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I used to think that a woman who needed anything from her man or their relationship was needy. The women I saw portrayed in media as desirable in the dating realm were the Samantha Jones and Katniss Everdeen types—women who needed nothing, who were self-reliant to a fault. For these trailblazing characters, emotional self-reliance and an unattainable aura make her even more desirable. This must be the woman every man wants—the woman who asks for nothing, who needs nothing. This was the woman I aspired to be.

Yet this mindset always led to the same bleak outcome in my dating life: I would suppress my emotions for weeks on end, grow distant from my loved one, and then spontaneously lash out at him. I never allowed myself the freedom to express my feelings and rarely communicated when I needed something from my partner, yet I would become enraged at his inability to read my mind. It wasn’t until recent years that I realized the unrealistic standard I had set for myself and my boyfriends.

The problem with this want-for-nothing girlfriend theory is that a woman’s desire and ability to express her needs is not what makes her weak, it’s what makes her—and her relationships—strong. In fact, research shows that many women possess a certain sensitivity and ability to articulate our needs in a relationship in a way that many men typically are more challenged by. Our ability to articulate our needs does not make us "high maintenance"—on the contrary, it makes us women. And that’s a good thing.

After reforming my ways, I saw the benefits of expressing my needs improve my dating life. My relationships have been stronger. I've been happier and much more confident. Gone is the emotionally aloof woman I used to be. Here's what I've found helpful to approach a relationship with honest communication and necessary neediness.

01. Don’t Let Your Ego Get the Better of You

More often than not, pride is among the first reasons to avoid being vulnerable. For instance, if you only want him to see you as strong and capable, you could find yourself avoiding him when you fail at a task or feel stressed.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of room for this sort of ego when you are looking to gain closeness, trust, and mutual understanding with another person. As Dr. Brené Brown states in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” Instead of dealing with every issue entirely on your own, embrace the gift of having someone in your life who cares about you by allowing them access to your heart and mind.

02. Don’t Let Insecurity Block Intimacy

It’s normal to fear how your loved one might react to any given request, especially if the relationship is still somewhat new. You might worry that if you tell him you’ve been feeling underappreciated, he’ll begin to view you as needy; if you express feelings of depression, he might see you as dramatic; and if you dare find yourself contacting him and receiving no response, it might be because he finds you clingy. It’s important to acknowledge that these worries often stem from our own insecurity rather than reality.

In the book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love, author Amir Levine reminds us that “our brain assigns our partner the task of being our secure base, the person we use as an emotional anchor and a safe haven, the one we turn to in time of need. We are programmed to seek their emotional availability.” It's natural to want to turn to someone else for help. Allow yourself this healthy kind of attachment in your relationship. Don't assume the man in your life will pull away when you need him most.

03. Remember That He Wants to Help

The truth is, men typically desire to help you with your problems. As Justin points out in his Gentlemen Speak article, the majority of men are “fixers” who aim to make things better for you in a very tangible way and thus would take delight in receiving clear instructions for making you happy. Depending on the situation, it doesn't have to be a big deal. Simply letting your guy know what's going, how you are feeling about it, and what they can do to help will be doing both of you a favor.

If you are in need of words of affirmation, don’t hesitate to tell your man that thoughtful texts or sweet emails during the day are what make you tick. If you need quality time, tell him you could use a date night or just ask him when he’s free and plan a date for the two of you. Just be sure he knows why you are doing it. Maybe you can let him know when he is kissing you goodnight how much dates and quality time means to you. Being open about your needs reminds him that the relationship is a safe one in which needs can be effectively communicated and met. He will appreciate the clarity and the assurance that when he needs something from you, he can pull the exact same card.

04. Don’t Make Excuses for Yourself

Avoid qualifiers such as “I know it’s stupid to ask for this,” “I know I suck,” etc., when reaching out to your loved one for help. Everyone falls apart sometimes, and no one is expected to wade through the ebb and flow of life all on their own. To suggest that you are inconveniencing your partner by merely requesting support in one or more areas of your life is to suggest that he doesn’t view you as worthy of his time and consideration. Not only is this hurtful to your other half, but it’s also unfair to you. Set a high standard for your relationship by approaching every request for aid with confidence and proceed to direct your partner in his efforts to help you.

Above all else, remember that each woman is unique in her wants and needs. Communicating with your significant other will make it easier for him to care for you and will help you both realize your full potential as a couple.

Photo Credit: Olivia Leigh Photography