Needy Boyfriend

February 8, 2012

Molly, can you help me understand a "needy" man? I have been dating one for over a year now and it seems to be getting worse over time. Even a simple night out with girlfriends turns in a dozen texts of "I miss you". The tighter he tries to hold on, the more I pull back. I have raised three boys by myself and feel like I am raising another one. He is always asking "aren't you proud of me"? He has health issues that he won't address but has no problem complaining about how he doesn't feel good. I have gotten to the point where I don't even comment back to him. I love him dearly, but I feel like he is sucking the life out of me with this "neediness" he has. Even when I am at work if I don't answer a text I start getting "are you ok", "did I do something" "I am sorry for whatever I did". I would have thought over time, something like this would get better. thank you
Tired in NY
Dear Tired,
You are not going to change this man and that’s a fact. He can change himself, but admitting he has a problem is the first step. Whether it’s an obsessive need he has for validation, or abandonment fears, it seems like there’s more to his behavior than you are prepared to handle. You’ve answered your own question. You have raised three children and the responsibility of having another “child” in the house is not what you want. So pulling back is a sign that you need to make a change. It doesn’t mean that you can’t support him, but it has to on your terms. Have you addressed this together? Does he validate your concerns and know that you are separating yourself from him? Does he think his behavior is causing a problem?
I know you love him, but I question what he brings to you that you love so much. I’d start by writing down the positives that he contributes to the relationship. Then write down what he takes from it. When we stay in relationships that are not healthy, sometimes there is codependency. Ask yourself as you write your list if you feel like you are trying to fix, rescue and/or nurture him, and feel guilty leaving. If so you could be codependent and may want to seek some advice as to how to break this pattern.
His unresolved health issues this tells me that perhaps he doesn’t love himself enough to get the help he needs. Some people who act this way would rather be sick to receive the sympathy and attention they crave. The thought process goes something like this: If I stay sick she will feel sorry for me and by showing her concern she must love me therefore I’m worthy. Obviously this is flawed thinking and the only reason I bring this up is because he has health issues he’s not addressing and displays insecure behavior. It could be as simple as denial, but only a trained professional can know this.
The fact that he’s insecure when you separate from him needs to be addressed as well. It could be narcissism, a control issue or as we’ve discussed a symptom of a bigger issue. There are many layers here, but one thing is clear, you see the behavior in him and it doesn’t feel right.
Perhaps the best advice is to encourage him to address these concerns in therapy. It doesn’t mean either of you has failed; it just means there are things to figure out. It is not your job to validate this man or be his therapist. Relationships enhance our lives, make life better and teach us valuable lessons. They shouldn’t “suck the life” out of us. My advice is having a candid conversation about the issues. See where that takes you and hopefully you can figure out the behavior, either together or with a therapist. Good luck! Let us know how it goes.
~Molly
Readers, how should she handle his not giving her space? Do you think it’s a control issue or something more?

Molly is a writer and business professional with years of experience in finance, business development and management. Her lifelong passion and learning has been focused on the understanding and complexity of relationships as well as effective communication. Originally from Texas she has lived in many cities including St. Louis and Portland finally settling in Boston where she raised her family and received her education in Business Administration. She is now living in Texas with her family and is excited to be home. Catch her daily relationship and advice column “Molly Mason-Let’s Talk Love” on www.austin.com and “Straight Talk” in print. You can contact Molly at mollymason.st@gmail.com.

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