10 Ways to Stop Being a Needy Girlfriend and Feel Confident Again
Don’t let the words “anxious attachment style” scare you; they have the power to teach you how to stop being a needy girlfriend! These 10 ways to love your boyfriend without anxiety or fear can save your relationship. I’m writing this article for a reader who asked for help with her anxious attachment style…
“My boyfriend calls me a ‘needy girlfriend’ and my friends agree with him 🙁 ” writes Sarrah on How to Emotionally Detach From Someone You Care About. “My counselor said I need to emotionally detach from my boyfriend because I have an anxious attachment style. I don’t get what this means because I love him so how can I detach from someone I care about? I need advice on how to stop being a needy girlfriend and how to be strong in myself and my relationship. Help!”
A balanced amount of independence and dependence is what all healthy, secure relationships need. But, when you find yourself veering over into Needy Girlfriend territory, you’re slogging through the pit of unhealthy clingy dependence. And that’s not attractive to your boyfriend or to you.
The good news is that you’re normal. Neediness in relationships is simply the result of a certain style of attachment in relationships (the “Anxious Attachment Style” that Sarrah referred to above). More good news is that you have the power to change and grow – and fixing your relationship style may not be as difficult as you think. Being anxious in love is normal, and fixable.
And the bad news? There is none! 🙂 Except that learning how to stop being a needy girlfriend may take a little time and effort.
10 Tips on How to Stop Being a Needy Girlfriend
Read Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make You Feel Jealous, Needy, and Worried and What You Can Do About It by Leslie Becker-Phelps to learn more about the anxious attachment style in relationships. My tips will give you self-awareness and insight, but I can’t teach you everything you need to know about how to stop being needy in your relationship in this one blog post! To truly heal and grow strong, you need to learn as much as you can about anxious attachment in love.
Has your boyfriend – or even your friends – called you clingy, insecure, desperate, or jealous? Then you may be a “needy girlfriend.” It’s difficult to admit that you need your boyfriend more than he needs you, or that you’re anxious in love. But if you find yourself constantly on the alert, anxious, or worried when it comes to your relationship, you may suffer from anxious attachment style. This is a fear of abandonment that is often rooted in early childhood experiences.
And this leads right into my tips for needy girlfriends with anxious attachment styles…
1. Be aware of how powerful your childhood relationships were – and still are
We learn how love and relationships work from our mom and dad. We learn what type of love we deserve, and what we can expect from the world. For example, I grew up without a dad and my mom was mentally ill. She wasn’t emotionally able to love me, and I spent a lot of time in foster homes and moving from city to city, school to school. As a result, I developed an “avoidant attachment style” in my relationships. The avoidant style is directly opposite to the anxious attachment style.
Basically, attachment is how we relate to our partners and it starts when we’re born. We don’t just walk away from our childhood relationship patterns even if we leave our family of origin. We can’t forget what we learned as babies and children even if we lost our parents when we were young. Our childhoods are incredibly powerful, and they teach us to anxiously attach (the case for needy girlfriends), avoid intimacy in relationships (the case for me and others will avoidant attachment style), or develop a healthy attachment in love (which my husband learned from his parents. Yay!).
2. Review the science of Attachment Theory in love and relationships
You don’t need to study Attachment Theory to learn how to stop being a needy girlfriend or deal with your anxious love style. But, knowing the basic definition of Attachment Theory can help you understand yourself – and your boyfriend – better.
According to Attachment Theory, our early relationships with our parents have an effect on our expectations of our later relationships. Our childhood and adult relationships are not identical…but our close childhood relationships form expectations about the world and ourselves. This sets the stage for how we relate to our partners in our adult love relationships.
3. Learn what “anxious attachment style” is
If you’re a needy girlfriend, you may have an anxious attachment style in most or all of your relationships. People with anxious attachment styles felt abandoned as children by their parents – or maybe they actually were abandoned or neglected. Their needs weren’t met and they grew up with the fear of being rejected and abandoned again. They feel like a burden…and as a result, they actually become a burden in relationships (ouch! I’m sorry).
Needy girlfriends take everything personally and feel constantly scared that their boyfriends will leave them. They may constantly be looking for signs their boyfriends don’t love them anymore.
4. Learn about “avoidant attachment style” in relationships
According to the science of love, people who develop an avoidant attachment style grew up feeling like they couldn’t rely on anyone to take care of them. They developed unhealthy independence on themselves, and learned not to trust anyone. They need lots of space in their love relationships and they tend to push people away. Avoidants have a fear of intimacy and often can’t settle into long-term committed relationships. They feel threatened by an intimate relationship, even when they’re just dating.
Here’s the scientific explanation about being “anxious in love” (Bartholomew, 1991): The fearful-avoidant attachment style is characterized by a negative view of self and a negative view of others. Those who fall into this category view themselves as unworthy and undeserving of love (this was definitely me!). Additionally, avoidant people feel that others are unworthy of their love and trust because they expect that others will reject or hurt them. Avoidants tend to withdraw from close involvement with others in order to protect themselves. From what? Anticipated rejection! Because of their negative view of themselves and their view that others are will hurt them. Are you a needy girlfriend in a relationship with a boyfriend who is avoidant? This is a normal relationship pattern that happens surprisingly often.
5. Know that anxious plus avoidant equals a toxic love relationship
In 10 Signs of a Bad Relationship I described how to recognize toxic love – but I didn’t explain the difference between anxious and avoidant styles of attachment. Nor did I mention why opposites attract. This is an important tip on how to stop being a needy girlfriend, because it will increase your awareness and understanding of unhealthy relationships.
This is a toxic relationship because one partner (such as a needy girlfriend) is always pursuing and chasing. The other partner (such as an avoidant or distant boyfriend) is always running away and hiding. It’s a constant cycle, a dance, a trap. In fact, psychologists call it the Anxious-Avoidant Trap.
6. Look at your relationship from a distance – see the dance
As a “needy girlfriend”, you’re simply trying to get emotionally and physically closer to your boyfriend. You yearn for closeness, love, affection, and reassurance that your relationship is secure. You’re anxious in your love and you need security. You are simply trying to fulfill your natural desire for love, connection, and closeness with your boyfriend.
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And your avoidant boyfriend – what is his response? He thinks you’re trying to control or manipulate him. The more you yearn for closeness, the more he dodges and avoids your text messages, phone calls, love notes, emails, hugs. He might even flirt with other girls or refuse to talk to you about his day. Maybe your boyfriend even acts like he lost interest by not returning your text messages.
Your boyfriend dances away from you as you try to dance closer. Your boyfriend loves you, though. He is scared of getting hurt so he avoids you and calls you a needy girlfriend…but he really does need your love and affection.
7. Spend time thinking about the beliefs you have about yourself
You can’t change your boyfriend’s avoidant attachment style, but you can look at your own relationship patterns. You’re anxious in love and you want to stop being a needy girlfriend – that’s great! The next four tips are more solution-oriented than the previous six (which probably gave you more information than you ever wanted to know about attachment in love!).
What do you believe about yourself? Do you feel anxious and insecure in your relationships, scared and uncertain? Learn more about attachment styles in love. Discover the roots of your neediness in relationships. Own the fact that you are a needy girlfriend right now because you have an anxious attachment style in love. If you feel ashamed or embarrassed because of your anxiety and insecurity about love, deal with it. You can do this, you got this.
8. Share what you’re learning with your boyfriend
This is where things get interesting – and where the real growth and recovery happens!
This is how you will fix your relationship (if, of course, your boyfriend doesn’t just run run run away. Which could happen).
Tell your boyfriend that you’re finding the courage and strength you need to learn how to stop being a needy girlfriend. Give him a book on attachment styles in love. If he doesn’t read, talk to him about avoidant and anxious attachments in relationships. Share what you’re learning. Give your boyfriend time and space to think about your newfound growth and wisdom. Allow him to respond honestly. Continue dealing with your anxiety that he won’t love you anymore, with your neediness in relationships, with your fear of being abandoned and rejected.
9. Assess your relationship with your boyfriend
Take a deep breath, and know that everything will unfold exactly as it’s meant to. Your relationship with your boyfriend, your growth towards healing, your life and emotional health and even your neediness and anxiety about love!
If your boyfriend isn’t interested in learning about his own attachment style, you need to decide if you want to continue this relationship. Can you be with him – exactly as he is right now – and can you learn how to stop being a needy girlfriend at the same time? Is this relationship life-giving, healthy, and meaningful to you? Is your boyfriend willing to change – or at least talk about your relationship? Can you be honest with him about how anxious you are about being in love with him…and possibly being abandoned or rejected?
10. Trust that you can handle whatever happens in your relationship
You got this. You may feel anxious in love, you may still feel like the world’s neediest girlfriend, and you may feel scared and insecure. That’s okay. You are not alone. You can handle this. Maybe your relationship will end. Maybe you and your boyfriend aren’t meant to be together. Maybe you regret searching for tips on how to stop being a needy girlfriend.
Or maybe this is the best thing that could ever happen to you – a breakup, a shakeup in your life – because you were stuck in a needy desperate rut that you couldn’t get out of. Until now.
Bonus Tip #11: Look up for the love you need
A freebie! Get the love you need from God. He is the engine that is running this universe, He is the giver of life and love, He is the creator of everything beautiful and holy in this world – including you!
And He loves you. You may not feel His love, but boy does He care about you. He will never abandon or reject you. He created you to be in relationship with Him, and He wants you to be healthy, whole, and secure. God doesn’t want you to act like a needy girlfriend or to be anxious in love. A boyfriend or husband will never, ever make you feel unconditionally loved and accepted – not the way God can.
The best way to heal any neediness or fear of rejection you have is to lean into God’s love for you. He is blowing you kisses, can’t you feel them? That’s why He brought you here.
“True love makes you more of who you are, not less.” – Mandy Hale.
3. Resources for Anxious Attachment Styles
1. In Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love, Amir Levine and Rachel Heller offer an easy-to-understand scientific explanation of anxious attachment styles in relationships.
This psychiatrist/neuroscientist duo reveals how adult attachment styles affect relationships, and share the most advanced relationship science in existence today.
Did you know that…
- Anxious people 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.
In Attached, Levine and Heller help readers determine what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow (anxious versus avoidant attachment styles) and offer a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections with the people they love.
2. Instead of beating yourself up for being a needy girlfriend, learn how to deal with your insecurity. In 5 Signs You’re Emotionally Suffocating Your Partner I describe how to recognize when your neediness and anxiety in love is destroying your relationship.
3. Read Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make You Feel Jealous, Needy, and Worried and What You Can Do About It. Leslie Becker-Phelps teaches readers how to overcome attachment anxiety using compassionate self-awareness. This is a powerful technique that can help you recognize your negative thoughts or unhealthy behavior patterns in relationships, and respond to them in a nurturing way. You can develop the skills needed to stop you from reverting back to old patterns of neediness and possessiveness.
What do you think of these tips and resources on how to stop being a needy girlfriend? While I can’t offer advice on anxious or avoidant attachments in love, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.