It is a rare person who hasn't ever felt needy. You know the feeling. The urge to know — in that moment — that the one you love is interested in you, cares about how you're doing, wants to spend time with you and genuinely loves you. You want some sign that you're special to your spouse or partner. What's emotionally painful about feeling needy is that when you're in a vulnerable place, your doubts, worries, fears and anxiety often get bigger. You're more likely to get jealous easily and you're more likely to unintentionally push your partner away. What's also emotionally painful about feeling needy is the shame. You feel embarrassed to rely so heavily on your partner for reassurance and this can turn into shame about not only the feelings you're having and your behavior, but also who you are.
All of this combines into a miserable and dangerous situation. Your partner may feel confused, defensive, pressured and suffocated. Despite your efforts to get closer to your partner, your neediness will put even more distance between the two of you. It's a bad mix and, thankfully, one that can be resolved in a way that will leave you feeling better and your relationship happier and more connected than before. But first, here are some things you don't want to do when you feel needy.
- Don't Ignore How You Feel: Doubts and loneliness won't just go away on their own. Kind of like the squeaky hinge on your front door. It's going to continue to squeak and cause damage if you don't acknowledge what's happening and tend to it. Stop ignoring and pretending that everything is okay when it's really not.
- Don't Inflame Neediness: An opposite (and equally common) reaction to feeling needy is to stoke and build on the thoughts you're having. Recognize it when you think to yourself, "He doesn't care." or "I'm not that important to her." Stop yourself from fixating on these thoughts that are likely to be absolutely false.
- Don't Make It "Bad:" This one can be tough, but it's really important. One thought that inflames neediness is something like, "I shouldn't be feeling this way." Don't heap shame on yourself because that will keep you stuck.
- Don't Let Neediness Take Control: Have you ever felt like you weren't the one saying or doing whatever you just said or did? Jealousy and insecurity can seem to control you and "make" you be someone you don't want to be and neediness can do the same thing. Be aware when you're about to react from neediness and, instead, make a conscious decision.
- Don't Make It Your Partner's Job To Fix How You Feel: Here's another one that can be a challenge. When you feel needy, it's usually because you don't believe you're getting what you want from your partner whether it's affection, time, attention, compassion, sex, connection or even respect. It seems that if only your partner would change and give you what you want, all would be well. This is a huge mistake. The vast majority of people who feel needy will continue to feel that way even if their partner does change his or her behavior. This doesn't mean you're making it all up or that your partner's habits aren't contributing to how you feel, by the way. Just remember, improving how you feel starts with you. No matter how much your partner is willing, he or she can't fix this for you.
Make sure you do these things when you're craving your partner's love and attention.
- Do Get Curious About Your Neediness: The more you understand what's behind the feelings of neglect and unimportance, the easier it will be to move out of neediness and into action that's in your (and your relationship's) best interests. Quiet your mind first and then get clear about where this is coming from. Does your current situation take you back to a past relationship that ended badly? Has there been a change in your partner's behavior that you don't like? What's going on — within you or between you and your partner — that may be contributing to you feeling needy?
- Do Treat Yourself With Kindness: This kind of self-inquiry won't benefit anyone if you question yourself harshly. Curiosity combined with kindness and compassion will help you uncover the unhealed emotional wounds you've been carrying around. Kindness will also allow you to move forward in a direction you want to go. If you can't muster up anything kind instead of the judging and self-critical thoughts, that's your cue to find a private space and just breathe. Meet shame or put downs with a simple, "I love you" or "I love you, and I will figure this out."
- Do Be Honest About What You Really Need: When you are calmer and clearer — not driven by shame and fear — then it's time to figure out what you really need. Insecurity may tell you that you need your partner to text you back right now and self-doubt may insist that your partner meet you and say what you want to hear as soon as possible, but these are probably not at the heart of what you really need.
Go inside yourself to find out what it is you really need — in the short-term and the long-term too — and make a list. Your list may include things like: "I'll stop telling myself that I'm not important," or "I'll start telling my partner how I really feel," or even "I'll look at the facts and decide whether or not this is a healthy relationship for me." Your next step is to follow through and ask for what you really need. This might mean you hold yourself accountable for taking a next step or that you sit down with your partner and create agreements to bring more of what you want into your relationship.
Find the right words so that your partner will stay open and really listen when you ask for what you want and need. We tell you what to say (and what not to say) in this free communication video.
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