We are hardwired to need people. That’s a fact. So, let’s just start by saying that emotional neediness isn’t inherently a bad thing.
Where would we be without the love and support of others? It’s a good thing to need and rely on others.
For example, you might lean on or need your partner or spouse more during difficult or challenging times in your life when you find yourself feeling too clingy or needing more emotional support than usual.
That’s pretty common.
Why am I so needy?
We all long to be understood, supported, loved, and accepted, and it’s okay to feel this way.
Being too emotionally needy creates an unhealthy dynamic in even the best relationships, so if you find your own neediness is out of control, it’s important for you to figure out how to stop being so clingy.
Being a healthy person means standing on your own. You should be able to tolerate being alone and manage your own stuff.
You should have the ability to express your needs. And your relationship should be best described as interdependent, with a reasonable balance of time spent together and time spent apart.
Being able to live in this type of relationship has much to do with your personality and attachment style.
Psychologists used to think that our attachment style was predominately due to our upbringing, meaning the way you were cared for as a baby and in childhood determines your attachment style.
However, we now know that is only piece of the puzzle.
In their book, “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love”, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine, M.D., and psychologist Rachel S.F. Heller explain that there are three main attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant.
Your attachment style affects and reflects how secure or insecure, and therefore how needy, you feel in relationships in the following ways:
If you have a secure attachment style…
You are warm and loving and were most likely raised with caregivers that were consistently caring and responsive. You have had other positive and healthy relationships. You enjoy the intimacy that comes with it without becoming too worried about your relationship.
You have the ability to communicate your needs in healthy ways. You are able to share the ups and downs of your life with your partner as they are able to do the same with you.
If you have a secure attachment style, you report higher levels of satisfaction in your relationship, are able to maintain high levels of relationship satisfaction, commitment, and trust. You expect your partner to be loving and attentive without fearing you will lose your partner’s love.
Finally, you are comfortable with intimacy. Couples in a secure relationship exhibit many behaviors that encourage further growth as they continue to evolve.
If you have an avoidant attachment style…
Those with an avoidant attachment style often come across as dismissive, minimizing closeness with others.
You were likely raised in an environment that was less emotional and in which insecurity and neediness were not tolerated.
It is important that you maintain a level of independence and self-sufficiency. You prefer autonomy to intimacy.
You may want the closeness that a relationship can bring, but fear too much closeness so you keep your partner at arms length.
You have learned to put up walls and not get too close for fear you would appear needy (or even needing someone in a healthy way).
If you are in a relationship with someone who is anxious, as soon as your partner starts to become needy or wants more time from you, you become distant, dismissive, and noncommittal.
If you have an anxious attachment style…
In casual relationships, you might find that you are not as needy, but when you find yourself in a romantic relationship, those tendencies — the tendency to be needy — may rise to the top. Your relationship can become unhealthy, and you might find yourself feeling a bit out of control.
Being overly emotionally needy — too demanding, clingy, annoying, fragile — can spell disaster for your relationship.
You have a tendency to want to be very close to your partner and have the need for great intimacy; however, your fear is that your partner doesn’t want to be as close as you want to be. Because of this fear, you find yourself being very sensitive to any changes in their behavior or small fluctuations in their mood.
Much of your energy is spent managing your own emotions around the relationship.
Considering all three attachment styles, if you have an anxious attachment style, you will often present as more needy than others.
By minimizing or denying your own needs, you look to others or your current partner to fill your emotional gaps and emptiness in a way that can if you are not careful, become manipulative.
Do any of these resonate statements describing behaviors and traits common to people with anxious attachment style sound familiar to you?
— You worry about your partner’s love and “search out” mannerisms and nuances that might indicate your partner doesn’t love you.
— You are often emotionally overwhelmed and will reach out, needing your partner to make you feel secure, or constantly reminding them of how you feel.
— You are insecure and overly sensitive to any slight.
— You had parents (or a parent) who was inconsistently nurturing.
This created inner angst and turmoil that contributes to your anxiety, especially around relationships.
Clingy, anxious behavior leaves partners feeling emotionally tapped out and overwhelmed by the constant neediness.
They feel worn out and may have expressed this to you, and yet, if you are an anxious person in your relationship, you do the very thing you know you shouldn’t do — you push your partner away.
But it’s like you cannot stop. In your mind, you might be screaming, “Stop doing this! Don’t be so needy! Don’t keep asking the same question!” — but you cannot stop. You are drawn to these unhealthy behaviors like a moth to a flame.
Your behaviors are counterproductive, yet, in the moment, it seems like a good idea and feels so comforting — for you.
Your partner experiences something very different. They are likely telling themselves to run, because no matter how much they do, it just isn’t enough for you.
It never is. Your partner cannot encourage your growth, compliment you or reassure you enough.
If you think your anxious attachment style is causing you to be too emotionally needy, ask yourself these 9 questions:
1. Do you look at your romantic partner to make you happy?
2. Do you look to your partner to fulfill all of your needs?
3. Do you look to your partner for constant reassurance and validation, and are you looking for others to make you feel good about yourself? And even if you get it, do you depend on it all the time?
4. Do you feel abandoned if your partner isn’t available? Are you afraid your partner won’t be there for you when you need them?
5. Do you get upset if your partner doesn’t react in a certain way or meet a certain need?
6. Do you find it difficult to be alone, and when you are, do you do things to fill the void with other distractions or revisit past conversations, worrying that your partner might leave you?
7. Is your relationship the center of your universe, and does it take always precedence over your relationship with other friends or family?
8. Does it bother you if you are not included in your partner’s plans?
9. Do you get jealous of things that your partner does without you?
If you answered yes to all or most of the questions above, the good news is that you can overcome your emotional neediness
How to Stop Being Emotionally Needy In Relationships
1. Become aware of your neediness
Awareness is the very first step to recognizing and fixing a problem. This is key in any life challenge. As you become more aware of your behaviors, you start the process of gaining greater insight into who you are as a person so you can make necessary, sustainable changes.
Take the time to ask and answer the important questions above. Gaining awareness of your attachment style is step one because this creates the chance for you to create a happier, more fulfilling relationship.
2. Sit with your anxiety and the uncertainties of life
A person who is more anxious engages in more protest behaviors, actions that are attempts to reestablish contact with your partner and get their attention. Unfortunately, when you do this, you act in harmful ways.
Being able to move through the shades of gray, uncertainty, and unanswered questions is key to making change.
Even if in the moment it feels like a good idea to react a certain way, work on pausing to think through how you would feel if you didn’t act in a certain way instead.
What are your triggers? Can you learn to communicate them in a way that will be beneficial for both you and your partner?
If you give into your anxieties and impulses every time, you will never know how things could be different.
If the impulse or obsessive thought is there and you act on the compulsion, all you are really doing is repeating the same circle and reinforcing the behavior.
Sit with that anxiety and anxious feeling and focus on reacting less.
3. Create space in your relationship
No matter how close you are to another person, it’s unhealthy to spend all of your time with them. They will feel overwhelmed and start doing things to back themselves out of the relationship. If it’s difficult for you to tolerate alone time, you will inevitably sabotage your relationship.
Simply force yourself to back off in order to give both of you some space. I recognize that “force” might be a strong word, but sometimes it’s necessary to make changes to help the relationship pivot
Talk to your partner about this and take some time away from them in small, purposeful increments until you become more comfortable on your own.
4. Work on improving your self-esteem
Begin by doing things on your own and focusing more on yourself. What are you doing that is contributing to the demise of the relationship? What negative feelings come up for you about yourself?
Engage in activities that are healthy for you and learn to feel more secure and confident. This could be by giving back, volunteering, taking up a hobby, or journaling, among other things.
It’s also important to think about your strengths, as we all have them. Don’t short change yourself.
Remember that another person can boost you up and make you feel good once in a while, but this is not their job. It is our responsibility to do that for ourselves.
Another person cannot be your only source of happiness. That’s s a lot of pressure to put on them.
The good news is that you can change your attachment style by identifying the behaviors that have been keeping you stuck.
5. Work on your trust issues
Neediness is often associated with not trusting in others, as well as with a fear of abandonment.
If you start doubting someone’s feelings for you or fear being abandoned, you will start to put the neediness wheels in motion, and doing that will only provoke the person to want to run from the relationship.
Do you fear abandonment? Are you afraid your partner won’t be there for you when you need them? Are you looking for others to make you feel good about yourself, always looking outside of yourself for reassurance? If so, where did these feelings come from?
Learning to connect the dots helps you to understand the reasons a situation makes you feel a certain way, which in turn helps you better understand and change your response.
6. Recognise your capacity for change
The good news is that, in life, there is always the opportunity to change. You can change your attachment style and move from being anxious or avoidant to being secure, so asking yourself what changes you need to make in order to become more secure is important.
Understanding the types of partners you pick — people with an anxious attachment style often choose people with an avoidant attachment style, and vice versa — is also key.
Looking back over your relationship history to figure out the types of partners you tend to pick and why will also encourage positive change.