Some guys come to The Art of Charm knowing they’re needy. Other guys need to be told. In fact, I’d say most men who are being needy in a relationship (or in general) don’t know they’re being needy — or how they’re needy, which can be even trickier to spot.
And yet neediness is one of those qualities, like insecurity and general awkwardness, that can fester for years, often without anyone diagnosing it, often without the person even realizing it’s there. It can destroy romantic relationships, compromise professional opportunities, and contribute to a cycle of frustration, depression, and dissatisfaction. It’s also hard to clearly define. It can show up as desperation, nagging, and self-centeredness, or bundled with other mundane qualities like talkiness, clinginess or perfectionism.
Whatever the particular manifestation, every single guy knows what it feels like to be needy. At some point, we’ve all exhibited needy behaviors. What’s worse, it can suddenly grip us from time to time in certain contexts, even if it’s not a constant characteristic, which is part of why feelings of neediness can be so scary, difficult and unpredictable to manage. For others of us, it’s a constant worldview, a general desperation and insecurity underlying every interaction.
Either way, it is one of the most important topics here at AOC, and it doesn’t get talked about enough.
So let’s talk about it, honestly and openly. Let’s get a handle on exactly what neediness is, why it’s so troublesome, and — most importantly — how to address it.
Because fixing this one problem can have massive repercussions across your life.
Why No One Likes a Needy Man
It’s probably no surprise that neediness is a major attraction killer.
What’s harder to get a handle on is why no one likes being around a needy man.
It’s a tricky concept. On the one hand, we often teach you to know what you want in life, state your desire, and go for it. On the other hand, very few people want to engage with desperate, desirous people.
But that’s the difference: need is different from neediness. A confident, self-oriented person has needs. An insecure, codependent person is needy. It’s a fluid and abstract mental-emotional shift that takes us from one to the other, and the roots go deep.
Since we’re not here to play Freud, though, let’s focus on the behaviors and qualities of neediness here. Generally speaking, neediness can take two common forms:
- Neediness as a form of approval seeking. Neediness is (among other things) a tacit confession that other people know more, do more, or are generally better than you. It immediately shifts power to the other person and diminishes your own, often without your conscious awareness. By being needy, you want other people to reassure you that you’re okay, that you’re doing things right, that you have their approval. To understand the effects, recall the last time you encountered someone who was seeking your approval. It was probably draining, off-putting and exhausting, and it probably did not increase your respect or enjoyment.
- Neediness as a form of attention seeking. We all come with a healthy narcissism that requires and benefits from positive attention. That’s normal. It becomes pathological when your desire to be reinforced takes on ways of seeking excessive attention. In fact, neediness can be understood as a subtle, sometimes subconscious way of demanding attention that we haven’t earned.
Of course, these forms can appear in various contexts: at work, at home, with family, or in public. For this piece, we’re going to focus on five common ways that you might be exhibiting needy tendencies in your romantic relationships, and how that neediness is affecting your life.
Five Signs You Are being Needy in a Relationship
- You Never Spend Any Time With Your Friends
Think about the last time she had a girls’ night out, or you went out with your guy friends. How long ago was it? Did one of you tag along? In general, do you cancel on plans with friends to hang with her? You don’t need to be going out with the guys as much as you were when you were single. However, if you’ve never spending time with your guy friends there’s a good chance it’s because you’re clinging a little too tightly to your girl.
Take some time and think about it. Are you spending as much time with your guy friends as you want? How much less time are you spending with them now that you’re attached? If you keep bailing at the last minute, ask yourself why this is. Does it stem from an insecurity about having too much of a social life of your own? Are you afraid of what she’ll do if you don’t give her all of your time?
How This Is Negatively Affecting Your Life: Alone time is important, but shrinking your life to only include her is a common mistake and a sign of neediness in relationships. No matter who you are, no matter how much you like each other, you’ve got to get a little bit of time apart here and there. It’s far better for a relationship to be comprised of two strong, healthy, independent people than it is for one or both of them to be needy and greedy with the time of others.
What’s more, don’t you want time for yourself? Time spent both alone and in groups that do not include a significant other are important for maintaining balance in your life. Cheating yourself out of that time places unnecessary strain on your relationships; It also takes away time and energy you should be investing in yourself.
What You Can Do About It: Start a regular guys’ night with your friends. It can be hitting a bar, playing cards or golfing. Whatever it is, make sure that you leave your girl at home. Maintain and nurture the relationships that you have with your friends. They’re a necessary and healthy complement to the relationship you have with the woman in your life.
- You Bargain For Her Time
You want more time with your girl? That’s fine. What’s not really healthy is trying to bargain, beg or emotionally blackmail her into giving it to you. Passive-aggressive isn’t a good look on anyone. It’s doubly not a good look on men. So if you want more time with the woman in your life you need to go about it in a straightforward and honest way — or not at all.
How This Is Negatively Affecting Your Life: Any time you’re bargaining for more of someone’s time you’re already in a supplicative position. That’s a bad place to be as a man in a relationship. In a sense, you’re giving her all the power. Rather than being a function of both of your schedules, you’re saying that it’s her who determines when the two of you spend time together,
What You Can Do About It: First, figure out if you’re just trying to make a little time with someone important that you care about or if you’re begging for more of it. This is going to take some reflection on your part. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself when exploring this question.
Now think about the time that you do spend with her. Is there something about it that’s not fulfilling? What’s keeping you from enjoying it more? How are you not making the most out of it? Maybe the problem isn’t with the amount of time that you have with her. Maybe it’s about getting more out of the time and enjoying it more.
When you prioritize your time in a way that puts you — not someone else — at the center of your life, it makes your time more valuable. Not only are you going to be less needy, you’ll probably also flip the script. Soon she’ll be trying to get more of your time.
- You’re Dominating Her Social Media
Social media is obviously a part of how people date these days. Still, guys who aren’t needy in other areas can have a tendency to be needy here. They post too much on her wall, demand too much attention in comments and go through her old pictures “liking” stuff that’s months or even years old.
How This Is Negatively Affecting Your Life: I’ve heard it straight from the horse’s mouth: Tons of women have told me this ranks among their biggest turnoffs of the digital era. Showing interest is one thing; Spending too much time lurking on her Facebook page is the modern equivalent of being the guy who never goes away. Don’t be surprised if it fouls things up with the new lady in your life or if you end up filtered out of her timeline. What’s more, being digitally needy is one of the worst ways of being needy in a relationship, because the evidence lingers around forever.
What You Can Do About It: If you can’t leave social media — which is never a bad idea — you can at least limit the time you’re spending on it. If you only give yourself 20 minutes a day to hop on Facebook, make a couple quick comments and bounce, you’re not going to be spending as much time investigating what your girl is up to. In fact, that’s probably one of the worst ways you can spend your time. When coming up with a time budget, this is effectively “found” time — you didn’t realize that you had it before, so it’s like it came out of nowhere.
- You’re Always Trying to Debate or Argue to Hear Yourself Win
No one likes being around someone who’s argumentative. Even if you like being challenged, it can get a little grating after a while when everything turns into the debate society. Still, how is this a sign of neediness in relationships? Not only are you going to extraordinary measures to get her attention, you’re also really concerned with what she thinks and not in a good way.
How This Is Negatively Affecting Your Life: While there might be some novelty in being a combative couple at first, this isn’t something that’s generally sustainable. A running theme here is that neediness in relationships is something that drains a ton of energy. If you’re spending all of your time arguing or debating, eventually something is going to give. You’re making her your audience instead of a partner.
What You Can Do About It: In addition to neediness, there’s an element of judgmentalness in here. If you’re judgmental with her in a way that’s causing the two of you to constantly be in arguments, you’re probably just as hard on yourself. There’s nothing wrong with holding yourself to high standards. However, when you’re trying to impose those standards on other people it’s almost always going to cause trouble.
- You Make Lots of Over the Top Gestures
Romance is a wonderful thing. Just doing things that make other people happy is a wonderful thing. Taking it too far is a sure sign of neediness, however. There’s nothing wrong with picking up the check or even getting her a small gift. What you don’t want to do is anything that seems like you’re trying to “buy” her attention or affection. You want to win her approval with who you are, not with what you can spend on her or do for her.
How This Is Negatively Affecting Your Life: You’re driving away the right girls and attracting the wrong ones — the ones who just want a guy to lavish them with gifts. There’s nothing wrong with spending money on women, but you want to save it for women that are interested in you and at times when it’s appropriate. When you’re using material goods, whether it’s a drink or a diamond, to attract women, you’re only going to get the worst kind.
What You Can Do About It: Recognize that you are the gift. Your time is the most valuable resource that you have. You shouldn’t be spreading it around willy nilly to anyone. What this means is that the time someone gets to spend with you is the most precious gift you can give to them. No additional gifts are necessarily needed.
So how about it? Are you needy in ways you didn’t realize before? That’s fine. Recognizing it is the first step toward changing it. And hey, we’ve all been a little needy at some point in our lives. What are you doing to make yourself less needy and thus make your relationships more fulfilling? Leave a comment and tell us.