My first relationship sucked. When we met there was the typical frazzle of chemistry, surmounted awkwardness and then a reckless abandon rush into commitment. Critical thinking took a backseat and emotions led the way. You could (definitely) say I became over attached. After a year and a half she left and I was thrust back into single male life with no clue, having to piece my life together, and figure out where exactly I left my identity all those months prior.
It’s the cliché of guys in relationships. They meet a girl they get on with, sex happens, over investment follows and the shit-storm approaches. In short, they become needy.
But why do we become needy, and what can we do about it?
The first thing to realise is that neediness is normal. It happens to both men and women and isn’t always a bad sign. If you’re feeling needy it means you have a genuine investment in the relationship you’re in. That’s emotionally healthy and to be applauded. When it becomes an issue is when you cannot manage it, and it’s your default emotional state in your relationships. You start trying to change your partner, you start trying to restrict their behaviour, and you get intimidated by the merest hint of competition from another male. In short, you suck. Your idea of connection is screwed and you can no longer determine unhealthy connection from healthy.
But there is hope.
Neediness isn’t complicated. The most powerful form comes in romantic relationships, but it also occurs in friendships as well. I believe it stems from a lack of options – of a scarcity mindset; of feeling that this person has to be held close and guarded lest they slip away. Like Geoffrey Dahmer keeping severed heads in the fridge, you just want to feel like you can keep people around.
The problem in combating neediness is that it’s a feeling. Combating feelings is a Syssiphean task that was going nowhere from the outset. Don’t believe me; try to beat sadness or anger next time they show their head. Yeah, better luck next time.
You can’t get rid of neediness any more than you can get rid of your emotions. There’s nothing strong about pretending it isn’t there and there’s nothing smart about trying to rid of it. What you can do however is alter the soil from which these emotions grow.
When it comes to neediness I believe this soil is knowledge. Knowledge of ones options in the social and romantic world. The more your options grow, the more your experience of neediness diminishes. It doesn’t go away, but you’re exposed to it less and less, and it becomes more manageable – so that you can learn to separate the genuine moments of connection, from the unhealthily motivated ones.
And to tackle this monumental task I’ve broken down it down into 3 easily digestible, doable and of course, marketable steps.
KNOWING YOU HAVE SOCIAL OPTIONS
Whether it’s with your friends or your romantic relationships – you have to know you have social options. Social options I define as numerous and diverse social opportunities from different sources, that involve intimate (romantic or non-romantic) relationships.
You have lots of friends from different avenues, and you know them well as people.
The amount of people that blow this first step is staggering. If you have little to no friends and few opportunities for socialising then you’re sure as shit are not ready for a romantic relationship. This is chiefly because you’re going to demand way too much time of one another, the emotion of loneliness is going to be way too over pronounced in your life and your relationships are going to lack perspective. It’s not only going to create neediness, but it’s going to make it feel normal. This is a really shitty recipe for cognitive dissonance – aka that human thing we do where we justify our own bullshit to ourselves.
When travelling on my own, loneliness is an ever present emotion. By nature of me being so far away from my friends and family, and being in a foreign culture, it just springs up all the time. There’s nothing I can do about it, it’s part and parcel with the experience. It’s one I’m grateful for, as it has forced me to develop a strategy for building a social circle that I apply wherever I ago, especially at home. It goes like this:
Every week I must:
- Attend 2 or more social events, classes or gatherings (that I’m interested in!)
- Ask someone, or multiple people to hang out from said social events, classes or gatherings
- See one person I haven’t seen in a while, or never been 1 on 1 with before
- Go to a place with friends where random people meet (i.e a Bar)
And guess what? My week fills up pretty quick with cool, interesting people. It’s a fairly full on structure and even half of it (1 event, 1 meet up) is adequate. The important thing is that you’re going to varied social events and meeting varied people during the week.
The key to this is meeting numerous people, mainly from diverse mutual interest backgrounds, and asking the ones you like to meet up outside of wherever you’re meeting them. If it’s a woman you’re attracted to, that’s a date. If it’s a man, that’s a mandate. Then when you’ve done this enough, you invite them all out together and you voila have a social circle, with an abundance of diverse friends.
I also go to places like bars and clubs because you just never know who you’re going to meet there. And if you’ve already made male friends, I’ve never found something that brings single men together like the mutual bromance of hitting on women together. I have friends that I have nothing in common with except that, and we always have a great time.
Once you’ve developed the skill to do this, you’re going to know deep down in your bones that you have social options wherever you go. The world becomes less oppressive, and more of a canvas to see what kind of social life you can create for yourself, where your results depend on the energy you put in to it.
In other words, you just made loneliness your bitch. That’s step one.
KNOWING YOU CAN MEET AND HAVE SEX WITH WOMEN
Sleeping around gets a bad rap; even from me. The fact is there are more important things to pursue in life than getting laid. However, getting laid is an enormous part of the male psyche and motivation that I truly believe it’s something every guy should put some years into doing at some point in his life (read: twenties).
Now getting laid as a goal is shallow and is a recipe for loneliness and misery in the long term; but knowing that you can meet and have sex with women, wherever you go, is a psychologically enormous pat on the back. It’s one thing to know you can make friends; it’s another to know can be sexually involved with new women on a frequent basis.
Men are hardwired on some level to be polygamous; that is to try and sleep with as many women as they can. This doesn’t mean it’s their destiny in life, but it’s a motivation that’s always there. On some level, you always just wanna get some. This puts men in the unfortunately predicament where in a relationship sex is always going to be something on the man’s mind (on some level), and when he lacks options, this can lead to a sacrifice of standards and dignity.
So the solution?
Sleep around of course!
Honoring this delightful urge isn’t as crass as your mother would have you believe – there’s some light to this potentially dark tunnel. Exploring polygamamy in itself improves monogamy. By knowing you can get laid elsewhere, you diminish the sexual neediness within you and your romantic relationships – you don’t have to put up with undesirable behaviours because well, sex. You provide yourself a fertile ground for your own standards and boundaries.
Sleeping around lowers your tolerance for undesirable behaviour in your monogamous relationships. Because of the knowledge that you can meet new women whenever you want, you end up staying with a particular one in the long term, not because you need to – but because you choose to. That’s powerful stuff. A huge part of relationships are sacrifice; being able to sacrifice your polygamous options as a man is massive, and a hell of a confident choice.
KNOWING YOU CAN FORM INTIMIATE RELATIONSHIPS WITH WOMEN
This is the big one. The one the lonely guys, the socialites and the players all miss. It’s one thing to know you can build a social circle wherever you go, it’s another you know you can sleep around. But it’s an entirely different thing to know you can form intimate relationships with women on a regular basis.
I see this most in the players. The guys who sleep around, spending their time hanging out in bars and picking up chicks. These guys know they can get laid – but they don’t know, and in many cases don’t believe they can form intimate relationships with women. This ultimately leads to over attachment when that ‘special girl’ comes around, followed by the eventual breakup of an unhealthy relationship.
Neediness is pervasive, and when it comes to romance, it’s a real bitch. I believe this is down to two things: First, how we view women. Second, how we view love.
When it comes to women, how we view them determines a lot about our relationships. The bar crawling players that end up in the same pot as the first-relationship fool do so because they’re pursing an end point with women that doesn’t provide any of the basis for romance. They’re ignoring their need for connection, intimacy, exposure, honesty and vulnerability – instead they’re pursuing sex, and anything it takes to achieve this. Not only is this misguided (pursuing connection nets you a hell of a lot more sex), it trains the wrong socialisation. Women are people who are just as complex and interesting as you are, with different perspectives, values and vulnerabilities. It’s in discovering these overlaps between the two of you that romance occurs. Developing yourself to get laid is worthwhile to a point, but ultimately must be sloughed off in favour of pursuing connection if you want to deal with your own neediness.
But what about love?
Love isn’t scarce. It isn’t special, or profound. It’s everywhere. Every day there’s someone who you may get on with more, every day you cross paths with women who you could develop deep and lasting connections with. The idea that one person can complete you? That’s bollocks.
Our idea of love is myth that exists all over the world. The more you develop your ability to connect with women, to learn about them, and develop meaningful sexual relationships with them – the more this idea dies.
The truth is that chemistry is common but compatibility is rare. Chemistry, the sparks that lit u p my first relationship (RIP), is the energy of love. The lifeblood that animates it and gives it its essence – but compatibility, the matching of values and lives, is what keeps it going in the long term.
Love isn’t scarce – it’s everywhere. The challenge is in maintaining it. This understanding is crucial when it comes to our understanding of relationships. That chemistry we prize so much? Yeah it’s not that special. Instead of clinging to this person for the energy they bring our lives, we can appreciate them for the partnership they offer in our shared values and life direction. The broken hearted Playboy learns that he can find love anywhere – and then becomes ready to choose, and build a life with someone.
At the end of it all, neediness is always going to be there. The goal of this article was never to teach to be rid of it. The goal was to teach you where it comes from and what you can do about it, so that in your own romantic relationships in future, neediness becomes an emotion you feel, but one you can deal with – because you know they, like you, can go elsewhere but have decided to stick with you. Instead of staying because they don’t have anyone else.
It’s about developing a healthy neediness. A neediness where you know they can go elsewhere, and sure, you don’t want them to, but you trust they won’t – because you know you can as well, but also won’t. Real love is where you recognise that there are plenty of other people out there, but like your own self-acceptance, your partner is good enough, and they’re the one you want. Your lofty ideals of perfection and romance fall by the wayside, for something more down to earth, pragmatic and most of all human.