Are You Needy in a Relationship, or Are You Simply Prioritizing Your Needs?

Photo: Getty Images/Hinterhaus Productions
We all have needs, and that's no secret; it's something of which we're all aware and comfortable acknowledging. But given that reality, why is it that having and expressing one's needs in a relationship is often seen as a negative? As a psychotherapist, I get asked all the time about neediness in a relationship, and more specifically how to be less needy. Well, newsflash: There is nothing wrong with having needs, communicating them, and expecting them to be met within the scope of your romantic partnership.

It is healthy to be able to assess what you need in a relationship, and it’s even healthier to communicate those needs and have expectations. In fact, one of the biggest setbacks to building healthy relationships is the widely accepted notion that wholeness can be accomplished outside of relationships. In reality, we gain wholeness from being interdependent and connected to others.

Dispel negative self-characterizations associated with neediness in a relationship. Instead, be proud of yourself for having the self-awareness to identify your needs and express them.

A big part of our growth and healing happens when we are relationally connected and have healthy, positive, and supportive relationships. It's okay to set expectations and advocate for yourself regarding how you would like to be emotionally cared for. So, dispel negative self-characterizations associated with neediness in a relationship. Instead, be proud of yourself for having the self-awareness to identify your needs and express them, and consider the following three realities below outlining why neediness in a relationship is actually a great thing.

3 positive effects of neediness in a relationship

1. It illuminates if you need something of your partner they can't provide

A common issue that arises in relationships where people feel that they are needy is dissatisfaction with the relationship itself. That's because they are with a person who simply cannot meet their emotional needs. When you find yourself begging for the same thing over and over again, it's possible that your partner is not equipped to give you what you are looking for, and so you may shame yourself for being needy instead of acknowledging you are with someone who cannot give you what you need.

Calling ourselves needy can be a way to cope with this disappointment, but it leads to making ourselves feel small and even self-gaslighting by questioning why our needs matter period. This can lead to pretending to not have expectations when, in reality, those are fundamental things for the health of any relationship.

It can be hard to acknowledge that your partner cannot be the thing you need them to be for you. But you have two choices in this scenario:

  1. Adjust your expectations of your partner by acknowledging their limits, and find ways to meet your own needs.
  2. Decide if you think you can move forward in this relationship.

2. It can teach you to be flexible and willing to compromise

I’ve had someone ask me, “Is it reasonable to expect your partner to see you every single day when you don’t live together?” The answer is, "Yes it can be reasonable, but the most important part of this question is measuring if this can be realistic."

In some cases, being able to see your partner every day may come with some barriers, like fatigue, exhaustion from daily responsibilities, and a commute. If you want to see your partner every day and that works for them, then that benefits both of you. But, if your partner expresses that it is too overwhelming or overstimulating to engage with each other every single day because they live far and it's taxing to make the commute every day, or maybe after work they would just like solitude, it might not be realistic.

In the latter case, compromise comes a long way, as does learning to adjust your needs as you remember that your partner has needs as well. Remember, a healthy relationship is built when both parties are open to being flexible when there are differences.

3. It can show you that you're dating emotionally unavailable people

Sometimes, we feel needy in situations because our needs aren't being met—at all. Dating emotionally unavailable people can make you feel like you are the problem, when, ultimately, they are the problem. It is not possible to get your needs met by someone who doesn’t want to fulfill them and has their own agenda. And often, when you really like someone, it can be easy to fall into the trap of giving chances over and over again to someone who has already shown you who they are. Finding yourself regularly confused by their behavior may be a sign that you are pouring your energy into something when you most likely won't get a return on your emotional investment. For instance, maybe one minute they are available and then next minute they retreat and pull back, or their words do not match their actions at all.

Dating is already hard enough, so date people who are clear with their intentions, and express your needs to them and see how they respond. Be clear and kind (but not demanding), communicate your expectations, and pay attention to how they respond.

And ultimately, strip the word "needy" of any negative connotation, and be okay with accepting that you are a human who will always have needs. You don't have to be ashamed about having expectations, nor do you need to belittle yourself for wanting something for yourself.

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