The Difference Between Having Needs and Being Needy

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“You’re only as needy as your unmet needs” is a really affirming quote, because it implies that if you feel needy, your partner has been neglecting your needs. The problem is that this is not always the case. Insecure people with anxious attachment styles often think that every disagreement is potential cause for a break-up. It’s not. If you have a good man who loves you, you can breathe easy and be vulnerable and trusting, without fear of him leaving. But, as you’ll hear in this podcast, it’s all up to you.

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  1. 1
    Karmic Equation

    The silence in this post is deafening, isn’t it, Evan?

    So I guess I’ll start.

    I think this is a great podcast and the silence is a tribute to it’s profundity, because it’s forcing your readers to re-evaluate their needs (or neediness) in the context of their effect on a good boyfriend.

    Great job!



  2. 2

    I don’t agree with Evan’s interpretation of the quote. I think the author is saying is that the need itself is indicative of a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. It’s not necessarily the other person who should always meet the need- sometimes you have to self-soothe, learn skills needed to be more independent, etc.

    1. 2.1

      I understood it the same way. He means that any person who is exhibiting “needy” behavior has unmet needs and is therefore understandable that they react the way they do. It doesn’t say anything about who’s not meeting the need. That’s a whole different subject. The person has to identify their unmet needs and figure out a way to meet them in healthy ways, whether with a partner that is a good match or with friends, family or even therapy.

      Every person is responsible for themselves, their well being and their happiness. We cannot hold other people responsible for our choices or our challenges. Others can greatly support us, but ultimately it’s up to us to change what isn’t working for us, and even though sometimes it is the people we’re choosing, we have to admit when it’s not other people but we who are getting in our own way.


      1. 2.1.1

        That’s what I was thinking, too. In my head I was adding, ” . . . and that person is YOU!” You are grown. Maybe when you were a child your caregivers didn’t give you everything you needed to grow up healthily, and now you have these issues, but whatever the reason, until you address your neediness, it will keep showing up in every relationship you get into.

  3. 3

    It’s too bad this post isn’t getting more attention because I think it’s important to learn how to differentiate between reasonable needs and neediness.   I don’t think anyone really wants to be “needy”, and we should all strive to stay away from that.

    But on the other hand, I also think it’s important to have reasonable needs and learn how to honor those too.   For instance, when we date certain “avoidant” personalities, that pit-of-the-stomach feeling we get about them isn’t us being “needy”, but a reasonable reaction to their emotional withholding (and a warning sign we should not ignore or dismiss as us just being “needy” or something to “get over”).

    The line between “needy” and “having needs” isn’t always clear, but with a lot of trial and error, I’m starting to get the hang of it!



    1. 3.1

      Being a man who recognizes this in himself, I very much resonated with this episode. I’ve been both of the people Mark mentions: the needy man and Diana the needy woman.

      There is a fine line between having justified needs in a relationship, and balancing those relationship needs with neediness from the past of childhood. However, it is befuddling at times to discern.

      I’ve found that the haunts from childhood that unconsciously drive actions in the present under the guise of ‘my needs’ are what create the issues and problems in the present.

      It took me becoming self-aware enough to know when I had that feeling in my stomach that was telling me that *I* was being needy with my partner. I reached a point where I realized that her actually giving me what I was espousing that I ‘needed’ in the moment did nothing to assuage the ‘need’.

      It became abundantly clear that this was a ghost from the past, although it felt inside to be so justified.

      Being ever-vigilant about these incessant, unmet needs of the past, that are the fuel for present actions is what I’ve found to be necessary. It takes effort and a commitment to see what is warranted, and discern what is unfounded and is not the responsibility of one’s partner in the moment, but rather a good therapist.

  4. 4

    One of my favorite quotes of all time:

    You know what I tell people who say “my needs aren’t being met?” Drop some of your needs.

    simplistic but a good guide to putting our needs into perspective.

    we all have every right to have our list of needs and consider them legit because we thinks we need them to be happy in a relationship. sex every day as in Evans example.

    That doesn’t mean other people who can’t or don’t want to meet those needs are wrong any more than the person who has the need is wrong simply because you can’t or won’t meet it. To me it’s a balance between finding someone who’s needs are compatible and realizing it’s not fair to expect someone to be able to meet all my needs. What can I live without. There are deal breakers and then there are nice to haves.

    good podcast. Even if you are a jets fan 🙂

  5. 5

    My take on this is that our behavior is driven by our unmet needs.   Our id is driven to become whole.   Our id is what drives us.   And we all have unmet needs, all of us, period!   And ego strength is our ability to balance the id’s needs with the supergo’s regulation.   I believe this is what maturity is all about.   gee, this stuff gets thick.   Secure people tend to have very good ego strength.

    I read in one book (a David Richo book, I think)  that there is evolution purpose for having unmet needs- it drives us to seek out other people and keeps the race going.     My shrink emphasized how important it is to understand our needs.

  6. 6

    Em I don’t agree that you should “drop” some of your needs. Rather, think about whether it’s realistic or feasible to get them from a relationship rather than from self, career, friends, work, hobbies, etc. I also do think you should take a good, hard look at your relationship as well. When I was dating, I kept being magnetized to men who considered me “needy” and “insecure.” This was in response to me reasonably voicing concerns about situations that most people- male or female would have trouble with-   lack of transparency, a decrease in contact and communication, as well as basic respect. They made it seem as though I was throwing tantrums and being crazy to the point I thought maybe something was deeply wrong with me. Then, I began to prioritize my need for compatibility above chemistry (w/chem still being important, just wouldn’t overlook incompatibility for it). I then attracted a man who NEVER labels me needy and I feel less needy and insecure as well. That being said, it’s still been important for me to pull back a bit and take care of my own independent interests and needs in a healthy way as it’s easy to become “enmeshed” with the right person, causing new problems.

    1. 6.1

      dalilou, I should have said that quote came from a comedian, George Carlin, who was known for sarcasm and he was offering commetary on an increasingly narcissistic society where people view  others as mechanisms for getting their needs met rather than people with agency and needs of their own. In other words, we can all use some perspective. 🙂

    2. 6.2

      Exactly that ! Thank you 🙂 just what I need to hear. I will keep this useful insight in mind

  7. 7

    well its quite;. my needs are important. he should step up or I move on.

    1. 7.1

      That’s quite an ultimatum. You better be bringing a lot to the table yourself.

  8. 8

    There is a wonderful book on this subject by Dr Amir Levine why is all about Attachment issues.

    I agree with both Evan and Dalilou. The trick is realising when your needs are reasonable. If they’re reasonable and not being met, then you should move on because you’re probably with an attachment avoider. Attachment avoiders will never meet your needs. If your an anxious attacher, then you need someone who will reassure you and then you are likely to become much less needy. But as Evan points out, some people’s needs are just too much for anyone to satisfy. Therapy can help you self soothe, but if you are an anxious attacher, you are far better to find someone who is very willing to reassure you within a reasonable degree. Studies have shown that this results in a much less needy insecure person.


  9. 9

    The difference between “need” and “needy” in my opinion:

    Need is specific.   The person knows exactly what he/she needs and therefore, knows when that need is fulfilled.

    Needy is the opposite.   Doesn’t know exactly what he/she needs and doesn’t know what will suffice.

  10. 10

    really liked this

  11. 11

    Thanks for this episode, I really, really I needed this.

  12. 12

    I think this is an excellent podcast.   Only thing I would have liked to have heard is a third story about what it looks like when someone is ‘needy’ due to unmet *reasonable* needs.   Like Christine and Miranda said, the advice in this podcast is really only applicable if we’re talking about unreasonable, unfounded anxious reactions.   I know Evan made the point that these are ‘good guys’ trying their best.   So, I appreciate that he wasn’t planning to illustrate ‘neediness’ in the context of a deficient partner that isn’t providing the basics.   But, sometimes anxiety and ‘neediness’ is a valuable indicator that something is not right.

    I am anxious and I know this about myself, so when I get that pit in the stomach feeling I always have to tell myself to stop and breathe and take a big step back to assess whether there is any evidence to support this panic I’m finding myself in when a boyfriend or someone I’m dating doesn’t text right away or hasn’t seen me recently, etc.   Sometimes its just my activated attachment system and I need to chill and say nothing.   Other times its a sign that this person really isn’t making me a priority, isn’t being emotionally consistent, isn’t providing a safe place for me to land with them… It can be really challenging to know the difference.

    So, take home point:   Not all ‘neediness’ is a signal that you’re overreacting or unreasonable.   Sometimes it actually means you have an avoider on your hands.

  13. 13

    Angie, awesome post!!

    I think my ex was like that. He made me losing my senses and brought my craziness out. I still am wondering whether it was MY fault that we could not work it out.

    I pointet out what my life goals were (a deeper commitment, engagement or marriage at the end) , but played dumb… accused me for being moody….   He did not ever reassure me, but making me wrong …


  14. 14

    I know that therapy is not in the scope of your work Evan, but Diana’s neediness is indicative of deep childhood trauma or abandonment. This has likely been her pattern in relationships her entire life and until she gets to the root of it, she will never have a healthy relationship. She may find a guy who will cater to her neediness, but he will be as unhealthy as she is.

    I quote Alexandra Katehakis here: Love addicts’ anxiety is so intense that they cannot contain it, so they are looking for another person to regulate them internally and make them feel better because they cannot regulate themselves.

    I can’t diagnose Diana as a love addict or not,  but she reeks of codependency issues, and the two often intersect. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to deal with it. I recommend she start with Pia Mellody’s work on codependency.

    I used to be just like she is. Thank heavens I found a competent therapist who helped me peel off the layers of the onion and uncover the driving force behind it. There’s a lot to be said for owning your own soul and not being thrown into a tailspin by the actions or inactions of others.



  15. 15

    I think Diana should break up with Jacob.

    I agree that she’s making some minor things an issue where there need not be one. Like the part where she wants him to call her as soon as he gets home instead of understanding that he needs to decompress for an hour and then call her. That speaks to anxiety.

    However, its really hard to feel calm and feel like there’s a future with a guy that’s so “busy” that he “leaks” a vibe of putting Diana off to the side until everything more important is handled. Or, like she’s one more thing on his long and more important to do list.

    I wish Evan indicated how many times they were seeing each other weekly as that’s critical information to make the judgement call. If he’s with her four days a week and he is taking solid actions toward a future together vs. just “talking about a future together” then thats a totally different story. In that case he’s making a lot of effort. Fighting him on minor issues will sabotage it.

    But it sounds to me like he has her playing second fiddle to his job, children, and ex wife. I get it. It’s hard to juggle so many things.

    But it’s not fun to feel like second fiddle, and I don’t think it’s “needy” to want to be prioritized. After all, Diana represents his future and it sounds like he’s a bit stuck in his past baggage.

    What is more concerning to me is not whether Diana is “too needy” but that she’s allowing herself to be in a repetitive cycle of arguing with someone who isn’t meeting her needs whatever they may be. This to me is more about her working out her own anger (from past issues) with Jacob then it is about their particular relationship. This cycle keeps her unavailable to the right guy.

    However her overall need to be prioritized – I think – sounds like a healthy need. And Jacob is simply not a good fit.

    And to be clear, I agree that he’s not “wrong” for being the way he is. He’s just not the right fit for her. And there are PLENTY of guys who aren’t running around doing 10 different things that are a better fit. They are out there!

    That being said, we must remember that Jacob has also chosen Diana. So it begs the question of — where is he coming from in his own past that he seems to equate being “fought over” for being worthy.

    After all, I don’t agree that all of his obligations are “beyond him.” If he had toddlers, that’s different. If his ex wife has multiple sclerosis, that’s different. But with teenagers, an ex, and a job – he’s not that unique.

    He can likely apply some boundaries in his life to put greater importance on his romantic future than on serving too many masters. Or he can better incorporate Diana into his obligations so that his life is not so compartmentalized.

    Not doing so, and being over-committed, and then allowing drama to surround him – that’s a form of unhealthy co-dependency as well.

    By all accounts everyone might agree he’s a “good guy.” But this isn’t the most healthy behavior either. It’s actually similar to the guy in part 1 who appears to be the nice one, but being a bit too giving and passive to everyone isn’t really “nice” if, at the end of the day, your life includes a bunch of people with half met needs and misplaced expectations.

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