Being called “needy” is usually not a good thing when it comes to your relationships. You probably think of a needy person as someone who requires a so much reassurance and validation from their partner that it teeters into uncomfortable territory. As such, you may be compelled to seem less needy in your own relationships so as not to scare off our partners — but in moderation, expressing your needs can actually be a positive thing.
“Needs in a relationship are important, because they help you identify what functions we would like our relationships and relationship partners to serve,” Dr. Sarah E. Hill, a consultant for the dating app, Cougar Life, tells Lifehacker. “This can differ somewhat for all of us — and can change over time — making it important for each of us to spend some time identifying what is important. They can help relationships thrive by helping people choose partners who will make them happy, and also be clear and upfront about their expectations.”
Who doesn’t want a thriving relationship? If you constantly worry you’re being too needy in your relationship (or maybe not needy enough), here are some tips to help you embrace your neediness as a way to strengthen your bond with your partner.
How do you determine what your needs really are?
“Your needs are things that are a must for you to function, feel safe, [and] show up as your best self,” Mary Sanker, LCMHC, tells Lifehacker. “Since our needs vary from person to person, trial and error is your best bet for things that go beyond basic needs.”
Hill recommends dating different types of people who bring different things to the table. “The rise of dating apps can be really great for this,” she says. “Only used to going out with outgoing adventurer types? Try swiping right on an introverted intellectual. Or if you are accustomed to dating only those in your same age bracket, consider age-gap dating.”
Another good way of determining what your needs are, says Sanker, is observing your emotional reactivity within your relationship. “If you find yourself constantly irritable with your partner or starting to avoid moments that could lead to real connection, it is likely that a need is not being met, as emotions often act as indicator lights that ‘something’ is missing,” she says. “Determining our needs often looks like slowing down and taking an honest inventory of how we are functioning on a physical, mental, emotional and soul level.”
Checking in with your needs is an ongoing process. When Sanker works with clients on this topic, she says she reminds them that needs can be fluid. “Your needs in June are likely different from your needs in January, and yet they still get to be real needs,” she explains. Maybe at the beginning of your relationship, you needed your partner to check in with you during the day, but after a few months, you need more space. Both are totally valid.
Why is being “needy” important to a relationship?
Below Sanker outlines why neediness in a relationship is actually important.
It builds trust. In order for relationships to thrive, says Sanker, we must first come together to meet our basic needs which creates safety and security and builds trust. “When we can consistently feel trust with our partner we then are more likely to rely on that partner to hold our deeper truths,” she explains. “When we can build trust and be vulnerable the relationship can thrive because we feel seen and heard and we build a secure attachment…that allows the relationship to be resilient.”
It builds intimacy. According to Sanker, knowing your needs is reflective of knowing who you are and having an understanding of your own internal world. As a result, it helps, “to foster a deeper connection and a more fulfilling time together, because you can get beyond surface level interaction,” she says. “We often think that to be in a relationship we have to ignore our needs to meet others’ needs…[but] this can create depletion [rather than] true connection.”
It helps you figure out if you are a good long-term fit. By expressing your needs, Sanker says, you have the ability to feel seen and heard, and to possibly get what you truly want out of a relationship. “It’s a chance to see if there is longevity in the relationship (can this person meet my needs?),” she says. “Directly stating your needs takes away the guessing game for your partner, which can…help them feel more at ease [sharing] their needs,” she says.
How to express your needs without seeming too needy
If expressing your needs is important, how can you do it without coming across as too needy? According to Hill, the most important thing is being able to clearly identify what you really need.
“Many people are not very in touch with their needs because they haven’t spent much time reflecting on what functions they expect their relationships to serve,” she says. “Expressing these needs, once identified, can be an easy conversation. The key is to have it with the intention of telling your partner about how you all can better work together to make the relationship better.”
Instead of saying “I need, I need, I need,” Hill recommends saying, “This is important to me.” Whether your partner is able to oblige can be a deciding factor on whether you’re willing to remain in the relationship. Either way, expressing your needs will be good for you both.
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