What To Do If You’re In A Relationship With An Emotionally Needy Person

By: Julia Thomas

Updated July 29, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Maria Abada, LPC

Are you in a relationship with someone who seems to need more than anyone can give them? Emotionally needy people are very hard to live with. Often, it becomes so stressful for the other partner that the relationship eventually fails. But there are some things you can do to overcome this difficult problem. Here are just a few.

Think About What It Means To Be Emotionally Needy

The first step to dealing with emotional neediness in your partner is to understand clearly what the phrase means. A needy person is so caught up trying to get their needs met that they won’t likely help explain it. You need to know what this phenomenon looks like and understand that it isn’t as clear-cut as you might think.

Signs Of Emotional Neediness

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While your significant other might be needy most of the time, it’s unlikely that that’s always the case with everything they say and do. So, it’s important to sort out the needy behavior from the healthy. Here are some signs of emotionally needy behavior.

  • They never go out with friends or have friends over.
  • They beg or bargain to spend more time with you.
  • They use emotional blackmail to get you to spend more time with them, manipulating you by making you feel guilty or upset.
  • They take over your social media, constantly posting on your wall, going way back in history to like old photos, or demanding attention in comments.
  • They constantly argue with you so that they can get your attention and try to influence what you think about them.
  • They try to buy your attention with too-expensive gifts.
  • They’re clingy, never wanting you to go out on your own or do anything that doesn’t involve them.

But Doesn’t Everyone Have Needs?

It’s also important to remember that, yes, everyone does have needs. And, in a close relationship, the two people usually meet some of each other’s needs. The problem comes when they expect you to meet all their needs – both needs they should meet for themselves and needs they could address with other people outside the relationship. And, they not only demand that you meet these needs, but they also use emotional tricks to make your life miserable until you do meet them.

Understand What’s Behind Their Emotional Neediness

It’s natural to be frustrated when someone you’re close to is so needy that it’s damaging your relationship. But, before you write them off and end the relationship, it might help to consider the source of their exaggerated sense of need.

What Is Their Ego Identity Like?

Ego identity is a term that refers to the identity you formed in your teen years. In a Psychology Today article, the author describes the ego identity as an identity you developed to survive when you were younger. Furthermore, this identity is not just about who you are to yourself, but it also includes what you think you need to get from other people. It shapes your sense of where to get recognition, respect, control, or attention. If you reject your partner’s demand to meet their needs, it challenges their whole concept of where that help will come from. That’s when they become fearful, angry, frustrated, or sad.

The Impact Of Attachment Styles

Each person develops an attachment style when they are very young. They may have a healthy attachment, an avoidant attachment, or an anxious attachment. The needy person is typically someone who formed an anxious attachment in their childhood. They’re always worried about losing the person they rely on most.

It isn’t surprising that if your partner thinks you are the best, the brightest, and the most powerful person they know, they’re likely to expect you to take care of their every need. And people who are anxiously attached have highly inflated ideas of what their significant other can provide. In fact, researchers found that anxiously attached people had the highest scores for idealizing their partner in one study.

How Stress Plays A Part

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A major source of neediness is feelings of fear and excessive vulnerability. During stressful times, these emotions can become much stronger. So, if your partner is under a lot of pressure at work or dealing with a difficult personal problem, they’re probably going to be needier than ever.

How To Respond When Someone Is Needy

Now that you have a better perspective on this issue of your partner’s emotional neediness, it’s time to start thinking about responding to it. Start with these suggestions, but if you find that you need more help, it’s a good idea to talk it over with a couple’s counselor.

Find Out What Triggered Their Needy Behavior

Sometimes, it helps set aside your feelings about their needy behavior and talk about what might be triggering it. Ask them how they’re doing and if there’s anything stressful going on in their life right now. You have to be careful not to get caught up in their demands for your attention, but a short, direct conversation about the situations they’re facing gives them a chance to clue you in about the source of their problem.

Encourage Them

If you care about your partner and want to stay in the relationship, it makes sense to support them in becoming a more independent person. Instead of pushing them away, suggest ways they can meet their own needs. Do it positively, in an encouraging, nonjudgmental way. They might not listen to you, but then again, it could be the start of a better relationship for both of you.

State Your Boundaries Clearly

Even if you care deeply about someone, it’s important to have boundaries and state them clearly. You can’t expect your partner to never cross the line into emotional neediness if they don’t know where the line is for you. Instead of making a general statement, like “Stop expecting me to do everything for you!” be more specific. Tell them exactly what you’re willing to do and what you aren’t. Then, they have the opportunity to do their part to improve the relationship in a way that’s comfortable and acceptable to them.

Take Time To Detach

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For your mental health, give yourself some space to experience life outside of the relationship. Take some time every day to do things that don’t include your partner. Have some alone time and some time with your friends. Please go out and do an activity that they don’t enjoy. And, while you’re away from them, let your mind focus on what you’re doing and who you’re with right then. When you come back to be with your partner, you’ll feel refreshed and better able to deal with their neediness.

Don’t Let Yourself Be Overwhelmed By Guilty Feelings

One thing needy people are very good at is making you feel guilty. They place all the pressure on you to take care of their needs. And, when you can’t, they push all your buttons to make you feel like it’s your fault they aren’t happy. When that happens, remind yourself that you’re only one person, and you can’t solve every problem they have. Permit yourself to be happy with yourself, even when they aren’t happy with you.

Don’t Be Surprised If They’re Upset

An excessively needy person isn’t going to like it when you tell them you can’t meet all their needs. They’re going to take it as a massive rejection. They may become extremely angry with you. Or, they may become sad. They might pout for days about something that seems minor to you. Remember that you can’t control their emotions. You can be kind to them, but you can’t make them be what you want them to be.

Get Help from A Couple’s Counselor

Getting along with someone needy is challenging for anyone. And, while the above suggestions might help, a couples’ therapist could offer even more assistance. They can help the two of you learn to communicate in healthier ways. Through the therapeutic process, they can help your partner understand the distress they’re causing you. They can teach them and encourage them to meet some of their needs in other ways besides always pushing you to meet them. Going to counseling together could help you develop a much healthier relationship.

However, if your partner isn’t willing to go with you, there’s no reason you can’t go to a couple’s therapist on your own. They can not only help you understand what’s happening, but they can give you tools and teach you techniques to respond in healthier ways. Eventually, your partner might decide that they want the support that you’re getting from therapy. And, if you’re positive in the way you present it, they may be eager to go to therapy with you. But whether they do or not, the first thing you need to do is get help and support yourself. When you do that, you can start working to change the dynamics of an unhealthy relationship and make it better for both of you.

Counselor Reviews

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