What are your best tips to get yourself out of feeling needy?
July 15, 2010 7:22 PM   Subscribe

What are your best tips to get yourself out of feeling needy after a relationship is over?

I was dating someone for a few months when he out of the blue became aloof and uninterested. I've tried to ask him what happened, but so far, no response. I'm taking it very, very hard, even though it wasn't that long of a relationship. I've been having moments of extreme sadness and depression. Like, really severe depression, ideation, the works. (Yes I have a therapist, and friends; no, I am not a threat to myself.)

The depth of how bad I feel doesnt seem to match up to the depth of the relationship that just ended. I'm thinking that this feeling needy, depressed, and worthless has more to do with me than with him/my relationship with him -- I'm reacting really badly, feeling very dramatic ("I'll never find someone as good as him", etc.) and am generally very very crushed, more so than ever in the past.

Because I dont know why he became aloof and distant I feel like its something wrong with me, that it's something I did to make this happen. And I can't shake this feeling that I made this good thing go bad. I'd like to hear some advice on how to pick one's self up after a relationship. This neediness to be back in a relationship with him is really eating at me, even though I know he's got some issues too (who breaks up after a few months by disappearing? That's not right, either, and I do think of him kind of differently after all this...)

Anyway, thanks in advance for your advice.

And sorry for the ramble.
posted by ArgyleMarionette to Human Relations (16 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Fuck someone else.
posted by unliteral at 7:46 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're right; it's likely related to something deeper and persistent within yourself (and something that isn't "your fault," for pete's sake!).

For me, the pain I still feel about a particular breakup has a lot to do with my relationship with my mom. In both situations, I dealt with feeling that I could never be good enough, that I couldn't meet expectations because they constantly shift, that I couldn't get respect no matter how hard I tried. I tend to get into spirals when I get depressed, too, and that's no good -- starting with "Oops, I left the butter out" and quickly growing to "You're forgetful and don't care about things or people" to "YOU'RE FAT AND UGLY AND STUPID AND YOU WILL DIE ALONE AAAAAAH" which is waaaaay off base when you remember that all you did was leave out the fricking butter!

I think one of the first steps is to recognize what the feelings are and think about other times you've felt them. If you can't get to that point, just recognize that you can get into a spiral sometimes -- not the best feeling, but an identifiable one that doesn't have to happen. When I get into a spiral, thinking back to the first thing that sets me off sometimes helps me remember how small that thing really was, and how ridiculous it would be to think that the universe will swallow me up because of it.

Believe me, I know how hard it is when someone else's behavior is so unexplainable. I think that many guys just clam up because it's easier than just doing the dirty work of breaking up or working to figure out a problem: if you don't plan to salvage a relationship, why put any effort into it? That's not a reflection on you, but don't look at yourself poorly for being with someone who couldn't handle those things. Instead, look at him and say, "Man, that's too bad that he doesn't have the tools to deal with his issues and fully embrace life."

Because, really: we all have issues. Some of us just hide them better than others sometimes. I'm sorry that this is not one of those times for you right now :(
posted by Madamina at 7:48 PM on July 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

What has worked for me is to get right back on the horse...sort of. I surf dating web sites and find a few people who look like real possibilities. It gives me hope that yes, there are still good ones out there. I don't necessarily do anything about those people I find yet - just knowing they're out there helps. Then, when I'm ready, I go looking for real.

I personally had very good luck with OK Cupid.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:49 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

My sense is that this is especially likely to happen with people who put themselves in all-consuming relationships. Relationships where the two are inseparable, spend enormous amounts of time together, do everything together, etc. Often in such relationships the relationship comes at the cost of neglecting friendships.

Whether or not this exactly characterizes your relationship, I suspect you let the relationship take over your life to a greater extent than might have been ideal. It's natural.

Right now you're going through the difficulty of reversing the process you underwent when the relationship started. There's a sort of binding process in relationships. I think of it as wrapping a piece of tape around your arm. The amount of tape you wrap depends on the length and intensity of the relationship. But when it ends you have to tear the tape off. And what went on so painlessly and so seamless became an integral part of you suddenly hurts like hell to have taken away.

the key, I think, is to reassert your own sense of self-worth. You had, I'm sure, hobbies, musical tastes, intellectual interests, etc. which never interested him. And, probably, you set those aside during the relationship in favor of things you had in common. Doing things that you can do now that you couldn't do during the relationship will help you see the shortcomings that even the best of relationships inevitably have. The flip side of giving up things for a relationship is that when the relationship ends you can have those things back and, in the process of separation, regain a different sort of unity you'd lost. It especially helps if some of these interests are interests you share with friends (and thus can partake in together).

A good friend will be supportive in a time like this. If you both love movie genre x and your boyfriend hated it, ask them to get together with you for a genre x marathon. You get the idea.

And I can't shake this feeling that I made this good thing go bad.

What's interesting is that, in my experience, the guilty party is never the one that feels guilty. People who are at fault in relationships are generally blissfully unaware of how shittily they're treating the other person (there are, of course, exceptions). The fact that you feel as you do probably means that you actually invested far more in the relationship than he did, and that he is both mostly guilty of spoiling the relationship and totally ignorant of that fact. Not much you can do about that aside from recognizing it, but don't beat yourself up. If you feel guilty, it probably means you're not.
posted by resiny at 7:55 PM on July 15, 2010 [17 favorites]

Fuck someone else.

Right, because there's nothing quite so good for one's emotional wellbeing as mindless, emotionally detached, passionless sex in which one's partner is merely used as a means. Seriously, just because you think it's okay to use sex as a crutch for dealing with psychological problems doesn't mean it's good advice for others.
posted by resiny at 7:59 PM on July 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

Volunteer work. Service to others. Tutoring young people in math. Helping people with ESL learning. Volunteering in a homeless shelter. Doing clinic defense, if that's your thing. The best treatment is to get your mind off yourself and start helping someone else--immediately. I don't know where you are or I'd recommend some places to get to work, but I'm sure you can find them yourself.

(Although I also actually do totally "think it's okay to use sex as a crutch" (or really, a salve) after a breakup but your mileage will vary. It has often worked for me!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:23 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Right, because there's nothing quite so good for one's emotional wellbeing as mindless, emotionally detached, passionless sex in which one's partner is merely used as a means.
Where did you get this from? ArgyleMarionette got into a funk over a short relationship. I reckon that a new relationship will cure all ills. Mindful, emotional and passionate sex with someone else is the way to go. A boost to the ego and someone else to care about = moving on. It works for me.
posted by unliteral at 8:23 PM on July 15, 2010

My theory as to why I personally get upset over short, non-serious relationships ending (as opposed to long, serious relationships ending, which are more understandably devastating events) is about shock and disappointment.

First, shock: When relationships are long-term and serious, they have time to go bad. Even if the ending is sudden, the issues built up over time, and there is a story arc to the whole thing. It's like rolling down a hill. Short relationships that end feel more like jumping off a cliff, because often they haven't had time to really go wrong--one person just realizes that it isn't working, even if the other person thinks it is. Short, non-serious relationships often aren't deep or involved enough to build up real "issues" that are recognizable to both parties, so the person who isn't ending it can feel a certain whiplash.

Second, disappointment: Again with the lack of complete story arc present in a short relationship, there is still that feeling of exciting newness at the beginning. It's so, so, so disappointing to have that taken away very suddenly. When I've had short relationships end, I've grieved less for the actual relationships and more for the sense of hope and possibility that I had experienced at their onsets.

I've had my share of breakups. And weirdly, my hardest, strangest, most difficult-to-get-over ones were not my longest, most significant relationships, but instead the short, new ones that ended before they really even had time to start--relationships that lasted a few months or even just a few weeks.

So how to get over disappointment and shock. Do be open to someone new. Don't talk to the ex (I've made that mistake every.single.time). Take every day as a finite unit to fill with activity and friends. Don't think of long expanses of time, because they are hard to fill and that can induce a panicky, needy feeling. If you can't do days, do times of days. If those are too expansive too, do hours. You can fill hours. The hours add up. Soon they will equal days and they will equal weeks and they will equal months and sooner than you know it, you will be over the whole thing.
posted by millipede at 8:42 PM on July 15, 2010 [21 favorites]

This could be my question right now, I'm in almost the exact same situation only with the gender roles reversed.

I wish I had some really good advice to give you, but I'm sorry because I honestly don't.

Since I don't know the specifics of your life, I'm going to write the rest of this directly at myself:

You need to forgive yourself. I don't know whose fault it was that this ended, or if anyone can be blamed more than anyone else or blamed at all. But even if you *are* to blame, you need to forgive yourself. You won't be able to move on until you realize that it's okay for you to make mistakes. Everything else, like breaking contact and keeping busy with other thoughts and activities and friends, is helpful but until you realize that your life is still there to be lived you have to tell yourself that whatever you did is done. Maybe this time you made a big mistake or maybe you didn't, but you're never done making mistakes with your life and you have to be capable of turning to yourself and saying, "it's okay. I don't know what happened back there, but even if I did mess that up, it's okay." You have to forgive yourself and move on.
posted by dogwalker at 10:04 PM on July 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Your goal is to get to that sweet level of self-esteem at which you don’t care to know why people break up with you because you know it’s their loss anyway. Obviously, they disagree about your Fundamental Awesomeness and that’s a dealbreaker. Why, specifically, just doesn’t matter. It’s on the trivial level of questions such as; does the jelly go on the inside or the outside of the PB&J? Do raccoons have nightmares, and if so, what about? I mean, it’s mildly interesting, but completely irrelevant.
Does it matter why anyone breaks up with anyone? I would argue it does not. At first, when you’re a young’un raised on good old advertising and marketing, you tend to subscribe to the worldview that if you meet The Requirements of beauty and niceness and hygiene and you do All The Right Things then you, too, will get a Boyfriend or Girlfriend ™ and achieve Happiness! At some point, usually after a breakup much like the one you’re going through, you start realizing that life isn’t a game of meeting requirements, and there is no ultimate security, and sometimes things just go to pot, for no good reason, randomly. That’s life sans sweetening the story. I know, this is hardly comforting. But I bet a lot of your traumatic feelings stem not from the loss of his actual person, or even the blow to your self-esteem, but to the worldview shift going on behind the scenes.
The thing is, it’s okay to be needy. It’s okay to cry to your mom or your friends or your shrink. It’s okay to be really hurt and dramatic and silly about this. Don’t beat yourself up for not bouncing back. Say to yourself, “Self, I’m going to get you through this. This really sucks and you did nothing to deserve this. So go ahead and cry it out until you feel better. Indulge.” You don’t need a reason to be upset any more than relationships need a reason to end. Sometimes all you can do is forgo rationalizations and questioning and just live in your emotions, one step at a time. Get in touch with yourself and with the universe. Perspective that sometimes things just fall apart will really help. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault, and you don’t have to be a tough little soldier about it all. Feelings are feelings, all we can do is try to channel them constructively.
And remember that You that existed before the relationship, and her dreams and plans for the future and her moments of happiness. You didn’t need him then, you didn’t need him while you were dating, and you don’t need him now. You didn’t do anything to “make him distant” – he did that on his own. All you can do is be your best authentic self, keep in touch with your own feelings, and be honest. The rest isn’t meant to be. Love yourself. Try to get to the point where you can look in the mirror and genuinely feel sorry for him that he’s never going to have your Fundamental Awesomeness again.
posted by Nixy at 12:33 AM on July 16, 2010 [26 favorites]

What works for me is keeping busy. Running, volunteer work, hiking, you name it. I kept so busy I didn't have time to be sad and I met a lot of great people too.
posted by bananafish at 12:37 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Look actively at what you're feeling needy about. Break it down, and find ways to get those needs met.

My most recent relationship ending left me feeling needy about the following things:

I wanted a cooking/food geek buddy. I wanted a sex partner. I wanted easy company after a long day. I wanted access to a bathtub. I wanted support and emotional connection. etc.

I found all these things, and more, in my friends. My pal Alex is an amazing chef, and we can talk food for days. Karen and Matt and Becka and Andy are great cooking and dinner buddies. Poll is always thrilled to get baked goods when I make too much. I've got two hands and myriad sex toys. Turk and Scotty are great to grab a few beers and dinner with after work. I still don't have access to a bathtub. But opening myself up emotionally to more than just the one person, allowing my friends to fill the holes I've always expected relationships to fill has been amazingly rewarding. It's allowed me to really revel in being single for the first time in my life. I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. And it rocks.
posted by mollymayhem at 1:29 AM on July 16, 2010 [13 favorites]

Madamina has it exactly right - it's a spiral. You're allowing this to happen:
*Short-term boyfriend broke up with me.
*He broke up with me because I, in some way, was not good enough.
*I'm not good enough because I feel myself losing it over something that should be inconsequential. Other people wouldn't have this problem!
*Other people wouldn't even care anymore, but I feel so bad. Thus, he should totally have broken up with me because I'm not good enough, but other people are better than me, so he hates me and I suck.
*Especially, I suck since the guy in question had very little respect and just vanished. That's because i suck! Right...?...!..?

No. The guy sucks because he showed that he lacked integrity. Meaning, had he been a worthwhile prospect, he would have broken up with you in a considerate fashion. Ask yourself whether you would treat another person in this manner, and then when the answer is NO, ask yourself why, if you did, anyone should want to be with you. They wouldn't, right? Now turn it around, and why, again, is it a problem that you're no longer with this guy?
posted by deep thought sunstar at 1:36 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was in this situation two years ago, after a 6th month relationship abruptly ended.

millipede is right about breaking time down into little packets that you need to get through. When you get to the point where you are planning a week ahead at a time, that's pretty good!

mollymayhem is also correct with looking to your friends to fill those needs. This is such an important skill and so many people can't do this, they get so fixated on having their needs, emotional and otherwise, filled by one special person. Take this as an opportunity to dig deeper into your friendships, as they are the relationships that will last your whole life. I still have friends that I've known since I was 6, but I barely even speak to the guy I dated two years ago.

And while it took me a year to figure it out, I eventually realized that I wasn't actually depressed over the end of the relationship after all. Yes, I was disappointed that it didn't work out between us, but turns out my self esteem had been totally crushed by the master's thesis I'd been working on for two years and could. not. finish. Once I realized that that's where my real problems were, I felt better. I could look back on the relationship and see how I was putting my energy into this person - where things were fun and good and right - in order to avoid putting my energy into my thesis - where things were awful and blocked and crap. Long story short, two years later I am contentedly single and the proud owner of a master's degree.

This was a self-centered answer in order to say "hang in there."
posted by little_c at 6:58 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Treat breakups like radiation- time, distance, shielding.

Time is the most important thing- limit the time you see anything about him, friends talk about him, etc. Also, the longer time passes, the easier it gets.

Distance- avoid him like the plague. This ties into time actually: if you can avoid knowing anything about him for approximately one to two years, things get easier.

Shielding- to paraphrase Dan Savage- it has been scientifically proven that for every fluid ounce of saliva from someone else you swallow, the grieving period for a relationship goes down by a week.
posted by Hactar at 2:25 PM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: There's a lot of great advice here. Thank you all for your insight while I work through this. I really appreciate it and hearing your responses really has given me a lot to think about and work on, as well as making me feel better and less alone in this. Thank you.
posted by ArgyleMarionette at 8:10 PM on July 28, 2010

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