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Advice: Too needy?

Even relationship-inclined people must have contentment alone before having anything to offer a significant other



man, bed, gay news, Washington Blade
man, bed, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy of iStock)

Dear Michael,

I love my boyfriend Alan more than anything. If it were up to me I would spend all our free time together — I feel safe and happy when I’m with him. But I’m afraid I’m pushing him away. He tells me that he feels smothered a lot of the time and I don’t know what I can do to change this. I am always careful not to push myself on him too much, because he makes it clear that he likes his space. I usually let him be the one to make plans. But somehow he is picking up on my vibe and tells me that I seem needy.

I suppose I am needy — I hate being alone. Growing up I was an outcast and I was so relieved when I met my first boyfriend in freshman year of college. We were together for six years and when he broke up with me, I was miserable. I hated being alone again and went on a lot of first dates looking for Mr. Right. When Alan came along, it seemed too good to be true. We have so much in common and were really attracted to each other. Lately, sex is falling off a lot as I feel he is pushing me away. I’m so scared of being alone again and would do anything to make this work. Do you have any pointers for what I can do to avoid losing this relationship?

Michael replies:

Alan is somehow picking up on an issue that you will be very well served to tackle. When you look to another person to be your main source of safety and happiness, you are putting yourself in a very shaky position. There is no guarantee that the other person will always be there. Even if he does stay, it’s inevitable that at some point he will not want to play this role.

That is what is happening in your relationship now. You believe that you need to be with Alan to feel OK, and not coincidentally, Alan wants distance. As long as you believe that you need Alan, you will remain scared. And you will continue to put a lot of excess weight on the relationship, wanting Alan to hold you up.

You ask for pointers to avoid losing this relationship. I understand how important it is for you not to be alone, but the most important point to focus on is shifting the foundation of your well being from Alan to yourself. If you can develop the ability to tolerate standing on your own and ultimately enjoy the strength of doing so, you may build a resilient relationship with Alan. Even if you and Alan part, you will be in a better position to be in a future relationship, because a stronger partner makes for a stronger relationship. Most important, if you can learn to provide yourself with a sense of well-being rather than looking to another person, you will be a far more solid and secure guy.  If you don’t work on this issue, you will continue to be on shaky ground in your relationships.

Are you wondering how to become a more independent, stable man? You might start spending some time on your own, and with people other than Alan, pursuing things that give you enjoyment, fulfillment and a sense of well-being. Doing so will help you to start constructing a self that can stand alone, separate from the self that is all wrapped up with Alan, and will reduce the pressure that you are putting on your relationship.

Keep in mind that when you try new behaviors, it is normal to feel scared and anxious. When this happens (and it will), make the conscious decision to calm yourself rather than letting your feelings overwhelm you. You might talk back to your fear, reassuring yourself that you will get though the experience and grow from it. Or, you might meditate: simply focusing your attention on breathing in and out, gently bringing your attention back to your breathing whenever your mind wanders to fearful or anxious thoughts, is a great way to build your ability to tolerate discomfort.

Of course, this isn’t only about you. I’m sure that Alan has his own issues that influence how he handles closeness and distance. Nonetheless, there’s much useful work to do on your side. A lifetime of experiences have led you to fear being alone and you haven’t yet worked at standing on your own. Alan’s unhappiness is giving you the opportunity to become a much stronger person. Good luck, and please remember that you can achieve big changes with time and consistent effort.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].

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  1. TonyN

    February 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Clingy boyfriends, while they mean well, will eventually become attached to your hip. It is not the constant flow of affection, but the uneasyness of being smothered. Esp if your partner has no friends and no social life. They get trapped in a vortex and usually become depressed. I almost learned this the hardway. My BF was constantly smothering me wanting to go home and see my parents and such when I wanted to visit them alone. He threw the biggest hissyfit when I left him alone for three days because I needed a break…The following week, I ended the relationship after 4 years because he could not get out of his funk. I am will to work to make the relationship work, but when I am doing all the work…I will leave.I loved him, but not is certainly not enough.

  2. Dave Edmondson

    February 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    TonyN, I've known plenty of guys like that. I sometimes wonder whether gay men are especially prone to being emotionally needy.

    • Jon Larimore

      February 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      First of all, IMO the Blade is not "America's Leading Gay News Source" … that would be The Advocate (more than a wee touch of arrogance there). And so far as gay men being especially emotionally needy, I think not. I've known straight guys (and women) who were every bit as socially inept and thus complaining of being "lonely". But yes, the concept of personal confidence being prerequisite to attracting others is right on target. Only predators are attracted to shrinking violets.

  3. Dave Edmondson

    February 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    TonyN, I've known plenty of guys like that. I sometimes wonder whether gay men are especially prone to being emotionally needy.

  4. Ray

    February 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Hey!…Alan’s BF…you sound pathetic and like you need to grow a pair! However long he’s been putting up with this is way too long!

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Working from home is taking over our lives

We need to create boundaries and return to offices



working from home, gay news, Washington Blade

Back in the late 1980s when I was a young financial analyst at a New York bank, I’d leave the office at five and go home to my little Upper West Side studio. With no cable, internet, or cellphone, a landline was my only connection to the outside word till I went back to work the next day.

What was it like? Tranquility is the word. Surrounded by Manhattan, I was as isolated as a monk in a cell, with uninterrupted hours to read a book, cook, or listen to an album. And of course I could go out on the town without a work crisis reaching out to ruin my plans.

I’ve been thinking back to those days a lot, lately. Working as a psychologist, I’m hearing more and more clients complain lately about how much time they’re putting into their jobs. Folks have been working from home for a year now, and as the months have gone by, many of us are spending more and more hours on the job.

What’s going on? I hear a few justifications.

First, many people tell me that they don’t feel they have an excuse not to reply when they get a text or email from a boss or colleague after normal work hours. After all, what else would they be doing? This is especially true of my single clients who don’t have children. Even dinnertime isn’t off limits.

Second, as the pandemic drags on and most of us have so few sources of fun and stimulation, people are turning more and more to their jobs for something — anything — to keep them occupied.

And, of course, there’s the reality that we’re working from our homes. There’s no physical boundary keeping work at work.

So while it’s great not to have to commute or wear pants, working from home is making it even easier for our jobs to take over our lives than they already were. Put bluntly, this sucks.

We all need a break from work. Every day. Your job likely isn’t paying you for 16-hour days. Even if it is, you need to have some fun, rest, and recharge your brain.

Of course we can’t shut ourselves off from the world as completely as I did in those pre-internet/cellphone days. But we need to draw a boundary, even if it means disappointing our employers and colleagues by doing so. I’m not talking about not doing your job. I’m just talking about setting a limit on how much of your life you are willing to give to your work.

Standing up for your own well-being can be scary. There may be real risks in terms of job security and compensation. Only you can decide for yourself when it is vital to say “no.” But advocating for yourself is necessary at times. To quote Hillel, an ancient Jewish sage: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”

Taking action on your own behalf is also a skill you want to develop, because it will help you in all areas of your life. If you can’t say “no” in order to eat dinner uninterrupted, watch a movie you’d like to see, spend time with someone you love or get a good night’s sleep, you’re going to get chewed up and spit out by others, quite a lot.

Recently, I’ve been reading that D.C.’s downtown is in danger of financial ruin. As many people may not be be returning to the office after the pandemic, some believe that the whole web of service businesses may collapse.

I’m hoping that the doomsdayers floating this theory are wrong, and that as the pandemic ends many of us will head back to the office, at least much of the time. We need to get back to setting a stronger boundary between work and the rest of our lives.

Yes, we’ll be helping our city rebound. And we’ll also be making a big step toward taking care of ourselves, by re-constructing a life that’s about way more than work.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at

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ADVICE: Despair vs. resilience in trying times

Coronavirus lockdown has many down but you’re stronger than you think



As the COVID-19 crisis goes on without our having any clarity about how or when this crazy situation will improve, most everyone I know is super-anxious about getting sick, fed up with being locked down or both. Is there a way for us to get through this any easier? 

Here’s a start: Acknowledge that there are no guarantees in life.

When we accept that life is going to throw all sorts of challenges at us and that there is sometimes nothing we can do to stop these challenges from coming, that leaves us with one great option: Work on becoming more resilient so we can better deal with the hard stuff, including the very hard stuff.

This is called resilience. Being able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep going forward. Cliché, yes, but it’s what we need to do if we don’t want life to beat us down.

Good news: resilience is a trait we are born with. As I’m writing these words, I’m watching my 4-month-old, who recently learned to turn from his back onto his belly, trying to turn from his belly onto his back. He’s been at this for days, and has succeeded just once. He keeps crying and trying. He won’t give up. That’s resilience.

Further good news: If you’re LGBT, you likely have already done some work in this area. All the difficulties that we experience as we grow up — struggling to accept an identity that’s stigmatized, teasing, rejection and worse — and here we are. How? All of us found a way to keep moving forward in our lives rather than letting circumstances defeat us.

Of course, this is pretty much true of anyone who has been through tough times and survived. Many of our elders who experienced the Depression, wartime, or worse tell us that they aren’t fazed by the virus or having to stay at home. Having endured previous struggles, they know they can do their best to endure this one.

That’s what all of us must keep in mind now. Knowing that we have had the resilience to get through past difficulties can support us in getting through this new hard time.

Another important point to keep in mind: When we give our suffering meaning, it helps us endure the suffering. Reminding ourselves that striving to endure this tough period will make us even more resilient can actually help us to more easily endure it.

Other ways we can strengthen our own capacity for resilience: 

Do our best to take care of ourselves, of course. When we eat well, find a way to exercise, get adequate sleep and take breaks from virus-worrying through meditation or just focusing on something pleasant or uplifting, we’re less anxious and better able to keep calm. The ability to soothe ourselves is key to being resilient.

Stay connected to people around us so that we don’t wind up feeling isolated and alone, which can deepen feelings of hopelessness. We all need supportive friends and family whom we can ask for assistance when we really need it to survive. Knowing that they are there is part of feeling resilient. And if we’re able to help others in some way — dropping off groceries for an elderly relative or neighbor, or simply being willing to listen — we’re likely to feel stronger and more able to cope.

Appreciate what we have. This can include a roof over our head, food to eat, people and companion animals we love and simply being alive right now. Doing will serve us much better than lamenting.

While none of us will live forever, we all want to stay in the game as long as we can. Striving to be resilient can help us keep going forward through life with the belief that if it’s possible to survive, we have a good shot at doing so. And that belief can give us hope, determination and a positive outlook.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay individuals and couples in D.C. He can be found online at

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ADVICE: Nerves easily fray while social distancing

Look within to avoid unnecessary tension with your significant other



social distancing advice, gay news, Washington Blade

For many years, I’ve told couples I work with that being in long-term relationships is like taking a long journey by ship in a very small stateroom. You know, the kind where the couch unfolds to be a bed, you have to step over your partner’s legs to get to the bathroom and there’s no place to stow the suitcases. You have to find a way to stay calm, not drive each other crazy and enjoy the voyage.

I’d never actually traveled by boat, so this was just my theory. So when my husband and I were lucky enough to take a journey by ship up the Norwegian coast a few years back and had a cabin exactly as I’d envisioned (i.e. teeny), I discovered I was right. Despite the unbelievably gorgeous scenery right out our porthole, after a few days we could see how easy it would be to get irritable with each other.

Now here we all are in a much more difficult situation. We’re stuck at home, on top of each other, trying to do our jobs while taking care of companion animals and children, attempting to avoid an invisible enemy that could be anywhere.  We can’t go out on deck to watch Norway float by. Instead, we’ve got the television to look at, keeping us posted about all the bad and scary news.  

So it’s natural that as our nerves fray, we’re going to get irritated by our mates. They’re in the way. We don’t like their tone. They aren’t doing enough or responding when we ask a question. We feel like we’re the one doing everything.  

Sound familiar?

It makes sense that we react like this at such a stressful time, but when we do, it’s all downhill from there. In our current predicament, we don’t have the usual escape outlets that let us take a break and come back to our spouses calmer and with a refreshed attitude.  

What to do? Here are some simple strategies to help you, your significant other and your relationship through this extraordinarily miserable period:

Don’t point fingers: Think about what you can do to make the situation better rather than focusing on what your spouse should be doing. And then do it. This is a great strategy even in normal times. Remember, we have very little power to get another person to do something, but lots of power over our own behavior. So if we want things to change, we should look first to ourselves.

Be generous: Does your spouse feel strongly about something? Now is likely not the time to get into a struggle over whose say goes. Unless you have good reason to go in the other direction, be generous. Again, this is a policy worth adhering to when we get back to normal (soon, I hope!).

Take responsibility for soothing your own anxiety: This is always a great idea, but especially now. Yes, when we’re worried about something it feels great to get a hug and be told everything will be OK. But right now, your partner is just as anxious as you are and likely without the bandwidth to soothe you. Moreover, none of us really know that everything will be OK. 

So the best thing you can do when you’re anxious is look to yourself to find ways to keep as calm as you can, under the current circumstances: Meditation, slow deep breaths, whatever exercise you can find to do, striving to be in the present, working to accept uncertainty — these are all ways you may be able to help yourself feel even a little more calm.

And if you’re able to reach out and offer your spouse some loving reassurance — even if none of us know how this will end — so much the better.  Giving your partner emotional support is always a good move.

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with LGBT couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].

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