Healthy Boundaries: The Line Between Need And Needy

Healthy Boundaries: The Line Between Need And Needy

While I was at COPE a couple a couple weeks back (I had an amazing time), I took a class from MasterSoAndSo (I can’t find him to link him on Fet, so I may have the spelling wrong) about communication.

In that class, the idea of need versus needy came up for discussion.

In my editorial calendar for today (this is what I call me loosely organized collection of writing prompts that I set for myself every weekday), I had the topic, “Need,” with a link and a reminder:

It feels like wanting one another is most important for a healthy relationship.

Then there’s “needing” each other. Not in an unhealthy way, but in points of bonding and purpose I suppose.

Like, I need for my partner to be communicative, otherwise, our relationship won’t survive…

So that’s the need for certain basic expectations to be met.

— by @IvoryVixen, from a comment on A Few Thoughts On Need… (FetLife link, requires login)

In the class, as we were discussing the idea of need versus needy, it seemed to boil down to how we handled it.

How we thought about the need internally and how we communicated the need or acted upon it externally.

Which, to me, took a bit of thought and unpacking.

To use an example from above, “I need for my partner to be communicative, otherwise, our relationship won’t survive.”

This, to me is a need. It’s clearly stated, and the point made is about why this is needed specifically from that partner, as opposed to something I can fulfill myself, by being a “whole” person (whatever that means).

Let’s dissect this:

  • I don’t need you to communicate with me.
  • IF we are desiring to create a relationship together, I can state with clarity that I need you to communicate with me clearly and effectively.
  • When this need is not met, I can say so and mention that it is a need for the relationship we are building together—or, another way of looking at it is that it is a need in service to a mutual desire.

This is a need in the healthy sense of a relationship. This is setting and holding healthy boundaries.

Other ways of thinking about this, or acting upon it:

When you don’t communicate with me, I feel bad (or I act badly).

In this case, this takes the need from a condition of a relationship or behavior into something that is s putting a personal responsibility onto the other partner (for how I feel or act) that they may not have agreed to.

You’re not communicating with me, which makes you a bad person.

This put MY need as a condition to their value or achievement as a human.

You don’t love me if you don’t communicate with me.

This takes my need for communication and uses it to dictate how another person feels (probably without their consent).

These three examples are all what I would consider needy behaviors. They are demanding and entitled, and blur the lines between who I am and who my partner is.

Need is NOT a bad thing.

I used to think it was. I was wrong.

I was mixing up needy behaviors and thought patterns with needs. And I still believe that those needy behaviors are detrimental to relationships, even when (especially when) I exhibit them.

Because they are not consensual and they are not fair. They are self-focused, and give little to no room for a partner to make mistakes or to think and feel differently.

They merge two people into a mish-mash of one “couplehood,” rather than respecting their healthy personal boundaries.

I need these things (not just these things, and not necessarily in this order) from a partner:

  • communication
  • admiration
  • desire
  • pleasure
  • laughter
  • comfort
  • all of this

And yadda yadda.

I can need desire, for example. I don’t believe I can demand it. Or command it. Or judge a person’s worth on their desire or lack of.

Because desire is my need. And it’s my responsibility to set my boundaries in a way that allows me to receive desire in a healthy way or to walk.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’m not exactly sure that mine are solid, yet. This is something I’m thinking through.

  • What are your needs?
  • When do they cross the line into ‘needy’?
  • Are needs and needy even different ideas to you?
  • Have you experienced need and neediness from partners?
  • How do you experience personal needs and healthy boundaries intersecting?

I’m excited to read your perspectives on this.


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