What Causes Insecurity and Jealousy in a Relationship?

Are you having issues with jealousy and insecurity? Is it affecting your relationship with your partner? What causes it?

To help better understand, we asked 8 experts “what causes insecurity and jealousy in a relationship?”

Let’s have a look at their thoughts.

Dr. Nicki Nance, PhD, LMHC

Nicki Nance

Licensed Psychotherapist | Associate Professor of Human Services and Psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, FL

If jealousy can’t be accounted for by a partner or ex-partner’s actual behavior, jealousy might be a remnant of childhood.

1. Children who are exposed to parental infidelity are often insecure in their relationships.

Infidelity (and often subsequent conflict and divorce) are part of the relationship template they developed as a child. In therapy, they can often rework their template to be based on more current information about their own partner.

2. Jealousy and insecurity can also arise from competitive sibling relationships.

If a child feels that his or her brother or sister is favored, that child may develop believing that he or she is not enough and someone else will be favored. In relationships, these individuals often transfer their jealous feelings from their parents to their partners.

Diana Lucas Flemma, MA

Diana Lucas Flemma

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Insecurity and jealousy in a relationship usually stem from one’s own lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, especially in relationships.

This can come as a result of having had poor role models in their parents, where their parents didn’t treat each other well or distrusted each other. Many people also feel insecure about their own ability to have a successful relationship if they have grown up in homes of divorced parents.

When a person does not believe that they can create a loving relationship, they often impose their insecurity on their partner, often resulting in distrust and jealousy.

Without self-confidence, we often create an insecure relationship unintentionally. When we aren’t secure in ourselves and truly love and accept ourselves, we doubt that others can love us and respect us as well. An insecure person cannot understand what another person might see in them.

Unfortunately, over time, the partner will often begin to see and treat his/her partner only as well as the person values him/herself. We end up attracting and receiving only as much respect and love as we give ourselves. Jealousy is really the result of one’s insecurity in oneself and one’s disbelief in what others might see in them.

Brooke Sprowl, LCSW

Brooke Sprowl

UCLA-trained Psychotherapist | Founder, CEO, and Clinical Director of My LA Therapy

Insecurity causes jealousy. When people are insecure in relationships, that leads them to feel overly sensitive to threats of other people threatening the safety in the relationship.

So if you’re feeling jealous, you may want to ask yourself how to foster a greater sense of security with your partner and address the source of your insecurity.

This begs the question, what causes insecurity in relationships?

Insecurity is caused by a confluence of factors, both past, and present. Our relationships with our primary caregivers in infancy determine our internal working models for relationships and whether we develop secure or insecure attachment styles.

Typically, insecurely attached people partner with insecurely attached partners, which can cause a perfect storm. In this case, neither partner has the skills to regulate their anxiety nor communicate about their emotional experience sufficiently to create a sense of safety, and things can become tense or even volatile.

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin

Shlomo Slatkin

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Certified Imago Relationship Therapist | Co-founder of The Marriage Restoration Project

There are many reasons why men and women could feel jealous of their partners. It varies, of course, depending on the person.

Sometimes people are jealous of their partner’s success in work, such as their job, or their achievements. Others could be jealous of their partner’s family.

For example, if you have a bad relationship with your parents or your siblings and your partner has a great one, that might be a cause to feel a little envious. Just about anything your partner is good at can be a source of jealousy if you are insecure about yourself or not feeling fulfilled in life. A person who is happy internally can celebrate their partner’s success instead of feel in competition.

Carrie Krawiec

Carrie Krawiec

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, MI

There are a variety of contributors to jealousy and insecurity in relationships.

A few to mention may be:

1. A learned behavior. If children grow up in a household where jealousy is part of the norm they may learn to behave this way or expect this behavior to mean love. In fact, if they believe this is love they may feel very insecure if their partner does not behave this way.

2. Poor self-image or self-confidence. This may cause a person to feel unloved or unlovable and fearful that their partner could leave them. Causing them to feel threatened by anything that may divert their partner’s attention away from them.

3. Poor early childhood attachments such as unresponsive or neglectful or inconsistent parents may contribute to a person to grow to be uncertain and unconfident in their partner’s ability to respond healthfully.

4. Traumas like major losses of close, supportive people, past incidents of infidelity or other deception may contribute to uncertainty about the behavior, intentions of others.

Paul Levin

Paul Levin

Author | Certified Hypnotherapist | Certified NLP Practitioner | Founder and Owner of I Deserve A Perfect Life

We seek relationships to bring us happiness and love. However, we can only bring, into a relationship, who we really are.

If you are confident and secure in yourself, nothing in the relationship can change that. The other person is not there to give you confidence or security, so they can not take those things away from you.

The sad thing is, that when we look to our partner to provide our self-worth, we sabotage the relationship. By its very name, “self-worth” we see that it is not something that someone else can provide. If you are looking to your partner to provide it, you are putting an unrealistic expectation on your partner. It is an expectation they can not possibly meet.

Over time, when you have gotten tired of waiting for them to step up and do their job, meeting your expectations, you will get angry with them. You may not understand why, or even recognize the situation, but this is why.

You are not getting your needs met. And the reason you are not getting your needs meet is because you are looking in the wrong place for them. Self-confidence, self-worth, happiness, joy, and self-love all come from inside. When you experience them on the inside, you will shower other people with them, then having the relationship you really want.

Rachel Perlstein

Rachel Perlstein

Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Co-Founder & Relationship Coach at A Good First Date

There are a few things that can cause insecurity or jealousy in a relationship. To examine this further, it’s important to differentiate between internal and external factors.

Some people are primed to be more jealous. This can be related to past relational trauma or experiences that result in a lack of security in their attachment style, insecurity and lack of confidence in themselves, and an attitude of distrust in others. Someone who starts off a relationship from this space will have a different mindset, set of beliefs and energy towards their partner and the relationship.

However, for others, insecurity and jealousy in a relationship happen due to external factors, like their partner’s attachment style, behaviors, attitudes towards them and others. For these people, they are reacting to what their partner is putting out there. Whether intentional or not, sometimes the insecurity and jealousy are warranted!

Sonya Schwartz

Dating and Relationship Expert | Blogger and Owner of Her Aspiration

Both insecurity and jealousy are caused by a feeling of inferiority. Insecure and jealous people often believe they are not good enough for their partner.

This feeling could be caused by an important social gap between the two (different backgrounds and education, or perhaps a big difference between the incomes) or by someone’s insecurities and feelings of inferiority developed in life, either due to an abusive relationship or an abusive domestic environment.