It was my husband’s day off and he seemed in a pleasant mood. Mid-morning — late enough for him to be awake and early enough for him not to have started drinking — he was in the kitchen tidying up from the night before. Years of beer and takeaway had made him heavy and slow. The weight had settled on his belly; his once handsome face now bloated, his neck grown thick. I was near enough to smell the stale sweat on his body. I took a depth breath.
‘Can I talk to you about something?’ I asked, leaning against the bench. I had replayed the conversation in my head thousands of times trying to work out what I was going to say and his possible responses. I knew, however I phrased it, once I’d spoken the words I could never take them back.
‘Yeah,’ he said, stacking empty beer bottles in the recycling bin.
‘I’m not happy,’ I said, my voice breaking. I cleared my throat. ‘We hardly speak, we don’t do anything together and we barely touch each other.’ I still sounded as if I had a heavy cold. I cleared my throat again but nothing helped. ‘I’m lonely — I want to go out to dinner with you, go for walks together, talk about things. It feels like we’re two strangers living in the same house.’
‘I don’t get it,’ he said, wiping his hands on a tea towel. ‘I thought you liked your independence.’ He turned to face me and frowned. ‘When did you become so needy?’
That day, my husband used the word needy as an insult. He was suggesting that my desire for greater intimacy signaled some kind of character flaw. And in that moment I agreed with him. I didn’t want to transform into a clingy, co-dependent, smothering wife. I wanted to maintain my independence, but at the same time, I also wanted a loving, nurturing relationship.
At the intersection of independence and co-dependence lies another path. It is called interdependence. It is the path I was trying to describe during that conversation in the kitchen.
- independence — I don’t need you
- co-dependence — I can’t live without you
- interdependence — I acknowledge you, respect you and treasure you
Interdependence is a dynamic of being mutually and physically responsible to, and sharing a common set of principles with many others.
In an interdependent relationship, all participants are emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally self-reliant while at the same time responsible to each other ~ Wikipedia
Interdependence is what I craved during those long dark days of my marriage. I wanted someone to see me, to hear me, to acknowledge my struggles and to offer a helping hand. I realise now my husband could never have been that person as his whole existence was taken up with fighting demons larger than mine.
That day in the kitchen, I was needy. I am needy — but needy isn’t a flaw, it’s a survival instinct.
I need love, and respect, and connection. I need to feel comfort, and safety and support. I need to know that even in my darkest hours I’m not alone.
And I’m not alone anymore — I now have a loving boyfriend who celebrates and supports all of my strengths and weaknesses.
And I have you, my dear readers. You offer me such warmth and comfort and I thank you for that. You ooze with unconditional love as you battle your way over your own obstacles. You reach out even when your hands are bleeding from the fight.
We’re all needy, because we all need each other.
And I’m more than happy to be a part of that.
This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge.
31 thoughts on “N is for Needy • #atozchallenge”
Interesting post, I had not seen neediness as a survival instinct as yes we need, we need our mothers to take care of us, but I also feel our neediness comes often from a sense of abandonment in childhood too and we project this need onto others. We all get needy, especially when tired, feeling vulnerable or when we are poorly. I found my neediness pushed people away in the past and I strived to enjoy my own company and spent time alone for around 4 years, this has made me less needy and more independent yet also able to embrace the company of others.
I wonder if people who can’t stand our so called ‘neediness’ are not the kind of people we want in our lives?
Personally, I’d rather have friends who are comfortable with my vulnerability.
I feel there is a difference between vulnerability and neediness though. My new friends are totally okay and accepting of vulnerability and we embrace it, neediness can be very clingy and demanding. I am speaking from my experience of being the needy person in friendships and relationships. Once I was able to fill myself up with ‘me’ and take a very long time alone I enjoyed my company so much the new friends who entered my world were icing on the cake whereas during my needy days they were the cake, I was attached to them and it was unhealthy. And my clinging automatically pushed them away.
Perhaps we differ in our understand of the word ‘needy’. You seem to be equating it to co-dependent relationships (I can’t live without you), whereas I see it as interdependence (I treasure you).
I agree with you that healthy relationships start with me being happy with my own company.
I never put that word interdependent on my marriage, I always described our relationship as synergy, the sum greater than the parts. But I like it. We both are strong people, working together and apart, and living and loving together. A very good way to look at a healthy relationship.
Synergy is a great word. Love it ♥
Such a touching and beautiful post. Anne LaMott recently posted a blog on her 61ist( I think) birthday where she said we are all needy. But yes, so what? How great is that? People who need people! I am thrilled that you are now in a relationship that meets your needs. Why should we ever be ashamed of that? Thanks for your honesty, it’s remarkable.
I hadn’t read that post but I’m pleased to be in such good company. Thank you for your kind compliment, Cathy.
This is a brilliant piece of wisdom–thank you for the paradigm shift. I actually started out reading with the thought, “Needy is baaaaaad.” And ended sitting up straighter, proud to *be* needy 🙂 Like you, after a rash of unfulfilling relationships I found a partner who offers me the peace of total acceptance… Interdependence is a beautiful thing.
Guilie @ Quiet Laughter
How lovely to hear you had a change of heart.
And ‘the peace of total acceptance’ … aaahhh yes.
Wow, I had that exact conversation with my ex… didn’t end well, but end it did. Exposing neediness is expressing vulnerability and some people just can’t bear that. Hell with them!!
Yes, yes, and all the yeses.
Needy is turned into such a negative word! I love interdependence because that’s what we should be with our spouses!!
… and boyfriends too 😉
A beautifully written, touching post. We are all needy and we need interdependence in our relationships. As social beings, we need others to thrive.
Thanks, Ula. The word thrive reminds me of that study they did with babies who never got touched – failure to thrive they called it. I’m certain we don’t grow out of needing to be touched.
I’m pretty certain our needs don’t change over our lifetime, just our wants.
I’m glad you’re in a much better relationship now. It’s not ‘needy’ to want to spend time with your spouse!
Thanks, Megan. I agree.
Excellent post. It is a distinction that many men do not understand. Thank you for putting into words that convey the feeling.
Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment, Harriet.
Such a fine line drawn between the three that it’s sometimes hard not to mistake one for the other. It calls for a great deal of honesty with ourselves.
I’ve been called needy too, by a man who clearly couldn’t really commit to an emotional relationship with me. It’s a huge insult to an independent woman who steps out to express her need for companionship. I get it, Katie. Hugs!
Exactly what you said. It takes courage for us ‘toughies’ to admit we need something from another person. And it does hurt deeply to be accused of being clingy or weak. Thanks for your insight.
I love this. Only made it over now, but I knew I wanted to read it. I was right. It’s gorgeous. Aaaaaaaaaaand I think you should add it to 1000Speak because it’s DEFINITELY about nurture.
My relationship has gone the way of independence on my part and near co-dependence on his. I think we’ve rarely had the other. Hm. Relationship HAD gone that way. STILL. I like this and I’m glad-glad you’ve found your people 🙂
And I’m glad I found people like you ♥
Love this post so much. Love how you used an example from your real life to illustrate it. It is a tricky balance. I want to add this to my end of the month round up, as favorite post for the letter N,n if that’s okay with you?
Of course. Thank you for wanting to share it ♥
So glad you’re in a relationship where your needs are now being met, Katie! It is definitely difficult at times to figure out the difference between neediness and independence. I like your explanation of interdependence. 🙂 XO Shelah
To know that there are other women who share similar experiences to my own, brings some comfort . Your ex husband sounds a lot like my ex boyfriend. Reading this brought me back to that time when all I wanted was a healthy relationship with the man I loved. Now that I have healed and moved on, I realize he never understood me, he neglected my needs and turned me into his scapegoat. It’s been 6 years since we parted ways but let me say that I have never felt as alive and happy as I have all these years!!!
I am needy. I know this. I warn potential partners that I don’t need expensive gifts and fancy dates, I just need a lot of time and attention.
I approached my husband with that same topic (lack of intimacy) last month and it was rough, but we are working through it now.
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