This is a bit of a trick question since being needy in the traditional sense: clinging to your partner, not wanting to let them out of your sight, expecting them to take responsibility for your life when you are unable to or don’t want to is unhealthy.
A lot of women are so scared of coming across as needy that they forget that they have important needs that should be met in a relationship, such as being treated with respect. Women especially have trouble asking for what they want and need in a relationship. This is largely down to how women have grown up seeing their mothers always putting other people’s needs before theirs.
You may think that putting another person’s needs before your own is generous and altruistic, however, continually putting another person’s needs first leads to resentment, dissatisfaction and the other person taking advantage. It is only healthy and appropriate to continually put another person’s needs first when they are very vulnerable, such as a young baby. My son is three and would love me to put his needs first all the time but I am teaching him that there are times when I need my needs met as well, such as eating when I am hungry rather than playing with him.
Many of my male clients speak of the frustration they feel when their female partners don’t tell them what they want. Women have traditionally been programmed to believe that being direct and asking for what they want is rude. In truth, it is ruder to sulk and act in a passive aggressive way, expecting a partner to guess what you’re feeling and thinking than to politely say what you need. Let me give you an example:
Jane is feeling resentful and angry because she feels like she is doing all the household chores without much help from her partner Chris. She wants Chris to automatically do some of the chores without her having to tell him. She drops hints such as, “the washing is really piling up” and “your drawers are in a right state.” Chris doesn’t respond to these hints so Jane tries sarcasm, “Is it because you’ve got some kind of allergy to washing powder that you never put any washing on?”
Chris doesn’t respond to sarcasm so Jane loses it and resorts to personal attacks, “You’re so lazy and thoughtless that you never help me around the house, you never care about how I feel.” Chris feels hurt by the personal attacks and retreats and gives Jane the silent treatment. Poor Jane ends up carrying on doing all the housework since Chris won’t talk about the matter any further.
This pattern of hints, sarcasm and personal attacks locks Jane and Chris into a cycle of heated arguments, dissatisfaction and can eventually lead to break-up.
When my single clients come to me from failed relationships I often quickly see that their relationship failed because they didn’t express their needs.
Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication famously says, “Conflict is an expression of unmet needs.” This means that to resolve any conflict, the needs of both parties need to be taken into consideration.
Nothing feels better than having our needs met whether they be basic needs such as hunger, thirst, sleep or shelter or more sophisticated needs such as being appreciated, recognised or cherished. You might be surprised that most people do actually like to help others meet their needs. People also respond more favourably when you express your needs rather than use sarcasm, make demands, launch personal attacks or manipulate to get what you want.
Let’s take the example of Jane and Chris and see how expressing needs would have stopped their cycle of arguments.
Jane expresses how she feels about having to do the majority of household chores herself, “I feel overwhelmed doing the majority of household chores as well as working full-time.”
Jane identifies and states her needs which are not being met. I need help and support with the household chores.
Jane guesses what Chris’s needs may be in this situation. Do you need flexibility in dividing the household chores rather than me telling you what you should be doing?
Chris confirms that he needs flexibility or shares other needs.
Jane makes a request to Chris, “Would you be willing to sit down and work out how we could split the household chores more equally?”
Chris has the choice to say yes or no to this request or make another suggestion.
This process is taken from Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Non-Violent Communication and I strongly recommend it.
You can practise expressing your needs in relationships at work, with parents, children and friends.