Marriage & Relationship Coach

Needy People in Marriage and Relationships

If you are needy, what happens to your marriage will depend on your willingness to be loving while at the same time applying healthy boundaries.

needy people in marriage and relationships image“Needy” people put up with behavior from their spouses that most people would not tolerate. They frequently seek reassurance from their spouses and are vigilant to any sign that the relationship is in danger. They are quick to feel jealous when they shouldn’t be and are ineffective when they should be.  Their behavior and emotions are fear driven and reactive and push their partners away rather than creating closeness.  What becomes of their relationship depends on their willingness to become more loving while at the same time applying healthy boundaries.


Struggles in togetherness for needy people

Communication is more than giving information. It is the way we emotionally connect.  The way we talk will make us closer, more distant, or keep the emotional connection the same. Early in relationships, we talk in a way that builds our relationship.  After the initial honeymoon period is over, we settle back into our pre-relationship patterns of interaction with others.   Some of us will want to spend most of our time with our spouses.  Others will want to spend more time alone, with friends, or involved in a career.  This presents little problem if we and our partners are similar in our needs for togetherness and attachment.

Some couples do a lot together.  Some couples do little together.  There is no right or wrong about it either way.  Problems arise when one person desires more intimacy and togetherness than the other.  In this situation, one partner will use communication to try to pull their partner in while the other uses communication (or lack of it) to push their partner back.  This push-pull will gradually increase the emotional distance in the relationship.  Needy people react to the increasing distance by pulling even harder, communicating in more angry and controlling ways, resulting in their partners pushing back even harder.  The togetherness that felt so good early on, comes to feel very bad.

Needy People Don’t Understand that Secure People Don’t Always Want to be Close

Doesn’t everyone want to have as close of a relationship as they can, all the time? This comes as quite a surprise to needy people, but the answer is “no.” Most of the time, people don’t want to be as close as possible. People actually want to be as close as possible only sometimes, while at other times they would rather be with friends, or by themselves.  They are no less committed to their marriage at these times, but need these times to balance out their lives and appreciate their relationships more.

The Development of Neediness in Relationships

For some couples, one partner wants to have much more closeness than the other. Compromise is harder with such large differences and causes more conflict. When compromise does happen, each person has to give up more of either independence or closeness. A tension then hangs over the relationship because neither partner is really satisfied. This begins to build up as internal pressure inside of each partner. This struggle for independence and closeness by the partners can result in roller coaster relationships that alternate between closeness and distance.  Neither is truly satisfied, but each get some of what they want.

In other cases, rather than compromise, one partner gives in to the desires of the other. The more needy partner “temporarily” (they think) sacrifice their need for a close relationship in order just to maintain the relationship. Or, the less needy partner “temporarily” sacrifices time with friends or individual time. These  sacrifices only postpone inevitable conflict.  The compromises may help one spouse to enjoy the relationship while the other one becomes resentful and gradually loses all feelings of love.  If it was the needy person who made the sacrifice, the relationship is likely to continue, but to be a very unhappy one.  If the secure spouse made the sacrifice, he or she is likely to see divorce or an affair as a solution to an unhappy marriage. This will come as a devastating blow to the needy partner who may experience the rejection as sudden and “coming out of nowhere.”

Three Possible Outcomes for Needy Partners

As stated above, the most common outcome is for the secure spouse to end the marriage, in search of a more secure and accepting partner, or simply to feel free. At this time, the rejected needy person can become like a “fatal attraction,” with desperate and damaging behavior.  He or she may continue to cling to a spouse who burned out on the marriage and wants nothing more to do with it.

A different kind of outcome occurs when one spouse has a strong need to be parental, and to take care of the needy spouse. This kind of marriage can be very stable and long lasting. Both partners can feel secure and important. One is needy and receives care; the other is needed and gives care. Close, two way sharing cannot occur, however.

A less likely, but possible outcome for a needy and distant relationship is for the needy person to become less needy. This has almost no chance of happening without professional help for the needy spouse.  The needy spouse has to learn new ways of interacting which are neither controlling nor submissive.  He or she has to work on developing some independent goals and friendships, while supporting the same in his or her spouse.  He or she also has to improve self-care and learn how to not be “punished” by his or her spouse’s behaviors.  It is a fearful transition for needy people, because they fear rejection and interpret any signs of anger from their spouse as failure.

Help Is Available for Those Who Don’t Wait Too Long

Sooner or later, the fears that needy people have which prevent effective action, combine with the continuing damage of their partner’s behaviors to end their relationship.  It is at the point of the end when most people reach out for help.  My recommendation is that you take some steps now, to prevent your relationship from coming to an end.  The sooner you make healthy changes, the less likely your relationship is to end.  A good way to start is by getting a practical book on overcoming neediness.  If your relationship has already reached the point where whatever you do has no positive effect, it is time for you get more serious help such as a coaching package for overcoming neediness.  Even if your relationship is at an end, you will need to learn to overcome your neediness to prevent re-creating the same pattern in your next relationship.

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