It’s official: Prince Harry is back on the market. And the media have had an absolute field day with speculating the reasons behind the split, citing everything from her fear of the media attention to his perception of her as ‘needy’. The term needy has such negative connotations in relationships, it’s often used as an accusation of weakness or immaturity, but what does it really mean? Surely, we all have needs and when we connect with someone we like, our need to be around them increases, right?
Neediness seems to mean different things, depending on the stage of your relationship. Being needy in the dating context versus being needy in an exclusive relationship are quite different things. Psychologist and dating coach Melanie Schilling takes a closer look at both:
Neediness in exclusive relationships
As a psychologist, I meet couples at all stages of their relationships. When one partner behaves in a way that can be perceived as needy, there is often a deeper cause behind the behaviour. Sometimes it’s about an unmet psychological need, either in childhood or in previous relationships. Sometimes it’s more about deep, personal insecurity and a low level of self-worth. Sometimes a person simply believes that they don’t deserve to be happy in a relationship. And sometimes, it is a completely rational reaction to an untrustworthy partner.
Neediness in long term relationships can manifest in a number of ways. It may look like clinginess, jealousy, possessiveness or over-protectiveness. These are the types of behaviours that lead to snooping and reading a partner’s emails, text messages or Facebook posts. However it shows up, if you start to notice yourself or your partner behaving in a needy fashion, it’s a sign that things are not balanced in your relationship. This might be a good indicator that it’s time to talk to each other about the relationship and if this doesn’t help, to seek relationship counselling.
Neediness in dating
In the world of dating, neediness shows up in different ways, often unintentionally. I’ve encountered many people who have accidentally behaved in a needy fashion when dating, even though they are quite secure and confident.
The dynamic of dating can throw us into a spin – we are thrust into an unfamiliar situation where we might feel anything from vulnerable to exhilarated. Our stress hormones and happy hormones can all fire at once, leaving us over-stimulated and saying and doing things that are quite uncharacteristic (and sometimes embarrassing!)
So, here are 5 tips to ensure you don’t come across as needy in your dating life:
1. Vent to your mates
One sure fire way to come across as needy on your date is to talk about your emotional struggles with dating. While there’s nothing wrong with sharing a mutual joke about the perils of dating, lamenting about your last relationship or complaining about the opposite sex will do you no good.
2. Get your needs met first
A common reason why some people seem needy on dates is because they are not getting certain needs met in their life. For instance, if someone is lacking in emotional, physical, spiritual or intellectual satisfaction, they are likely to go looking for this on their dates. This can lead to a needy style of communication.
3. Don’t move too fast
When one person is moving toward a serious relationship and the other is still in the early dating stage, wires can get crossed and it’s not hard for one of you to be seen as needy. It’s important to be present in the dating process and enjoy each stage for its merits, rather than rushing toward the finish line.
4. Communicate authentically
With the vast variety of dating advice and so-called dating rules out there, it’s not surprising that people get confused about dating communication. How long should I wait to call after the date? Should I initiate the next contact? What will they think of me if I suggest another date? What does it mean if they haven’t called after 3 days? So many people torment themselves with such rules and end up communicating something that is a combination of other peoples’ opinions and their sense of what they think they ‘should’ do. This can often lead to being perceived as needy.
5. Trust your gut
If you are following steps 1-4 above, you should be in a good position to trust your intuition. Listen to your inner voice, write a journal, reflect on what you really want and how you really feel. This is the best place to communicate from and it should keep you from coming across as needy. This self-reflection could mean the difference between texting “thanks for a great dinner, let’s do it again soon” and “I really, really like you and think we should get serious, when can you meet my parents?” after your first date.
So let’s all learn from the experience of the prince and his girl – vent to your mates, get your needs met first, don’t move too fast, communicate authentically and trust your gut (and watch out for the paparazzi).