Clinginess can be a big issue in relationships, especially if it’s allowed to get out of control. When clinginess becomes an issue in a new relationship, it can quickly drive two people apart. Even in established relationships, clinginess can cause distress, resentment, general uneasiness, and unhappiness. If left unchecked, it can also have unforeseen consequences.
In this guide, we’ll go over some of the best strategies for avoiding clinginess, addressing the issues behind it, and working the associated difficulties out with your partner.
Start with Trust
Clinginess often comes about because of trust issues between both partners. One partner might be worried about where the other is going during the day, and as such, they want to go with them all the time. This might make the other partner feel resentful or crowded, and it can quickly lead to fighting or acting out by one or both parties.
Isolating any trust issues you might have, and dealing with the consequences is the best way to banish clinginess, but both parties need to be involved in the recovery process. While the trust issues themselves may or may not have come about because of the other person, both people still should work together on making them better. If both people aren’t committed and involved, it’s unlikely that they will go away.
Counseling may be necessary to address some deep-seated trust issues. While you and your partner might be able to work through some smaller matters between the two of you, trust issues are challenging to overcome. The healing process is lengthy and can be fraught with difficulties along the way. Having the help of a professional is invaluable to make sure everything goes right.
Drop Your Phone
Social media (and cell phones in general) are the new way to be clingy with your significant other. Back before cell phones existed, people had to deal with it when their significant other went out or went to do other things. Now, though, we have the option of texting, messaging, Facebooking, calling, and fill-in-the-blanking our significant other until they answer!
When you pester your significant other with messages and calls, it can quickly make them feel suffocated, or worse, like you don’t trust them. It’s better just to put down the phone and resist the temptation to check in on them. While you might not think just sending them a quick text causes any harm – and it usually doesn’t – it can quickly turn into a bombardment of texts or calls if you let it get out of hand.
Instead, try setting some boundaries with your partner. Set some limits and rules that decide how often is acceptable to text or call them when they’re out and about or otherwise busy. Set boundaries like:
- No calling while I’m at work
- Don’t call or text more than three times in a row
- Give me five minutes to reply before sending another text or call
- If I ask for some space, don’t text or call me until I tell you it’s okay
At the beginning of a relationship, social media can easily be used for “stalking,” too. While this is a common practice when scoping out a new potential partner, some people can take it to extremes. Be very careful with social media stalking so that it doesn’t get out of hand, as this can be a trust-breaker down the road, too.
It can be tempting to want your significant other around you all the time, especially in a brand-new relationship. However, once the honeymoon phase has worn off, if one partner doesn’t get the message that the other wants space, they can quickly start to feel suffocated. Personal space is a legitimate human need, and the difficulty with this lies in the fact that different people have differing requirements for personal space.
It’s of utmost importance to lay boundaries for personal space with your significant other. If you can’t do it right away, the next best thing is to tackle it when space starts to become an issue. Talking about it is crucial because, if you begin to distance yourself from your partner without telling them why, they may take it personally or become even more clingy in response.
While spending less time with your partner might seem rough, there are a lot of ways to do it without significantly impacting your lives. Consider some space-protecting activities like:
- Silent meditation
- Working or playing together in the same room, but on different things
- Going to the movies together, but seeing different movies
- Working your sleep schedules around your alone time
Admit Your Mistakes
If you’re feeling clingy in a relationship, you must admit your mistakes, or you’ll never end up solving them. The situation will never improve if the parties involved can’t realize they’re at fault. This isn’t just the clingy person, either; sometimes, the other person must also admit that some of their behaviors may have helped to inspire clinginess in the other person.
Accepting that you’re clingy isn’t enough, though. You also need to acknowledge that you’re causing a problem by being clingy. If you know that you’re clingy, but you don’t view it as wrong, that won’t improve the situation either. On the contrary, it’s much more likely to worsen it.
Sometimes, both parties are in the wrong here. This is where setting ethical boundaries come into play. You must settle on a level of clinginess that’s acceptable to both parties and that both can agree on. If you can’t agree on a reasonable level, it will breed resentment between the two of you.
Focus on Yourself
Unfortunately, in a relationship, the only person that you can truly change is yourself. No matter how much you try to negotiate with your partner, sometimes they will not budge. While this guide isn’t about getting that deep into the nitty-gritty, the point here is that focusing on yourself is the best thing you can do. After all, if you can fix the issues from your end, you have nothing holding you back if your partner cannot or will not fix theirs.
You can give the other person in the relationship support until you collapse, but it will never guarantee that they’ll meet you halfway. This is part of the risk that you take when entering into a relationship with someone else. If your partner isn’t willing to take charge of their shortcomings, your only choices are to accept that or move on.
This is why focusing on yourself is so important. For one, it’s the only thing you can do, and it’s also the best thing you can do. If you focus on yourself and improve yourself, it will either inspire your partner to do the same or inspire you to move on.
If you can, try to take some time to focus on yourself while you’re alone. While you can try to focus on yourself with your partner around, it doesn’t work nearly as well. Time spent alone can clear your head, help realign your priorities, and bring things to your attention that you may never have thought of before.
Put Yourself First
Relationships are one of the most challenging places in life to put yourself first. We often feel like if we put ourselves first, we’ll end up hurting the other person in some way. We can quickly end up scared to enforce our boundaries or afraid to tell our partner what we need. Unfortunately, this can cause excess clinginess over time if we don’t make our needs known.
Even though it’s something that we struggle with, it’s not wrong to make your needs known or request more from your partner. Demanding more of them isn’t advised, but compromise and talking it out are always good ideas. If you continue to ignore your own needs, you will end up with resentment, clinginess, or other discomforts as a result.
Saying that everything should be your way all the time is too much, but you and your partner should be able to find a comfortable middle ground for what makes you both happy. Neither party will be able to have things exactly the way they want, but both parties should get the most important things that they want.
Learning to put yourself first can be rough. However, it’s important to realize that if we don’t put ourselves first, the resentment and discomfort that comes along with that can cause just as many issues in our relationship. It can sometimes even be more healing to make your displeasures known ahead of time so you can work them out without being under stress.
If you need some tips for putting yourself first, consider some of these suggestions:
- Make a list of your priorities
- Balance your needs with those of others
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Be prepared to make difficult choices
Watch Your Actions
If your partner has let you know that you’ve been clingy or controlling, but you’re not sure what all the fuss is about, the next step is to take some time to evaluate your actions. Think about the last time your partner seemed uncomfortable or dissatisfied. Was it because of something you did? Can you remember being clingy or controlling at the time? Has your partner been acting out lately?
Keep an eye on your actions going forward, too. An excellent strategy to keep yourself in check is to ask your partner (or even friends and family) to let you know when you’re being controlling or clingy. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, make sure to step back and reevaluate your actions whenever your partner seems uncomfortable or dissatisfied.
We can’t always depend on ourselves to notice when we’re acting out of line, and we can’t always depend on our partners to tell us when they’re uncomfortable. They suffer from the same fears as we do, after all. When this is the case, counseling becomes a valuable tool. A counselor will be able to guide you and your partner towards appropriate boundaries and compromise.
Have a Life
All too often in a relationship, we end up pulling ourselves into our partner. We end up revolving our whole lives around them, and we lose track of our dreams and desires along the way. While taking refuge in our partner and turning to them for security and happiness is all well and good, codependence is going too far.
Codependence comes about when one or both partners have trouble doing things on their own. While it’s natural to spend most of your time with your partner, especially during the honeymoon phase, it’s important not to lose the things that define you along the way. You should have interests, pursuits, and dreams that don’t necessarily involve your partner.
That’s not to say that doing things with your partner is wrong. On the contrary, when you have the opportunity to do things together, you should! However, you shouldn’t do things only when you can do them with your partner, either. If you always wait for your partner before doing things that you enjoy, you’ll end up waiting for your whole life to do half the items you want to do.
Additionally, you and your partner won’t have all of the same interests and hobbies. If you only do things that your partner also likes, you’ll end up missing out on half of your hobbies! Do keep in mind, though, that if you and your partner can introduce each other to new things that you might enjoy, this is great, too!
If you need some suggestions of things you can do to start building a life outside your partner, consider these options:
- Arts and crafts
Address Underlying Issues
If you feel clingy and dependent on your partner, it may be because you feel anxious or insecure deep inside. As such, diagnosing and solving clinginess issues can sometimes need the help of a doctor. If you have anxiety or other mental health issues that are significant enough to impact your relationship, you may want to visit a doctor or counselor for advice.
Mental health issues are one of the first problems that tear couples apart. However, with vigilance and proper management, they can be dealt with, and couples can still live long, happy lives together. However, both parties need to be willing to put in the extra effort that comes with managing a mental illness. If both parties are prepared to put in the work, the relationship can still be successful.
Stress plays an enormous role when it comes to relationship anxiety. When you feel stressed about part of your relationship, that can manifest as anxiety, especially when separated from your partner. If you find yourself experiencing separation anxiety, dependence, or stress that’s directly attributable to your relationship, it’s time to talk to your partner and potentially a professional about it.
Know Your Worth
As a human being, you have essential worth that no one can take away from you. Your life is worth something, and your dreams and goals are, too. While it might be hard to defend or insist on your worth to others, especially to your partner, it’s something that you will benefit from making a habit of.
If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough appreciation or attention, clinginess might come about to try and recapture some of that. However, clinginess can actually end up pushing the other person away, rather than pulling them closer as intended. As such, it’s usually much more useful to discuss these needs with your partner or a professional instead of letting clinginess cause problems.
As a human being, you are worthy of love, respect, and happiness. This applies regardless of what you did in the past or before your relationship happened. If your partner is not willing to give you the love, respect, and appreciation that you deserve, it may be time to revisit finding a new relationship.
Spend Time with Others
Spending time with others is an excellent way to keep yourself healthy, maintain close bonds with friends, and give your partner space all at the same time. When we get involved with a new partner, we do tend to lose contact with our close friends and family through the honeymoon phase, so making up with these people and rejuvenating any old relationships is a great activity to consider.
Your happiness will benefit when you make time to spend with others, too. While your partner should always be your most stalwart supporter, they should never be your only one. If ever something happens to your partner or the relationship itself, you will need those other supporters to keep you secure, happy, and healthy.
Spending time with your friends is great for relieving relationship anxieties, and it will give clear benefits to both you and your partner. Friends help you look at things from an outsider’s perspective, so they may be able to help you make wiser decisions, too. Just be careful to verify that your friends have good judgment first – not everyone does!
Friends and family are excellent resources for keeping yourself in check, too. Close friends and family members who care about you will be able to tell when you’re sad, struggling, or anxious about your relationship. They may be able to give you advice or even convince you to get help when you’re unhappy or stuck.
Besides keeping you on track, having close friends and family in your corner can do the following, too:
- Give you advice when they’ve been through a similar experience
- Give you their unbiased opinion on a situation or problem
- Offer support during rough times in the relationship
- Give you a place to stay when you need a night away from your partner
In a relationship, we all too quickly fall into the trap of blaming our partner and forgetting what they’re going through. Our partner has emotions just like we do, and they can get hurt just like we do, especially if we end up hurting them ourselves. They don’t always show it when they’re hurting, either. We need to be extra careful not to fall into the trap of thinking all about “me, me, me,” and forgetting about what our partner is feeling.
Whenever you’re in an argument with your partner, take a break from it to imagine yourself in their shoes. How are they feeling right now? What does their side of the argument look like? Are they feeling hurt, embarrassed, or slighted and lashing our more than they usually would? You should consider all these things and more when going through an argument or hardship.
When we forget to empathize with our partner, we can end up saying and doing things that hurt them deeply. Always consider how your partner already feels and what hurt your actions might cause before taking them.
Stop the “What-Ifs”
What-ifs are the bane of many a relationship (and many a person, too). When we let ourselves dwell on what-ifs, we can end up drowning in the many different goods and bad scenarios that could end up happening to us. While it can be tempting to think about what might happen – and you can let yourself indulge every once in a while, of course – resist the urge to do so all the time or to let them occupy your thoughts.
Technically, just about anything can happen on any given day. As such, dwelling on what-ifs is more of an exercise in futility than anything. We have no way of knowing just how each day will go for us, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. It gives every day a sense of adventure and purpose. If we could predict what happened on any given day, life wouldn’t have any meaning anymore.
While good what-ifs can be excellent sources of hope and can even be turned into dreams or goals, the bad what-ifs can cause some real problems. Resist the urge to think about things like:
- What if he/she is cheating on me?
- What if he/she gets in a car accident?
- What if they don’t like me anymore?
- What if they’re hiding something from me?
We could go on, but the examples above make this problem clear. You could worry about what-ifs until your dying day, but unless you plan on proving these what-ifs true or false, there’s no point in worrying about them. Worrying about things that may or may not happen only serves to stress you out.
Communication is a cornerstone of any relationship, but this is especially true for healthy relationships. Those in a healthy relationship communicate about their needs, wants, and insecurities before they come between them in the first place. By staying on top of what’s bothering them, these people keep things between themselves peaceful and steady instead of letting things become chaotic and stressful.
It’s a good idea to set some time every week (or every day, if you prefer) to talk about your relationship, your day, and any expectations you might have. This gives you and your partner a judgment-free block of time to talk about anything that might be bothering them. You can even take turns with this “therapy” if you want to, giving one person the floor each time to talk about what’s on their mind.
You’ve probably heard “communication is key” hundreds of times, but we can’t promote its importance enough here. If you don’t communicate with each other, your partner can’t possibly know what’s going on with you. No matter how empathetic your partner is, they are not a mind reader, and they never will be. Expecting them to be as such is just setting yourself up for failure.
Clinginess isn’t necessarily a bad thing once in a while. After all, when both people in a relationship are feeling particularly clingy, a slow night spent in each other’s arms can be a beautiful thing! However, if the clinginess is persistent, it is more often than not a symptom of a more significant problem in the relationship. If you or your partner are experiencing persistent clinginess, it’s always a good idea to start looking for the source.
We always recommend professional help if you don’t know where to turn with your relationship issues, but don’t forget that your friends and family care deeply about you too. They will happily provide advice, a place to cool off, or their opinion on a situation if you take the time to ask for it. Don’t lose your friends and family in the process of becoming invested in a relationship; you’ll inevitably regret doing so later if you let your friends drift too far away.
The takeaway from this article is to keep an eye out for clinginess in your relationships. Clinginess on its own is manageable, but it may point to more significant issues developing down the road. As long as you and your partner are vigilant and open with each other, you should be able to address these issues swiftly and before they cause problems.