We are all emotionally needy to some degree in relationships – meaning simply that, during a difficult time, we need more emotional support than usual. We all long to be understood, supported, loved, and accepted. It’s ok to reach out and ask for help – sometimes.
Yet, being overly emotionally needy – too demanding, clingy, annoying, fragile – can spell disaster for your relationship. A person should be able to stand on their own, tolerate aloneness, and manage their own ‘stuff’ for a healthy relationship to exist. How we go about expressing our needs has a lot to do with our personality and our attachment style – our style based on how we learned to relate to our parents and how emotionally available they were – or not.
Three attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant help create how secure or insecure we feel in relationships. Secure people present themselves as warm and loving and were most likely raised with caregivers that were consistently caring and responsive. Avoidant people often come across as dismissive, often minimize closeness and were raised in an environment that was less emotional and one in which insecurity and neediness were not tolerated.
Anxious people are the ones that present and who are seen as overly needy. Some of the key characteristics are:
- They minimize or deny their needs and look to others to fill their emotional gaps and emptiness in a way that often becomes manipulative.
- They worry about their partner’s love and ‘search out’ for all the mannerisms and nuances that might indicate that their partner doesn’t love them.
- They are often emotionally overwhelmed and will reach out and ‘need’ their partner more to make them feel secure or constantly remind them of how they feel.
- They are insecure and overly sensitive to any slight.
- They typically had parents (or a parent) who was inconsistently nurturing. This created inner angst and turmoil and contributed to their anxiety – especially around relationships.
However, this often leaves their partner emotionally tapped out and overwhelmed by their neediness. They are worn out. And yet, anxious people do the very thing they fear the most will happen – they push their partner away. Their behaviors are counterproductive, yet hard to stop doing in the moment. For the other person there is nothing they can do to help this person. You cannot encourage growth, compliment them, or reassure them – enough. They have an insatiable and exhausting emotional ‘neediness.’
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you look at your romantic partner to make you happy?
- Do you look to your partner to fulfill all your needs in love, sex, and support?
- Do you look to your partner for constant reassurance and validation? Are you looking for others to make you feel good about yourself – always looking outside ‘self’ for reassurance?And even if you get it, do depend on it all the time? Do you feel abandoned if your partner is not available? Are you afraid your partner will not be there for you?
- Do you get upset if your partner doesn’t react in a certain way, doesn’t meet a need?
- If you are alone, do you do things to fill the void with other distractions? Or when alone, do you go over past conversations or worry that he/she might leave? Is it difficult to be alone?
- Is your relationship the center of your universe? What about your relationship with other friends or family? friends or your kids?
- Does it bother you if you are not included in your partner’s plans?
- Do you get jealous of things that he/she is doing without you?
How To Overcome Emotional Neediness
1.) Become aware. Awareness is the first step to recognizing there is a problem with how you relate to others and the increase in anxiety and anxious feelings relationships bring out in you. Begin to explore your anxious attachment style and start addressing how you can become less needy and clingy. Learn to connect the dots and understand what it is about your attachment style and upbringing that creates the neediness in your relationship. This will help you recognize unhealthy relationship patterns.
2.) Sit with your anxiety and the uncertainties of life. They will continue. Life is full of shades of gray, uncertainty, and unanswered questions. Uncertainty can also be an instigator for change.
3.) Hold that text! If you’ve reached out to someone (via phone, text, email), give them time to respond. There’s no need to do it again. There might be another explanation as to why they haven’t responded. It’s not always about you – so don’t personalize it.
4.) Don’t suffocate someone. No matter how close you are to another person, it is unhealthy to spend all of your time with him or her. They will feel overwhelmed and start to do things that back them out of the relationship. If it’s difficult for you to tolerate alone time, you will inevitably sabotage your relationship. Simply force yourself to back off in order to give both of you some space.
5.) Improve your self-esteem. If you struggle with being needy, odds are you probably lack self-esteem. Start doing things on your own, learn to be single, focus on yourself and what you did – or didn’t do – to contribute to the demise of the relationship. Engage in activities that are healthy for you and learn to feel more secure and confident. Remember – a person can boost up your esteem and make you feel good once in awhile, but this is not their job. It is our responsibility to do that for ourselves. Another person cannot be your only source of happiness. That’s s a lot of pressure to put on another person.
6.) Learn to trust. Neediness is often associated with not trusting in others and often a fear of abandonment. If you start doubting someone’s feelings for you or fear being abandoned, you will start to put the ‘neediness’ wheels in motion – that actually provoke the person to want to run from the relationship. Do you feel abandonment? Are you afraid your partner will not be there for you? Are you looking for others to make you feel good about yourself – always looking outside ‘self’ for reassurance?
7.) Encourage independence. True non-neediness begins when you stop depending on others to take care of you and seeking fulfillment externally – because doing this, only creates a black hole of never having enough. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to become more self-reliant and independent? What changes do I need to make to get me to a better and healthier place?
Making these changes in your life will help you get to the place you want to be!