Sometimes a client tells me they feel they are too ‘needy’ because they want to connect with their partner more. Or in contrast, a client tells me they feel their partner is too ‘needy’ because they want to connect with them more. And occasionally they are right, the ‘needy’ partner lacks self-assurance and uses their partner to fill a hole in themselves. But more often the clients have bought into a belief, so common in our society, that idolises individuality.
Yet humans are social creatures, we are pair-bonding creatures. It’s not ‘needy’ to desire connection, it’s human.
We’ve evolved that way. Why? Because we have very large brains and therefore very large skulls. This means that compared to most other mammal species, humans give birth to our young very prematurely, while the infant’s skull is still small enough to get out of the mother. So, our infants are born totally helpless – they can’t even hold up their heads! It takes seven years for a human infant to get to the level of independence that most mammals get to in a few weeks or months.
Other mammal species don’t need fathers. Once he’s done his job of impregnation the mother can gestate, birth and raise her infants all on her own. There is no ‘fatherhood’ in other mammal species, it’s not needed. But with humans, with our demanding, slow-growing young, a human mother couldn’t do that on her own, she needed the dad to stick around and help. And not just the dad, the grandparents – in fact the whole tribe! Which is a key reason why humans have always got around in groups, why families stick together and why we pair-bond. Having our tribe, our family, our beloved around and in close contact leads humans to feeling safe and secure, content and loved-up; and that's what enables us to raise our young and survive as a species.
Love and connection is actually the driver of human evolution. This cooperation and connection has enabled humans to evolve to develop our big brains and be the successful species that we are.
Sure, we need alone time too, but the total loner is an exception in humans. The drive to independence that we’ve had in western society is not natural. It doesn’t make us happy. So, people who lack human connection seek satisfaction through money and power and the other external trappings of “success”, or through drugs, alcohol and screen-based entertainment to numb or distract from the disconnect. None of which provide the calm contentment and genuine satisfaction that connection brings.
How do we get that connection? Through conversation, through doing things together and for each other, through hugs and touch, through smiles, through knowing others and being known. The closer other people are to us, the more important the connection is. A smile and a nod is a pleasant connection with a neighbour, with our partner though, we need a lot more – time together, lots of touch and smiles and so importantly, sexual intimacy, the type of connection that we don’t get from anyone else (even if you are in an open or polyamorous relationship, the connection between the primary partners needs to be the strongest). And as so much of my writing and work is about, that sexual intimacy is deep and connected, not the disconnected fucking that so many people unfortunately think of as ‘sex’.
If you’ve come from an emotionally constipated family where touch and other forms of connection weren’t strong, you might find this hard. But don’t worry, it’s just learned behaviour and can be unlearned. Because the need for connection, especially touch, is so innate in humans, it can be relearned. I can assure you that with focus, practice and support from your partner and other loved ones, and possibly with a good therapist, you can become more comfortable with touch, connection and true intimacy. Trust me, it feels so good once you open up. You don’t have to be an island unto yourself, you can connect with individuals, groups, with humanity as a whole, and so importantly, with the earth and the ecosystem of which we are all one.