Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

needy or dependent - How to Tell the Difference Betwen Being Needy and Being Dependent

One of the most common fears people have in romantic relationships is about being needy. It arouses shame, followed by a massive attempt to compensate. Often it takes the form of becoming totally self-sufficient to the point of avoiding all social contact.

The result: isolation, lack of emotional intimacy, leading to insecurity and depression – which in turn makes you more ‘needy.’

 watching every move - How to Tell the Difference Betwen Being Needy and Being Dependent

Watching you intently to keep you connected and available

Some signs of being needy- insecure

  • Discomfort with your loved one interacting with other people socially or to perform obligations, rather than be with you. This is different from jealousy, in that the needy person isn’t anxious about someone else stealing their loved one away – it’s more about making sure that the loved one’s attention stays laser focused on them.

Like Jody who couldn’t bear watching her man help her sister jump start her car battery, and just at the moment when he was beginning the job, said she needed him to see to an overflowing sink!

  • Hyper vigilance regarding the whereabouts and activities of your loved one. You are always checking in to find out what they are up to in an anxious way.

Like Donovan who called, text’d and messaged his girlfriend whenever she was out shopping, seeing her friends or at her dance class –  He wanted a blow-by-blow description of where exactly she was, who else was there and what she was doing. He needed to insert himself into her radar so that he took up all the room, leaving none for anyone else.

  • Having small mishaps, minor emergencies and issues that need the immediate attention of your loved one, so you can keep them near, making sure they are taking care of you and not anyone else.

Like Phoebe who text’d and called her husband about a burned out bulb, noises in the yard, internet connection going out, so that he would come running back from work, from playing sports with his friends or visiting with his sister and her family.

 who has the wheel - How to Tell the Difference Betwen Being Needy and Being Dependent

 Who has the responsibility of steering the ship?

Many people in a romantic relationship are dependent on their partners to take care of them. Not because they are incapable of performing those tasks, but because they want their significant other to be responsible for their welfare as a sign of love and commitment.

Signs of being dependent

  • Leaving decisions to your loved ones because you don’t want the discomfort and responsibility of having to make choices and act on them.

Like Jose who left the decisions about his social calendar to his wife so that he didn’t have to deal with the tensions and conflicts regarding whose invitations to accept or decline and feel the responsibility of hurting or angering family and friends.

  • Playing down your ability to get a job so that your partner is responsible for being the breadwinner.

Like Luke who didn’t want the pressure of having to be the breadwinner, so he made sure he didn’t take classes and tests, or apply for senior positions. He was comfortable depending on his wife who was a high earner in the tech field to carry that load.

  • Using phrases like “I can’t!” and “I don’t know how…..!” so that your loved one sees you as helpless and or unskilled and undertakes the jobs at hand.

Like Cari whose stock phrase whenever she was invited to go a step further with sorting out her  finances, was “I can’t………..I’ll make a mess of them,……..I’m no good with numbers………………” She made sure that she never exposed herself to her own skills and that no one else got to see them either. The payoff was that her family ceased to expect anything of her, and took care of her financial accounting jobs.

  • Making excuses in order to avoid doing something you think your loved one  should do to take care  you.

Like Tessa who suddenly found a ton of things she had to get done that day because she wanted her partner to deal with the contractors who were remodeling the kitchen – an hour before the meeting with the contractors she was as free as a bird, planning coffee with her girlfriends!

  • Anger and resentment when your partner doesn’t perform the jobs you want – forcing you do it.

Like Penny who was furious with her partner for not calling to cancel a hotel reservation, forcing her to do it so that they didn’t lose their deposit. She hated being the one who had to be pro-active, on-the-ball and watchful over their finances. But when she was pushed into it, she protested by not speaking to her partner for a week, refusing sex and withdrawing her companionship.

sharing accomplishments and being proud of each other - How to Tell the Difference Betwen Being Needy and Being Dependent

The healthy and natural way of relating is to be ‘inter-dependent’- where each of you takes responsibilities for yourself, and takes care of the things that are appropriate for your age, actual competency level and emotional investment. Then you care for one another by being supportive, and emotionally available rather than an agent of rescue or a enabler for another who chooses not to reach their full potential.Sometimes it takes a thorough look at one and others needs in therapy to find that balance.


AUTHOR OF ‘Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of Intimacy: ten ways to recognize it and ten ways to manage it in your relationships.”

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2015

You might also like:

 Two ways to avoid the shame of feeling needy

Three ways to avoid feeling needy in relationships

Don’t ruin your marriage with thorny relationship rules

Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond.