THE BLOG
10/22/2013 02:05 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

We Need Each Other

Relationship advice from therapists has gone through numerous phases in an effort to help couples create loving relationships.

Years ago, everything I read about relationships described the pitfalls of codependent relationships -- relationships where each partner made the other person responsible for their sense of worth, safety and happiness. And they were right. When partners abandon themselves, they become needy, and neediness can create many relationship problems.

However, there is much misunderstanding between "need" and "needy."

Need: Humans, like many other animals, need each other. We are social beings and we are not meant to be alone. We need each other for many things, such as:

  • Caring, tenderness, hugs, touch and emotional support
  • Connection, sharing love
  • Learning and growing emotionally and spiritually
  • Companionship -- sharing fun and laughter, play, adventure and everyday life
  • Love making
  • Physical help when needed
  • Having our back

We thrive when we feel connected and supported by each other, and we suffer when connection and support are not available. We have these needs as babies and we never lose them.

Needy: When we abandon ourselves by not taking responsibility for our own feelings of self-worth and well-being, we become needy. We are needy when:

  • We don't take physical care of ourselves -- eating badly, not exercising, and not getting enough sleep -- and then become sick and dependent on others.

  • We avoid attending to our own feelings with various substance and process addictions - alcohol, drugs, food, TV, sex, spending and so on.
  • We choose not to learn and grow emotionally and spiritually, not to pursue our passions, and not to help others, therefore becoming empty inside. When we are empty within, we might expect others to fill us with their attention, love and approval.
  • We see ourselves as victims, blaming others or God for our current circumstances.
  • We judge ourselves harshly, which is the opposite of loving ourselves. Self-judgment creates the inner emptiness that leads to neediness.
  • Whether we are operating from true need, or from neediness, depends on one of two choices of intent:

    • When our intent is to learn to love ourselves and others, and to learn to fill ourselves up with love to share with others, we are coming from the authentic need to share love, connection, caring, fun, sexuality and growth with others.
  • When our intent is to protect against pain with various addictions, with focusing in our mind rather than being present in our body, and with self-judgment, then we are needy.
  • We need to connect with others, but we can't connect with others when we are disconnected from ourselves. We need to share love with others but we have no love to share with others when we are not being loving to ourselves. We are needy when we try to get love rather than share love.

    When you decide to learn how to love yourself, you definitely need others to help you with this. We need others to reflect us back to ourselves so that we can see how we may be abandoning ourselves rather than loving ourselves. While it is often hard to see ourselves and see how we are being unloving to ourselves, it is often fairly easy for others who care about us to see what we are doing that is not serving us well and causing us to be needy.

    We need each other, but if you are needy you might be pushing others away. While many people would be happy to connect with you and help you if you were not needy, they may be repelled by neediness.

    In fact, we can't actually help a needy person whose intent is to control getting love, rather than to learn to love themselves and share their love. Their needy, controlling behavior affects us like the wrong end of a magnet.

    Today, therapists are recommending interdependency rather than codependency or dependency. We are interdependent when we are each open to learning about loving ourselves and others -- when our heart is open to taking responsibility for ourselves, and open to connection and the sharing of love with others. We are interdependent when caring about ourselves and caring about each other are our highest priorities.

    Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."

    For more from Margaret Paul, Ph.D., click here.

    For more on love and relationships, click here.

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