far, we’ve been doing okay, which gives me hope. We’ll see.

emilia_eclaire's avatar

Yeah, it is odd that this didn’t surface sooner, but it usually takes you a few months for people to really open up to one another. Maybe he’s finally comfortable enough around to be this clingy? that seems strange but it could be true. But yeah again, you’ve only been together a year. He should have enough relationship experience by now to know how to end things gracefully. If you do try to end it and he goes ballistic, I would get some distance fast.

I date a guy 12 years older, and while he certainly has his own issues, if he had ever been painfully insecure it would never have lasted.

seekingwolf's avatar

@emilia_eclaire

Okay thanks for the advice. :)

Yeah he doesn’t have a violent bone in his body and he doesn’t really do anything crazy irrational so I’m not too worried in that regard. He’s on good terms with half of his exes, and the other half he doesn’t talk to b/c they cheated on him.

I also think it’s odd that it’s coming out now…I wonder how much of it is due to stress? His father is extremely ill and he’s pinched for money because of the economy.

I guess I’ll have to give it another month or so ><

Zen's avatar

Well, a bj would be inspirational and boosts confidence galore.

Amoebic's avatar

I agree with the above posters that he may have issues with depression, and it seems that he’s trying to use your relationship as a “source” of happiness to bring himself up. He’s trying to make the little perks of your love overcome a bigger problem. Like using a thimble to bail out a rowboat.

I’ve dated people who use relationships for validation. Trust me, nothing you can do on his terms will be enough. You could sit there and pour out your love for him for countless hours upon days and he won’t believe it because it can’t overcome how he feels about himself. He’s being selfish and unfair to you by burdening you and making you responsible for his personal happiness.

Garebo's avatar

Why not tell him that you find his neediness and clinginess, as very anti-seductive behavior; and if he stopped sending you constant signals of insecurity, the relationship would probably improve.

If the signal is not received, it won’t be perceived.

Zen's avatar

I flagged my own previous question and asked it to be removed. They didn’t. I don’t think a bj boosts confidence. It’s great, but irrelevant to the post. Sorry.

qualitycontrol's avatar

@seekingwolf…You and I are both in the same boat, I’m in college too at the end of my semester and I work full time so I do know what you’re going through. My girl friend also happens to have an ill father who she can’t even see because he’s in another country. However, she’s the opposite and refuses to tell me when she has a problem because she doesn’t want to burden me, which I think is ridiculous. I can always tell when something is wrong just by looking at her, and that is worse than her not telling me something is wrong so I worry anyway. As far as school goes, you are the only one who can control the outcome of your grades. Make sure you get your work finished and your studying done before you make time for him since school is the most important in your life right now. It’s easy to say you didn’t do so well because “someone was weighing you down”. Just do your work and if you have to, like I have to even though it sucks, tell him you’re busy and you have to get your work done. He must be mature enough to understand that he’s not the only one with problems. If he can’t recognize that you have issues as well then that’s just being disrespectful.

ShauneP82's avatar

It sounds like your bf needs a wife not a girlfriend. The role of a girlfriend only goes so far. You should not feel you have to fulfill all of these things. After all, you are only dating. The things he is clinging too and looking for in you is what a wife provides for her husband.

You say your boyfriend is 15 years your senior. Whether you are 17 and he is 32 or you are 30 and he is 45; he is in a different stage of life and is probably ready for a perminent stable relationship.

The simple answer is this; marry the guy. It will ease his aging male mind like you will not believe. Again, you said it yourself, he is a lot older than you. Men stop maturing well before women. They need the stability of a strong minded woman. Without it, we are a mess.

seekingwolf's avatar

@qualitycontrol Oh yes, grades are very important. I study a lot and get As and Bs. Even from the beginning, I always have to get the work done before I call/text him. Some days, I just text him and tell him that we can’t talk because I’m working and he understands and respects that, which is great. When he’s working, I know not to bother him either unless it’s really important.

@ShauneP82

Well, I’m 19 and he’s 34.

I sort of know that he wants a wife, at least in the future, although he’s not pushing the idea of marriage upon me. Honestly, having a future with him is possible because we are very compatible, neither of us wants kids (and with my hormone problem, it would be too much effort to have one!) and we are both self-sufficient. We even have similar tastes in music! He’s never been married before, but was engaged once but broke it off.

I know he’d like to get married but with the current situation with his family, it’s not possible. I also don’t want to get married when I’m in college. We’ll see; we’re keeping it open without any lofty expectations.

I know that age gap relationships have their obstacles but I can honestly say that this has been the best relationship I’ve ever been, as well as the longest. College is a time of many “firsts” in life, and I’m thankful that he’s been there to support me through each one…like getting mono, getting an overdraft fee (I didn’t know about those!), taking calculus for the first time…so many things. He has been there before and he supports me. I can’t really ask for more.

I also talked to him last night about the insecurity thing again, and he’s going to make some (small) lifestyle changes to help him deal with his stress which in turn will help with his insecurity, which always worsens when he’s really stressed.
We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m hoping he’ll get the family things ironed out soon, or at least come to terms with it.

ShauneP82's avatar

@seekingwolf Great! Glad to hear you are working it out.

SeventhSense's avatar

Grab his balls firmly and yank until he yelps and then say
“Stop being a little bitch or I’m going to keep these”.

Avatarian's avatar

Ok, so I didn’t exactly read everything every comment (albeit most), but I can definitely say this: don’t show explicit annoyance or irritation when he’s expressing feelings of insecurity. That only aggravates his insecurity and causes a chaotic cycle.

Honestly, I would say that patience is a virtue for a reason. I would also say that whoever said “actions speak louder than words” above me had the right idea. I would say the best way to disarm insecurity is to have playful, yet loving reactions to his insecurity. Don’t get annoyed, but don’t sit him down, hold his hand, and tell him every conceivable reason why he’s a great guy. Again, I would say the best way to disarm insecurity is to be loving, but to be lighthearted about it rather than serious (during these moments of course).

justus2's avatar

I agree with you avatarian, I am insecure a lot at times and will suggest that to my fiance for my long moments, he is usually pretty patient with me but has times when there is none. As for the question, I honestly believe that if you really loved him and want him to believe you and believe you will be with him you shouldnt have thoughts of leaving him. I would never leave someone just because they are insecure and need a lot more love from me than others.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Intergenerational Romance Lurve @kevbo

SeventhSense's avatar

It sounds like he may have some insecurity issues and maybe some insights at the same time. The prospect of this type of age gap seems highly improbable in a long term relationship.
@ShauneP82
The simple answer is this; marry the guy. It will ease his aging male mind like you will not believe. Again, you said it yourself, he is a lot older than you.
WTF? Ease his insecurity by marrying him? And that serves her how? At 19 your 20’s in front of you and so much freedom to explore. To ask her to marry someone who is 15 years her senior when her future is so open with possibility seems impulsive.
Men stop maturing well before women. They need the stability of a strong minded woman. Without it, we are a mess.
I was weaned long ago from the prospect of a woman or anyone for that matter being my savior. A good relationship is a mutually beneficial exchange of love and respect. I don’t want another mother.
@seekingwolf
Have fun but date some college boys and keep yourself open to any possibility. Don’t get caught up in any drama.

Brianga26's avatar

Hey guys, I have posted a question as well. I am a clingy boyfriend as well. Would love some advice too!!

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