Managing Feelings — 12 July 2013
Doubt about being loved is a health hazard

Some partners become annoyed by their mates’ need for frequent reassurance that they are truly loved. The loving spouse may view the mate’s need for ongoing affirmations as a manifestation of insecurity, criticism or excessive dependency. Being prodded to profess one’s love or being anxious about being truly loved produces marital and physiological stress that may affect both mates’ health and wellbeing.

Researcher Lisa Jaremka of Ohio State University College of Medicine found that “Married partners with a higher attachment anxiety produced more cortisol that alters the cellular immune response and had fewer numbers of T Cells that help the body fight diseases or harmful substances than participants with lower attachment anxiety.” She concludes, “These data suggest that attachment anxiety may have physiological costs, and they provide a glimpse into the pathways through which social relationships affect health.”

Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term “Limerence” as the “involuntary state of mind resulting from romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated. There is a fear that one’s Limerence will be met by the very opposite of reciprocation, which is rejection.” This state is also associated with deep anxiety about one’s appeal and one’s capacity to sustain an ongoing satisfactory love relationship.

True expressions of love are voluntary and authentically emoted words by the lover to the beloved. Thus, they cannot be regulated or dictated by another. When a partner becomes insecure and wants frequent reassurance of his/her lovability it hinders the mate’s spontaneous expressions of his/her true loving feelings.

Some mates who become disenchanted by their partner’s behavior may begin to doubt their own love for their spouse. These concerns are also emotionally destabilizing and frightening.

Those who doubt their own or their mate’s love are often plagued by recurring insecurities, fears and anxieties that interfere with intimacy and may cause unhealthy physiological changes.

Since fears, periodic insecurities and doubts are common for most people it is healthy to identify them as such and ask for reassurance, when needed. The request is best received when it is not accusatory or demanding. Replace saying, “I don’t think you really love me.” with “I would enjoy hearing that you love me more often, or when you feel it.” Change the self-doubting statement of, “I don’t really know what you love about me.” with “I would love to hear which of my traits, attributes or actions are most pleasing to you.”

When you become anxious about your lovability, remind yourself that these are your personal doubts and find ways to reassure yourself of your worthiness and appeal.

View your spouse’s requests for affirming your love not as reprimands but as requests for support and connection.

When in doubt:


  • Accept that your partner has chosen you because of your desirable traits and that you are uniquely lovable to him/her.
  •  Create a culture of spontaneous reciprocal expressions of love. It keeps both of you healthier, more secure and bonded.



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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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