Being needy or clingy in a relationship creates that exact dynamic and can have the opposite effect you long for. It can leave your love-interest feeling trapped, suffocated, and smothered. If you suspect (or have been told!) that you’re too clingy, here are five steps to liberate not only your partner from the clutches of clinginess, but yourself as well.
1. Admit it: being clingy isn’t fun for you either. When you’re clingy, it doesn’t feel good to your partner. It probably doesn’t feel good to you either. The emotions that fuel clinginess—such as insecurity, jealousy, loneliness and others—are painful ones. When you are at your clingiest, you may even feel driven and powerless, as if you couldn’t choose to behave differently even if you wanted to. Changing your clingy ways isn’t just about giving your partner space, it’s also about creating space for yourself and distancing yourself from some of those driving, distressing emotions. Realizing that your partner’s need for space isn’t unreasonable—that it’s good for you, too—can help you loosen your grip.
2. Listen to body language. How do you know when you’re being clingy? Ask your body. In the middle of texting, calling, driving past his house, or checking out her Facebook page, pay attention to what your body is telling you. Do you feel anxious? Insecure? Upset? Is your jaw tight? Stomach in knots? Is your breathing fast and shallow? These are good indicators that you may be in the clingy zone. Also, pay attention to your body when you don’t get the response you’re seeking, such as when he doesn’t pick up when you call or she doesn’t text you back right away. Does the urge to connect intensify? If so, it’s probably time to take a deep breath and take your foot off the emotional gas pedal.
Your body isn’t the only one sending signals. Your partner’s body language says a lot, too. If your sweetheart is craving space, the signs include less eye contact, less physical touch, shallow or brief conversations and a “keep your distance” posture like crossed legs or arms.
3. Diversify. When we’re convinced we’re not getting “enough” from a partner and we’re starving for more, it’s natural to become clingy. So stop starving. Feed your need—for conversation, companionship, affirmation, whatever—from more than one source. Sign up for a class, join a small group, or pursue a passion or talent that is yours and yours alone. People who have well-rounded lives—and are getting emotional needs met through a variety of activities, people, and communities—are much less likely to feel needy or become too clingy.
4. Give back what you get. A good rule of thumb is to match—not exceed—the energy, attention, and effort your partner is investing in your relationship. Don’t barrage your partner with ten texts to every one of hers, or ten phone calls to each of his. Even lavishing your partner with gifts or compliments that are out of proportion to what you’re receiving is a form of clinginess. The same thing can be said for being accommodating and flexible. You may think these are positive traits, but if you’re the only one giving or sacrificing, it’s time to ask yourself why the relationship has become unbalanced and unequal.
5. Be cohesive, not adhesive. When one person in a relationship is clingy, it may create the illusion of being part of a couple–but it’s actually a lonely place to be.
The dictionary defines “adhesive” as a substance for sticking one thing to another. “Cohesive,” on the other hand, refers to elements of the same thing sticking together, which is much better description of what being a healthy couple should be.
If you’re longing to connect is a lot stronger than your partner’s— or if you’re being driven by insecurity, jealousy or loneliness—take a step back. Create some space. When you’re adhesive, you can cause even someone who really loves you to long for space and, in doing so, diminish your chances of ever developing cohesiveness as a couple.
If you stop being so clingy and your love interest remains elusive or continues to pull away, have the courage to move on. The gift of cohesiveness goes two ways. Just as the person you fall in love with deserves the chance to be part of a cohesive couple, so do you. Don’t settle for less.
Have you ever been clingy in a relationship? How did you deal with it and how did it affect things?