ON BEING “NEEDY”…a clear definition
Many of my clients come to me and tell me what they need from their partners, significant others, or someone they are simply dating. They usually express their needs beautifully, explaining all the ins and outs of the need at hand, why they feel that way, and how it could help move their relationship in a better direction.
Then they say: “How do I tell my significant other”?
And I say: “Huh? You just said it…beautifully, gorgeously, leaving me feeling like I want to give you all those things. Why don’t you just say it exactly like that”?
And then it comes…the “Oh, that’s too needy…I don’t want to be too much…I don’t want my significant other to think I’m desperate”.
Since when is having needs desperate? We’re all human. We need to eat, sleep, shit, be sheltered, and even be cared for. Yes being cared for and wanting to be loved is a basic human need. We all have it. So, when did having this basic need turn from a very human thing into this criticized, shameful experience that we couldn’t possibly communicate it to the very people in our lives that are there to serve specifically that function?
Well, the problem is not having the need, the problem is not expressing the need, the problem lies in our fear/inability to accept the feedback. And that is where the potential for becoming “needy” as we’ve societally defined it comes in. With this fear one of two things happens:
1. We don’t express ourselves and become resentful, anxious, or avoidant and ultimately exhibit passive-aggressive behaviors.
For example, I have a 50-something female client who is dating a guy in his 30’s. She is gorgeous and fit and what started out as a casual affair turned into a two year (still somewhat undefined) relationship when Coronavirus hit. They’ve spent vacations together, spend weekends together, and are in as much of a relationship as anyone else I know but have never officially defined it.
When Coronavirus hit they ended up in different parts of the country. She found herself needing attention, wanting to talk to him more, hoping he’d reach out and getting frustrated and anxious when he didn’t. She called me and explained how she was feeling and I said; “Why don’t you just tell him? You know he’s a safe space, he’s proven himself over the 2 years you guys have been together, and I’m sure he’d be happy to reach out to you more and give you what you need at this time”
Her response; “No, I think I’ll just put him on ice for a while, that should work”.
And therein lies the problem. She was so afraid to seem “needy” that she rather avoid the situation altogether, not satisfy her needs, push him away and make him feel like she doesn’t care hoping to inspire him to come around on his own. Inevitably, creating an unhealthy cycle of miscommunication.
Once we really got into the chat it was clear that she was really afraid not to not only seem needy but to be vulnerable and ultimately afraid to find out that he wouldn’t be there for her in the way she was hoping.
She was afraid to hear a NO! And what would happen then? Say he couldn’t or wouldn’t do her the simple favor of reaching out more and being an emotional support. She would then have to face the reality that this relationship wasn’t what she wanted or needed and then ultimately make a decision she didn’t want to make; to break up with him and be alone. She’d rather keep him in her life in some way that was ultimately unsatisfying than be alone and wait for the relationship that could fully satisfy her.
Now that is “needy”! The games, the passive-aggressive behavior, the push/pull we all do at some point in an effort to cover up our deepest fears and not face the harsh reality of our situations. Most of the time, however, it’s the fear that’s the problem and not the reality.
What happened in this case? After some passive-aggressive push and pull she did finally tell him she missed him and needed him to be more attentive. And he has been. Of course, he has. They have been together for two years and he cares for her deeply, it wasn’t even an issue, he just did it.
2. Another way of being “needy” is becoming so desperate to keep someone around that we drop our standards.
Early on in my post-divorce dating experience, I was a bit naïve. Ok, I was a complete idiot and embodied every connotation of the word needy (but I didn’t know better so give me a break). I went on a couple of dates with this guy and he very quickly started to reach out to me only past 11 pm to see what I was up to. We all know where this is going.
I was torn, I really liked him but I realized he was just using me as a late-night hook-up or trying to anyway. I had listened to enough dating podcasts and read enough on the topic to know exactly what to do. And I did it! He texted me in the evening around 8pm and said he was out with friends and would love to see me after. I very proudly told him that if he wanted to see me we could do brunch the next day or maybe go for a hike. He said he’d be busy the next day and left it there, didn’t try to make further plans, didn’t ask me out for another time. Just left me there with a clear NO.
There I was, I had gotten the answer and had I accepted it and moved on all would have been fine. He had expressed that he wanted a ‘late-night hook-up’, I had countered with ‘day date’ and he wasn’t interested.
And that should have been ok, but it wasn’t.
I liked this guy or thought I did and so at 11 pm that night I texted him to see where he was and asked him to come over. Cringe, I know! But, that, my friend’s is “needy”! Instead of holding out to get what I wanted, I was willing to settle for whatever I could get.
Again, it wasn’t the asking for what I needed, it was in the settling for less than I deserved.
I speak to countless people, men, and women who are afraid to express themselves for fear of seeming “needy” not even understanding what that actually means. Expressing your needs is not “needy”, neither is having boundaries or standards.
Hearing a NO and not accepting it is! Not enforcing your standards is and accepting less than you deserve is! So don’t be afraid…say what you need…express yourself! Just be brave enough to accept the response.
Flora Ong is a Dating and Relationship Coach as well as a Matchmaker currently working on her first book. Find her at www.redo.love or IG: @redo.love