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Have You Ever Been Told You Were Needy?

Were you really needy or was it about the relationship?

What is it about neediness? If you’ve ever been there you know what it feels like and it doesn’t feel good. It’s the feeling and behavior that corresponds with the frustration of having unmet needs. It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach that says that something is wrong in your life and you need someone or something to fix it. You might have worked really hard to learn to express your needs and yet were quickly shut down by a partner who implied that there was something wrong with you for needing and wanting more. At times even your friends called you "needy," adding to the feeling of not being understood. As a therapist, I've treated successful, mentally healthy people who run corporations, save lives, or perform on Broadway, but have been referred to as "needy"—a label inconsistent with who they were in all other areas in their lives. I've decided to pay particular attention to this phenomenon.

Oftentimes, needy is about reacting to the other—feeling neither heard nor understood when expressing frustration or disappointment about not being treated well in the relationship or wanting a particular need to be met. Whether in the form of not being validated, supported, accepted, forgiven or comforted, it is accompanied by a profound sense of feeling flawed and just not feeling whole. Inevitably a judgment is made about having verbalized the need rather than examining the cause. Quite often, the needy person was justified and simply reacting to an intuitive sense that something was off in the relationship. “Needy” just might be about the relationship.

Fear often fuels neediness—fear of abandonment or rejection. But more often than not, fear of break up or divorce occurred because it was either implied or threatened at some point in the relationship. With the label of "needy" is the implication that one should be satisfied with less or else there was something intrinsically wrong with you for needing or wanting more. I beg to differ.

What is it that precipitates needy behavior?

1 - Being in a relationship with someone who has no clue about what you’re feeling or about what you need.

2 - Being involved with someone who is not invested enough in the relationship to care to do something about your expressed and unexpressed needs.

3 - Reacting to a dangled carrot—a promise that seems to never be fulfilled.

4 - Being in a relationship with someone who is not capable of meeting your needs and therefore, as a result of their feeling inadequate, using the excuse that it was your fault for needing too much. Sometimes they break up with you before you leave them.

5 - The exception—being involved in a relationship with someone who has been unable to meet your needs but genuinely wants to give and is willing to learn how.

So what do you do when you're that "needy" person?

1 - First figure out what it is that you're missing. Is it validation, support, acceptance, forgiveness, comfort?

2 - Ask yourself if your partner is really capable of answering your needs. Not everyone can deliver when it comes to having your emotional needs met. If there is a pattern of seldom having your needs met, it might be time to move on or rethink your relationship.

3 - Realize that learning to take the best care of yourself might be what you really need to learn to do.

4 - Surround yourself with caring friends or a therapist who understands that your needs matter and will not judge you about your expecting more.

5 - Take the best possible care of yourself and prepare for the hits in life and the inevitable encounter with yucky people.

Neediness is at times a wake-up call and it might be as simple as realizing that you’re with the wrong person. A good relationship has the following three components:

1 - Chemistry: Some physical, spiritual pull that you just feel.

2 - Soulful connection: You get each other effortlessly and feel like he knows you and loves you and you know him and love him.

3 - Living life on the same page. You both agree on the important things in both of your lives. You both agree on how and where your lives are heading.

So if you find yourself feeling needy, you need to self reflect—are you with the right person and are you where you should be? And be sure to be nice to yourself. "Needy" just might lead you to where you really need to be.

More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
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More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
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