Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, May 8, 2017

RELATIONSHIPS: When You're Too Needy in a Relationship - How to Get Your Power Back



Has anyone ever told you that you’re too needy in relationships? Have you ever felt like you’re too needy? Self-disclosure alert: this is a problem I used to have, so I know it well. In the past, I had relationships where I felt like I was always dependent and needy. Thankfully, I got therapy early in my adult life –starting at age 24 – so that I could correct the emotional problems I was dealing with. But if you feel needy and you’re already in your 30s or 40s, or even older, it is never too late to set out on a course to change. Neediness is something that you can totally change, though it will take time and lots of effort. Are you willing to do the work? To begin, let’s start with some questions and then we’ll move to what you can do to make your life different.

Do you worry how much the person you’re dating likes you?

Most people don’t overthink this issue. Their thinking goes like this: I don’t need to worry if they like me because they wouldn’t still be with me if they didn’t. Needy people fret and worry, and they are 
always expecting to be abandoned or shut out.

Do you want to spend almost all of your free time with the person you’re dating?
It’s not normal or healthy to spend all of your free time with the same person. Everyone has different emotional needs, and we all have different kinds of people in our lives to suit the various parts of our personalities. Most people understand that they can’t be the only person to make their date happy, while needy people desperately try to be The Only Person Who Matters.

Do you feel insecure when the person you’re dating wants to go out with their friends and doesn’t include you?

If you want to be savvy and to protect the longevity of your relationship, never, ever make the person you’re dating feel claustrophobic. When the person you’re dating tells you they made plans to go out with their friends, support them and accept it. Needy men and women feel threatened and insecure in these situations, and the person they’re dating feels frustrated and overwhelmed when they see this neediness.

Do you try to lock down the relationship status as soon as possible and make the relationship monogamous in the first few weeks?

Most people take relationships a little slowly in the beginning, and this is a healthy and cautious approach. Needy men and women, on the other hand, live in fear that the person they’re dating will walk away, so they put pressure on the other person to make the relationship official as soon as humanly possible. Their thinking suggests that making it monogamous quickly will make the relationship last, but that doesn’t work so don’t try it!

Do you try too hard to forecast the future and figure out whether the relationship will last or end?

It’s normal to think about the future and wonder what the future of the relationship will be. Will the two of you stay together or will it end after a few months? Most people wonder about these things from time to time, but needy men and women can fixate on these questions. They get so caught up in anticipating the future that they don’t enjoy the relationship or feel peace of mind from day to day.

How to create a plan to change if you are too needy

As I mentioned earlier, being too needy was a problem I used to have. In my teenage and young adult years, I had parts of my self-esteem that were low. For me, therapy changed my life. But therapy isn’t the only way to become less needy. If you’re needy, it means that you don’t feel like you are interesting or appealing enough to attract good partners. It also means that you aren’t keeping busy and stimulated enough. Aside from therapy, stimulate your brain and focus your mental energy on self-improvement projects. Get a couple of self-help books on how to raise your self-esteem and build confidence; start a new hobby or two to keep yourself interested in the world around you; do more activities alone (movies, go out to eat) to remind yourself that you don’t need to wait on anyone else to make you happy; and add a few things to the calendar to give you something to look forward to (visit a special restaurant, plan a weekend trip).

The bottom line


The more you like your life overall, the less needy you will feel. People feel needy because they feel like they are not interesting or happy enough on their own, and they need someone else to come make them happy. This is a terribly dependent position to put yourself in, so catch yourself when you’re doing it and try some of the self-improvement activities I mentioned above. By setting out on a course to change, you will be focused on developing yourself and maturing, not on waiting for someone else to fill those nagging emotional voids.

Feel free to explore my book on dysfunctional romantic relationships, Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

RELATIONSHIPS: Men Who Withhold Feelings or Affection


At lunch recently, a friend invited another friend to join and that friend talked to us about his dating life. First, he shared that he never told his girlfriend of five years that he loved her. Second, he said point-blank, "I don't really show my feelings in a relationship." It was interesting that he made these comments not in a I'm-embarrassed-to-tell-you way but rather in a this-is-just-the-way-it-is way. When clients I work with say something like this, I always ask the following question: "Is this something you're okay with or something you want to change?" Because this particular man wasn't my client, I spared him the psychoanalysis. But the thoughts he shared are important because there are many other men who are just like him, withholding affection and feelings from their partner in a relationship.

Women are free to date whom they want, so why would some women put up with a man who is emotionally withholding? In many cases, women who are drawn to men like this had an unavailable man in their life early on (father, step-father), and they seek out unavailable or withholding men because this type of man is familiar and because this type of man reinforces what she already feels: that she isn't really worthy of affection or consistent love. Think about the woman I talked about whose boyfriend didn't say "I love you" for five years. Come to think of it, when he confided that he had never shared these words at lunch, he actually smiled. Psychologically, I imagine that this man treated women in this way as a defense. He feels powerful having the upper hand in his relationships and believes he will be less likely to get hurt if he doesn't make himself vulnerable by developing strong feelings.

The "needy" woman

The man who spoke to us at lunch also shared another disturbing consequence of these unhealthy relationships in which a man is withholding. He talked about how his girlfriend was "needy" and how he found her neediness unattractive, causing him to leave her. So, to be clear, here's the relationship profile: woman dates man for five years; man never says "I love you" and withholds feelings and affection; man disrespects and has contempt for woman; and man finally leaves woman. How sad for that poor woman! Without even knowing the woman's name, I guarantee you that some other man in her past - probably a father figure - messed up her self-esteem. Some other man taught her that she should never expect much from a relationship, and that she ought to appreciate whatever morsels of love or affection she can get. The reason that woman stayed with that man for five years: she was settling for whatever morsels she could get. Plus, she was probably also living in a fantasy world in which she was hoping that he would one day change. (Let's all vomit together now.)

Can the withholding man really change?

Reality check: a grown man who withholds affection and won't make himself emotionally vulnerable is not going to change unless he has a major life crisis; works on his issues by reading, writing, and asking for help; or he gets months or even years of good psychotherapy. The poor woman who dated the man I had lunch with was waiting in vain - for years. Imagine how she must have felt after waiting for him to change for so many years and then later being dumped. Everything about the relationship for her was lose-lose. She wasn't happy in the relationship because her most basic emotional needs weren't being met, and then she wasn't happy when it ended it because she was discarded. By the end of the relationship, the woman's self-esteem must have been even lower than it was when she started the relationship.

One of the techniques I use in psychotherapy is to ask my clients to think about a certain issue from the perspective of their own hypothetical child. For example, in this case, I would talk to the woman who was broken up with and ask her the following question: "If you had a teenage daughter and she told you that her boyfriend never told her outright that he likes her, what would you say to her?" For some men and women, it's hard for them to feel empathy for themselves, but they can access that empathy if they imagine how they would feel if the same thing happened to their child. Let's agree to set this goal: We will all work to protect our own feelings as much as we would protect the feelings of a young child.

Drawing boundaries and minding a timeline when dating withholding men

If you find a guy you want to date, give him a chance. Look for patterns early on, and ask yourself if he treats you well enough and gives you what you need from the relationship. Does he give you meaningful compliments? Does he tell you he likes or loves you? Does he share his feelings and convince you what about you he likes and admires? Does he need you enough? Remember, for a relationship to be successful, both partners need to feel needed. If you have been dating someone for a month or two and you have the sense that he is holding back or not sharing himself enough emotionally with you, you need to have a talk with him. Tell him what needs you have that are not getting met; tell him you need him to meet these needs on a consistent basis going forward; and make a mental note to give him another month or two to see if he values and needs you enough that he is willing to change his behavior. If he doesn't make the required changes, think about the woman I talked about who was broken up with after five years and ask yourself how many years of your life you're prepared to lose to someone who doesn’t value enough to try to change.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dr. Seth in the Media: Billboard Magazine


Check out a new article coming soon from Billboard Magazine about the meaning of breakup songs. I am a huge fan of music and love this magazine to the point that it's almost a personal bible. I have been reading it since I was 12 years old! (I think I secretly wanted to be the next Clive Davis.) Article will be published soon!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My New Article: "The Root of Narcissistic Personality Is Rarely Discussed"



My new article for Psychology Today focuses on the narcissist, that enigmatic personality type that both fascinates and frustrates. Specifically, I address how the root of narcissism isn't feeling superior, bur rather it is the refuse to feel vulnerable which is the pivotal factor in this personality disorder. You can read my article here at Psychology Today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Psychological Analysis: TV's "The Affair" (Showtime)


Showtime's "The Affair" chronicles one of the richest, most layered relationships I've ever seen on television or in film. The most recent episode (Season 3, Episode 5) brought too many oh-wow moments to count. The show focuses on the relationship between Noah and Alison, and we finally see Alison gaining insight and maturing while Noah - older and most successful - still stumbles to find himself.

One point that I found especially interesting is how Alison, having been in a mental health treatment facility, at first appears to be the "crazy one" but is actually wiser in many ways than everyone around her. Alison has always been sexualized and seductive, but as she develops her sense of self, she is able to use her words and thoughts instead of her body to connect with men. True, she slept with both Cole and Noah in a short window of time, but you get the sense that she will learn from these mistakes. Cheers to the actors and writers which make this show such good TV!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

RELATIONSHIPS: How to Feel Attracted (Again) to Your Spouse


Most married couples experience it, the sense that the passion and sexual chemistry have died after many years together. The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way. Though you probably won't resuscitate the same type of passion you had when the two of you first got together, you can practice a few techniques to get some of that sexual interest and excitement back again. Check out my new article for Psychology Today and see what I mean. Article here!