Ever been called high-maintenance? The phrase has a negative connotation that can sometimes refer to being overly needy, demanding, concerned with appearance, or difficult to please. And unfortunately, it isn't uncommon for women in a relationship to be described as "high-maintenance." We've been socialized to believe that guys don't want a high-maintenance woman, sometimes even letting the label encompass totally normal behavior in a relationship. If you're afraid of being needy, it's important to remember that having needs is normal—and turning any act of basic kindness in a relationship into a goal to be reached, rather than the foundation you should start on, is ridiculous.
Take Chrissy Teigen and John Legend as an example. Every little thing that happens between the celebrity couple is grounds for the entire internet to swoon over their marriage, but Chrissy herself has spoken out about how confusing it is to have people praise literally any nice moment between the two.
In a recent interview with People, Teigen said, "I do think it's kind of silly. I love being that way because I love people looking up to somebody who has a relationship that's enviable, of course. But also, the things they say it for are so stupid, like, we'll be eating a burrito and someone will be like, 'Relationship goals!' and I'm like, 'Go get a burrito?'"
Or there's the time Teigen recorded a post-Grammys Snapchat story where her hubby helped her remove her jewelry because she was *slightly* inebriated. Twitter blew up, calling them #relationshipgoals, but it didn't take long for Chrissy to clap back.
"How is John taking off my jewelry 'relationship goals' like your fuckin' boyfriend won't take your necklace off jfc leave him," she tweeted.
How is John taking off my jewelry "relationship goals" like your fuckin boyfriend won't take your necklace off jfc leave him
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 14, 2017
She has a point—why do we glorify basic human decency? Helping your S.O. take off a necklace or enjoying Mexican food together is awesome, but it isn't exactly going above and beyond in the romance department. These types of activities should be considered normal, not something hard to find in a partner. By putting super normal relationship expectations on a pedestal, we're perpetuating the idea that expecting respect and friendship in a romantic relationship is high-maintenance. Newflash: it isn't. And in case you're still confused, here are four things that absolutely do not make you "needy" in a relationship.
Asking For Favors
If you're dating someone, chances are they LIKE you and want to make you HAPPY. Therefore, it shouldn't be a huge deal to ask for favors every once in a while.
"The most healthy and optimal [relationships have] interdependence—which is a mutual need for emotional availability, support and comfort," says Dr. Jeanette Raymond, a licensed psychologist, therapist and relationship expert. "If you expect and demand a foot massage as proof that your partner cares, then it is too much. If you ask for it once in a while as a way of getting some relief by connecting through touch then it's mutually beneficial—both get something out of it."
In other words, favors are healthy in a relationship as long as you make sure you're going about it the right way. You shouldn't ask your boo to do you favors in order to prove that you're #relationshipgoals. You should ask for favors when you need their help (like how Chrissy needed John's assistance taking off her complicated necklace), and give them favors in return. By no means is asking for help "needy."
Expressing Your Feelings
It should absolutely raise a red flag if the person you're dating dismisses you when you want to have a serious talk. Talking about your feelings shouldn't be an unfair burden you're forcing onto your S.O.—having those raw conversations is essential to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. And expecting your partner to engage in those conversations isn't at all high-maintenance.
In the words of John Legend, "How many times do I have to tell you / Even when you're crying you're beautiful too / The world is beating you down, I'm around through every mood."
Have you ever gotten frustrated that your partner isn't texting you back? Or maybe they promised they'd call, and then didn't? Bringing it up with your S.O. might feel needy, but in reality, that's not an unreasonable standard.
"[If] the communication is open and you're both working towards a mutually compatible agreement, you'll be more able to bridge a gap between needy and independent," says April Masini, a New York city based relationship and etiquette expert and author.
Whether it's you or your S.O. who wants more communication, it's important to listen to and validate that person's needs.
"If you're with someone 'needy' and want to give a little, try to find out what it is they really need, and then articulate a compromise," Masini says.
She suggests putting an alert on your computer or phone as a reminder to contact each other daily. It may be a quick text, a call, or a run for coffee—just make a deal you know you can commit to.
Wanting To Feel Important
If you're in a relationship, you should feel like a priority to your S.O. They don't have to sweep you off your feet every day with flowers and serenades, but they should occasionally use romantic gestures to remind you that you're important. Wanting and expecting to be validated isn't high-maintenance, it's just how relationships work. You both need to put work in to show the other person their value.
"It's okay to be high maintenance," says Dr. Stan Tatkin, leading relationship therapist, professor at UCLA, and an author of several books on love and relationships. "In our culture, being labeled high-maintenance usually is considered a pejorative. Typically, men speak about a woman as high-maintenance if they see her as demanding attention, overly concerned about her appearance, or hard to please... [but] I am speaking about two people who are willing to go the extra mile for each other. They are willing to put in the highest level of effort possible, for their mutual benefit. They are willing to give freely, knowing they will receive the same in return."
"It's important to need one another, because that's part of emotional intimacy and a healthy secure attachment," says Dr. Raymond.
So keep on keepin' on, girlfriend. Never forget what you deserve.