How to Be Less Needy in Relationships

Neediness results in getting less of what you want and makes you feel sad and angry at the same time.

Do you have any of these hallmarks of neediness?

Why needy people’s relationships deteriorate. Because needy people are afraid of making changes that might cause them to be rejected, they don’t set healthy boundaries. Extremely needy people become very careful not to do or say things that would make their partner upset.

Instead of focusing on loving their partner, they become focused on not upsetting their partner. They often feel like they have to “walk on eggshells” with their partners, which takes the joy out of the relationship. People who are somewhat needy may have periods when they are very strong, even breaking up, but then quickly lose their resolve.

Rather than have a gradually deteriorating relationship, these somewhat needy people have roller coaster relationships with many emotional ups and downs. For both the very needy and somewhat needy person, their fears of being rejected or being alone interfere with setting healthy boundaries that stabilize the relationship and promote equality.

A needy person craves the attention of her partner, much like an addicted person craves a drug.

A needy person doesn’t just want to share her life with someone, she craves being with someone.  It is a very self-focused feeling. The more insecure, lonely, and self-hating she is, the more she will want someone to stop her from feeling that way. Reassurances from her partner, in words and/or actions, help relieve the anxiety which is behind her neediness. Once she does find someone, even if he is entirely the wrong person, she quickly falls in love. She prematurely thinks, “I finally found someone who (loves me, gives me attention, cares about my needs, etc.).”  

People who fall in love before they really even know their partner, are almost always needy. Even after they get to know their partner, they may see him in distorted ways–as being more wonderful than he is, as being vastly superior to all other men, or as caring more than he does. She may even hold on to and idolize a man who emotionally or physically left her a long time ago

Any man will be attracted to you if he thinks you have what he needs.

Likewise, you will also be attracted to men who have what you need. A need is as an internal motivation that causes us to search for a solution. Picture yourself walking through a hot desert with no water. The thirstier you get, the more you will focus on water. A person who is hungry enough will search through garbage cans for food. A person who is lonely enough or dejected enough will be attracted to any man who shows interest in her.

The longer she has felt dejected and alone, the longer she will put up with mistreatment. If she has always felt like she was no good, undeserving, or just fooling people into thinking she is good, then she will put up with any kind of mistreatment as long as, once in a while, he is nice to her. She may be very fearful of her partner cheating on her, but be practically blind to any evidence that he really is cheating on her. The relationship for a very needy person has more to do with what is going on in her head than what is actually going on between her and her partner.

What happens when needy people lose their partners?

Just as a drug user may impulsively dump their drugs in an attempt to be healthy, a person in a bad relationship may impulsively leave her partner.  But, soon, her neediness (physical or emotional) returns.  Unless another man is available who can meet her need, she will get back together with him.

Even with a new boyfriend, because of her “love cravings,” the same lack of care in selection will cause her to recreate the same kind of relationship. Different face, same problem.  This pattern can repeat indefinitely, over a lifetime, until she learns to deal with her neediness.

If the needy person’s partner ends the relationship (as typically happens), it will simultaneously create feelings of anguish, anger, and desperation in the needy person. At this point, she will do almost anything to get her partner back. Her desperate behavior is, however, likely to drive her partner even further from her. It is a very pitiful situation for the needy person.

Why men break up with needy women.

Even men who were originally respectful and nice can become more and more disrespectful toward a needy woman. Eventually, they tire of their relationship and the need to manage the anxiety of their needy partner. They often feel more like a father to a teenage daughter than like a partner to an equal.

Because of their partner’s behavior, which to them seems childish, they have little respect for her, which makes it really hard to love her, no matter how hard she throws herself at him. Listening to her can become like a job that he has to do to keep her happy. Nice men with needy partners end up being caretakers. Not-so-nice men just get tired of her and dump her after a while.

Overcoming neediness.

Needy people, like anyone else, can change. Change is never easy, and this is doubly true for needy people, but it is possible and very rewarding when it happens. Many of my clients have some amount of neediness that is interfering with their ability to have a better relationship. Many are able to hear the “inner voice” of neediness, easily recognized by all the “what if” messages that keep them worried. “What if he has found someone else?,” What if he is mad at me?” “What if he wants to break up?” and so on.

These messages don’t really do anything to protect the relationship, since they prompt behaviors which damage the relationship (such as frequently checking up on their partner, questioning, avoiding sensitive but important topics, complaining, etc.). Overcoming neediness means having a different way of responding to these “What if” questions than using these behaviors.

Needy people have no idea how to deal with these kinds of concerns in a non-needy, secure, way. Someone else is needed who can provide a lot of guidance, especially at first, until a new way of responding can be learned. The daily contact I make available to my clients is ideally suited to this kind of high frequency help, especially at the beginning. Once some significant progress has been made, sessions can be phased out. This kind of daily help is included in my coaching packages.

Relating better means moving away from thinking about what should be and becoming more accepting.

When the needy person can do this, it draws her partner closer. Needy women simply do not see their partner as he is. They think of him as he used to be, early in the relationship, or as they want him to be. Then, they react to the difference between that image and any behaviors he does that doesn’t match that image. She can spend a lot of effort trying to get him to fit her ideal image of him. This nonacceptance makes them both feel both sad and angry and is one of the biggest factors that lead to the end of the relationship.

My client’s often need a lot of help in learning to see things from their partner’s perspective, which is sometimes completely opposite from their own. They find it surprising that their partners may think about them very little and that most of the things their partners do are unrelated to them. Because needy people tend to live in their thoughts rather than by dealing with reality, they often relate all of their partners actions to themselves. Because she puts him at the center of her world, it comes as a surprise that he puts himself as center of his world.

The needy person needs to move more in this direction and be able to take care of herself better, just as he does. Contrary to what needy people believe, this actually makes the relationship stronger and closer. It’s a real 180 degree turn from their normal world view.

“What changes result from overcoming neediness?”

Because she is not afraid of his answers, and no longer needs to “walk on eggshells,” she is able to talk to him more comfortably about many things she avoided before. He can also feel more comfortable talking to her. He doesn’t have to be careful not to set off her insecure behavior. The result is that they are able to get to a deeper level of communication, and on a more equal level. She learns how to take him at his word and to stop mind-reading and assuming.

The more success she has in handling things she doesn’t want to hear, the more secure she becomes. She learns that it is unpleasant, but not dangerous, and that dealing with real things is a lot easier than dealing with imagined things. It becomes more ok to have differences. The relationship becomes more normal, because in healthy relationships people always have a lot of differences.

These changes don’t happen overnight.

We usually go through a period of at least a few weeks where my clients need support on a daily basis. They are struggling with their fears as well as their anger. They have urges to tell their partner off as they become more aware of how he really is, and they also have times where they just feel like giving up. All of this is a natural part of change, but it is still a hard thing to go through.

Knowing they can contact me every day makes a difference to them. In our daily contact, I try to get them out of their world of thoughts and into the real world as much as possible. They also need skills for doing things they have never done before, like being assertive without being aggressive, or how to express their needs without complaining.

Overcoming neediness also involves learning to communicate in a new way.

Needy people have often developed communication habits that prevent other people from being honest and open with them. Not only their partners, but their coworkers, friends, and family may have learned to be careful with them. Needy people need to learn how to have openness without overreacting; they most need practice in dealing with answers they really don’t like. For example, instead of being afraid of her boyfriend telling her that he is not as attracted to her anymore, I help her to practice responding to that message in a way that will promote the relationship.

Even if he never says it, she becomes less fearful of it happening. For this and other messages, she may need help learning to hear him clearly, without adding a lot of mind reading, and she may need to learn how to say she really appreciates his honesty. Although there are things she doesn’t want to hear, it is important for her to be able to do that, so her relationship can become more emotionally intimate. All of her other relationships will benefit as well.

The most surprising thing that needy people learn in relationship coaching is that changes they make, change others.

Needy people feel like victims because they give up all of their power and see themselves as helpless to change the way their relationships go. They live in a world of “if only.” “If only my husband spent more time with me,” “If only my dad would give me the respect he gives to my sisters,” “If only my boyfriend would talk more affectionately to me,” etc.

As they learn more and more how to make changes in themselves, they find that other people respond to them differently. Ironically, by needing less they end up getting more of what they originally wanted from others. As they make changes, they get respected, they feel more important, their partners want to be with them more, and they get more affection.

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