Take a second to think back to Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. On her mission to push her new man away, she encapsulated the epitome of what we think of as “needy”: she was clingy, possessive, jealous, demanding, and childish. These are traits we often associate with neediness in a relationship, and they almost always come with negative connotations.
But in any relationship, both partners DO have essential needs that are required to be met, and we should all feel safe to communicate what those needs are. So, how do you distinguish “needs” from “neediness”?
Well, think of your needs as the basic essentials required for human fulfillment. Basic needs in a relationship might be: feeling heard and seen, feeling respected, feeling valued and appreciated, or feeling that the relationship has the opportunity for growth. These are healthy needs and ones that we all deserve to have met by our partners.
Neediness, however, stems from the fears or insecurities we bring into a relationship. For example, if you enter a relationship feeling insecure, unworthy, or unlovable, you might seek constant reassurance from your partner. Or if you have a fear of being cheated on, you might act needy by constantly questioning your partner on their whereabouts or trying to prevent them from going to social occasions without you. Other acts of neediness might be craving constant attention, invading privacy, irrational jealousy, or repeatedly asking your partner to “prove” their love.
Neediness can put a huge amount of pressure on the receiver, making them feel suffocated or feeling that nothing they say or do is enough. This creates a build-up of resentment and bitterness and ultimately fractures the relationship. So how do you begin to heal a relationship that has been affected by an unhealthy amount of neediness?
If YOU are being needy:
The first step is to recognize that the neediness you are displaying stems from unhealed pain, trauma, or insecurities. You must take ownership of this and then take the necessary steps to begin your own healing journey while committing to cultivating more self-love. I always tell clients that “you must own your own baggage,” by which I mean that you must take responsibility for what you’re bringing to the relationship—both the good and the bad. Doing this will prevent you from transferring old insecurities and fears onto your new partner and, in turn, help you to be less needy. Be sure to communicate openly with your partner so they can understand and support you on your healing journey.
If YOUR PARTNER is needy:
Start to open up communication with your partner and offer them a safe space to explore where their fears or insecurities are really stemming from. It’s also important to set boundaries for yourself and alert your partner of their behavior so they can manage it. For example, if your partner is asking for constant reassurance, you may say something like, “I understand that you might be feeling anxious right now, but I would really like you to trust what I’m saying to you.”
In any relationship, we will have days where we might seek a little bit of extra support or validation from our partners, and that’s totally normal. It’s when this becomes a repetitive and constant cycle that we need to start addressing how needy we or our partners may be.
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