The fine line of neediness

How to tell if you’re needy when “loving” makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong

A good friend was recently struggling through a series of failed “almost” relationships with 2 or 3 dudes, each of whom she respectively thought “could be it.” She had entered each one with her heart open, had reported back how fantastic their connection was, only to be left confused and hurt a few months later.

After the third one broke up with her, she and I went for drinks, and over my draft beer and her glass of wine she asked me,

“Am I needy?”

And my short answer was an honest:

“I don’t know. I couldn’t know — I’ve never dated you.”

I know how she is as a friend, and as a friend, I wouldn’t call her needy — and I told her this. But that doesn’t mean I know anything about how she is romantically.

But there are further thoughts around answering this question.

The fine line of “neediness”

And where to draw the line between being open, vulnerable, loving — and codependent or emotionally unstable.

You are not needy for having emotions

Emotions are healthy. They make us human, and love, in particular, makes our lives more worthwhile.

It IS needy to assume *all* of your emotions are valid

Just because you feel a thing doesn’t mean it’s reasonable or rational.

Nobody is trying to take your emotional experience away — certainly, as emotions come up, look at them, honor them, and filter appropriately. But sometimes filtering means understanding what’s healthy and what’s not.

Your jealousy, for example, is first and foremost yours to manage. And just because you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells doesn’t mean you’re in the right and they’re in the wrong.

You are not needy for having emotional *needs*

You are healthy for having emotional needs — we all do. We all need to feel important and cherished in our own lives; we all need a degree of reassurance to operate and make things happen. That’s okay.

It IS needy to expect *others* to fulfill all of them

What crosses the line is when you dump all of your emotional expectations on other people.

There is a difference, for example, between wanting him to text his ETA if he’s running late, and needing him to text every day out because you’re insecure or anxious (“But,” you might counter, “how will I know he’s thinking about me?” Answer: you use your own rationale, reasoning, and self esteem.)

It is needy if you expect your partner to make you feel beautiful, and blame them when you don’t. It is needy if they are your primary source for comforting, reassurance, and affirmation. Most emotional needs are for you to address, not for others “soothe” externally. When in doubt, self-manage first.

You are not needy for wanting clarity

Is this a thing or isn’t it? Are we committed and exclusive, or just having fun? Are your feelings mutual, or unrequited? These are fair things to wonder.

It IS needy to push the answers

It’s not fair to have the “what are we?” conversation from a position of emotional bullying and coercion. What they want is just as important as what you want, even if what you want looks more like the “societal norm” you had in your head.

You are not needy for wanting to take the next step

Wanting to discuss what your relationship might look like in the future is normal. It’s healthy to admit that you have thoughts going forward, and how you’d like your partner to fit in.

It IS needy to dictate that timeline

“Your partner has a right to their vision of the future just as much as you have a right to yours. A little compromise may be needed on both your behalves to keep the pace — but you certainly don’t get to veto their timeline for the future and replace it entirely with yours.”

You are not needy for asking for what you want

Telling someone what you’re looking for is commendable. Not playing games is refreshing.

It IS needy to expect *everyone* to want what you want

Just because you want to define the relationship, put a label on it, and/or talk about the longterm doesn’t mean these are the “right” things to want. Coming at these discussions from a position of “I want this — you should too!” is neither healthy nor fair.

Once you ask for what you want, it’s up to them whether they want to play the hand or fold.

You are not needy for expecting compromise

Negotiating and meeting halfway is important — and healthy.

It IS needy to expect the only compromises to come from them

It also isn’t fair to harbor imbalanced ideas of compromise — like thinking you’ve “earned” them defining the relationship before they wanted, simply because you went to that bar they like, with those friends you hate, that one time.

It is never needy to want to love — and feel loved

Wanting to feel loved, respected and acknowledged are universal human needs.

It IS needy to demand love from — and dump your love into — someone who doesn’t want to love you back

It’s not reasonable to think your needs run the show, and that includes the love you receive.

Thinking that “persuasion” means continuing to do so — and imposing your own objectives (a relationship) and needs (commitment) while running over theirs is not healthy.

Giving or wanting love isn’t needy. But demanding anything — especially love or commitment — in return almost always is.