If there was ever a piece of bad relationship advice that won’t die, it’s this: Be super careful not to appear too needy to your romantic interests. Otherwise, you’ll turn them off. You’re supposed to show them that you’re independent and perfectly happy making your own coffee on Sunday mornings.
Of course, there’s a fine line between having a healthy sense of self and not devouring your partner’s time and affection because you depend on them to boost your self-esteem. But if taken to the extreme, the “Don’t be needy!” warning can make you feel guilty that you need a relationship at all.
You’re supposed to “want” a relationship, remember? You’re supposed to be okay watching Netflix marathons and zipping up your own dress by yourself for the rest of your life. If someone comes along who’s the perfect crouton for your salad, that’s a lucky break. The problem is that this thinking tends to fuel the idea that romantic relationships are life’s free cookie that comes with the restaurant bill and not the main dish that sustains us.
The “I don’t need a relationship” mantra is a handy way to handle potential rejection. Not having something is much less painful and frustrating when you can trick yourself into believing it’s “no big deal” – or worse, “not in the cards” for you.
Yet we’re hard-wired to want a cuddle buddy. Research is chock full of reports on the benefits of marriage (and good long-term relationships, if you haven’t tied the knot), including better heart health, improved mental health, longer life spans, less production of the stress hormone cortisol, and faster recovery from surgery. The health toll from loneliness is also alarming: Social isolation leads to inflammation, which suppresses the body’s ability to fight disease, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Strong friendships and social ties can keep you healthy and connected, too. (And so can dates that are short on chemistry but full of fascinating conversation!) And yes, plenty of happy single people out there are walking antioxidants. But I’d like to make the case that dating would be a lot easier if we could acknowledge the importance of satisfying romantic relationships in our lives. We need companionship. We need physical intimacy. We need someone to care if we pulled our hamstrings during our morning run or whether we like our new haircut.
Here are two reasons to declare your need for romance:
1) It shows you’re someone who values companionship
Other people who are looking to connect with you would appreciate learning there’s a vacancy in your life that you’re hoping to fill with their company. You want a best friend and life partner. It gives you both a chance to admit you like chatting about the plot lines after a movie. You’d both love to go on a hunt for the best chocolate mousse in your city. So talk less about your solo travel adventures and your weeknights full of work events. Give your date a chance to imagine what it would feel like to gaze at the stars with you during a weekend camping getaway in the desert.
2) It reminds you to make your love life a priority
You wouldn’t blow off going to the grocery store or renewing your lease. When something is a need, we make sure it gets fulfilled. Thinking about love as a need also helps keep you motivated during dry spells when no one seems to return your emails or want a second date.
So feel free to be as honest about this as you want. Not only does it feel liberating, the mindset shift might be the thing that helps send love your way.
Do you think it’s helpful to admit you need a relationship?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.