Yesterday I commented on a series of studies indicating that expressing insecurities to a romantic partner might lead to perpetuating them (because of our impressions of our vulnerabilities, what we think they think of us, and our suspicions that they don’t really care). Today, I want to list the major findings of the 5 studies. See what you think of these interpretations of the data:
- “Study 1 demonstrated that people believe expressions of regard toward interpersonally insecure and vulnerable others are relatively inauthentic.” (p. 436).
- “Studies 2A, 2B, and 4 suggest that, when people believe they have expressed vulnerabilities to a romantic partner or friend, they believe they are viewed especially vulnerable, which in turn predicts their suspicion regarding the authenticity of the other’s expressions of positive regard and acceptance.” (ibid)
- “Study 4 suggests that this process can operate independently of the partner’s appraisals of vulnerability and reported authenticity.” (ibid)
- Study 5 seems to show that when subjects appraise themselves as vulnerable they doubt a new acquaintance’s expressions of pleasure (even though the new person didn’t see the subject as vulnerable.
- Studies 3 and 4 seem to indicate that when you have doubts about your partner’s authentic expression of love, you then perceive acts of caring in a more pessimistic manner. “In particular, authenticity doubts may result in a downward estimation of the partner’s true regard and acceptance, as expressions of positive are presumed to be exaggerated and clandestine rejection can be inferred from the partner’s presumed cautious orientation.” (ibid)
SO, do you think those who express vulnerabilities then are only placated and thus receive inauthentic expressions of kindness? Have you experienced yourself devaluing objective kind acts by re-interpreting them through a lens of pessimism? “He’s only doing that because he wants me to let him have his way.” Now, that could be true, but if you find yourself regularly dismissing acts of caring then you might want to explore where your assumptions are coming from.
What should we do? We should express our insecurities and then seek to listen to our loved one with the best possible interpretation and seek to be specific and concrete in pointing out how their actions/attitudes impact us. If we are the one listening to a loved one tell us that they are not feeling secure, then we ought to express warmth, concern, etc. Put off the defensiveness and put yourself in their shoes. If you were worried, you would want another to comfort and care for you–not call you an idiot for thinking that way.