How being insecure can make you more attractive, says science

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Wait, what? Isn’t insecurity the least attractive trait in a romantic partner? If you’ve ever had the experience of dating someone who was clingy, and constantly questioned where you were and who you were with, you would probably stay away from anyone who even so much as glances at your phone when it rings.

But love is not so black and white, is it? It’s at least 50 shades of grey, which means there could be something attractive about a seemingly unattractive quality. Let’s take a closer look.

Insecure people make more effort to be nice

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The truth is many of us have personal insecurities of varying degrees. Especially on a first date – most of us will be questioning whether our date will like us, or take one look and see the inner freak in us.

Psychology professor Claudia Brumbaugh was particularly interested in finding out how insecure people attracted partners. She co-authored a study of 146 single university students, getting them to flirt with strangers.

She found that those who rated themselves as highly confident were more likely to come across as arrogant, and hence unattractive. On the other hand, students who had rated themselves as less confident, or insecure, put in much more effort to get to know the stranger during their flirtation attempt, and were just nicer. So they actually got higher scores on attractiveness.

But how about once you are in a relationship?

Insecure people don’t take their relationships for granted

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Thomas Chamorro, a professor of business psychology at University College London, argues that confidence is over-rated, and that insecurity is what we need more of. Granted, his context is that of success in business, but this also applies to success in other endeavours that require work and commitment, including relationships.

The distinct advantages of insecure people, he says, are that they are naturally more realistic, work harder, and are more likely to accept criticism. Consider that in the context of a relationship.

Being more realistic means you are less likely to be over-confident, thinking that your partner will always regard you as the greatest person alive, and slave over you. You are more keenly aware that relationships can and do end, and so you work harder and put in more effort to keep it alive. When you face challenges or disagreements, as every relationship is bound to, you are more likely to listen and accept your differences.

In fact, security is bad news for sex drive

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Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The sense of security that so many women claim to want can backfire too. In a German study of 530 men and women that was published in the Human Nature journal, results showed that a woman’s libido plummets after four years of being in a relationship (whereas, interestingly, a man’s libido remains unchanged regardless of how long he’s been in a relationship).

The researchers had a few wildly varying hypotheses on the reasons why. One is that women limit their libido to keep their partner’s interest in the relationship. Another is that women’s priority is to form a “pair bond” with their partner. After a bond is formed, their appetite naturally declines. Yet another hypothesis posits that women are genetically programmed to keep looking out for other better combinations of genetic material to produce more superior offspring.

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Setting all these behavioral and evolutionary theories aside, all we know is women in relationships, no matter how long, still want to feel beautiful, special, and desired. That’s what stokes our fire. We don’t want to be stuck in a routine, having the same day every day. It seems contradictory, but humans are complex creatures. A tinge of insecurity, which pushes us to surprise our partner or be surprised, can make us feel alive and beautiful.

Of course, taken to the extreme, insecurity can be overwhelming and draining for both parties in a relationship. What we’re saying is a little insecurity can be good. It keeps you on your toes, always mindful of you and your partner’s happiness. Kept in a positive balance, this consciousness is definitely helpful in keeping your relationship healthy.

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