It’s okay to be needy sometimes. But don’t let it ruin your relationship.
If you’re an anxious person, like me, you’re probably intimately familiar with the way your anxiety can spill over into your romantic life, turning into neediness and mucking things up. And I’m willing to bet that you’ve ruined at least one relationship, and probably more, by letting your anxiety get the best of you and acting needy and clingy.
When exactly did ‘needy’ become such a bad word? After all, we’re all human beings, and we all have needs. If we didn’t, none of us would bother with relationships in the first place. But the fact is, even though being needy is normal, there’s nothing like excessive neediness to drive a guy away, fast. And you don’t want to become so needy that you completely lose your identity to your relationship; if you’re already feeling insecure, this will only compound that feeling.
Real talk: the reason I know all about being needy in a relationship is that I’ve exhibited each and every one of the following behaviors in my past relationships. I struggle with my sense of self-worth, and as a direct result, I’ve weathered a marriage that wasn’t right for me, an abusive relationship, and had my heart well and truly broken more than once.
So, in the spirit of ‘do as I say, not as I’ve done,’ here are nine signs that your neediness could be doing in your relationships…
1. You think about him all the time
What it looks like: He’s in your thoughts 24/7 – when you’re at work, out with friends, grocery shopping, getting a pedicure – you get the idea. It’s normal to think fondly of your sweetheart first thing when you wake up in the morning and last thing before you go to sleep at night. But if anxious thoughts of him intrude on everyday activities to the point where you have trouble concentrating, chances are it’s going to translate into constant texting and calling – which is an easy way to drive a guy away, fast.
How to curb it: Practicing mindfulness can help you let go of obsessive thoughts. Health and wellness expert Jaycee Gossett says mindfulness is about “being aware and present among your own thoughts.” Slow down and become aware of your breathing. So notice your thoughts, but don’t focus on them – simply observe them as they come and go.
2. You’re always available
What it looks like: When he texts or calls, you interrupt whatever you’re doing to respond right away. If he asks you to dinner with only an hour’s notice, you cancel any other plans you had, or frantically jump in the shower to get ready. He doesn’t have to make an effort to make plans with you in advance, because he knows you’re always around and up for whatever.
How to curb it: Stay busy, make plans with other friends, don’t accept last-minute dates, and never bail on previous plans for him. That old classic, The Rules, may have been a lot of sexist BS, but it had this one right. Being too available is the kiss of death for a budding relationship.
3. You move too fast
What it looks like: After your second date, you delete your Tinder profile and expect him to delete his, too. A month in, and you’re planning the wedding. You let infatuation carry you away, and are ready to commit before you really get to know each other. While falling in love quickly can be fun and exciting, it can be scary, too – especially for guys.
How to curb it: Psychologist Dorothy Tennov called that first blush of infatuation ‘limerence,’ and said it typically lasts 18 months to three years. During this time, your brain is coursing with chemicals and hormones that can cloud your judgement. That’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy this stage while it lasts; you should! But slow down and get to know each other before jumping into anything too serious. A famous marriage study done at Penn State by Professor Ted Huston, called the PAIR Project, showed that the most happily wedded couples dated for an average of 25 months before tying the knot.
4. You want to know where he is at every moment
What it looks like: You text him so often to ask where he is and what he’s doing, he nervously jokes that you should just be done with it and put a tracking chip on him. Meanwhile, you’re secretly plotting to get a hold of his phone and turn the ‘Share Location’ feature on so you can keep track of him via GPS signal. You don’t mean anything malicious by it; it’s just that you go crazy if you don’t know where he is.
How to curb it: Staying busy yourself will help you stop worrying so much about where he is every second of the day, so make sure your schedule is full. Live your own life, and let him live his. Also, consider whether there is a lack of trust behind your anxiety about where he is. If so, ask yourself if you have a good reason not to trust him. Depending on the answer, this could be a topic for therapy, or something you need to bring up with him.
5. You stalk his social media obsessively
What it looks like: You’re the first person to ‘like’ all his pictures and status updates, and you constantly post couple pictures and love notes on his wall, as a way of marking your territory. You go through his friends list and look at any public photos, to see if there are any pictures of him you haven’t seen before. Pretty soon you’re knee-deep in his distant cousin’s wedding album from 10 years ago, feeling like a monster.
How to curb it: This is one you might just have to give up cold turkey. Social media can be destructive to relationships in lots of different ways, and this is only one of them. If you need to unfollow him, or deactivate your own social media accounts for a while in order to break yourself of the habit, do it. An internet fast might be just what the doctor ordered.
6. You get nervous when you haven’t heard from him
What it looks like: It’s been a few hours since he texted you; your palms are getting clammy and your mouth is going dry. You start imagining him with someone else, in such detail that you start to feel sick to your stomach. Then you think maybe he’s been in an accident and start freaking out, thinking of him being hurt or killed. By the time he finally texts, you’re furious with him for making you worry, while he’s baffled by your fury.
How to curb it: Again, practicing mindfulness can be helpful here. When these troublesome thoughts pop up, focus on your breath. Slow it down, listen to it, and let your thoughts flow like waves crashing to the shore, and back out again to the ocean. There may be trust issues here as well; if you trust him, know that he’s an adult and can take care of himself. If you don’t trust him, you need to get to the bottom of why.
7. You get angry if he does something without you
What it looks like: He goes out for a night with his friends, and you ask if any girls were there, and why you weren’t invited. Then you give him the silent treatment until he asks you what the hell is wrong with you – which triggers a huge fight.
How to curb it: Understand that in a healthy relationship, it’s vital that each person takes time for themselves. “No matter how in love you are or how long you’ve been together, it’s important to take an exhale from your partnership,” says Amy Baglan, CEO of online dating site MeetMindful. “Hang out with girlfriends until late in the evening, take a weekend trip to visit family, or just spend time ‘doing you’ for a while.” Next time you see your partner, Baglan says “you’ll both be recharged and ready to come together even stronger.”
8. You get upset if he doesn’t respond the way you want him to
What it looks like: You have a bad day, and when he doesn’t immediately ask you what’s wrong, you fly off the handle. It’s like you expect him to read your mind and know exactly what you’re feeling at all times – and how to react.
How to curb it: Remember that it’s not your partner’s job to understand exactly what you need from him at all times; it’s your job to communicate those needs. A 2015 study by Keith Sanford, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, showed that expecting your partner to read your mind – he calls it ‘passive immobility’ – is a common cause of ‘relationship disengagement.’ Sanford says people tend to do this when they feel anxious in their relationship, and it makes it difficult for couples to resolve conflicts.
9. If things are going badly with him, everything else is terrible too
What it looks like: If you’ve had a fight, or you’re feeling nervous about the relationship for any reason, you can’t enjoy anything else. Suddenly you’re down about your career, your friends don’t care about you, and you might as well give up on life. To the person who’s supposedly driven you to this dark place, this can be alarming and disturbing – which is enough to make him back slowly away…
How to curb it: This is what therapists call ‘catastrophic thinking’. It’s a cognitive distortion in which you feel that everything is all-or-nothing; if one thing is going wrong, everything is going wrong. Psychologist Andrea Bonior tells Psychology Today that getting plenty of sleep and exercise can help you take control of these kinds of thoughts, as can thinking small. “What aspects of your home, your daily routine, and your loved ones continue to bring you joy and comfort?” asks Bonior. “What pieces of your life still feel good to you? What parts of your life feel safe, make you laugh, bring you pleasure, and keep you relaxed? Don’t let those be tainted.”
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Comment: Has neediness ever affected your relationship?
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