12 Ways Neediness is Hurting Your Relationship

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

neediness pyramid
Just one needy behavior can sabotage a relationship. But you can change that, just like I did.

Needy characteristics are the silent killer of people’s relationships just as high blood pressure is the silent killer of people’s health. I used to have this problem and was repeatedly damaging my relationships.

Fortunately, just like high blood pressure, neediness can be reduced or even eliminated. Doing this will help you feel happier and have better relationships.

I eliminated my neediness. Let me help you to see how things might be going wrong for you if you have a similar problem.

#1 How your spouse experiences your neediness

A fear of abandonment and being alone underlies most needy behavior. Needy people are more sensitive to anything that could be a sign of rejection or abandonment. As a result, they are more reactive.

A spouse wanting to have some alone time or time with friends can be interpreted by needy people as their spouse no longer loving them. So can not picking up the dishes, not saying I love you every time a communication is ended, not texting throughout the day, not noticing a new hair style, not wanting to share the details of a therapy session, and most anything the needy person does not like.

As a result, people who have needy spouses often feel like:

  • They are not good enough,
  • that their feelings and needs are not important,
  • that they can’t have privacy,
  • that they can’t have friends,
  • that they are not entitled to their own opinions,
  • that they are not trusted, and/or
  • that they are controlled.

Early in the relationship, the needy person tends to idealize their partner. As the relationship goes on, their spouse invariably does not behave like the idealized image. So, needy people try to make their spouse become like their idealized image. Their actions make their spouses feel unloved for how they actually are.

Needy people feel either anxious, angry, or sad in response not only to what their spouse does, but also in response to the meaning they attribute to their spouse’s behavior.

Needy people are controlling in order to reduce their own anxiety or to force their spouse to meet their needs.

For example, a needy person might criticize or prevent their spouse from socializing without them. They do this either so they won’t be left alone or to prevent their spouse from cheating on them. The end result is their partner feeling controlled and wanting to get away from them.

If your spouse ever says that you are controlling, that they are not a priority, that you don’t trust them, or that they need space, the first thing to check is if you are using needy behaviors.

#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 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, as that could anger their partner and increase their risk of rejection.

If a needy person’s partner is selfish and behaves badly in other ways, possibly even being physically abusive, the behavior may be put up with. Of course needy people hate these things just like everyone else, but their fear of rejection prevents them from using boundaries that could end the bad behavior of their partner.

Without boundaries or with inconsistent boundaries, bad behavior becomes worse over time.

If you are putting up with disrespect or other damaging behavior from your spouse, there is a good chance you are needy.

#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 one’s partner can have a private life then it may mean the needy partner is not necessary. And if the needy partner isn’t necessary, then he or she may be rejected.

Needy people seek reassurance that they are needed and desired and discourage independent behaviors. Needy people need to be needed much more than secure people. They are pretty poor at understanding anything their partners do that promotes growth and independent ability.

A needy man may not want his wife to work because then she may not need him as much. He doesn’t stop to think that his wife may need to feel fulfilled with a career. He needs her rather than loves her. So, he is most concerned about how her behavior will affect his happiness and disregards her happiness.

Sometimes neediness can be confused with narcissism because of this self-focused aspect. Narcissists feel superior to others. Needy people usually feel inferior. In fact, they often feel that if they lost their partner, they could never find someone else to love them.

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 even if they were reassured today, things could change tomorrow.

They are sensitized to any comments that their partners make which could be taken to mean a loss of 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 partner’s behavior.

Their partners are often displeased with them and have distancing behaviors. This activates the needy person’s fear all the more, resulting in more needy behaviors which drive their partner even further away.

With a rejecting and distancing partner, the needy person usually looks and feels like a victim. The easiest way to see if your neediness has caused your partner’s distancing is to stop your needy behaviors and see if your partner comes closer.

Do you think your partner may be distancing because of your critical or controlling behavior?

#6 Needy characteristics create unrealistic expectations

Needy people often expect that their partners will always be in a good mood, will always want to talk to them, will always be open and honest with them, will have all the same values and beliefs, and will never say anything hurtful, and will always want to be with them.

Because of these unrealistic expectations, they are much more reactive when their partner does these things.

Secure people expect that sometimes their partners are going to be moody, sometimes they won’t be open and honest, sometimes they will say something hurtful, and sometimes want to be by themselves, even if we want to be with them.

Understanding that our partners are fallible human beings and will mess up regularly, just like we do, will help us to love them more and be less reactive.

Do you have that realistic perspective, or do you have unrealistic expectations about your spouse?

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, this passionate beginning 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 new relationship will follow the same pattern as the old one. The most intense feelings of love will be at the beginning and the relationship will become less and less satisfying the longer it goes on.

Have you ever had a relationship where the depth of love for your partner increased rather than decreased? Or have you only felt intense love at the beginning and when your partners were breaking up with you?

Intense love on breakup is powered by fear of losing the other person.

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

Neediness, for a single person, is like an emotional thirst. 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 that person may be married, using drugs, or insensitive, a needy person will make excuses to justify his or her new partner’s behavior—“He just has bad moods because he has a tough job,” “Yeah, she’s married, but her husband is awful and she’s planning on getting a divorce,” “He doesn’t use drugs all the time. He’s just a recreational user.” 

Did you overlook your spouse’s bad behaviors when you were first dating and immediately commit, preventing yourself from finding someone better?

#9 Needy characteristics create self esteem problems

If people feel undeserving of love, then they will put up with mistreatment as long as, once in a while, their partner is nice to them.

They actually feel fortunate to have the person who mistreats them and fear that if their relationship ended, they couldn’t find another person who could love them.

An abusive man or woman can keep a relationship going with a needy person as long as, once in a while, he or she says I love you to the the needy partner.

Is the only way that you know your partner loves you is because he or she says I love you once in a while?

#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 because needy people are very affectionate and attentive early in relationships.

However, as the relationship continues, the needy partner will soon want commitment. In addition, they will start to interrogate and make high time demands. Secure people typically have friends and other activities they will want to do in addition to dating.

People who get married quickly often end up with needy partners who turn cold and controlling once married. A long engagement and refusing to commit too soon can sort needy people from secure people.

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 reactivity 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 had any feelings of being in love with you. 

Are you so defensive or aggressive that your partner cannot share any concerns with you about your relationship? If so, you may get a surprise ending to your relationship unless you overcome your neediness.

#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 person who treated him or her badly. 

Because of this, the needy person is not likely to be very careful in selecting the next partner. The cravings to feel loved and accepted will again make the needy person overlook the very same kinds of warning signs that were there in the previous relationship. 

One of the questions I ask my clients is how many people they dated before getting engaged to their spouse. The higher the number, the more likely my client is to be a secure person.

How much shopping around did you do before getting into your current relationship?

You can 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. There are two approaches to doing that.

The counseling and coaching approaches to overcoming neediness

The counseling approach is to learn how you became needy in the first place and to realistically evaluate your thoughts and feelings. The purposes are to increase your self esteem, make you feel better, and to help you communicate things in a better way. You can also work with the therapist to discover if you would be better off leaving your relationship. The downside is that counseling can take a long time.

The coaching approach, which I do as a relationship coach, is very different from the counseling approach. The coaching approach is focused on identifying and stopping damaging behaviors while learning how to help your spouse enjoy your relationship. It is behavioral and focused on skills. The premise is that if you have more success with your partner, that will make you feel better and help you to maintain a positive relationship. Progress in the relationship can often be experienced within one week.

People who are too emotionally reactive to learn and practice relationship building behaviors should choose counseling first. If you have the self discipline to learn and do new behaviors, then coaching can help you to fix your relationship faster. If you are unsure, you can start with coaching and switch to counseling if you continue to be too upset to change your behavior.

There is no right or wrong about it. You just need to choose the right professional for both your situation and your personality. You can take a look at the skills that I help people to acquire to rebuild their relationships and to be more secure by visiting my coaching packages.

How to get started without counseling or coaching

Many people that I work with started with my book called, Overcome Neediness and Get the Love You Want . If you are good at self help, this may be all you need for a better relationship. I wrote this book because I wished that I had such a book when I used to be a needy young man. If there is one book I wish I could send back in time to my earlier self, it would be this one.

In any case, I am here to help you if you are having problems in your marriage or if you are single and need help becoming secure so that you can find a better long term partner. Thank you for reading this today. I wish you all the best in your marriage and relationships.

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