OH, Jasper you have taught me the true definition of the needy girlfriend (or boyfriend).
My dog, Jasper, had a rough life before I adopted him. He came to me with a floppy ear from an injury, scars on his head, a tail at an odd right angle and filed down teeth. The rescue group pulled him from the pound right before his number was up. He was obviously treated badly, neglected and probably abused, but he is still full of love.
The only left over symptom that Jasper has from his past is an obsessive need to be loved and petted. It’s like he’s trying to make up for all of the affection he missed in his previous life. His need to be touched is so overwhelming that I feel like the only way he would feel completely secure and satisfied is if he were able to crawl inside my skin and live there.
Jasper has a process to get attention. First, he stares at you with these huge anxious eyes and starts to whine, incessantly. Then he takes his skinny little paw and curves it into a creepy skeleton paw. He gets as close to you as he can and rakes this weird amalgamation of a paw across your body in the most painful way possible. He does this until you pet him, move away or try and push him off of you.
I keep hoping it will get better. That he will learn that I love him and won’t leave him. That he will know, deep down, that he is mine and I am his. And that his creepy skeleton paw will stop bruising my legs.
When I first started dating my boyfriend, I remember telling him that I never wanted to be Jasper in our relationship. I never wanted to be the “needy girlfriend”.
A few months after making this statement, it kept coming back to me. Why would I feel it necessary to voice what I don’t want to be. Why was Jasper’s behavior even on my radar as something that I need to avoid?
I had to do some introspection and I realized a few things caused me focus on insecurity.
Why was I worried about being the needy girlfriend?
1. I carried old hurts with me.
This took some work because I had to accept that I had ‘baggage’. I knew that it happened to people, but I honestly thought I had let most of it go. I examined what my suitcase held, so I could be aware of my sensitive spots and and avoid making my boyfriend wear garments of my past.
2. I needed to love myself and like myself first.
This may sound cliché, but it is true. Before we can be comfortable with another person, we must be comfortable with ourselves. I realized that I only felt safe in a relationship, that I felt complete when I had another person to share my life with. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but I had to put extra effort into continuing to cultivate my own life instead of getting lost in ours. I made sure to prioritize projects, time with friends and schedule time by myself.
3. I wanted too much too soon.
I am 37, so there is constantly a clock hanging behind my head reminding me of my age and the fact that I don’t have children. Sometimes I allow myself to wallow in pity, afraid that I will never have a family. I make the mistake of comparing my life to others at my age, with their happy husbands and kids.
For life to follow my timeline, I wanted this man to be the last man I would date. Instead of accepting the process of relationships and growth, I wanted a signed contract acknowledging we were both on the track to marriage. I had to accept that relationships take time and cannot be forced.
4. I must choose to accept people for who they are.
My boyfriend and I have blaring differences. He has described himself as always in first gear. He keeps a steady pace and knows that he will get there, eventually, while I am always in drive. If there is something to do, I plan it and complete it. I want to know what is going to happen and when it is going to happen, while he is more comfortable with spontaneity and life on a whim. And it drives me nuts.
For the first 5 months, I thought it was something he could change. We talked about it and he would agree with my point of view, but then he would repeat the cycle. Finally, I realized that this is who he is. I can accept and love him the way he is, find the positivity in his laid back attitude, or I can move on. If I choose to be in a relationship, it is my choice to accept and love my partner for who they are.
5. I had to have a partner who could meet me half way.
While my boyfriend and I are very different, he is willing to try. He knows that I need more communication than he does. He knows that small adjustments he can make will help me to feel loved and secure. Granted, it took him a while to make these small changes, but that was part of me needing to wait for the relationship to grow. And while he has made these adjustments, I strive to make similar ones for him.
I look at the areas we are different and try to make space in my mind for the differences. I make a conscious effort not to expect specific behaviors; just because I would react or do something in a situation, does not mean that is the only way or the correct way to handle it.
What we can all learn from Jasper, the needy girlfriend.
Everybody wants to be wanted; nobody decides to be “Jasper – the needy significant other”. Behaviors grow out of past and present experiences. We simply have to take a step back and examine them. If you find yourself with similar patterns as I had, realize that just because you are insecure right now, does not mean it is who you are. Take the time to examine what the insecurity stems from. Write about it, talk to your friends about it. Figure out your causes, and how you can change your reactions. Relationships are hard enough without a creepy skeleton paw begging for attention.
What about you? Do you have any suggestions to overcome neediness and insecurity in a relationship?