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Am I Needy or Is He Emotionally Unavailable? 4 Utterly Brilliant Ways To Easily Differentiate Between Neediness and Emotional Unavailability

Am I Needy or Is He Emotionally Unavailable

# 1. If you cannot be without a partner you are too needy


It is normal to want to be close to someone.

How do you measure when that normal desire for connection moves into the undesirable condition of being needy? For starters, being needy can’t be measured by someone else’s definition. People vary in their ability to tolerate closeness. That means that’s what’s needy for him may be perfectly fine for you and for someone else. Like so much else in life, the experience of neediness or closeness is subjective. Not right or wrong; some people just want more than others.

I think one way to think about close vs. needy is to assess the amount of anxiety you feel when you are alone.

Being alone shouldn’t leave you unable to function. While sometimes difficult to be alone, excluding a death, you should still be able to function and enjoy the other parts of your life. Being alone can be sad, or frustrating, but it shouldn’t be debilitating. Being needy means that you are relying on someone else to fill a void in your life. A partner will probably feel burdened, smothered or controlled.

Ultimately, you have to assess your own level of need.

You can’t rely on your partner because he will have his own measure of comfort with closeness. Talking about it with each other is helpful because it’s important information that can help you figure out how to manage the relationship so that it can best meet both of your needs. It might be a compromise that allows a little more closeness than is ideal for him and a little less than is ideal for you. All relationships have to tolerate and accommodate differences.

If you cannot be without a partner you are too needy (my opinion).

You, of course, are entitled to live that way, but you’ll probably have a very difficult time finding satisfaction in your life. You’ll probably end up settling for someone not really right for you because you’ll prefer that to being alone. Learning to be alone is giving yourself a gift that will allow you the freedom to choose and the ability to weather those inevitable times of loneliness and loss.

Sally LeBoy, MFT –

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# 2. The first step, always, is to look at all prior intimate relationships to understand what your own personal history tells you about yourself


“Emotionally needy” versus “Emotionally Unavailable” is a classic “blame battle” between who is responsible for creating this common and painful gap between intimate partners.

The question that emerges is often the same: is the partner who feels physically, sexually, or emotionally neglected asking for too much, or is the more distant partner unable or unwilling to give more?

There are similar gaps between all intimate partners who have different desires, appetites, and capabilities in other areas of their relationship. Is, for instance, one partner who thoroughly enjoys sex a couple of times a month “sexually deficient,” or is the one who would like sex many times a week a “sexual addict?”

Should someone who thrives on multiple and consistent social interactions be considered as a person who “cannot be alone” and his or her partner would prefer connecting with a few close friends from time to time? When one partner describes the other’s love of adventure in derogatory terms like “My partner just can’t ever be happy with where he(she) is,” is that just a statement of the complainer who doesn’t like to go far from home and doesn’t want to be left behind?

If these kinds of gaps are present at some level in virtually every intimate relationship, then the issue, of course, is who is blamed and who is guilty of not closing them. What is also true is how the behavior of blaming the other partner when a gap exists affects the relationship. If either or both maintain a superior position of blame of the other, that gap can severely damage their intimacy.

Righteousness and/or guilt are not bedfellows of successful relationships.

So how does an intimate partner explore whether, when, or where he or she is asking too much, or whether the partner on the other end is not providing what is needed to make the relationship work?

The first step, always, is to look at all prior intimate relationships to understand what your own personal history tells you about yourself.

If, for instance, in some kind of ideal situation, you could put all of your former, serious partners in a room, fill it with truth serum, and get them to share the ways in which they valued or devalued you during the relationships. Most relationships, sadly, end with most of the good intact. They end with an emerging imbalance of the negatives. What would they say about you and why did the relationship end? So, unless you are the partner who always leaves all the relationships you’ve been in, it’s most accurate to look at what they would say in common that ended their investments in the relationship.

Make a list of those.

Sometimes that is very hard to face, but it is a crucially courageous requirement in examining whether you are doing any of those same behaviors in your current relationship(s). 

If, for instance, many of your past partners have started the relationships avidly and, over time, began to pull away, you might be the one asking for more than those partners have been willing or able to continuing giving. Then you would have to look at your own insecurity in romantic relationships, and how you project that onto your partner. (See my book, “Relationship Saboteurs.”)

Or, if you have had a sexual drive that has continuously overwhelmed your past partners, you might want to look at what is driving that hunger. It could, for instance, be a cover for something deeper, channeled in a different direction, or amenable to honest negotiation, without blaming you, or your partner.

Some people look at this self-accountability list and realize, often for the first time, what they’ve been doing wrong and can correct those behaviors immediately.

At other times, they realize that they’ve just been searching for the wrong partners who could probably never have satisfied needs or desires that are not out of line. If they are totally honest with what they can bring to a relationship or cannot, they can also see what behaviors are more intrinsic and unlikely to change. They know that they will need to compensate in other areas for those drag chutes.

Once facing and knowing what you might have been doing that may have been keeping you from getting what you need in your intimate relationships, the second step is to look at the partners you’ve chosen, and in what way they, or the relationships are similar.

Before you commit to any relationship, you should know enough about that potential partner’s past relationships to answer the same questions. Again, what have they given and is it the best they can do or have they knowingly withheld for whatever reasons they’ve found explainable. Never think that you might be the one person who can turn a long history around. Very rarely, two people who have repeatedly lost relationships in the past (for the same reasons) do heal in a new way with the right partner, but it is not typical for that to happen.

Thirdly, if you have too-often perceived yourself of being the neglected partner, or the one accused of doing the pulling away, take a good look at whether those assessments feel true to you.

In other words, courageously ask yourself if you are guilty as accused by a well-intentioned partner who does everything he or she can to limit desire or to fulfill them. You may have grown up experiencing these imbalanced relationships and have just seen them as normal. Of you may be one of many people who expect all of their needs to be fulfilled in one relationship, and have overloaded a partnership that could have worked if it had not born that burden.

Unequal appetites exist in every intimate relationship.

Partners who are not into keeping score or blaming search for ways to negotiate them without resorting to nagging, pressuring, avoiding, or punishment. They don’t expect that they will always need the same behavior at all times or in all situations. They want to fulfill each other’s needs, but neither expects the other to give up integrity or self-respect to do so. If they can love each other enough in other areas, they can use that connection as a foundation from which to close the gaps however possible.

Please refer to the following articles I’ve written for Psychology Today Internet Blogs. They may be helpful to continue exploring this area of your intimate partnerships.

Nagging or Avoiding Won’t Help You Find Love Again.
When Your Partner Gives More than you can Return
Are you Controlled by Love?
I didn’t Mean to Hurt You
No-Win Conflicts in Intimate Relationships
Are You Withholding Love?
Why Can’t I let Love in?
The 12 Most Common Ways Partners Manipulate Each Other
The 6 Most Common Enemies of Intimacy
When is it Time to Let a Relationship Go?
Contrasting Expressions of Love
Haven’t you had This Terrible Fight Before?
Hostile Venting
Mean Phrases that Scar Relationships
Bitterness – Love’s Poison

Dr. Randi Gunther –

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# 3. An insecure, needy woman wants a relationship, just to be in a relationship


Desperation is a scary word when it comes to dating and relationships.

It is also very unattractive because most people find neediness, insecurity and low self-esteem deal-breakers. Are you so needy, then, that you are keeping your partner from knowing the funny, likable, interesting and bright person you truly are? Or is he emotionally unavailable, causing you to feel insecure, unworthy, and unimportant? What is the difference?

An insecure, needy woman wants a relationship, just to be in a relationship.

The dynamics, qualities and essentials of your partner may not be as important as having someone in your life. She may be sacrificing her interests and herself to be a couple, even though her guy is not committed. She is willing to do what he wants and be who he wants because he gives her the attention she needs at that time.

An emotionally unavailable man, on the other hand, wants a woman in his life because he likes her devotion.

He draws her in by giving occasional consideration, which she interprets as attachment and even love. He offers himself minimally, just to string her along.

Either scenario does not lead to a healthy, nurturing, supportive relationship.

Instead, look at your motives for seeking a relationship and become the person you want to meet. Be independent, interesting, confident, secure, passionate and insightful. Exude the energy of a self-assured, self-reliant woman who is certain she has a lot to offer. Accept nothing less than a sincere, authentic, natural guy who wants the same things as you.

You should “never” need someone in your life, but rather “want” someone who will enhance and encourage you to be the best you can be. Then you are on the road to developing the kind of relationship you can cherish and be most proud of.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC –

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# 4. The desire to have your emotional needs validated can create a vicious cycle when you keep trying to get someone who is emotionally unavailable to engage with you


Everyone gets needy once in a while.

It is important to make the distinction between being needy and having your needs met. Being needy might be the expectation to see him every day or needing him to say “I love you” every time you speak to him. Being needy might look like the need for constant contact and validation. If you have specific needs and express them without a response; that is different.

If he is emotionally unavailable, it might look like a lack of empathy or compassion regarding your physical and emotional needs.

For example, this might be a situation where you are sick with a cold and he expects you to go on the trip as planned without any regard to how you are feeling. If you are sick and he gets upset that you cannot go and he decides to go without you; that might be a red flag depending on the destination. 

If is it a weekend camping versus a cruise that has been scheduled for months and paid for, there is a difference. If he sees that you are sick and makes no attempt to acknowledge this, this is a red flag.

It doesn’t have to be an issue of illness. It can be a work issue or family issue that causes you to change your plans. If he is demanding and pressures you without any regard to what might be going with you, he is emotionally detached.

A lack of compassion and empathy is a sign of a narcissistic personality.

If you attempt to talk to him about your needs or how you feel about something and he moves on without attending to what you just said, this is a huge red flag. Being in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable usually feels icky in the sense that your partner expects his emotional and physical needs to be met without any regard for yours. Some people find themselves in a toxic cycle trying to change their partner and the situation only gets worse.

The desire to have your emotional needs validated can create a vicious cycle when you keep trying to get someone who is emotionally unavailable to engage with you.

It can lead you to engage in behaviors that try to get his attention but end up compromising your values and integrity. A relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable can be very stressful and frustrating.

In this kind of relationship, your partner might tell you what you want to hear but he does not follow through with what he says and engages in behavior that is contrary to what he said he would do. This can in turn increase your need for validation and indirectly affect your behavior around him because you want his attention and you desperately want him to engage with you emotionally.

When you become desperate, you become needy.

This is what makes it so important to determine if he is emotionally unavailable early on so as not to fall into this kind of vicious cycle. If this is a pattern in your relationships, it is extremely important that you talk to someone about what keeps you repeating these patterns.

Talk to someone who is objective and does not have a vested interest in your life. Friends and family mean well but they are not always able to give you an objective view of your situation. Talk to a therapist that specializes in relationships and work on identifying what keeps you engaged with emotionally unavailable partners. Remember that your needs in the relationship are important too.

Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT –

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