Is Neediness Part of a Healthy Relationship?

Needy man begging his wife

As you contemplate entering a committed relationship, the greater your neediness, or his,  the more likely codependency, dysfunction and disappointment will follow. Focus on what you want, not on what you  need.

I once knew a woman who as a teen dated a man in his twenties. He had a strong need to get married and the teen wasn’t ready. The pressure to fulfill his need increased until one day he lay down on the railway tracks with a train coming. He’d rather die than be without her. She caved. Use your imagination as to where that marriage went.

Neediness is a psychological, fear-based characteristic. Neediness in relationships, or in would-be relationships, is paradoxical. The greater the neediness, the less likely it is for legitimate wants and needs to be met.

On the dating scene, if you come across as particularly needy, members of the opposite sex will avoid you like the plague, or at least, the emotionally healthy ones will. Of course, if you have an irrational need to pick up strays, that is, to take on damaged people as fixer-uppers, the needy will line up to meet you. But what will you do when you have grown out of that need?

A man or woman may exhibit neediness as a long-term personal characteristic. However, neediness can also be transitory if it arises from a crisis such as a death or separation or a career failure. Be careful who you connect with if you recently have been divorced or widowed. As you recover from such crises, you may resent being treated as a ‘project,’ and your new partner may begin to feel useless and lose interest…or become more demanding.

When a couple is on the verge of separation, or when they have separated and are exploring getting back together, neediness on the part of one of them may spur on the separation or prevent the reunion.

Patterns quite naturally develop in marriages. As you grow, some of the patterns may not work anymore for one of you. Try as you might, you can’t seem to change anything. In your frustrated and confused state you leave. It’s temporary, you believe, because you still love your partner. You learn that you really can live on your own. However, you want to be in your marriage and so does your partner.

Unfortunately, your partner has not learned he can live on his own and has an intense need to get back together. You worry that with his neediness will come the old patterns that led you to leave in the first place.

The point is this: to create a healthy relationship, whether beginning a new relationship or restarting an existing marriage, do it out of ‘want,’ not need. The less the need, the greater are the chances of a fulfilling relationship for both of you.

Good Mental Health May Not Be What You Think

Nelson Mandela

Most people seem to have some knowledge of what mental illness is, but there is a great deal of confusion about what constitutes mental health. However, when I Googled “mental health,” I was hit with a barrage of gobbledygook. I won’t repeat any of that here.

A fundamental part of good mental health is living as much as possible in the present, rather than reliving past events or worrying about future events. Everyone has a history, some good, and some bad. You can’t change what happened, so the better you get at living in the present, the more mentally healthy you will be.

Everyone has stories, but the trick is to not confuse your story with who you are. You are not your story. Nelson Mandela has an amazing story of the horrors of 30 years of hard labor in prison. However he did not confuse that story with who he was. He never let that story become his identity.

You may have some conceptualization of who you are, such as, “I am an impatient, Type A decision-maker.” This is the way you experience yourself, but you are not the experience itself. So don’t get too attached to it, or it may interfere with some of your other life roles such as lover, parent or teacher.

Like everyone else, you have thoughts and emotions, good and bad, but you are not those thoughts and emotions. Our medicalized society has preached that if you have bad thoughts or very unpleasant emotions, there is something wrong with you. The result is that you may spend a great deal of time and effort trying to control your thoughts or emotions, that is, trying to fix yourself.

The control may take the form of suppressing, avoiding, trying to forget, or just plain denying. Let me ask you, have any of your attempts to control worked long-term? …I rest my case.

The trick is to be the observer of your thoughts and emotions, never confusing them with who you are as a person. Learn to accept them, and when you can do that, you’ll find that they provide useful data for your choices. More about that below.

What do you value in life? What is your purpose? The key to mental health is your commitment to making choices consistent with your values, at the same time simply accepting your past, your stories, your emotions and your thoughts as you stay present with your commitment. This takes psychological flexibility.

Mental health is more about this quality of psychological flexibility than about happiness. However, as you make your choices which reflect your values, your level of happiness is often an excellent source of feedback on the quality of your choices.

Can You Stop Drinking Alcohol on Your Own?

Sam has been charged with impaired driving twice. He drinks every weekend and he drinks a lot. His wife and other family members report that his personality changes when he drinks and he becomes mean. The next day he can’t remember much of what happened when he was drinking.

For a long time Sam argued that he did not have a drinking problem because he drank only beer and it was only on weekends, he even had his own mugs he got at Top 9 Best Copper Moscow Mule Mugs 2017 – Top9Rated. After his first impaired driving charge, he admitted he may be an alcoholic. He has subsequently tried to stop drinking alcohol a number of times, but the pattern continues. His family wants him to go to an alcohol rehab facility, but Sam still insists that he will handle the problem on his own. Can he do it?

The fact is that many people have overcome an addiction to alcohol on their own without ever entering an alcohol treatment center or going to group meetings. I read recently that you’re three to six times as likely to be successful doing it on your own as you would be by going to a traditional treatment program.

I didn’t know anything about AA or 12-step alcohol treatment centers when I realized I had to stop drinking. (I was consuming alcohol at a rate, according to Stats Canada, that exceeded that of the skid-row alcoholic.) I quit drinking and immediately got to work rebuilding my life. That was over 30 years ago.

Why is Sam failing and why do traditional rehab programs fail so miserably? I propose it is because both are focusing on the wrong thing. Both focus on drinking as the problem. When you focus on the drinking, you expose yourself to wild claims about alcoholism being an incurable, progressive disease, and how you will be in recovery for life. What you hear are certainly not messages of hope, but of failure. Perhaps that is what is keeping Sam stuck.

Unfortunately these notions are so pervasive in our culture that many alcoholics won’t admit their problem because they would be admitting hopelessness. The way one man put it to me was “I won’t get help because I refuse to be in recovery for the rest of my life.” My response to him was “Good for you!”

You can succeed in overcoming even severe alcohol abuse, if you place the focus on the life you want to create for yourself, that is, how you will reinvent yourself. And yes, you may have to do some work on the sources of the pain you had dulled with alcohol, and you may need some help. But if you keep your focus on moving forward, not on where you’ve been, you greatly increase your likelihood of success.