Reassurance seeking is something that everyone partakes in from time to time. Getting the reassurance we seek makes us feel better —at least temporarily. Although doing it is totally normal, constantly seeking reassurance is not.
People may seek reassurance in verbal or nonverbal forms. Asking questions like “am I pretty?” or “do you like spending time with me?” is a direct, verbal way of seeking reassurance. Wanting someone to look at you a certain way or using how close someone is sitting to you or how often they smile to gauge how much they care about you are examples of nonverbal ways of reassurance seeking.
Seeking reassurance is commonly seen in romantic relationships, particularly when one partner is feeling insecure about the relationship. It may become a habit to ask questions when the relationship is not as solid as we’d like it to be, but it can be unpleasant for the receiving party and alienate them in the long term.
One easy way to stop this habit is to replace questions with statements. For example, instead of asking, “Do you still think I’m pretty?” you might say “I worry that you aren’t attracted to me anymore.” Although this statement might “pull for” reassurance, it allows the receiving party room to ask clarifying questions or just to let the statement stand on its own. It also emphasizes the emotions of the speaker rather than being similar to an interrogation.
No one likes feeling forced to provide constant reassurance. Keep an eye out for the habit in yourself, and commit to clear, assertive communication and tolerating some uncertainties.
Instead of asking questions like “do you want to be with me?”, you can exchange the question for a statement like “I’m just not feeling secure in our relationship,” and go from there. You will create a meaningful dialogue and get more out of the conversation with a statement rather than a reassurance-seeking question.
Making statements instead of asking questions also gives you ownership of what you’re saying. You’re not putting it on the other person to just instinctively know how to answer your question. You’re owning your feelings, your emotions, and your observations. Use your words to your advantage.
When asking these kinds of questions, you are intentionally putting the other person in an unfavorable position. People are often caught off guard and aren’t sure how to properly answer your questions. Oftentimes, they may even give a negative answer. Asking someone these uncomfortable questions leaves you open to receiving answers you won’t like; know that before engaging.
Many times, through our reassurance-seeking interactions, we are subconsciously teaching the other person how we want to be communicated with. You’re also teaching them how well you take truthful, transparent feedback, whether good or bad. Once a person gives you the answers you desire, though, these answers take on a different meaning. Many times, they lose their believability and don’t hold the same weight.
Constantly seeking reassurance from others can also damage relationships. When asking these questions, a person can feel manipulated into saying the things you want to hear instead of being honest; a basis for any healthy relationship. No one ever wants to feel controlled by someone else’s anxiety.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can actually produce incessant reassurance seeking. A person suffering from this condition can attempt to seek reassurance in various forms. While this might not seem significant, this can be detrimental to someone’s anxiety and OCD. The compulsion gets a person that short-term anxiety reduction, but it can, in fact, be reinforcing the anxiety itself. The more you get that fix of anxiety reduction, the more you’re going to seek it.
When you’re feeding your anxiety with reassurance-seeking, you also leave yourself open to getting the answers you don’t want. With that comes the possibility of fixating on these unwanted answers, leaving you feeling just as anxious, if not more.
Reassurance seeking can be dealt with by asking yourself important questions. When the need to seek reassurance arises, ask yourself: “What is my intention?”, “Is this really a valid question?”, “Can I turn this into a statement instead?”, “Will I be happy with the answer I get?” If these questions don’t apply, you may consider taking your anxieties to someone else and visiting a therapist.