Disclaimer: Here's the heads up on what I'm about to share. It'll be really easy to read what this woman allowed a man to send her through and call her "crazy", "desperate" or "stupid" but, before you do that, try and reflect on if there's any relationship you've ever been in where you were needy for a man. Personally, while things may have never gotten quite this extreme, I know there have been times when I put myself through more than I ever should have in the name of (so-called) love.
I'd say for the past 6-7 years or so, about twice a year, I'll hear from a woman who claims that she's still in love with one particular man. A man who won't commit (or even really claim her in public). A man who brings her in but won't take her out (that's my way of saying he sexes her but doesn't date her). A man who's told her that he doesn't feel the same way she does, not by a long shot. Yet, she still claims that she completely adores this guy—a guy I don't know (because I don't use "know" loosely), but a guy I certainly know of.
He's not a bad person. He's really not.
Anyway, she's sooooooo into him that she even told me that one time, after she came to his house unannounced (for the umpteenth time), he let her in, had sex with her, and then put her out. I mean, literally picked her up and put her out. Even after that, she still claims to love him.
Yeah. I already know that some of y'all read that and immediately got H-O-T. But who are you the most upset with—him or her? If it's him, what are you mad about? That he made the decision to get some before he humiliated her? If it's her, is it because she 1) disrespected his space by not calling first; 2) had sex with him even though he had already told her what the deal was, or 3) she allowed her "devotion" to him to get her to the point of getting put out yet she still professes her love for dude?
No matter what side of the fence you're standing on, I promise you I get it. When we're not emotionally involved in a relationship or situationship, it's easy to see the crazy for what it is. But I remember discovering that a guy I dated rotated me and six other girls in the same picture frame and my still deciding to date him. I remember finding out that my first love had me and another girl pregnant at the same time and still calling him my boyfriend. I remember going above and beyond for a guy, running into him and his girlfriend (even though he told me he didn't have a girlfriend) and not immediately cutting things off. I also remember thinking that my sticking around was an act of love when really, just like ole' girl, it was nothing more than unadulterated neediness.
Needy. It's such a dysfunctional word.
Whenever I think of it, one of the definitions that immediately comes to mind is impoverished. An impoverished person is someone who is deprived of strength. So, you know what that means, right? You can't really be needy if you're a strong and courageous individual—if you're someone who is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually empowered and powerful. (Now bookmark that for a moment while I make another point.)
Even if you can't relate to the instances of neediness that I just shared, here are some other examples of what being needy in a relationship looks and lives like:
- People who move too fast in relationships are typically needy.
- People who are clingy in relationships are typically needy.
- People who are jealous and overbearing are typically needy.
- People whose lives totally revolve around another individual are typically needy.
- People who diminish their value unless they are with someone are typically needy.
Now here's where it all comes together. How is it that so many of us—men and women—can find ourselves being needy and calling it love? I think the answer lies in a definition of power:
Power: ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something
Back when I was being a needy chick, it was due to so many things—my dysfunctional upbringing, abandonment issues; being a words of affirmation person while hearing relatives and racist educators say some pretty damaging things; being in so-called friendships that lacked reciprocity; doing most of the work in most of my romantic relationships and growing up in a church that taught very little about self-love (love your neighbor AS YOURSELF, y'all—Mark 12:30-31).
Lord have mercy. I can look back now and see that because I lacked the ability to love myself I was constantly looking for someone else to do it. And since I wanted a man in my life and I lacked self-love simultaneously, that want turned into a need. And the longer I went without loving myself, that need turned into bonafide neediness.
'Cause here's the thing. When you don't have a healthy and clear understanding of what love is, you'll let some of the most toxic imitations of love define it for you.
You find yourself thinking that tolerating abuse—neglect is a form of abuse, by the way—is being loyal. That sharing a man is being patient. That not requiring what you want is being low maintenance. That sacrificing yourself in order to keep "him" around is nothing more than a normal act of compromise. You find yourself believing that having something is better than having nothing when sometimes that "something" is, ironically, less than nothing. All of this will have you out here doing the absolute most, all the while believing that it's love when it is nothing of the sort.
It wasn't until I developed the ability to see me, to honor me, to LOVE ME that I was able to tell the difference between loving a man and being needy for one. And what's the main difference? I don't NEED a man.
Now, I'm not meaning this in the extreme sense. God made men (and men are not designed to think or act like us; otherwise, they'd be women…but that's another message for another time). All of God's creations serve a divine purpose. For that reason alone, I need men in my life. What I'm saying is I am not gonna die if I'm not in a relationship with or even dating someone. I will die if I go without food and water for too long. Those are needs.
At this stage in my life, having a man in it is literally like the icing on the cake. It will add something very sweet and special to it—but the cake is pretty delicious all on its own.
Now that I have developed the ability to love myself—to apply the Love Chapter (I Corinthians 13) to how I treat even me—the power that I thought I could only get via another person, I now hold. I am strong and courageous (which basically means not afraid) enough to be alone. Why? Because I don't need someone to love me. I LOVE ME. Everyone else is a bonus.
For me, that's the true difference between loving a man and being needy for one. When you love yourself, you've got the Miki Howard effect. What I mean by that is, back in the day, she released a song entitled, "Come Share My Love". When you love a man, he's coming into an abundance of love you've already got. When you're needy for one, you want him to give you something that you don't even have.
The woman I mentioned earlier? She's not crazy. She simply doesn't love herself. Enough. Yet. Once she's capable of loving herself, she won't be looking for that dude (or any man) to do it. She'll realize that no truer words have been spoken than when writer Maureen Dowd once said:
"The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for."
Love is healthy. It's godly. It's empowering. It's honorable. It causes you to thrive—mind, body, and spirit. Continually so. If you can't apply these words to the situation you've got going on with a man—be careful. What you're thinking is love may be disguising itself as nothing more than mere neediness.
The good news is…now you know the difference.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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