The Neediness Dilemma

First, a little security notice: this week, I have started searching for graduate jobs, and as such have set my Facebook and Twitter accounts to private, as I am all too aware of the likelihood (read: near-certainty) of potential employers stalking me online. I do hope to be out as polyamorous in future workplaces, but that very much depends on individual situations, and I don’t want to risk sabotaging my chances before I even start.

SO – please, if you know me personally or know my full, real name, please do not link Love is Infinite to that name in any way online. Share this blog all you like, repost things, Tweet/blog/Facebook about it – I love it when you guys do that! All I ask is that you don’t link my full name, if you know it, to this page. When it comes to what to call me, Jess or Miss Amaranth is fine! Thank you for understanding, guys.

With that out of the way, one more quick announcement: Love is Infinite now has a Facebook page! If you’re a FB user, please click the ‘like’ button (left hand side of this page, under the Blogroll) for regular updates of new posts and any other poly-related content I find and share!

Oooh! Also! Also! Nomad and I have booked our places at OpenCon Catalonia! We’re making a little holiday of it and taking a few days to go sightseeing as well. I’m super excited! Any of you going to be at this ‘Con, lovely readers?

And now, onto today’s topic!

—-

The Neediness Dilemma

I’ve come to notice something of a contradiction in terms within the so-called ‘rules’ (term used very loosely) of successful polyamorous relationships.

I’m a very firm believer, as are most of the people I know in healthy relationships (poly or not,) that it is hugely important to be able to ask for what you want or need. This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you will always get exactly what you want – but being able to express your needs, preferences and desires, and having them listened to and respected and met as far as is possible, is a fundamental part of good, happy relationships. After all, if we can’t express our needs, how can we expect our partners to fulfil them? They’re not psychic!

But who hasn’t ever been afraid of being seen as ‘needy’ in a relationship? I know I have, and it’s something I still struggle with on a regular basis. I like to think I’ve got the ‘knowing what I need’ aspect of things down pretty well. I’m always learning new things about myself, of course, but I am aware of things I need in order to be happy in a relationship: things which include regular contact even when we’re apart, regular face-to-face time, to be supported and encouraged in stuff I do, to take things s-l-o-w-l-y sexually, plenty of physical affection, to regularly be told I’m loved, to be kept in the loop about anything going on in my partners’ lives that may affect me (including, but not limited to, being told early on if they’re likely to be embarking on any new relationships.) There are more nuances and specifics which I won’t go into, and of course it varies somewhat with each relationship, but that’s a decent outline of the Care and Handling of Your Jess.

However, even though in theory I’m a firm believer of ‘ask for what you need,’ in reality I often find it very difficult to do. Why? Because I am afraid of being labelled as ‘needy.’ Even now, two  and a half years in, I sometimes get irrationally afraid of asking Nomad for something – like I’m a Bad Partner for having needs in the first place. Luckily, he is outstandingly supportive about listening to and validating my needs, and meeting them as much as possible (and helping/suggesting ways for me get them met when he’s not able to right then.) It’s an issue in new relationships, too. I am constantly afraid of potential new partners running a mile when they see that I’m not super-cool-laid-back-chick-who-never-needs-anything.

Of course, this might sound silly. After all, everybody has needs. I know that, as I’m sure we all do. Nobody is super laid back about everything all the time, and I know I wouldn’t want a partner who never expressed any of their needs or desires to me. But in our culture, and particularly as a woman, needy seems to be absolutely one of the worst things someone can be labelled as in a relationship. Us women are taught from a young age that our principal role is to make our (male) partner’s lives easier (those How To Please Your Man or How To Be The Perfect Girlfriend articles in glossy magazines, anyone?) We’re taught to relegate our own desires to lesser importance than everyone else’s, particularly men’s, that being a Good Woman is putting others above ourselves absolutely all of the time, and that being ‘needy’ (whether of time, affection, support, celebrating a special occasion, or whatever) is this Bad Evil Awful Thing that must be avoided at all costs – so of course expressing what we want and need is likely to be difficult!

(Why do so many of these things ultimately boil down to deeply-ingrained cultural norms and expectations?)

Everyone deserves to have their needs listened to, and to get them met if at all possible. As is so often said, one of the beautiful things about polyamory is that we don’t need to expect one person to meet all our needs, all the time. I’ve discovered since being with Nomad that having my needs listened to and taken into account makes me feel so much better about actually having them.

I suppose I just need to gently remind myself (often) that Perfect Girlfriend doesn’t exist, because nobody is perfect, and that being a good partner is not synonymous with ‘never wanting anything.’

Has anyone else experienced this particular internal conflict or struggled with ‘the neediness dilemma?’ I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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10 thoughts on “The Neediness Dilemma

  1. Dragonmamma says:

    OOh girl, for someone so young you really do put your finger on things so well.
    As one of that generation who was taught all of that stuff about pleasing your man and so on, I cant tell you how much I wrestle with being able to specify what I need – or even to mention at all what I want out of a relationship. This whole concept of discussing things like that is so alien to my generation (or perhaps just to the way I was brought up) and leaves me often feeling unappreciated at some level. Have recently been having discussions with my daughter on this very same topic only to get the answer “tell him” or “If you havent discussed this how can you expect him to know?”
    And then of course there is the guilt of being so selfish as to be considering your own wants when they have other problems……

    Logically of course, in a perfect world we would all ask for the things we need all the time and equally ask what our partners want and need and thereby come to an amicable agreement on what can be achieved.
    But there is no such thing as a perfect world………………

    This blog and a few others like it, is very good for making us all think about ways in which we could do things better. Which is why I enjoy reading it and thinking about all the comments here.
    Age doesnt necessarily give us all the answers (unfortunately!) so all imput is useful.

  2. missamaranth says:

    Why thank you! *smiles.* It’s nice to know that the things I mull over in my head as I go about my days, and eventually turn into blog posts, are helpful/interesting/resonating in some way!

    *nods* I can imagine some of how difficult it must be for you to do this ‘expressing what you want’ thing. It’s hard enough for me, and I grew up in the ’90’s. In some ways, I think, things have changed a lot…. in others, hardly at all. It’s done in a different way, of course, but the message to women of ‘your primary goal is to be attractive/useful/subservient to a man’ is still very much part of the cultural mainstream.

    The “tell them” answer when there’s something on your mind is…. so obvious, and yet so difficult to do! I absolutely grok that. So many times I’ve had looooong rambling discussions with my friends about one relationship issue or another, and ultimately they tend to boil down to “…..I need to talk to him/her about this, don’t I?”

    And ohhh yes, the selfishness thing! I tend to try to talk myself out of having needs/wants, convincing myself they’re less important than others’ needs/wants/problems. Ah, if only we had the mythical perfect world!

    I’m really glad you’re enjoying the blog!

    *hug*

  3. River says:

    I don’t have so much a ‘neediness dilemma’ as a ‘not being enough’ dilemma. Which just means that I have more needs for having something without my partner(s) than from my partners. Like time and space to be alone. It’s no easier to deal with those kind of needs, though.

    I struggle with both parts, with knowing what I need and with expressing it. I am working on the first, and it helps now that I’m paying attention to myself (instead of focusing on my loved ones as I have been taught). The second one, I nowadays will just say it regardless of how uncomfortable or scared I feel. I can feel a lot of fear, and it can be really emotional, even if it’s a totally minor thing. The fear just makes it totally out of proportion in my head.

  4. Kai says:

    Hello from a new reader! I’m not completely confident that I’ve expressed myself clearly below, but I hope I conveyed the idea. I welcome any requests for clarification.

    So far my most reassuring and productive responses to having needs within relationships have been conversations which basically went: “I feel / want / require this thing. I am owning this feeling / desire / requirement, and see it as predominantly my responsibility to deal with (dealing with it in this case also includes keeping you informed of it’s existence and my progress thus far). I don’t see it as your responsibility to fix or change the situation. Help you want to give is appreciated, and I can explain suggested ways you could help, but mostly I want to tell you how I’m feeling.”

    In some cases ‘how I’m feeling’ may also include potential issues that exist or will continue / occur if my needs don’t get met, but even then, in my healthiest relationships it’s been a case of partners understanding that they can _want_ to help me in one way or another (and they usually do) but that my expressions of my perspective aren’t implicit demands. Clearing that with myself (and keeping it in mind, because I’m not always able to keep it in mind – it’s a preference of perspective rather than an inherent view) and having it understood by my partners, when successfull, tends to make me feel a lot better about conveying my needs. Because I don’t feel guilty when both of us believe that we both have self-determination.

    I hope that made sense. :)

    • missamaranth says:

      Hello and welcome then, new reader! :D

      Kai, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I absolutely understand what you mean. Owning your own stuff is really important – we should all be responsible for our own stuff, including the times when being responsible involves asking for help and/or asking somebody for something.

      In my experience, explaining one’s perspective (and giving the other person space to explain theirs) is so much more productive than making demands. :)

  5. I have noticed this, especially with desperation – people say, state what you need honestly, but if you do it becomes “you’re being desperate! how gauche!” and then they don’t listen to you. It’s almost “cooler” or more socially acceptable to *not* state that you need something, that you can fight it on your own, look how valiant you are. Argh!

  6. tesskitteh says:

    I can totally relate to what you’re saying here. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot recently, I generally like to be quite vocal about… well, just about everything. So it tends to be quite uncomfortable when I feel that hesitation as neediness comes up. I prefer to communicate what I want and what I need, but sometimes that is interpreted as expressing my expectations – so that can be a little tricky. But nothing can’t be fixed with enough communication in my eyes.

    I don’t feel the gender roles you mention affecting me though since I mostly have same sex relationships these days.

  7. [...] tells us not to be “needy” and so on, but I realised that there’s already a blog about that. And she put it much better than I ever could. So instead I’m going to talk about how that [...]

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