We are hardwired to need people. That’s a fact. And let’s just say, that’s not a bad thing. Besides where would we be without the love and support of others? It is a good thing to need others, to rely on them. For example, you might lean on or need your partner/spouse more during a difficult or challenging time in your life. You might find you more emotional support than usual. Its pretty common.

We all long to be understood, supported, loved, and accepted. And it’s ok to feel this way. But, becoming too emotionally needy in relationships creates an unhealthy dynamic. 

Being a healthy person means standing on your own. You are able to tolerate aloneness, and manage your own ‘sh*t. You have the ability to express your needs. Your relationship can be described as interdependent – time spent together and time apart. You might have your own hobby and friends you spend time with. And being able to live in this type of relationship has much to do with your personality and attachment style.

We used to think that our attachment style was predominately due to our upbringing. So depending on how you were cared for as a baby determines your attachment style. However, that is only piece of the puzzle. Your attachment style does not come from just one source, but other factors including life experiences, genetic, and relationship choices. 

Attachment Styles

According to the book, Attached, there are three main attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant. Your attachment style will affect and reflect how secure or insecure you feel in relationships.

Secure attachment. You are warm and loving and were most likely raised with caregivers that were consistently caring and responsive. You have had other positive and healthy relationships. You enjoy the intimacy that comes with it without becoming too worried about your relationship. You have the ability to communicate your needs in healthy ways. You are able to share the ups and downs of your life with your partner as they are able to do the same with you.

You reports higher levels of satisfaction in your relationship, are able to maintain high levels of relationship satisfaction, commitment, and trust. You expect your partner to be loving and attentive without fearing you will lose your partner’s love. Finally, you are comfortable with intimacy. Couples in a secure relationship exhibit many behaviors that encourage further growth as they continue to evolve. 

Avoidant attachment. You often cross as dismissive, minimizes closeness and were raised in an environment that was less emotional and one in which insecurity and neediness were not tolerated. It is important that you maintain a level of independence and self-sufficiency. You prefer autonomy to intimacy. You may want the closeness that a relationship can bring, but fear too much closeness so you keep your partner ‘at arms length.’ 

You have learned to put up walls and not get ‘too close’ for fear you would appear needy (or even needing someone in a healthy way). If you are in a relationship with someone who is anxious, as soon as your partner starts to become needy or want more time from you become distant, dismissive, and noncommittal. 

Anxious attachment. In casual relationships, you might find that you are not as needy but when you find yourself in a romantic relationship, those tendencies – the tendency to be ‘needy’ may rise to the top. Your relationship can become unhealthy. You might find yourself feeling ‘a bit out of control.’ Being overly emotionally needy – too demanding, clingy, annoying, fragile – can spell disaster for your relationship.

You have a tendency to want to be very close to your partner and have the need for great intimacy however, your fear is that your partner doesn’t want to be as close as you want to be. And because of this fear, you find yourself being very sensitive to any change in his or her behaviors or small fluctuations in their mood. Much of your energy is spent managing your emotions around the relationship. 

Considering all three attachment styles, if you are anxiously attached you will often present as more needy. By minimizing or denying your needs, you look to others or your current partner to fill your emotional gaps and emptiness in a way that can if you are not careful, become manipulative.

Do any of these resonate with you?

  • You worry about your partner’s love and ‘search out’ for all the mannerisms and nuances that might indicate your partner doesn’t love you.
  • You are often emotionally overwhelmed and will reach out and ‘need’ your partner more to make you feel secure or constantly remind them of how you feel.
  • You are insecure and overly sensitive to any slight. 
  • You typically had parents (or a parent) who was inconsistently nurturing. This created an inner angst and turmoil and contributes to your anxiety – especially around relationships.  

For your partner? He/she feels emotionally tapped out and overwhelmed by your neediness. He/she feels worn out and has expressed this to you.

And yet, if you are an anxious person in your relationship, you do the very thing you know you shouldn’t do – you push your partner away. But it’s like you cannot stop. In your mind, you might be screaming, ‘stop doing this’, ‘don’t be so needy’, ‘don’t keep asking he/she the same question’.  But you cannot. Your are drawn to these unhealthy behaviors like a moth to a flame.

Your behaviors are very counterproductive, yet in the moment, it sounds like a good idea and feels so comforting – for you. However, your partner experiences something very different. And what is partner saying to themselves? RUN. RUN. RUN. Because no matter how much they, it just isn’t enough for you. It never is. Your partner cannot  encourage growth, compliment or reassure you – enough. You have an insatiable and exhausting emotional ‘neediness.’ Does any of this sound familiar

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 very first step to recognizing there is a problem. This is key in any life challenge. As you become more aware of your behaviors, you start the process of gaining greater insight to who you are as a person and understanding yourself better so you can make necessary and sustainable changes. Take the time to ask and answer these important questions above. Awareness of your attachment style is step one because understanding this creates the chance for change so you can create a happy and fulfilling relationship. 

2.) Sit with your anxiety and the uncertainties of life. A person who is more anxious engages in more protest behaviors – which are actions that attempts to reestablish contact with your partner and get their attention. Unfortunately when you do this, you act in harmful ways. Being able to move through the shades of gray, uncertainty, and unanswered questions is key to making changes. Fortunately, uncertainty can also be an instigator for change.

Even if in the moment it ‘feels like a good idea’, work on thinking about how you would feel if you didn’t act in a certain way. What are your triggers? Can you learn to communicate them in a way that is beneficial for both you and your partner? If you give into the anxiety and impulse every time, you will never know how it could be different. If the impulse (obsessive thought is there) and you act on it (the compulsion) all you are really doing is creating the same circle and reinforcing the behavior. Sit with that anxiety and anxious feeling and focus on reacting less. 

3.) Create the space.  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. I recognize that force might be a strong word, but sometimes it’s necessary to make changes to help the relationship pivot. Talk to your partner about this and take time away from him or her in small increments until you become more comfortable. 

4.) Work on YOU! Start to take the steps to improve your self-esteem. Begin by doing things on your own and focus on yourself. What are you doing that is contributing to the demise of the relationship? What negative feelings come up for you about yourself? Engage in activities that are healthy for you and learn to feel more secure and confident. This could be giving back, volunteering, taking up a hobby, journaling among others.

It is also important to think about your strengths and positives about yourself, as we all have them. Don’t short change yourself. Remember – a person can boost up your esteem and make you feel good once in a while, 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. The good news is that you CAN change your attachment style by identifying the behaviors that keep you stuck. 

5.) Work on your trust issues. 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? Where did these feelings come from? Was it in a previous relationship? Again, learning to connect the dots helps you to understand the stimuli of a situation (activating event) and your response. 

6.) The possibility of change. The good news is in life, there is always the opportunity to change. And you can change your attachment style and move from being anxious or avoidant to secure. By asking yourself, what changes do I need to make to become more secure is important. Understanding the types of partners you pick (anxious people often choose avoidant and vice versa) is also key. Looking back over your relationship history to determine the types of partners you pick (and why) will also encourage positive change. Finally, read the book! It’s an invaluable resource. 

Want to know if you are needy in your relationship? Take the quiz!

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