'Is my boyfriend cold or am I too needy?'
‘My boyfriend has avoidance issues and I just want to be closer to him. When we’re apart, he’s sweet and attentive.
‘However, although things are fairly great between us, he’s much colder when we’re together.
‘I initially found it confusing and then I started to understand that I need a lot more from a relationship than he does. He’s very independent, which I perceive as being uncaring at times.
‘I want to see him over Christmas, which will be our first, but he sounds busy already as he has a large family.
‘How do I know if I’m being needy or asking for too much?‘
While negotiating each other’s requirements is part of the dance, feeling safe in a relationship is non-negotiable.
‘Feeling emotionally safe means knowing that someone has your back, that they’re there for you,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘You don’t feel safe enough to show your feelings or to expect that he thinks or cares about you, which is leaving you feeling vulnerable and fragile.’
This connection can evolve. It may even be that he requires more time to feel safe himself. Either way, the outcome is the same.
‘If he doesn’t care, then the relationship probably isn’t good for you,’ says James McConnachie. ‘If he does care but won’t or can’t show it, you still end up feeling unloved and insecure. Is that good for you?’
Being clear about what you need from him is nothing to hide, says Rupert Smith. ‘It always seems strange to me that “needy” has such negative connotations, as if having and expressing your need is shameful. Whenever people express that feeling, I wonder if they come from a family background where basic needs for comfort, play and love were not adequately met, and whether they have grown up believing they shouldn’t want those things.’
Each of us needs relationships just as much as we require food and shelter.
‘It might be worth looking to your childhood to see if you were ever made to feel that you were too demanding because you may have carried that into adult life,’ Smith adds.
So tell your boyfriend you want to see him at Christmas.
‘It’s a good test,’ says McConnachie. ‘Sounding busy sounds like a warning alarm but it might just be that he’s a bit passive. He wouldn’t be the first man to be a bit slack about making social engagements.’
You may discover that he’s uncertain how to be in an intimate relationship or — as painful as this realisation would be — that he may not be as invested in the union as you are. Just make sure you honour your needs first.
‘It sounds as if he’s quite capable of looking after his needs,’ says McConnachie.
Follow your instincts, be clear about what you want and need, and everything else will follow naturally.
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist
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