Strong Women and the Fear of Being Needy

Strong Women and the Fear of Being Needy

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When I first started dating my boyfriend, I was determined to show him how strong and independent I was. I’d already been through hell and back. I had battle scars. I was strong. I knew our relationship would only be successful if he knew one fact: I was not a needy woman.

Strong women aren’t needy, right?! I already believed that no one man could meet all of my needs, that is way too high an expectation to put on any human being. I never wanted him to think I was pathetic or couldn’t handle myself.

My first impulse was to never text or call him first. NEVER bug him. NEVER let on that I was pining over him. He needed to know I was perfectly capable of being occupied without him. But that all started feeling a little fake. Sometimes I truly did want to talk to him or see him. But I feared appearing needy.

So I’d wait for him. Every. Single. Time. Like a damsel in distress.

Truth: there was nothing strong about acting like a damsel in distress.

Fortunately, I had three massive relationship-changing realizations. I happen to think they are important for any strong woman.

Strong Women and the Fear of Being Needy

1. Strong women don’t prove their strength by being passive; strong women prove their strength by being active.

I was trying to demonstrate my lack of neediness by not asking for what I wanted, but instead I actually gave this new guy every ounce of the power. He could lead it any way he wanted. That power differential is unhealthy and CERTAINLY not what I wanted out of a relationship. And here’s the thing: he never demanded that power. I gave it to him willingly. Because women are trained to believe that’s what they are “supposed to do.”

If you want to talk to a man – talk! If you want to take a man out to dinner – Call! Strong women know what they want, and they ask for it. They have the confidence to be comfortable and unashamed about their desires. We need to switch our understanding of independence. We have it backwards. Independent doesn’t mean we never want anybody. If that were true, no independent woman would ever date or marry or have friends. Independent means we do not need anybody else to hold the power of our lives.

2. If a man doesn’t like that I am confident enough to reach out to him first or ask HIM out on a date, he is not the man for me.

Strong women must accept that not every man wants a strong woman. Some guys haven’t clued in yet. I’m willing to guess that most independent women actually want a man who likes independent women. At some point the “newness” gets wiped away, and that’s when you start showing your true colors of strength. If he doesn’t love strong women, he will never love you. So show him now.

Eventually I learned this. If my boyfriend wasn’t going to like my confidence or ambition, why in the name of all things lovely would I ever continue dating him?! Why waste my precious time?! I told him what I wanted and expected, and I called him when I wanted to talk. When I was busy, I didn’t call him. I showed him who I was. He was completely on board with me, so I was on board with him. If he hadn’t liked my forwardness, HE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE MAN FOR ME.

3. It’s not needy if it’s a need

Women need to get over this idea that asking for quality time or emotional connection is needy. A friend reminded me earlier in my relationship: “It’s not needy if it’s a need.” If I need a man who is willing to spend quality time with me when I’ve had a rough day, it’s not needy to ask for it. It’s honest. It’s a need I have.

But this also places responsibility on each woman to determine what is truly a need and what isn’t.

You may need to text your man. But it’s not a need to send him 26 follow-up texts when he doesn’t respond right away! It may be a need to call him when he’s been out of town for a while to connect, but it’s not a need to call every hour just to check in again! REMEMBER: If a man were to try to contact you 24/7, or complain that you hang out with your friends instead of him, or try to constantly interrupt your work, we would call that man controlling and dangerous.  It goes both ways. Owning half the power in the relationship demands that you not abuse it.


I still don’t do this perfectly even though I’m now in a lovely, committed relationship with the guy who accepted me for who I am. It’s always messy. So find the guy who likes your brand of crazy and supports you where you are. Then be honest with him. Don’t let fear guide your relationships. Show him the real you.

And know this: strong women are strong because they know what they want and they ask for it.

The Interesting Project

Image via Flickr

 

Hello. I’m Taylor, and I’m a Codependent.

Hello. I’m Taylor, and I’m a Codependent.

Hello. I’m Taylor, and I’m a Codependent.

(I am not a doctor, psychologist, or therapist. Everything I have said in this post is based on my personal research and experience. Always consult a doctor, psychologist, or therapist for accuracy and a diagnosis.)

It’s easier for me to talk about what’s wrong with the world than it is for me to talk about what’s wrong within me. I’ve found flags to wave with pride, bringing attention to causes I deem important.

I can easily talk about the things near and dear to my heart, but it’s harder to talk about the things going on in my heart.

One thing I don’t really write about is something I should be shouting from the rooftops. Mostly because it’s part of my belief that I should be “brave enough to tell my story and kind enough to not tell anyone else’s.” Also, I happen to think that my story is awfully similar to many people’s stories – even if they don’t know it yet. There’s something miraculous that comes from a “Me too.”

I am a Codependent.

Hello. I’m Taylor, and I’m a Codependent.

I will never forget the moment when codependency came on my radar. I was in the car with a dear, trusted friend. I was ranting about all the problems that were leading me to file for divorce at the wee age of 22. She asked me if I had ever read the book Codependent No More.

My response: Why? Does he need to read it? (Because, of course, it’s always the other person who has all the problems.)

Her response: No, Taylor. You do.

**crickets**

(Side note: You always need a friend who tells you the truth. The friends who tell you that you’re great 100% of the time are lying to you.)

I had no idea what codependency was. So I did what every 20-something does: I googled it. And then the tears. I spent days (which has lead to months) researching and studying codependency.  This is what I learned:

Codependents need somebody to need them. They need other people to be okay with them in order to be okay with themselves. With heavy amounts of people pleasing/caretaking and low amounts of self-esteem, Codependents have trouble setting up boundaries and taking care of themselves.  Often, Codependents are attracted to those with addictions and/or narcissists because they are some of the neediest of people.

And we need to be needed.

The website for Co-dependents Anonymous has a great overview of the generalized, common symptoms of codependency (found here). I will copy and paste some that jumped out at me as being daily problems in my life, for my entire life.

Codependents often:

  • have difficulty identifying what they are feeling
  • think they can take care of themselves without any help from others
  • mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation
  • express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways
  • have difficulty making decisions
  • judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough
  • have difficulty admitting a mistake
  • value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own
  • need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good
  • are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want
  • look to others to provide their sense of safety
  • have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
  • are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
  • put aside their own interests in order to do what others want
  • are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings
  • believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves
  • attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel
  • have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others
  • demand that their needs be met by others
  • suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable

All of a sudden my life made sense. The struggles I had since I was a little girl, the difficulties I had in relationships, and all the confusion finally made sense.  It was the most liberating realization: I wasn’t crazy or broken. I simply had a problem. And we all have problems.

Soon after, I did read Codependent No More (HIGHLY suggest it!) like my friend suggested and let all the information soak into my brain. I wondered how a young woman growing up in a healthy, addiction-free home struggled with this problem. I wondered if this was something I could learn to overcome. I wondered what to do next.  Lots of wondering happened.

This was a year and a half ago. I’m not healed, I still struggle with it daily, and I only have some answers. But my awareness of the problem makes my life easier. My codependent tendencies may affect my relationships, but they no longer control my relationships. It may take years of therapy, lots of hard work, and very patient loved ones for me to fully understand this problem. But it will not control my life.

With knowledge, I am empowered and retraining my thoughts. I am learning tools to make tomorrow better than yesterday. I am learning to say no when I need to, to do what I need to do when I need to do it, and to allow others to live their own lives.

I would like to write more about Codependency on my blog, but to do that I had to start by saying –

Hello, my name is Taylor, and I am a Codependent.

You too?  Me too.  We can do this.

4 Reasons Why It’s OK To Wait for Marriage (and I don’t mean sex!)

4 Reasons Why It’s OK To Wait for Marriage (and I don’t mean sex!)

4 Reasons Why It’s OK To Wait for Marriage (and I don’t mean sex!)

Most of the Millennial generation (born 1980 – 2000) are postponing nuptials far beyond the generations before them. 20% of Millennial-age adults were married in 2010, a sharp contrast to 59% in 1960.  Instead of spending our 20s in “wedded bliss,” millennials are pursuing higher education, entrepreneurship, travel, social justice, and creativity – with many of us living lives that look more like gypsies than homemakers.

Millennials are using their twenties to benefit and enrich their own lives before adhering their lives to someone else.  They’re learning it’s okay to wait for marriage.

Marriage had its time of necessity. Men needed somebody to take care of the home and kids; women needed somebody to provide. But gender roles are blurring in today’s world. Marriage right out of high school or college is no longer mandatory. We don’t need it anymore. If we don’t need marriage, we have plenty of space to wait until we want marriage.

Yet it seems that the pressure to tie the knot hasn’t gone away with the same vigor. Millennials are still hearing from parents, family members and friends: “When are you going to get married?” or “A year together, start expecting a ring!”

Then there is religious pressure. In Christian culture there is still a push for early marriage, as being married is set up as the absolute ideal. Many churches do not hire unmarried staff members (despite the fact that Paul, a man who wrote the majority of the New Testament, and Jesus were unmarried). And whether people like to believe it or not, the “Save Sex for Marriage” talks are being registered in young adult’s heads as “Let’s hurry up and get to the wedding night.”

Millennials, I’m here to offer a few reasons why it’s OK to stick with your generation on this one. Sure, there are successful young marriages. If that’s the burning desire in your heart, go for it!  But young marriage is not in the cards for everyone.

4 Reasons Why It’s OK To Wait for Marriage (and I don’t mean sex!)

1. Marrying later allows you to learn about yourself 

The amount of mental, emotional, spiritual, and sexual growth that happens between late teens and early twenties is huge. We begin to experience life as adults.  That experience brings about change – it’s ok to be patient while you ride that tide.  Take time to learn what you love and hate and what you’re passionate about.  Try new things, find out how you like to spend your weekends, discover what you want in a partner, learn your travel preferences, etc.

2. Marrying later allows you to learn about your partner 

We all know it takes serious time before we can actually know somebody else.  You might know what their hobbies are, how they talk to their mom, and what makes them tick. But do you know how they deal with death or job loss? Do you know how they will treat you if you’re sick in the hospital? Unfortunately, we can never be sure about someone (how could it be when it’s even difficult to truly know ourselves?)! But giving yourself plenty of time to see your partner in many varied situations – good and bad – is priceless.

3. Marrying later allows you to explore now

I think the older generations got something backwards. Those before us worked hard, waited until old age to retire, and THEN explored the world.  But there are no guarantees!  Exploration and adventure can happen before retirement. Travel – or even move if you want to!  This can be a good time for career exploration.  If you get a degree and find out you hate your career, you have more flexibility in changing your mind when you don’t have a spouse/family relying on you.

4. Marrying later allows you to have more sexual experience

I’m prepping for the hate mail, but I feel it must be said: every human being has sexual preferences.  Not every partner is going to be a good match simply because they have sex organs. We each desire certain things from our sexual partners.  When you don’t rush into marriage, you have time to figure out what you want/need from a sexual partner. Books that say sex just figures itself out don’t tell the whole picture – that is the case for only a lucky few.  Sex matters.  Marriage is a lot of nights in the same bed with someone – enjoy the sex.

Marriage is a big deal – financially, mentally, emotionally, sexually (all the “-ly”s!) – so there’s no need to rush.  We have freedoms in today’s world; we can slow down.  It is fully ok to take advantage of that – it is ok to wait for marriage!