When it comes to a new relationship, some love the chase, others find it exhausting. Once it’s more solidified, some enjoy spending every free moment with their partner, others need their space.
Figuring out how to act from day one in a relationship isn’t easy — do you text again or give him space? Do you see him on Friday and Saturday or figure he needs a night off? Is it normal to analyze his social media activity or are you inching toward obsessive danger?
Why People Become Clingy
It’s normal to want to spend a lot of time with the person you’re dating and do what you can to know them better, especially when things are extra new and therefore extra exciting, but it’s possible to take it too far and need to take a step back.
Rachel O’Neill, an Ohio licensed professional clinical counselor and Talkspace provider, says there are a number of contributors to someone becoming clingy.
“Often, it can be due to feelings of insecurity, self-doubt or anxiety about the future,” she said. “A lack of confidence in relationships can also contribute to clinginess. For some people, the idea of being alone can be uncomfortable and so they may cling to other individuals in an effort to avoid feelings of loneliness.”
But what’s the difference between finding comfort in your partner and being anxiously attached? How do you know if you’re suffering from emotional neediness and sensitivity to rejection instead of just being madly in love? According to O’Neill, there are some quick, easy signs. “You have a hard time being alone, you struggle when your friends or partner ask for space, you are afraid that people will want to spend time without you,” she said.
To those who are clingy, extreme thoughts and actions look and feel a lot like love and intimacy; and they don’t want to let a good thing go. The problem is that this feeling — the obsession with physical and mental closeness that can come off as clingy — is not love.
How to Manage Your Clingy Behavior
To move past dependent behavior, there are a number of things you can do by yourself that make you feel good. It’s important, when spending time alone, to be able to still find happiness. Realize that being on your own is okay. Do things that you enjoy and try to develop your interests or hobbies. Try to listen to feedback from your friends and family. Practice setting boundaries and sticking with them.
If you recognize your behavior as clingy, talking about your insecurities with your partner can also help. O’Neill says your attachment could be a result of past negative relationship experiences, which have led to a difficulty in trusting others. You may feel that if you don’t try to control a situation, something bad may happen. Talking about it with your partner will help give you that sense of security you crave.
The most important step, O’Neill says, is acknowledging your actions. “The first step in working to overcome it is to be aware that it’s happening,” she said. “Notice your tendency to be clingy and then take steps to focus on letting go of some of that need to control. You might still feel those urges to be clingy, however, you don’t have to act on those feelings.”
Understand Your Behaviors and How to Move Past Them
At the end of the day, we all have needs. Abraham Maslow categorized this best with his Hierarchy of Needs — the need for: food and sleep, to feel secure, and for belonging and love. These needs are all important and carry a profound weight in our lives, but being overly needy is bad for your health and your relationship with your partner.
Talking to a therapist can help you put your behavior into perspective and objectify the source of your clinginess. It could be that you have an anxiety disorder that needs professional attention, but it could also be that your partner isn’t reliable and your fears are actually grounded in reality. Talking through it with a professional can make you feel like you’re not on an island alone and validate whether or not you’re in a relationship that’s right for you and your mental health.