Six Key Reasons to Avoid Feeling Needy and Dependent
Needfully lavishing praise on someone is unlikely to get you into their heart.
When you’re not enough for yourself, you’ll seek a union to offer you the reassurance you desperately need.
No person depended upon to be the center of your universe will remain comfortable in such a confining role.
We all need a deep connection with another, but by depending on it needy individuals minimize its possibility.
Non-assertive, needy people with poor self-esteem can, paradoxically, be unusually demanding, even abusive.
Fiercely Trying to Cajole Another into Loving You
In the context of a romantic relationship, if you’re not enough for yourself, you’ll likely be driven to depend on your partner for validation. Or, in your emotional quandary, pursue a partner who, given their own neediness, may be just as desperate as you are. As in: If you’ll let me depend on you, I’ll let you depend on me.
Regrettably, that’s not a good solution for overcoming deficits in your self-image. Yet if you are unable to generate a loving relationship with yourself, this pseudo-solution is certainly understandable—maybe, inevitable.
After all, if you’re to have steadfast self-esteem, it’s crucial to view yourself as self-reliant and complete within yourself. Otherwise, you can’t stand steady and balanced on your own two feet. Rather, harboring lingering deficits in your sense of self, you’ll be reduced to depending on another to soften (if only temporarily) the personal doubts tormenting you.
Ultimately—vs. immediately—what’s the price of such neediness?
The short answer here is A Lot. Pressuring—indeed, harassing—someone to fill the troubling void inside you typically boomerangs, quite possibly leaving you worse off than you were before. So what are the reasons that this anxiety-induced tactic is rarely effective?
Why Needy, Clinging Behavior Ends Up Not Endearing You to Another But Alienates Them
I’ll enumerate the different, though intimately related, reasons that neediness fails to get from the depended-upon individual what the needful person craves. And all these explanations can be seen as variations on a theme. This theme is based on the well-established finding that to be happy all of us (in this instance, both the needed and the needy) must create, and maintain, a balance between personal autonomy and social dependency.
1. Initially, the willingness to say or do almost anything to endear yourself to the one you’re attracted to may be effective. But over time it’s far more likely that your excessive dependency will make that put-upon individual experience you as burdensome.
If you text them 10 times an hour, call them after they’ve gone to bed, or push them to spend more time with you than they’d want, they’ll probably feel more used than loved.
But even though your bids for attention may be too much for them, they’re no more than what you feel you need to feel cared about in the relationship. Moreover, unless their attachment style is avoidantly disturbed (i.e., they were purposely raised by emotionally distant caregivers to be super self-reliant and independent), the problem isn’t theirs but your own.
However unconscious, your goal may have been to flatter them into loving you. Eventually, though, your efforts are apt to leave them feeling flustered and frustrated, overwhelmed by the vast amount of loneliness-ameliorating togetherness you’re strenuously aiming to achieve.
And how can that help but constitute a dire threat to their indispensable need for personal autonomy? In idealizing them, you’re also objectifying them. You’re compromising something critical to them by lessening their sense of relational equality.
2. “Smother love” reeks of negative connotations since being smothered is tantamount to being choked, suffocated, or locked in a stranglehold—hardly an experience anyone would find nurturing. Most of us would probably be disposed to call it something other than love—as a contrivance bordering on fulsome, scheming manipulation.
Therapists, too, would generally concur that such love can’t reasonably be characterized as authentic. As opposed to obsequiously subordinating yourself to the one depended upon, here you’re subordinating their needs to your own.
3. If the receiver of this suspect loving feels trespassed upon, it can be inferred that they’re experiencing an irksome violation of their boundaries. Another way of accounting for their pained reaction is that they’re feeling disrespectfully “crowded” by you. From deep within, they’ll be distrustful and disapproving of your exaggerated admiration for them. And whether or not they conceptualize it as such, vicariously your anxiety about the connection will be felt by them. In fact, as the extraordinarily needful one in the relationship, you’ll be broadcasting it to them.
They won’t feel loved for who they are but rather what they can do for you. Your insecurity and hyper-dependency will be veritably transparent to them. Here is where the distinction between neediness and love rears its repellent head. However often you profess your love and dedication, it won’t be seen as true caring but, surreptitiously, as controlling. And in too many ways that’s the exact opposite of caring.
4. Successful unions—unions that demonstrate mental, emotional, and physical intimacy—are marked by reciprocity. But the nature of this needfully impaired relationship is such that neither party can experience it as complementary. The one depended upon is prone to feeling preyed upon, whereas the dependent party is disposed to feel that their ostensible givingness isn’t being adequately returned. That’s a perfect recipe for disappointment—and as much for one side as the other.
5. As the neediness or clinginess, comes to feel never-ending, the too heavily depended-on party increasingly experiences the relationship as burning them out.
Although their initial attraction to the needy individual may have made them willing to provide the reassurance requested of them, after a while that person’s dependencies come to feel insatiable. And they end up exasperated by the responsibilities which, unceremoniously, have been laid on them.
Moreover, explicitly setting limits on what the dependent individual can expect from them probably won’t be heeded because the dependee’s needs are simply too weighty to be assuaged by anything short of the effort already made to appease them. And, as in the impossibility of appeasing a dictator (or would-be dictator), the dependee’s inability to internalize the positive messages received by the one depended-upon makes it exceedingly difficult for them to accept as adequate what their (hoped-for) savior has before willingly offered them.
6. From afar, the dependee might well be seen as the supplicant in the relationship, imploring the one depended upon to meet their past unmet needs. Yet there’s a certain demandingness about the needy individual.
They can be aggressively critical of the one depended upon when that person fails to sufficiently furnish what they cannot provide for themselves. In these instances, they’re the disapproving ones and can make their now adversary feel selfish or guilty.
Still, as mentioned earlier, because of the insatiability of their demands, the one depended upon can’t ever be successful in whatever conscientious endeavor they may make to pacify such neediness.
The ultimate remedy for this unfortunate, even toxic, dependency is self-validation. And that’s a topic I’ll take up in my next post.
Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.