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Ask Adam: Is It OK for Men to Be Needy?

Ask Adam: Is It OK for Men to Be Needy?

Is It OK for Men to Be Needy

Our love and sex columnist advises that dependency can be a good thing, in response to a reader who is anxious about his open relationship.

Dear Adam,

I get anxious when my partner has hookups with other guys, even though we both want and believe in open relationships. I'm afraid to tell him this because I don't want to appear needy or clingy, which I know irritates him. Neither of us likes to talk about this stuff.

I hate being needy. How can I get over it?

Signed,

Needy in New York

Dear Needy in New York,

Two men loving each other is still a radical act. Yes, we now have the legal right to marry each other. But do we have the freedom to be really vulnerable with our man? From what I see, most of the time the answer is no. We may be married, but we are still men. That means we are not allowed to be soft, vulnerable, or needy.

When I work with straight couples, typically the woman in the room is much more likely to express her vulnerable need for attention. And she is often ready to take the lead when soothing is required. When I work with male couples, often neither partner knows how to emotionally reach for the other when they feel insecure.

Let's Face Facts: You Are Needy

For men, one of the biggest crimes you can commit is being needy. If a woman appears a little needy, people smile and think it's sort of cute. If a man appears dependent or needy, then he's a fag. It's considered gross.

But here's the big secret. Don't tell anyone, but both straight guys and gay guys are tired of always having to look independent and strong. They work hard trying to project independence and the effort exhausts them and makes them feel alone.

Needy Is Revolutionary

Humans are full of needs. And one of our core needs is to feel attached, safe, and connected to others. This is a "built-in" need that comes with being a primate. A 2-year-old who is not attached to at least one adult is at very high risk of death. That's a fact. We are born with a need for attachment and it helps keeps us alive.

But don't tell a man that he is needy for attachment. Not if you want a pleasant evening.

Men, I urge you to accept your neediness. I want you to think about the concept of healthy neediness in relationship. It's the foundation for better communication and connection in love.

Before we go any further I want to acknowledge that unhealthy neediness does exist. It's sometimes called codependency. Yes, we must learn to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally. Self-empowerment is beautiful.

We get lots of support for developing strength. You can learn about that in any men's fitness magazine, business book, self-help article, or beer commercial.

Right now I want to support the side of you that gets no support. This is the part of you that wants to give and get tenderness. That wants to be held but doesn't know how to get there.

Creating a Climate of Healthy Dependency

Can you and your man create a relationship culture of healthy dependency? Where it is OK to be strong one day and needy the next? Can you tell your husband "I feel needy today" rather than getting moody and starting a fight? That is a radical and healthy act.

Can you hear your partner express his childlike need for you and not go "ewww" and shame him for it?

Let's reframe the horror of male homosexual neediness and rename it as being human or feeling temporarily tired, young, or in need of a hug. And for the 50 percent of male couples who are in open relationships, get ready to accept and support a lot of neediness. It comes with the territory.

Yes, I want you to be more like a woman. Women are less afraid of neediness. And -- no big surprise -- they have more friends than men and fewer stress-related diseases. They live a lot longer. Men, this fear of vulnerability is killing you.

Adam_blumx100ADAM D. BLUM, MFT, is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of the Gay Therapy Center, which specializes in relationship and self-esteem issues for LGBTQ people. The center offers services in its San Francisco and Los Angeles offices, or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit its website to subscribe to its e-newsletter and free guide on building gay relationships. Follow the center on Facebook and read its blog. Email Adam your questions for possible publication. (Questions may be edited.)

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