We welcome reader questions, comments, and feedback here at SBM. You can check out our SBM Mail series here for past submissions, and you can submit your own questions using the Contact Us page. Today’s reader asks:

SingleBlackMale, I recently got out of a long term relationship with someone who either wasn’t willing or wasn’t able to meet my needs. Not sure which was the case. I feel like I let him get away with doing the bare minimum and I eventually got tired of it, but it took a loooong time to get to that point. Something inside of me felt like I was entitled to more than he was giving to the relationship. But on the other hand, I had a hard time asking anything of him out of the fear of appearing/feeling needy. *Sidenote, I think some of us who were raised by single mothers learned that we were supposed to do things for ourselves and never expect to get much reciprocity from men.* For about the last half of the relationship I feel like I was carrying it all. He always had time for everybody else and tried his hardest not to disappoint them, but he could come up with all the excuses in the world for why he had to cancel our plans or couldn’t help me with something. Yet whenever he needed something, who do you think was the first to be called? Evidently none of those priority people, and he certainly had time for me then. But when I would tell him that I already had plans or couldn’t do what he needed he would lay a guilt trip on me about how I was the only person that he had. I would fall for that mess every time. Anytime I told him that I needed him to contribute equally to the relationship it felt like I was doing something wrong, like maybe I was expecting too much of another person.

I was informed by a good friend that I was confusing being needy with having needs. And when I think about it makes a lot of sense, because I didn’t really want anything over-the-top from him. I just wanted to know that my love was appreciated and for him to show me that I was important to him too. Didn’t get that, didn’t even get a call on my birthday. I had never really differentiated between the two terms before, but I do know that I’ve heard women being called needy left and right by their exes and love interests. Some of them I think actually were needy when I think about it. But others seem like they were merely expecting, ya know, a relationship where their man actually helps to maintain it. There are needy men and women out there, but it seems as though the word needy is used as a blanket statement against women, and no woman wants to ever be thought of as needy and some of us will try to avoid it at all costs. So I ask, what is the definition of a needy woman to a man? Do men differentiate between needy women and women with needs?

As always, thanks for the submission! You bring up a few interesting points that I want to comment on and I’ll do my best to answer your question before the post is over. The first line that caught my attention was this one…

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I think some of us who were raised by single mothers learned that we were supposed to do things for ourselves and never expect to get much reciprocity from men.

I see this quality in a number of women not limited to just those raised by single mothers. As a side note for myself – and on a somewhat related topic – I notice many men hesitate to date single mothers, because they think they’ll have to take on the responsibility of being a father figure and they recoil at the idea of instantaneously going from single man to single-responsible-man. Of course, that is their choice to make; however, their fears are only moderately justified. Clearly, as a single mother, she’s already perfectly capable of raising a child on her own. Further, although it obviously depends on the level of involvement of the biological father, the child already has a dad. I think some men confuse a woman who wants help with a woman looking for a replacement, which is not the same thing.

In the same context, some women are guilty of the same. They either don’t know how or are unwilling to let go of the reigns of control they have solely on to for so long in order to allow a man to help them. In addition, sometimes women are so used to sacrificing for others – as you seem to allude to in your story – that they give too much of themselves to others benefit; even if doing so is to their own personal detriment. I would also make sure that it is mutual reciprocity you are truly seeking, which means you desire a return of equal investment, and this has not been confused with sole reliance, which means your happiness comes from or is dependent on another. To expect others to create your happiness rather than sustain it may be an unfair burden, but expecting reciprocity from men (or whomever) is normal and it is definitely not a reason for you to feel guilty. This brings me to the next portion of your question.

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I was informed by a good friend that I was confusing being needy with having needs. And when I think about it makes a lot of sense, because I didn’t really want anything over-the-top from him. I just wanted to know that my love was appreciated and for him to show me that I was important to him too.

….

There are needy men and women out there, but it seems as though the word needy is used as a blanket statement against women, and no woman wants to ever be thought of as needy and some of us will try to avoid it at all costs. So I ask, what is the definition of a needy woman to a man? Do men differentiate between needy women and women with needs?

I only have what you’ve shared here to go on, but it doesn’t sound like you had any unreasonable expectations. However, being perceived as “needy” is subjective to the person you are dating. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say “needs are in the eyes of the beholder.” To answer your question, what one man might perceive as “needy” the next man might view as perfectly reasonable. Men do not differentiate between a needy woman and a woman with needs, because they can technically be one in the same. I will say this: when a man really likes/loves a woman, he wants to meet all of her needs (and most of her wants). Men in love find happiness in their woman’s happiness, so they generally go out of their way to make sure she’s happy by, in this case, ensuring her needs are met.

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I would like to clarify that overall a man’s opinion on your needs shouldn’t matter either. I’m sure he has his own set of needs that he didn’t seek your approval on. If there are certain minimal needs you want satisfied as a woman, then you should want a man that is willing to meet those needs. I’m also of the opinion that the man for you will want to satisfy your needs. This isn’t to say your needs shouldn’t remain fluid, especially if they are unreasonable (and I’m not saying they are in your case), but regardless of what your needs are they should be defined by you not dictated by a man, because at the end of the day they are your needs. Once you’ve clarified your needs for yourself, then you should communicate them to the man in your life. A man should, through you, clearly understand what your needs are (please don’t make him guess, men hate that). To the best of his abilities, he should try to meet those needs and if he can’t that should be a discussion on why or why not as well. Ideally, you both understand what the other needs in the relationship in order to be happy and you strive towards meeting that goal.

What are your thoughts readers? What additional advice would you give?

Fellas help me answer these questions: what is the definition of a needy woman to a man? Do men differentiate between needy women and women with needs?