What Is Emotional Neediness in a Relationship and How Can You Overcome It?

Updated on October 4, 2018
Filip Stojkovski profile image

Passionately interested about the arts, especially drawing and painting. Professionally works as a web developer.

Having needs in romantic or platonic relationships is not by itself a bad thing. In fact, we are biologically designed to depend on other people to a certain degree, and we need to be able to trust and rely on other people for emotional support. So, when does having normal relationship needs turn into neediness and why?

To answer that question, we need to understand why certain people exhibit excessive neediness and insecurity.

The Root of Neediness

If you are a needy and a clingy person, first of all don’t beat yourself up over it. The first step to overcome that is to forgive yourself for having been that way and have some compassion for yourself.

The root of emotional neediness in a relationship is probably a deep seated distrust of other people, or a deeply rooted belief that you cannot trust anyone to be consistently loving towards you. This belief may stem from your upbringing, or previous negative relationship experiences.

If you had experiences in your life where your needs were not consistently met, or the people you have been attached to (most often your parents) acted in unpredictable and ambivalent ways (constantly switching between ignoring your needs and overindulging you) you probably learned that a way to get your needs met was to constantly seek closeness with your attachment figure. You probably were often given mixed messages by your attachment figure and were left wondering: What will they do now? Are they going to ignore me, punish me or hug me? Is this a good day or a bad day? How do they really perceive me?

What Is Activating Strategy? Why Does It Cause Problems?

If you are needy, you constantly try to reassure yourself that you are being loved, and you are hyper-vigilant to possible signs that you are going to be ignored or abandoned. The urge that drives you to reestablish closeness with your partner and to reassure yourself of their love is called an activating strategy.

Clingy people are very good at spotting any possible threats to the relationship, but the problem is that they misinterpret a lot of things and they jump to negative conclusions which often causes them to get emotionally impulsive and dramatic which causes stress and unhappiness in a relationship. No matter how much your partner loves you, they are not going to be happy if you make them feel like they can’t make you happy no matter how loving they are.

Now you might be wondering, is there a way to change this behavior or more importantly your way of thinking about love and intimacy?

There are fortunately a few things you can do to get out of that cycle of neediness and frustration with yourself for being needy and causing unhappiness in your relationship.

1. Become Aware of, and Change the Negative Beliefs that You Hold Regarding Relationships

Myth : I’m not lovable.

Reality : No one in the world carries the qualification of being lovable or unlovable. If someone wants to spend time with you, feels connected with you and wants to make you happy, it’s because that person most likely finds you lovable.

Myth : It’s difficult for me to form a successful relationship.

Reality: People form relationships with each other all the time. It’s almost as natural and common as eating and sleeping. Even the most difficult people find a partner. If you are insecure, chances are you probably are a self-aware person and you don't lack anything that will stop you from having a successful relationship.

Myth: Other people can make a better partner than me.

Reality: There is a reason your partner chose you and not someone else. It's because they found you attractive, lovable, enjoyed spending time with you and developed feelings for you. So why would you believe that your partner will replace you with someone else so easily?

Myth: My partner should be able to predict what my needs are.

Reality: Your partner will probably not be able to always predict what your needs are because no one has that ability. So it's best to communicate your needs, and guess what? Your partner will like it because they want to make you feel good.

Myth: Breaking up should be avoided at all costs.

Reality: If a relationship doesn’t work, sometimes it’s best to put an end to it. Staying in an unhealthy relationship causes pain and more insecurities, and there is no reason you shouldn't be seeking a new relationship that will make you happier.

2. Practice Mindfulness

When you feel the anxiety kicking in become aware of it and instead of jumping to negative conclusions and acting on them, remind yourself that you have an attachment insecurity that often tricks you into jumping to negative conclusions. Don’t identify yourself with your insecurity or react to it. Understand that it’s simply a strategy your mind has created to protect you from not getting your needs met in the past.

3. Communicate Your Needs With Your Partner Calmly and Honestly

This may sound scary to someone who is afraid of appearing needy and making a mistake in a relationship, but remember that your partner has needs too and communicating your needs to each other means that you are both expressing your needs and trying to find a solution that works for both of you. It’s important to be honest in expressing your needs because you if you're not, you might end up feeling resentful and angry.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • Filip Stojkovski profile imageAUTHOR

      Filip Stojkovski 

      3 years ago

      @dashingscorpio - you've said lots of great things. I would just like to point out that people don't always know their needs at a conscious level. They want to be loved in a certain way, but what they really need might be something slightly different. Having similar values certainly helps, but it's not the whole story. No two people have completely compatible values or beliefs. Love, respect, and compassion, I think are the basic building blocks of healthy relationships. Great, comment, thanks.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      3 years ago from Chicago

      It's important to not let people put you in a "box".

      What comes off as "needy/clingy" to one person may not be seen as such to another person. It's all in the eye of the "beholder".

      Most people love (the way) they want to be loved in return.

      If you're with someone who celebrates "monthly anniversaries" of being together, writes poems, and gives token gifts "just because" most likely that's how (they) want to be loved.

      The simple truth is we live on a planet with over (7 Billion) people on it and no matter (how you love) you are not the (only person) who loves "that way" or desires to be loved that way.

      The goal is to find someone who shares your same values, wants the same things for the relationship that you do, naturally agrees with you on how to obtain those things, and last but not least have a mutual depth of love and desire for one another.

      Compatibility trumps compromise.

      Like attracts like and opposites attract divorce attorneys!

      If you or your mate has to "change" your (core being) in order to make a relationship "work" there's a good chance you've chosen the "wrong person" as a mate for yourself.

      Truth be told when it comes to love and relationships most of us (fail our way) to success. If this were not true we'd all be married to our high school sweethearts!

      Ultimately everyone wants to be loved for who (they) are!

      Having said that if you want something different then (you) have to do something different.

      Just make sure if you decide to "change" it's for yourself and not anyone else. One could go crazy trying to be all things to all people as they go from one relationship to another.

      Know yourself, Love yourself, Trust yourself!

      It's impossible to be happy if you are not (being yourself).

      One man's opinion! :)


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