The Art of Relating: Feeling Secure In The Early Stages of Dating

Christine Kniffen, MSW, LCSW


As many of you know, I am a therapist first, but serve as a Relationship Coach as well. I have had hundreds of people come to my office over the years wanting help in getting a great relationship. Understandably, people have lost faith in their ability to choose wisely in the first place, as well as believing that there is really anyone out there for them. As a Relationship Coach, I work to help them improve their sorting, screening and sifting skills. I help them to determine what “they” need to be happy so that they can recognize the person that can give that to them. What I love doing the most is getting to work with someone when they are actively dating through the internet or another medium. Due to previous, unsuccessful attempts to find solid relationships and a lot of hurt feelings, there is a great deal of insecurity felt when someone decides to get “back on the horse” and try again. There are three primary dynamics that impact your feelings of security in the early dating stages. These include consistency, reciprocity and openness. And, it is the absence of one or all of these that creates the feeling of emotional insecurity and the subsequent feelings of anxiousness regarding the new relationship.

Consistency is key for reassuring that you are not putting your heart out there, only to get crushed once again. Consistency feels like stability. The absence of this can seem like an emotional rollercoaster for some. I see many women in my office that feel almost rattled when they start dating. They are dating someone who is inconsistent in making plans. I explain that I have never done well with inconsistency either. I am much happier if I know when I will see you next, so I can look forward to it and put it out of my mind to get on with my day. It is not that I am insecure and something is wrong with me. I simply do better dating someone who is consistent, rather than seeming plan aversive. When I see inconsistency I think, “Oh no is this another person who is emotionally unavailable?” Are they preoccupied with their independence, are they afraid to look too attached so they let days go by without contact? Or, are they simply in a different place, wanting the creature comforts of a relationship, yet not ready to do the normal things one would expect in terms of time and consistency that is required? Do we really need an answer or do we just need accept that we do better with consistency and relay this to the person we are dating? I have no desire to live in a world of seeing you one day, then not knowing for days when I might see you next. That creates the miserable struggle where you vacillate wildly between wanting to keep your calendar open so you have time to see each other when they next call, yet fighting a nasty battle with your ego and thinking, “I’m not going to sit around waiting for you”.

Reciprocity is something that is extremely important in their early stages of dating as well. It helps to quiet the inner waters of fear of getting hurt when beginning to date. Are you doing all the work to get to keep seeing each other. Does he/she call you to initiate plans for when you will see each other next? If things are uneven in terms of initiating contact, they are out-of-balance. When anything is out of balance it creates stress. When proper reciprocity does not exist, it provides a breeding ground for nagging dialog as to the interest level of the other person. It naturally stokes the common fear that “I must be more into this than you”, which then leads to the inevitable fear that you will get hurt. Reciprocity as exemplified by an even amount of initiating contact will go a long way towards making you feel more secure in the early stages of dating.

Finally, openness is key to feeling connected, which in turn is what makes one feel secure in a relationship. This openness I refer to has another name. It is vulnerability. Vulnerability refers to your ability to honestly express your emotions to another. If no one is being truly open and vulnerable, the relationship cannot progress past just dating, regardless if it has become physical or not. If you are feeling insecure due to a lack of consistency and reciprocity, then try practicing vulnerability and telling your partner what this is doing to you emotionally. Vulnerability equals risk. We are often afraid to say these things for fear of being called needy, overly emotional, or something else that is simply ridiculous. The problem is not that you need consistency and reciprocity to feel secure. Rather, the real problem is that you need to accept this about yourself and stop second guessing the legitimacy of your every feeling.

So, speak up. Own your power and your right to need consistency and reciprocity. However, if the person is unable or unwilling to do something about it, you must make the decision to move on. It may be hard, but you will ultimately be much happier in the long run.

Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Therapist and Relationship Coach in private practice. For a free consultation call 314-374-8396.