neediness pyramid

Go from Needy to Secure to Save Your Relationship

Are you feeling frustrated and angry in your relationship because your partner is not making the changes you need to feel loved?  Replace needy ineffective behaviors with secure behaviors to get him or her to make the changes you want.

A needy person is not what you think. Needy does not refer to dependent.  A needy person is someone who uses the wrong skills for choosing partners, resolving conflict, keeping attraction, and ending other’s damaging behaviors. 

(Related podcast: Neediness, Dependency, and Interdependency: Getting Your Marriage Right)

Needy people are motivated by their fear of losing their partners to desperate and irritating things.  They often are controlling or vindictive.  Although they believe they are doing this for good reasons, their behavior actually drives their partners away. 

Unless they learn new skills, needy people will ultimately lose their partners. Then, they will re-create the same problems in new relationships.  If you are part of such a cycle, you can learn to end neediness, become secure, and get the love you want.

Three Stages of Secure Relationships

Communication is more than giving information. In a relationship—every relationship—it is a way to regulate emotional distance or closeness.  You can tell by the a person’s speech and body language if they are trying to become closer, more distant, or to maintain the same level of closeness/distance.

What do your tone of voice, words, facial expression and body language tell your spouse about your desire to be together?

New relationships go through a honeymoon period when talk and body language is more affectionate.  Any observer can see their desire to be together, and to exclude others.  This period is temporary and becomes less intense as the relationship continues.

After the honeymoon period is over, communication becomes less affectionate.  People feel more secure about the relationship, and start to notice differences. These differences bring tension into the relationship. It is a period of adjustment.

The more similar and secure people are to begin with, the less intense and prolonged the adjustment will be.  The greater the differences, and the less secure the people, the longer this period will be. Escalation of conflict and emotional distancing can push the couple apart. 

After the couple has accepted each others differences, they normally settle into a less intense, but more comfortable period of stability in which they can begin to work together on raising a family, having a business, or other ventures requiring trust and cooperation.  They also will continue to date each other, talk daily, and have a good sex life. 

Needy people may never reach this period of stability because they remain stuck in the period of adjustment, lacking in acceptance, and continually trying to change their partners.

How Neediness Affects This Process

Needy people have a tendency to commit to people quickly, without shopping around for the best partner.  As a result, they often have relationships with people who are significantly different from them.  While this does not affect the honeymoon period, it makes the period of adjustment more difficult. 

Needy people are more bothered by differences and exert more emotional pressure to make their partners conform to their expectations

When needy people complain, control, or withdraw in efforts to change their partners, partners pull away.  If the partner is also needy, the partner will also complain, control, or withdraw, escalating the problems.  The result is a more distant relationship that neither partner likes, but which they are both afraid to lose.  How this is resolved depends on the personality and security of the needy person’s partner.

Common Patterns of a Prolonged Period of Adjustment

A secure partner will often make attempts to work on the relationship.  When those fail, he or she may end the relationship outright, or have an affair.  A secure partner is not likely to continue indefinitely in a relationship that is not enjoyable. Everyone wants validation and if it doesn’t come from the needy partner, it will come from someone else (e.g.  an affair) or something else (e.g. workaholism).

A needy partner is less likely to end the relationship because of fears of being alone, just like the needy partner.  These relationships are characterized by an intense period of conflict when each person is fighting to get their needs met, followed by a period of relative calm and making up, followed by intense conflict again.  This creates a roller-coaster style of relationship that may go on for many years.

argument-intimacy cycle
Needy couples have roller coaster relationships

A roller coaster style of relationship is unlikely to go on indefinitely, and is usually ended by an affair followed by separation and divorce. An affair prevents a cheating partner from needing to face being alone. The partner who is cheated on at this time will have intense fears of abandonment and be willing to do anything to restore the relationship.

An abandoned needy partner will climb any mountain or violate any values if it means keeping their partner

End Neediness to Preserve Relationships

Single people can learn secure dating. Secure dating means not committing quickly to any one person, and taking the time to shop around for a partner who is a good fit. These are the most important steps that single people can take to end neediness. The better the match, the fewer adjustments will need to be made later on. 

Contrary to popular belief, marriage does not smooth over differences–it makes them more pronounced.

For married people, it is very important not become controlling, a complainer, or to punish your partner by withdrawing.  This won’t get the love that you want from your spouse. Instead, it will just push your spouse away. 

You can create the desired changes in your spouse by learning how to end needy, ineffective behaviors (e.g. arguing, criticizing, complaining, etc.) and replacing them with secure behaviors (attraction, validation, and boundaries).  This will create positive change for you, while also helping your spouse to enjoy your relationship more.

Relationships Result from Good Relationship Skills, Not Luck

Needy people have a number of skills deficits which result in:

  • not being able to attract secure partners,
  • not being able to distinguish good potential partners from bad potential partners,
  • not being able to manage conflict in a constructive way,
  • not knowing how to keep a partner attracted once in a committed relationship, and
  • not knowing how to use boundaries for unacceptable differences.

Each of these skills can be learned individually or together as a set of behaviors to end neediness.  My book, Overcome Neediness and Get the Love You Want, is a good place to start to make the transformation from being needy to being secure.  I have also included a chapter on how to help a needy partner to become more secure.  If you would like more intensive help, I also offer a coaching package for overcoming neediness.

Neediness is not a disease or a disorder.  Everyone is born needy, but most people have life experiences that result in their becoming mature and secure.  If you did not, you are not stuck as an insecure person who immaturely handles relationship problems.  You can begin to learn the very same skills that secure people use to have close, long lasting, loving relationships. 

Even learning a little can make a world of difference to your life satisfaction.

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