Where’s the Line on Having Emotional Needs?


A friend of mine is struggling with getting her needs met in her significant other relationship, and she’s really having a hard time knowing what’s hers and what’s his. When she first brought it up, I cringed inside because I could never find the balance either. I could never understand where those blurry lines crossed in romantic relationships. I tried like hell. I tried not to have needs. I tried to get my needs met elsewhere. I tried forcing my needs down their throats. Nothing ever worked. I always ended up wondering why I was in a romantic relationship if my needs were unimportant. I think romantic relationships tend to be more geared to meeting a man’s needs than a woman’s. I’m reminded of it every time I have a conversation like this, and it comes up frequently. We gals have needs that don’t seem to easily get met in opposite-sex relationships.

My girlfriends’ significant others generally like for their partner to talk to me. Along the way, I’ve picked up a lot of insight on relationships because I was so over-performing in the ones I was in. If there was a problem, I took it on myself to fix it. If he had a problem, I took it on myself to fix it. So, when I am asked for opinions, I often end up enlightening my friends in a way that is advantageous to the partner. It’s easier to see both sides when it’s not my relationship. One of my friends’ boyfriends asks her to call me when she’s struggling with something in their relationship. I think it’s kind of funny because I’m the most ill-equipped person I know to give any kind of feedback on romantic relationships. It is not my strong suit.

In my relationships, I’ve always had to meet my own needs if they got met at all. In most cases, if I was hurting or sad, my feelings were minimized or ignored. The only option I had was to be angry. I had nowhere to go with my vulnerability. Compassion has never been present in any of my relationships. So, I’ve become very independent. It also may be a knee-jerk pendulum swing from being co-dependent. I have no idea. When I’ve asked for dating feedback, some men say I’m too independent. “A man wants to be needed,” they say. It confuses me because I’ve found that as soon as I have a need, I am seen as too needy. I’ve also had men tell me I was too needy. Now, if you look at my life, I am not needy by any stretch of the imagination. But, I do have needs. And I’m tired of apologizing for them or enduring disrespectful treatment because I dare to express a need. Whatever happened to compassion, common courtesy, compromise or caring? There’s 4 C’s I’d like to see resurface.

I have my issues. I have a tendency to feel unlovable when I get triggered. It’s pretty normal considering the experiences I’ve had. When I’ve shown up with an emotional need, I have been made to feel inadequate or irrational. So, I have a really intense fear of being needy. I hide it by over-compensating in most areas of my life. But I can’t be authentic if I pretend that I don’t have needs. I do. My girlfriends support me for most things, and I hope to continue that track so that I don’t overburden any future significant other. I know that men don’t have the same emotional make-up that women do, and it is harder for them to bring that to the table. But, I can’t for the life of me figure out the balance in my own relationships with men.

One guy I dated in Memphis told me that I was too needy. It really upset me because I was just starting to date again, and I was trying really hard NOT to be needy. But, how do you balance interest and being independent. And all of the feedback I was getting was I wasn’t needy enough. I talked to my sponsor about it, and she replied, “What’s wrong with being needy?” It never dawned on me that maybe it was okay to be needy sometimes. I’d always had the wind knocked out of me if I showed any sign of neediness even for simple things. I have this question percolating all the time about what is an ‘acceptable’ need? I don’t have any answers. It’s all questions here.

Romantic relationships confuse the hell out of me. I’m an educated woman who is talented and successful in my chosen field. I am an expert in nutrition, health and emotional well-being. I’m not afraid to ask for help or to be coached. I’ve saved for my own retirement, bought 3 homes on my own, moved across country multiple times and run 3 marathons. I am not afraid to try new things. I’m not afraid to re-invent myself. But, I can tell you that I am really afraid of getting into another romantic relationship. I don’t understand them. I fail miserably. I’m either completely relationally stupid when it comes to men, or I make horrible choices. Everyone promised that once I got healthier, I would attract better men. It feels like a vicious lie. In some cases, I’d like to go back to sleep and not know what is healthy and what is not. All I know is that for me, relationships equal a great deal of sadness and pain. I feel like a relationship moron.

Talk to me, please...

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