Recently I was faced with a basic quandary about myself as a person. Am I needy? No, I’m not going to share the situation that brought about this little discussion. The fact is that it’s here and while it’s easy to dismiss the idea right away, I find it more interesting to take some time and think about it.

Neediness is a pretty common characteristic attributed to females, especially when they’re in a relationship that often involves emotional attachment. Being “needy” is another one of those dismissals that guys like to use when they’re talking about “crazy womenz and their crazy feelingz.” Basically, demanding any time or effort above what your partner initially wanted to give you gets classified as “needy.”

When I think about a person that I would deem needy, it normally involves an individual with relatively low self-esteem who is looking for constant affirmations that the people in their lives still love and care for them. It’s someone who has to end every conversation with “I love you” and freaks out if a text message goes unanswered for more than a couple minutes. Personally, I’ve never considered myself to be a part of that group.

But as a happily married woman, I have to admit that I find myself missing a lot of the romance that comes early on in relationships. Suddenly I was looking for more date nights, more “I love you.” I want reminders that we’re still just as in love and committed now as we were years ago when we decided to get married. That desire for romance brought up an uncomfortable question. Am I needy? Did I suddenly become one of those people? Had I judged them wrong to begin with?

In this moment, it would super easy to blame romantic comedies and Jane Austen novels. Of course books and movies only show romance when it’s being screamed from a rooftop or shoved in our face. I grew up seeing that you didn’t really love someone until you embarrassed yourself in front of a crowded room for them. I could use the excuse that the early exposure to in-your-face romance makes me perpetually inclined to grand romantic gestures.

I could use that as an excuse, but it wouldn’t be completely fair. When my husband and I are dating, you want to know the most romantic thing he ever said to me? I can remember it very vividly. We were talking about the possibility of my taking a little time off work to go back to school. He told me that he would fine supporting me for a while when I wasn’t earning an income. My response, as an independent single mother, was that “I don’t need you take care of me.” Without a moment’s pause he said, “And that’s the only reason I would want to.” That’s the day I decided that I would marry that man.

Sure, it’s a cute story, but it’s not a romantic comedy story. There was no neediness there. There was no flash mob apology or interrupting my sister’s wedding to proclaim our love. It was a simple moment while we were cleaning the kitchen after dinner. My dating life had very little resemblance to a Jane Austen novel, so why would my marriage be any different?

I think I’m beginning to realize that relationships in general have to be a little needy. The longer they go on, the more they need to attract attention. The longer you’re with someone, the more work they take. (Coincidentally, the more work they take, they more rewarding they are.)It’s not just insecure people that are begging someone to love them. Long-term commitment takes dedication. It takes effort that we sometimes aren’t in the mood to put in. That doesn’t make our partners needy, it simply means that a good relationship will take energy from both parties to keep it healthy and happy.

Sure, some people are looking for relationships that are a little more labor-intensive than others. That’s probably why I felt sympathy for those who seemed to need more affirmation than their partners were willing to put out. It seemed like they hadn’t found someone whose romantic relationship needs matched their own. But even in the most low-key relationships, there will be time where our partners demand more effort than we’re in the mood to give. And those moments will feel a little needy.

Am I needy? Possibly. I like to feel like I’m pretty secure in my own skin, but there are times when I want to hear that I’m smart or capable or funny. But is my relationship needy? Yes. By it’s very nature, marriage demands commitment from us. That takes effort. And sometimes, it takes more effort than either my husband or I are in the mood to devote to it.

No, that’s not the most rosy or romantic view on marriage you’ll find, but I think it’s an honest one. It’s also one that lots of couples probably face over time. The good news is that putting the effort in to help keep our relationships strong normally involves some fun and a little lovin.