March 20, 2017 Daniel Pleșa

Understanding neediness

Neediness- the cursed territory we’ve all been to at least once in our lives, wanted to get rid of as soon as possible and got shit loads of advice on from close friends.

I lately see this quite often with some couples around me, and so it made me curious to try and understand what neediness is, where it comes from and how to maybe overcome it.

What is it?

My search started with going on google and typing “neediness”. I got the common definition which is that “neediness is an excessive desire for affirmation, affection or reassurance from others”.

After reading most of the articles form the first pages, the conclusion i got was that the main cause of neediness is having an external locus of control, or that a person becomes needy once they start having a misperceived sense of self-worth.

Let’s take Jackie. She just started dating a guy for a couple of weeks now. At first, he was relaxed, funny and it felt good being together. But after the first month, she starts feeling pressurred by his texts, not by the number of them but by the way he starts talking (asking what is she doing, when is she going to be free from work etc). Then it starts getting worse and worse. When they meet, he constantly brags about the newest items he had bought, he pays more and more attention to her needs than his own; he starts canceling plans with his male friends to spend more time with her, and always requires constant reassurance that everything is fine in the relationship. It doesn’t take long until Jackie moves away from this guy, concluding that he is a nice guy, but he got a bit weird at some point.

What happens with a needie person is that they develop a belief that others (usually their partner) know more, can do more, and generally are better than him/her, and so they feel the need to suck as much value as possible from them.

Now, looking from a needy point of view, they might feel something is wrong, but they don’t know why, because they usually rationalize their neediness as being strong desire (I am not needy, i just love him/her beyond measure). Especially nowadays, when Hollywood movies promote this type of romance, when if you really love a girl, you do whatever it takes to show her that. After all, i am half, looking for my other half to feel complete, right?


A relationship is not something you need, despite the messages media pushes forward. Yes, you may feel lonely at times, or crave for meaningful sex, but you’ll be ok, you won’t die. If you are not in a relationship, you are not less than others, or incomplete. Not at all. Because 1+1=1 when it comes to healthy relationships- and this is called interdependance. Stephen Covey talks more about the concept of interdependence in his book.

Now you might say, nothing new so far. I said the same. So i started diving deeper, into scientific research on neediness. And what I found was really eye-opening.

Neediness is a form of dependency, which is defined as a complex of thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviors which revolve around the need to associate with and rely upon valued other people.

Probably you’ve found yourself making observations towards a needy friend, saying to stop acting like a child. Well, dependency is often seen as a child-like behavior, because it suggests abnormal development in terms of maturity. Even more interesting is that neediness results from inadequate relationship with the primary caregiver in early childhood, meaning that you can develop a dependent personality when you fail to move from reliance on the primary caretaker (mom or dad) to autonomy and the capability to meet your needs on your own.

Needy people have developed the following beliefs:

  1. I am powerless and inadequate in comparison to others
  2. I want/need to obtain support from others
  3. I am afraid/anxious when self-reliance becomes necessary

How to flip this around?

There is no coined method for this, as obviously it all depends on circumstances and personal experience. But, what i found helpful is to listen to your instinct (when you ask yourself if this is behavior is normal or not, it already says something), and listen to your close friend who signals this as a start.

On a deeper level, as we are talking about a change in paradigm here, the process my take a bit longer, but is not impossible.

Usually, on the journey of moving away from neediness, the first stop is independence. Learning to be alone, to acknowledge your own needs, without manipulating the other partner to gain gratifications.

What i’ve noticed in my life is that all aspects of life are interconnected (health, wealth, relationships) and that they also strongly influence each other. By that I mean it would be crucial to see how do you measure your value as an individual? What are you looking at to know your self-worth? Is it your professional goals and how many you accomplish? Your fitness program results? Or maybe with how many partners you have sex with? Or how many people you know?

It is important to have this clarified, because this moves your focus from getting validation externally from other people to internally, based on your own terms and standards.

In conclusion, neediness can hit us hard, when least expected, but it is almost never about the other person, but rather about our own sense of lack, of misperceived sense of self-worth. Taking some time to define how we measure our own value will enable our attention to move from external sources of validation to internal, self-set parameters resulting in independence. Once this is done, we are a complete individual, ready to move in a relationship- ideally with another complete individual, and form a couple where there is a space for knowing, respecting and enhancing the growth of each individual.


(Cover image credit: naturalvagablonde)