woman at window

She is commonly afraid of needing too much and then being rejected, judged or abandoned. Rejection, judgment, and abandonment are most painful because deep inside her unconscious she holds the incorrect belief that she is unworthy of receiving more. This belief was formed and reinforced in childhood every time she had to suppress her feelings, needs or wishes.  Dr. John Gray

Having a fear of abandonment and worrying about not being supported sound like characteristics of people with insecure attachment as well.

In Men are From Mars, Women Are from Venus, Dr. Gray states that a woman is particularly vulnerable to the fear of needing if she witnessed abuse or rejection of her own mother. Conversely, a woman is stronger and more able to set limits on her giving if she saw her mother in a healthy relationship where boundaries were clear and her mother was openly loved.

Not trusting

When we believe we will not be consistently supported when we ask for help, many of us stop asking for help. We push away the support we do have, because that feels too scary. We feel hopeless and foresee at any moment we will be let down, because we believe we are not worthy or we do not want to appear needy. In our past experience, “needy” people drive people away.

When our partners get the feeling we do not trust them to fulfill our needs, they feel rejected and shut down. When this happens, it seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy to a woman (per Dr. Gray, although I believe the roles could be reversed as well). “I expressed my needs and they ignored me.”

The truth is having needs is not the problem in the relationship. Rejecting support, appearing hopeless and not trusting our partners to fulfill our needs are the real issues.

Needing vs. neediness

Dr. Gray says men are primarily motivated by being needed, but are turned off by neediness.

What is the difference you ask? Needing is openly asking for support from a partner and trusting that they will do their best to do that.

Neediness desperately desires support but believes it will not get it. Desperation, lack of trust and hopelessness are the true relationship killers. They push our loved one away.

Why so painful?

Just like people with insecure attachments, Dr. Gray claims being rejected, disappointed or abandoned are especially painful to women. Being ignored or dismissed feels excruciating because it reaffirms the belief that we are not worthy of care.

One attempt to be worthy

Many women attempt to gain worthiness by giving and giving to others. If I am selfless, then I will be worthy of love and having my needs met. Often, this builds more resentment than true feelings of worthiness.

As we grow and mature, it becomes easier to see that those we give to, deserve to receive support and love. If they deserve such care, surely so do we. The difficult part is asking for what we need and setting limits after many years of unequal giving, but this is exactly what needs to be done.

Next week, I’ll give examples of how to set boundaries in such a way that motivates our partners.


Are you an over-giver? Do you push away support? Do you fear appearing to be needy?