Two women sitting on a sofa hugging - The Major Difference Between Needy and Needs - Sandra Harewood

The Major Difference Between Needy and Needs

I have met many women terrified of being labelled as needy in their relationships.

The problem is that the more they resist the unhelpful judgement that goes with labels, the more they deny they have any actual needs.

The truth is we all have needs.

There is a big difference between having needs and neediness. In this blog, I will outline the difference between the two.

Differentiating necessary needs

The Oxford English Dictionary defines need as:

Require (something) because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.

Human beings have particular essential needs. If these needs are unmet, we cannot survive.

In his groundbreaking Hierarchy of Needs Model, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow illustrates five levels of human needs and their impact on personal growth. To progress and experience higher-level growth, we must first satisfy the lower needs.

The foundational level is our physiological needs, which consist of basic requirements for survival, food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. The next level includes safety and security.

Maslow suggests higher needs which follow, include quality relationships and self-esteem. The final tier is self-actualisation, which is to become the best person you can be.

So clearly, we do have needs.

A needy child says…

Using this model, we can see why there are times the needs of each individual in the relationship are put on the back burner because financial or health issues are front of mind and demand your primary attention.

Meeting our needs might feel like a game of snakes and ladders.

And that’s when our younger stories come into play. As children, even if we had the most attentive parents, there would have been times when we felt let down and frustrated.

To some extent, that frustration was necessary for healthy psychological growth. It’s impossible to have our needs met 100% of the time, and in that way, we learn healthy tolerance.

But if our needs were constantly frustrated or we learned to put the needs of others first, then our tolerance becomes skewed.

Then we might unconsciously decide it’s better to have no needs and repress them rather than risk disappointment. The problem is that our needs do not go away even though we think we have made them disappear.

As an adult, the needy inner child might seek their partner to meet all those unmet childhood longings.


text saying I appreciate you one of the basic relationship needs

Needy and needs – Appreciation is a basic need we all have in a relationship.

The 5 A’s of basic needs

In his book, How To Be An Adult In Relationships, David Richo outlines the 5 A’s – his version of our basic needs.

These are:

  1. Affection – you are loved and cared for
  2. Attention – you are noticed, ‘I see you.’
  3. Allowing – you are safe to be yourself
  4. Appreciation – you are unique and worthy
  5. Acceptance – you are good enough

These basic childhood needs are carried over into adulthood, marriage, and intimate relationships.

If you learned that you should not receive the 5A’s, you may also have discovered ways to obtain what you need indirectly. Back then, it was a matter of survival. Now the adult, you can be indirect and manipulate conversations.

You might think you are expressing yourself clearly in your relationship, but sometimes you are not. You and your partner are always on different pages, and you are continually disappointed, not recognising your role in what is going on.

People feel needy as adults when they haven’t had these basic needs, met consistently enough as children. Now, you struggle to think how your partner will ever fill your emotional glass. Then you start to feel that your glass is too big, and then you feel needy. 

It is also true that when we are disconnected from our needs, any drop of emotion can seem like an overflowing glass, and we feel grateful for the leftovers. In this instance, the measuring jug needs recalibrating.

Unveiling the contrast between needy vs needs

Neediness is when we are looking for someone else to take responsibility for our life and feel powerless.

This expectation, in turn, leads to dependency, clinginess, demanding behaviour and jealousy. When we are needy, we require constant fulfilment and reassurance excessively.

When someone is healthily connected to their needs, they can meet their own needs and don’t need someone else to do that.

This behaviour isn’t about being avoidant or fiercely independent but a healthy adult sense of self-responsibility and self-respect.

The child’s unmet needs are not running your adult life. You can ask your partner for what you need, moderately fulfil your own needs and not demand 100% fulfilment from your partner.

White woman 60+ years old wearing white headphones, smiling and dancing

Needy and needs – Knowing your needs can guide you towards a more fulfilling and enriching connection.

Accessing your legitimate needs

The starting point for letting go of neediness is accessing those legitimate repressed needs and beginning to express them.

In the Developmental and Transpersonal models I use with my clients, we unearth the hidden needs, wants, and desires, and they learn to express them. This reclaiming is a crucial relationship skill.

If you experienced anger, punishment or rejection in response to naming your needs as a child, you must now learn to say them openly and honestly.

For many women, guilt is a feeling that keeps their needs locked inside, and instead, what gets expressed is anger, sadness and low libido. None of that serves you.

Knowing your needs in a relationship can guide you towards a more fulfilling and enriching connection with yourself first and your partner.

How to know your relationship needs

If you are still trying to determine your needs, spend some time journalling on the 5As. Here are some questions to consider.

  • What does affection look like to you? Kindness, consideration, playfulness, sex, kissing or maybe thoughtfulness.
  • How do you like to receive appreciation? Do you need to be told that you are loved? Do you need to know your partner has your back?
  • What are the foundational needs in your relationship? Is it to know that your partner is loyal and committed? Or perhaps knowing that your relationship is put at risk and hangs in the balance because of conflicts and fights.
  • What emotions do you notice when your needs are unmet and when they are?
  • What do you notice about your needs?

Becoming familiar with your Love Languages is also an excellent way to start decoding your needs.

Over To You

If you’re stuck and curious about how to step away from neediness and name your needs to strengthen your marriage, or if you feel that you need to leave to get your needs met, get in touch for a clarity session. I offer video sessions online via a secure platform. 

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


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© Sandra Harewood 2023

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples therapist, counsellor and Jungian Shadow Work coach Sandra Harewood specialise in working with women and couples stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Relationships are precious; this is your chance to begin a new journey and experience the connection and intimacy you most deeply desire.