Dear Neil:  What does it mean when a man calls me “needy?”  I am in my 40’s and have been in several relationships through the years where the men in my life have accused me of being too needy.  But I am confused about what “too needy” means.  Am I not supposed to lean on someone whom I love and who says he loves me?  Is it wrong to show my sensitivities and vulnerabilities to a man I’m sleeping with?  Am I not supposed to have expectations or make demands on someone’s time when we’re talking about marriage? I don’t get it.  What do people mean when they say a woman is too needy?

Full of Needs in Trinidad, Colorado

Dear Full of Needs:  Needy people are dependent people.  They base their intimate relationship on dependency rather than mutuality, equality or reciprocity.

The following are some of the descriptions about what makes a woman (or man) needy, borrowed from Karen Kahn Wilson in the book Transformational Divorce (New Harbinger).  Do any of these describe you?

  • You want to talk on the phone with the man in your life a lot.
  • You have a hard time spending time on your own.
  • You want continual reassurance that the relationship is OK.
  • After only a few dates, you want all of his time.
  • He is your only important interest.
  • You want him to take care of you; you can’t solve problems on your own.
  • Your life is about the relationship; you don’t much care about other things.
  • You are continually jealous of contact he has with other women, including colleagues.
  • To a fairly large degree, you stop your involvement with special hobbies and interests, and you decrease time with friends.
  • You stop paying attention to your own needs when in a relationship.
  • You feel lonely, incomplete or inadequate when you are not in a relationship or in the presence of your significant other.

Don’t dismiss the above behaviors. Ask yourself “Under which circumstances does this fit me?”  Wilson recommends that you challenge yourself to accept that each statement may hold a piece of the truth about you—and see if there is anything new you can learn about yourself.

Then ask yourself what you need in order to feel secure in a relationship with a man, and which circumstances cause you to feel insecure.  Explore those questions by coming up with as many answers as you can, and don’t gloss over your answers.

If this fits you, look at how you can transform some of these behaviors so you act less dependent, less demanding and more reciprocal.

Has your relationship turned cold and distant? Neil’s book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm can help you rekindle your passion.

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