Why Learning and Respecting our Emotional Needs is Key to a Happy Life.
“You need to be more self-reliant.”
“You can’t depend on anyone else for happiness.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“Stop being so needy.”
Do any of these sound familiar?
So many of us internalize our sensitivity and our cries for emotional support as something negative—something that we need to fix.
Truth bomb: You are only as needy as your needs aren’t being met.
Learning that I have emotional needs, and that they are needs, not wants, was the golden ticket for me to finally begin catching a grasp on my heart’s emotional life in my early 20s. Even though I know I am lucky I learned these concepts at a relatively young age, I still wish I was taught this in school.
I took home economics and learned that pot handles should point away from you, yet there was no “Emotional Needs Basics” or “Relationships 101” class. I’m still learning that how I see things is not how everyone else sees things—something that we don’t talk about nearly enough.
My first glimpse of this concept was when I read the book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love, by Amir Levine and S.F. Heller.
The book overviews infant attachment styles and their applications to adult relationships. The classic experiment is what happens when a child is playing with toys in a room with its mother, and the mother leaves. Is the child indifferent, inconsolable, or does the child adapt quickly? Secure, avoidant, and anxious are the three attachment styles and are described as follows:
Anxious people have a high need for intimacy and closeness, are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back.
Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.
Often, anxious and avoidant types end up in relationships with one another as they fulfill each other’s subconscious ideas of what relationships are.
Ever been in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to put “labels” on it, or is hesitant about calling you their partner? Ever felt totally preoccupied and anxious when your partner doesn’t text you back for a few days, but your anxiety is totally calmed with just one short yet sweet message? Have you ever tried to make your partner jealous to pull them back in? This avoidant/anxious dynamic defined all of my early relationships. There is a push/pull of intimacy and closeness, and this drama is often mistaken for passion and love.
Avoidant types would never date each other as there is no “need glue” to stick them together. Often, when an anxious or avoidant person meets a secure person for the first time, they will find this relationship initially boring as they are used to having to fight for their needs to be met. Having someone show up with no drama is a shock if we are used to having to struggle.
There is no right or wrong in terms of which attachment style we should strive for, as we all have inherent, yet plastic attachment styles. Essentially, we are naturally inclined and nurtured to have one attachment style, but our style is open to change based on how we choose to go about our lives.
A more secure attachment style is healthy, but it does not have to be our goal.
The benefit of learning our attachment styles lies in recognizing where we are in our emotional lives and what that means in terms of what kind of partner is right for us.
Being in a relationship with a secure partner led me to adopt more secure attachment style habits: for example, no longer believing that every man I date must be “the one” and that there are many people out there who could meet my emotional needs.
I also learned the importance of communicating my needs to my partner, and that, at the end of the day, my partner and I are on the same team. Fights don’t have to end in break ups, they could be stepping stones to a healthier relationship.
Despite this, I still recognize that I lean toward the more anxious side, and know that I could never date someone who was completely avoidant. I still have a high need for intimacy and closeness, and am not suited to being with someone who is more independent and distant. After learning what it feels like to have my emotional needs met, it’s impossible for me to go back to a relationship where I have to fight to feel loved and cared for in the way I need.
The truth is: having different emotional needs is not wrong—not having our emotional needs met is.
We deserve to have all our basic human needs met, including our emotional ones.
Author: Annabelle Blythe
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren