12 Ways Neediness is Hurting Your Relationship

How many of these needy characteristics can you find in yourself?

needy characteristics pyramid
Pyramid of Needy Characteristics

Just as high blood pressure is the silent killer of people’s health, needy characteristics are the silent killer of people’s relationships.  And, just like high blood pressure, it can be reduced, and in many cases eliminated, so that you can go on to have a loving, satisfying, relationship. How many side effects of neediness does your relationship have?

#1 Needy characteristics can make you come across as controlling

When needy people start to encounter differences that they don’t like in their significant others, those differences become a threat.  The differences don’t fit with their belief that they have perfect partners. Unlike secure people who know that differences are to be expected, for needy people differences are not tolerable.  For needy people any differences in values or desires mean that something is either wrong with them or their partners. Needy people don’t want to accept differences, but try to eliminate them.  Has your partner accused you of being controlling or jealous?

#2 Needy characteristics result in poor boundaries

Needy people have poor boundaries. Because their main fear is losing their partners, all of their behaviors are to prevent breakup rather than to deal with problem behavior.  For example, if a needy person’s partner is being disrespectful and rude, she (or he) may decide to put up with it rather than walk away. If her partner is selfish and treats her badly in other ways, possibly even physically abusing her, she will put up with it. She will allow all these things because, although she hates these things (like anyone would), she hates the possibility of losing her partner even more.  Her poor boundaries make her relationship worse, and her worsening relationship makes her have poor boundaries.  It is a vicious cycle. Are you putting up with a damaging behavior your partner is doing?

#3 Needy characteristics makes people self focused

A needy person believes that almost everything that other people do relates to her (or him). It often never occurs to her that other people might have lives of their own. Such a thought is threatening. Because if her partner can have a life of his own, then it may mean that she is not necessary. And if she is not necessary, then maybe she will be dispensed with.  She needs him to need her—to calm her fear of isolation and rejection.  Everything that he does that demonstrates independence makes her feel threatened and so she will continually discourage him from growing. Just as needy parents can do this to their children, needy spouses can do this to each other.  Are you failing to empathize with your partner’s needs and desires?

#4 Neediness makes people prisoners of fear

Needy people never feel completely at ease. Even in the midst of loving relationships, they have doubts and remain vigilant to danger—to any sign of rejection. They can never be fully at ease because they don’t believe that they could emotionally survive the loss of their relationships.  They are sensitized to any comments that their partners makes which could be taken to mean he or she is losing interest in the relationship.  Because of this, they tend to overreact and are more emotionally volatile than secure people.  Are you highly sensitive and overreact to even small things your partner says or does?

#5 Needy characteristics make victims of people

Needy people have a healthy desire for a lot of intimacy in their relationships, but have behavior which actually creates more distance.  Needy people often don’t see themselves as having a problem because they become focused on their partners’ behaviors.  Their partners often tell them unkind things and behave in ways that make the needy person feel rather unimportant. Not only that, but their partners become progressively less affectionate as the relationship goes on.  With a focus on these partner behaviors, the needy person looks, and feels, like a victim.  Other people may start to advise her to get out or end her relationship.  Because she can’t bring herself to do this, this is the point where needy people often discover that they are really needy. Are you allowing your partner to mistreat you in a way that a secure person would not?

#6 Needy characteristics create unrealistic expectations

Eventually partners of needy people will do something that will make the needy person feel like he is less intensely involved with him or her. For a secure person, this would be no big deal as she would also understand the initial intensity is giving way to a more relaxed, but deeper love.  But where the secure person experiences comfort, the needy person experiences anxiety.  As her partner needs time to himself, she feels hurt, or angry, or both.   She will start to emotionally tug at her partner’s coat to get him to stay in the bubble that they had together at the beginning of their relationship.  Do you expect your partner to always think about you or want to be with you?

#7 Needy characteristics create dissatisfying long term relationships

It is natural to feel more intensely in love at the beginning of a new romance.  For secure people, the intensity gives way to a deeper bond as the relationship progresses.  For needy people, however, the intensity usually does not give way to a deeper bond, but rather to conflict and distancing.  This is interspersed with some brief periods of intensely making up–creating an emotional roller coaster of a relationship.  As time goes by, the making up becomes less and less and the distance more and more.  Often the only way that needy people can regain a loving bond is to start a new relationship by an affair. This is only a short term solution with an equally unhappy ending. Do you find that your relationships tend to be great at the beginning, but then become downright awful once you and your partner are committed to each other?

#8 People with needy characteristics rejects good partners and desire bad ones

Neediness is like an emotional thirst that will keep your mind on the lookout for anyone who can possibly quench it, even if he or she is entirely wrong for you.  Picture yourself walking through a scorching desert with no water. The thirstier you get, the more you think about water.  You might even get to the point where you would sell your soul for a cupful.  And that cupful would taste like the best water you ever had.  Likewise, a person who is starving will search through garbage cans for food, brushing aside the flies and maggots and the food will taste delicious.  And a person who is lonely enough or dejected enough will be attracted to any person who shows interest in him or her. And that person will seem better than any person she (or he) has ever known. Although he may be married, or using drugs, or insensitive to her feelings, she will make excuses for him to justify her attachment—“He just has bad moods because he has a tough job,” “Yeah, he’s married, but his wife is awful and he’s planning on getting a divorce,” “He doesn’t use drugs all the time. He’s just a recreational user.” Do you or have your repeatedly dated people you should have stayed away from?

#9 Needy characteristics create self esteem problems

If people have always felt like they were no good, undeserving, or just fooling people into thinking they are good, then they will put up with any kind of mistreatment as long as, once in a while, other people are nice to them. They may crave the love of others yet feel unworthy of that love at the same time.  These kinds of people will put up with almost anything  their partners do or say.  Even though all of their friends may point out how bad their situation is, they may refuse to see it.  For example, they may be very fearful of their partners cheating on them, but be practically blind to any evidence that their partners are cheating.  Do you feel so unworthy of love that you could understand any destructive thing your partner may be doing?

#10 Needy characteristics make people less desirable to others

Why don’t better quality people (secure, kind, thoughtful, sociable) want to have long term relationships with needy people?  At first they might, but something happens to secure people when they are in relationships with needy people.  Secure people tire of their relationships because of the constant requirement to manage the anxiety of their needy partners. They often feel more like parents to teenagers than like partners to equals. Does your partner need to tip toe around you and continually reassure you so that you won’t emotionally melt down?

#11 People with needy characteristics create relationships which end suddenly and shockingly

If you are needy, your relationship is likely to end at an unexpected time. You may find your partner leaving even when he or she has not complained about your relationship before. Your partner has not complained because of your heightened sensitivity and emotional reactiveness to any sign of rejection.  So, he or she never discussed problems with you.  This made things degenerate to the point where your partner no longer has any feelings of being in love with you anymore.  Are you so defensive or aggressive that your partner cannot share any concerns with you?

#12 Needy characteristics result in a cycle of failed relationships

Even if a needy person ended a bad relationship, he or she would have to find another partner fast enough to be able to resist going back with the man (or woman) who treated her (or him) badly.  Because of this, the needy person is not likely to be very careful in his or her new selection.  Her cravings to feel loved and accepted will again make her overlook the very same kinds of warning signs that were there in her previous relationship.  Rather than doing something secure, she will have traded one troubled relationship for another.  Have you ever escaped a bad relationship just to jump into another bad one?

Turn this around by getting out of your head

For very needy people, relationships have more to do with what is going on in their heads than what is actually going on between them and their partners. They don’t see their partners realistically, they don’t see themselves realistically, they don’t see their relationships realistically, and they are scared to take a good look at the way things really are.  As a result, they continue to be anxious and reactive–two qualities that are very unattractive to anyone. You need to get out of your head if you are to become more attractive and strengthen your relationship.  For immediate, intensive help with a relationship damaged by neediness, you will want to get coaching for overcoming neediness.  There will be very little to figure out with this approach because the coach will be directing you to do particular things.  If your situation is not yet that serious, you can take a practical self-help approach using a skills based  book on overcoming neediness.  The goal of either approach is the same–to get you to replace destructive behaviors with constructive behaviors to turn your relationship around and re-attract your partner and others as well.