Who’s The Needy One In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

18 Aug 2015

FullSizeRenderWho’s really the needy one in an emotionally abusive relationship is something emotionally abused woman don’t ask themselves. Why would they? It’s so counter-intuitive.

The dynamic of an emotionally abusive relationship works like this:

  • You meet this man
  • He is initially very keen
  • You respond – possibly despite initial misgivings
  • He sweeps you off your feet… and into a supporting role in his life
  • He hands you the broom – so you can do the sweeping for ever after
  • You spend the rest of your life with him trying to get back to That Loving Feeling

Along the way, you pick up some very damaging labels from him: they include ‘weak’, ‘pathetic’, ‘stupid’, ‘sad’, ‘needy’, and addicted.

Mr Mr Nasty’s favorite label for me was ‘needy’. He particularly liked that term for various reasons:

  • he loved the language of psychotherapy and believed, after all he’d spent on it, that he was an honorary psychotherapist
  • the term ‘needy’ conveyed a ‘faux’ compassion that swept him straight to his favourite perch on the Moral High Ground
  • it made me sound – and feel – like a pitiful basket-case.

For an emotionally abusive partner the issue of cause and effect becomes rather confused. My Mr Nasty would, doubtless, have argued that he had to withdraw (effect) because I was needy (cause). Similarly, he had to scream (effect) and shout because I was clamoring so hard to get him to listen to my point of view (cause).

According to my Mr Nasty, my neediness came about in a vacuum: he, O-B-V-I-O-U-S-L-Y, had nothing to do with it.

For any emotionally abusive partner who has earned his stripes there will be a vacuum where accountability could just sit, in a less toxic world-view.

Rule 1 of The Abuser’s Handbook is: “Never accept accountability. Nothing bad that happens in your emotionally abusive relationship is ever your fault – at least not for longer than it takes to say the occasional, politically necessary “sorry”.

Let’s look now a little deeper.

When your relationship with your emotionally abusive partner began, you did NOT consciously sign up for increasing drama, neglect, belittling, rejection, hurt, and brutalization.

It’s what you got.

But it’s NOT what you signed up for.

It’s absolutely NOT what you wanted in your life.

You may well have already experienced enough to last you a lifetime, before you even met him.

But that was NOT what you were looking for, at all.

Maybe, like me, you weren’t perfect. Maybe, like me, you had moments when you weren’t exactly at the top of your game. When you don’t know quite who you are, and you have a very low sense of your own worth that’s hardly surprising.

But here’s the thing: you knew what you wanted. What you wanted was love, harmony, communication, and intimacy.

What did Mr Nasty really, really want?

He may well have hoped you might just wave a magic wand and make his world perfect. However, that was only ever a pipe-dream. It was never something he was prepared to work at, and work on with you. Nor did he ever feel duty-bound to try to make your world perfect.

What he really wanted was:

  • to feel powerful
  • to have someone below him in his emotional hierarchy
  • someone he could control
  • as much drama as he needed for the adrenalin rush of it
  • a scapegoat
  • someone to service him
  • someone he project his bad feelings onto
  • someone he could rely on to stick around and take what he dished out

To put it another, Mr Nasty is actually – dare I say it? – quite a needy guy.

There’s the difference between his needs and yours. You have a need for love, harmony, communication and intimacy because you want to feel safe, whole, and loved. That’s normal. And sane.

He has a need for someone he can keep visiting his bad feelings on. Interestingly, recent scientific studies have shown that getting all your bad feelings out there – aka venting – is not very healthy. That doesn’t mean anyone should try to repress them. It means that venting is a never-ending cycle.

Mr Nasty doesn’t ever reach the end of his grievances by rehearsing them over and over again. Instead, the more he listens to the unmusical sound of his own voice, the more magnified those grievances become.

So, who do you think is really the needy one in an emotionally abusive relationship? Is it the (emotionally abused) woman who is looking for sane, normal things – albeit in entirely the wrong place. Or, is it Mr Nasty, with his never-ending need to vent, and project himself as The Man on the Moral High Ground, saddled with an ungrateful and undeserving wife?

In an emotionally abusive relationship, the victim always takes responsibility for the failure of the relationship, and wants – and strives – to make things better. The emotional abuser on the other hand, strives to keep things toxic – because that’s how he gets his needs met.

How powerful do you think those needs of his must be for him?

You could feel sorry for him, for being like that. But, really, he is much less deserving of your compassion than you are.

So, let me ask you again: who do you think is really the needy one in an emotionally abusive relationship?


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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