My boyfriend’s neediness is really becoming a turn-off

Super-needy people crave love, affection and validation and require constant reassurance, says Suzi Godson.

Q. My boyfriend wants a lot of sex, but I don’t get the sense that he has a high sex drive. It seems to be more for emotional reassurance. I find his approach really needy — and it turns me off.

A. All good relationships require a certain amount of healthy interdependence. Whether you need a hug or a heart-to-heart about what happened at the office, the whole point of being in a relationship is trusting that your emotional and physical needs will be met. 

Sex is integral to that mutual dependency and it is only natural that it should hold a mirror to moods and feelings. 

Emotional range creates the sexual variation that is fundamental to a happy and healthy relationship. However, your boyfriend’s “neediness” means that he only hits one emotional note. 

That’s not much fun for you — and it doesn’t bode well for the relationship.

Having someone depend on you for their emotional wellbeing can certainly make you feel valued, but ultimately it is exhausting because super-needy people crave love, affection and validation and require constant reassurance.

Needy people also tend to be acutely sensitive, so the slightest rebuff can send them into a tailspin of doubt and self-flagellation, and you have to redouble your efforts to get them back on an even keel. 

Unsurprisingly, people who are very dependent find it difficult to sustain long-term relationships because their partners eventually run screaming towards the hills.

Neediness is not genetic, but it is related to our “attachment” system, which can be damaged by rejection, insecurity or trauma in childhood. 

If your boyfriend had a difficult family life, inconsistent or emotionally unavailable parents, or toxic sexual relationships in the past, he may be anxious or wary about forming new attachments. 

However, once he finds a relationship, he falls into a familiar pattern where he becomes excessively protective or demanding of his new source of affection. 

Sex is an important way of confirming that you love him and it is a fundamental part of how he sustains his emotional equilibrium. 

However, it is an unhealthy reliance because the more he worries about losing the resource (you) that makes him feel secure, the more likely he is to make you run a mile.

Needy people can learn to be more self-reliant if they make a conscious effort to keep their clinginess in check, but it won’t happen unless you start setting some boundaries. 

Essentially, you need to teach him how to differentiate between his sexual and emotional needs — and the best way to do that is to refuse to engage in sex when you feel it is driven by his need for emotional reassurance. 

You don’t need to be aggressive about it; just steer him away from the bedroom towards the kitchen where you can meet his emotional needs with a chat and a cup of tea. 

Having satisfied his emotional requirements, you create a window for sex that is purely recreational.

It is difficult to know what is really going on for another person, so it is often easier to understand the relationship by looking at the kind of person you are, the kind of person he is and the feelings that the dynamic brings out in you. 

If, for example, you are an intolerant person, this situation will challenge you. 

If needy people can’t cope with uncertainty, intolerant people can’t cope with ambiguity, and the mismatch between your boyfriend’s neediness and your expectations of his sexual behaviour will probably be too much for you.

If, however, you have a nurturing and caring personality, you may accept that sex is a way of providing your partner with much-needed emotional reassurance. 

Only you know whether you are the kind of person who has the capacity to cope with your boyfriend’s requirements but, either way, I would urge you to make him aware of the impact it is having so he has a chance to change.

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