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One theme I wish could teach women that would help decrease resentment and increase their quality of life and relationships: expressing your needs does not mean you are needy.
My clients range from 20 somethings to 60 somethings. But the one thing they ALL have in common: Somewhere they heard and swallowed the message, “I don’t want to be too needy” and that fear of being labeled needy has translated into having no needs at all. Whether they are single or married for 20+years, they are afraid of being seen as needy. So they end up feeling angry, ignored in the world, and resentful. It shows up in taking on too much responsibility, not asking for help, and avoiding conflict.
The women’s movement has created strong independent women. I know we have a long way to go in gaining equality. But something that is not helping the cause is this fear of being seen as needy. We have created 2 extremes strong independent take no prisoners women vs. the have no needs, have no opinions, no voice women.
Needs do not equal weakness.
This lack of needs is creating inauthentic relationships where the woman takes care of everything and doesn’t speak up until she has hit her limit. Leaving women feeling sad, angry, resentful and anxious. Owning your needs starts by recognizing it is ok to have needs. Needing help is ok. It is ok to admit you can’t do it all. It is ok to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg says.
I didn’t get married until I was in my late 30s and spent much of my adult life fine-tuning my ‘strong single Nancy’ persona. I had a HUGE fear of being seen as needy, and I admit even now seven years into my relationship I have to remind myself. Lean in. Being vulnerable is ok. It is ok to ask.
When I started thinking about this topic, I Googled, “Having needs vs. being needy” and up came a bunch of articles from Cosmo to a variety of Men’s magazines about how not to be a ‘needy girlfriend’ or what to do if your girlfriend is needy. Which I admit was disheartening…
The truth is, saying men don’t like women who have needs is saying men don’t like women who are breathing. How boring would it be to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t have any desires, passions or feelings? How boring would it be to have a relationship with someone who always was ‘fine’?
So where is the line between having needs and being needy?
What is your motivation? For a needy person, they are very attached to the outcome. Their motivation for asking for something is to test ‘how much do you love me?” So they throw out needs to see if their partner will prove their love. How much someone runs at your beck and call does not equal how much they love and respect you. When you speak a need from a place of being centered and honest with yourself and not a test for the relationship, you are speaking needs in a healthy way. You are less attached to the outcome and more attached to building up the relationship and solving the problem.
Know your needs.
Be clear on what you need and be specific about it. It is also helpful to know how important the need is to you. I may ask my husband to help me carry in the groceries, and it is just a request and later that week I may ask him, and I need the help. Know and communicate the difference. Needy people are vague and indirect in what they need, so they may ask for a lot of things, but none of them are filling the need because they don’t know exactly what will fill that need.
Speak your need directly and honestly. Needy people use mind-reading, manipulation, passive aggressiveness and pouting to express their needs.
A Willingness to Hear No.
Sometimes needs can’t be met, and that is ok. Be willing to hear no and be open to compromise.
Needy people stay in a relationship well past its expiration date. Knowing when to recognize that someone can respect and meet your needs is important. If someone is unwilling to listen, comprise and respect your needs than it is time to practice some discernment about having that person in your life.
I would love to hear from you. Do you struggle with a fear of being too needy? Where do you think the line between speaking up and being needy falls?