Always Seeking Attention

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My boyfriend and I have been together a year and a half, I moved to Texas to be with him. Lately I’ve found myself needing attention all the time. Like in always looking for reassurance that he loves me. I’m thinking this stems from my father walking out when I was 5 and my mother kicking me out at 18. I don’t have a family and there’s always a void there. It’s wrong to lay all that on him, but I feel crazy I cant help ALWAYS needing affection and being told I’m loved. It’s become a problem for us because he’s expressed that he feels he will never be able to do enough for me. What do I do with myself?

A: You are probably right that being abandoned by your parents has left an emotional hole that is hard to fill. In addition, you’ve uprooted yourself and moved to a new place to be with your guy. You probably haven’t yet made other friends so you are more dependent on him. My guess is that scares you. Your experience of people who love you is that they leave. You may be scared that he will leave too so you cling. Ironically, clinging generally makes people want to go away — which is what you fear most.

What you do with yourself is find a therapist. It’s unfair and destructive to turn your love relationship into therapy for your neediness. Therapy will help you resolve your grief and anger about being left by your parents. It can also help you truly understand that it wasn’t because you were unlovable that they left.

I also encourage you to find your own group of friends so you can spread your needs for affirmation and contact around. Join an organization. There’s a political campaign happening right now. There’s a need for volunteers. If that’s not to your liking, volunteer to do some community service. Join a club where there are people who share your interests. Get a job and invite people you meet there and like to get together after work. Yes. I know that finding a way to belong in a new place is hard but it won’t get any easier if you stick to your boyfriend like a burr. And your boyfriend will rightfully feel concerned about you and annoyed that he can’t do enough.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 May 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Always Seeking Attention. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/05/17/always-seeking-attention/

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