“Every second of the day there is some relationship being damaged or lost because of neediness,” writes relationship coach Jack Ito, PhD. In his new book, Overcome Neediness and Get The Love You Want, Ito shows readers not just how to move past neediness, but to love from a secure base, one that can transform our relationships with others and with ourselves.
Ito begins by exploring how neediness unravels a relationship. From “emotional fireworks” to unreasonable sacrifices, interspersed with moments of intense passion, neediness often leads to ongoing conflict and eventually the end of the relationship. Much of the reason for this is that needy people operate from an insecure base, one where the tendency to idealize partners is strong. “Needy people continue to idealize and romanticize their relationships. They believe they have found their soul mates and no one is going to convince them otherwise — not even their partners,” writes Ito. Yet needy people can also be very controlling, requiring their partners to behave in specific ways, and often exhibit poor boundaries as a facet of getting their needs met.
As a needy person’s focus is directed to getting their own needs satisfied, they operate from a place of self-focus and interpret others actions as inaccurate reflections of themselves. In doing so, Ito tells us, needy people often reside in a victim position, harboring unrealistic expectations of their partner’s ability to meet their exaggerated needs for love, attention, and reassurance. He writes, “Needy people feel in love, but they don’t actually have the kind of sacrificial and mature love that cares about their partners’ well being.” What results is often a cycle of failed relationships that further deteriorate the needy person’s self-esteem.
According to Ito, neediness can occur for many reasons. He points to the early studies on secure and insecure attachment patterns in infants as a possible catalyst for later needy behavior in adult relationships. Ito also suggests the theory that needy people tend to exaggerate normal fears and when they feel fear, act in maladaptive ways. One example of this is withdrawing from the relationship, which typically causes their partner to withdraw, often resulting in a vicious cycle where the needy person’s fears actually increase.
Overcoming neediness, according to Ito, is less about understanding why it happens or where it comes from and more about learning to respond differently. Because needy people live in an anxious world of “what if’s,” the first step is learning how to balance these thoughts against the results within the relationship. Ito suggests asking yourself, “Does this relationship get better or worse when you: check up on your partner, criticize, interrogate, argue, complain, explain, repeatedly talk about problems, nag, or make promises to change?” Answering this question honestly, along with getting extra help and support, employing secure role models, and understanding that your partner’s actions are not about you, can help needy people replace ineffective behaviors with more effective ones.
A core shift for needy people, Ito tells us, is letting go of the intention to change another person’s behavior. By operating from a place of self-confidence, needy people can make another important transformation — from short-term infatuation to long-term love and stability. Ito writes, “Although a needy person has to be willing to give up an intense fantasy-like early relationship, doing so will allow the needy person to have even greater rewards that last for a much longer period of time.”
Ito also offers some very practical advice for how to date from a secure position. He discusses the value of delaying commitment, knowing when to commit, and even provides examples of insecure versus secure text messages.
The second part of Ito’s book reads like a handbook for how to love and live like a secure person. He begins with the behaviors to avoid: criticizing, complaining, arguing, interrogating, talking about problems, giving long explanations, defending and apologizing, nagging, and avoiding the neediness rejection cycle. He then offers ten practical steps for finding a good life-partner, such as identifying your needs and getting them met before entering a relationship, and defining exactly what you desire in a match and then becoming the kind of person that your future partner would want to be with.
Ultimately relationship success hinges on taking responsibility for decisions, knowing what you want, knowing how to get what you want, and being willing to do what it takes to get what you want. But love, Ito tells us, is not enough. Instead marriage success depends on how secure people are, how they handle conflicts, and their willingness to maintain their spouse’s attraction to them after they are married. To handle everyday conflicts, Ito offers several helpful tips, including cutting ties with codependent people, preserving good boundaries, and maintaining accurate expectations of our partners.
Learning to let go of neediness and live a secure life doesn’t just help us see our partners in a more balanced light, but also see ourselves for who we really are. As we become more able to take responsibility for our life and happiness, we set ourselves up for success in relationships and in life. Packed with useful tips and practical advice, Jack Ito’s new book offers the kind of hands-on guidance needed to let go of unhealthy patterns and create the relationships and lives we want.
Overcome Neediness and Get The Love You Want
Loving Solutions, August 2016
Paperback, 236 pages