I didn’t engage in behaviors like calling or texting multiple times—if anything, I did the opposite, out of fear of being perceived as needy—but the thoughts alone, their irrationality and all-consuming anxiety, caused me a lot of pain.
Fear of abandonment, jealousy, and general insecurity in romantic relationships leads many in the dating scene to be labeled the dreaded “needy.”
It’s a pejorative that’s especially used to describe women, an insult that dismisses someone as being “crazy” for simply needing reassurance and consistent contact. Of course, men can suffer from the “needy” label too, but they often fall into the “unavailable” camp—aloof, distant, indifferent, and detached, which can quickly earn them the title “asshole.” Sadly, most folks don’t know the roots of these behaviors, so we’re left throwing insults at fellow daters rather than understanding that these traits date back to childhood.
For years I thought I didn’t fall into the “needy” camp. Many of my past relationships were with men who bordered on needy themselves, so I never needed to feel insecure—if anything, they were the insecure ones, always vying for my time and attention. There was little reason to fear abandonment. It wasn’t until this past year that I discovered that if I’m invested in someone who is a bit more independent, my anxiety and fear of rejection can become nearly intolerable.
Enter the man who is now my partner, Matthew*. The day after our first date, he sent me a very sweet text complimenting both my personality and appearance while adding that he would love to see me again, and soon. Just a few days later, we had our second date, and a few days after that, our third, and by that time I realized I could really fall for him.
After our fourth date, I was officially hooked, and that’s when the anxiety hit. Now I was invested, and that meant that if a few days passed and I didn’t hear from him, I assumed he was over it. And I was so terrified of seeming needy that I rarely initiated a text. When I did, it would sometimes take hours for him to respond; that’s just his nature, being a very busy person, but when he didn’t respond right away, I’d once again assume he was over it. Despite all the fear, I’d always hear from him, often with a “Sorry, hun, wish I could have gotten back to you sooner!” text.
At the time, I thought I was going slightly crazy. Part of me knew I was just being paranoid, and part of me kept buying into the irrational thoughts telling me that he was going to drop me. I knew that ghosters—people who vanish from seemingly stable dating scenarios for no reason whatsoever—were everywhere. But Matthew hadn’t given me any reason to think he might leave; all of his words and actions displayed evidence that he wasn’t going anywhere. Still, I worried and worried—every day waiting for the other shoe to drop—for Matthew to show some sign of disinterest.
I comforted myself with thoughts like “Once we’re exclusive, this anxiety will go away.”
Well, we became exclusive, and the anxiety did not go away…
So what did Tracy do when the anxiety didn’t go away? Find out in the original article How I Conquered My Relationship Insecurity at The Fix.