Written by Writer’s Corps member Alexis Anderson
A lot of us are clingy sometimes, especially at the start of a new relationship. When everything feels fresh and exciting and you can’t wait to hang out again and again. It can come as a surprise when your partner asks for space. While clingy tendencies may have been “ok” in your previous relationship, being overly needy is generally considered a toxic dating habit. As Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D., points out in her article Why Clingy Partners Cling, clingy partners usually have low self-esteem and “fear becoming abandoned,” despite having a positive outlook on their romantic partner. As a result, “they seek constant reassurance, emotional support, and closeness.” And what’s worse is many clingy or obsessive behaviors are portrayed as idyllic in movies and literature, making it difficult to tell when you’re being overbearing.
So, where do you draw the line between being flirty and being clingy? Here are 5 clingy relationship behaviors to watch out for and how to address them:
1. You’re Neglecting Your Friends
It is normal to want to spend a lot of time with your partner. These feelings can be intensified in a new relationship leading the both of you to neglect your relationships with family and friends. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to sacrifice time at work, with friends, or time needed for yourself to be with your partner. If your significant other is constantly making you feel guilty for time spent apart, you should communicate how unfair and unhealthy it is to make you feel guilty for needing time to yourself. You cannot be everything to your partner and it’s important to make connections with people outside of your relationship.
2. They’re Monitoring their Social Media Activity
If your significant other is frequently questioning you about your relationship with people on social media, wanting to see your text messages or making harsh accusations based on little to no information, you should address the insecurity right away. Likewise, if there is trust in your relationship you shouldn’t check your partner’s social media activity to confirm their whereabouts. Having a discussion that gets to the root of their insecurity or distrust can help resolve this invasive behavior. Be sure to emphasize that you are not okay with the behavior and would like to know the motivation behind it.
3. They’re Irrationally Jealous
Jealousy is an emotion that everyone feels on occasion but it is important that it’s communicated in a healthy way. That said, your partner shouldn’t be lashing out when you mention, spend time with, or communicate with anyone they feel threatened by. Jealousy doesn’t have to ruin your relationship. Honest communication is the first step in addressing the problem. If you sense your partner is jealous, open the conversation and ask them why they feel this way. From there, you can try to resolve these feelings by discussing it further. If the issue isn’t resolved, you have to establish boundaries regarding behaviors you will not tolerate like prying questions about your social media or trying to control your interactions with others online.
4. They Message You Excessively
Getting a lot of messages from your partner is fine, but the content of those messages is what matters most. If you are getting an overload of messages demanding whereabouts or making accusations, this is unhealthy for your relationship. It is important to explain to your partner that you do not owe them information. This will open the conversation to setting boundaries and hopefully resolve the underlying insecurities causing the behavior.
5. They’re Speeding the Relationship Up Too Quickly
Talk to your partner about moving too quickly if they’re pressuring you to take big steps in your relationship, like saying “I love you” before you’re ready. While ideally, you want to grow together, it’s important to be on the same page in terms of the amount of time and attention you can give to one another. If you feel your partner is moving too quickly, you should be honest about your comfortability. To open the conversation, ask them what their current expectations are in the relationship. And make sure you’re honest about your expectations as well. Setting boundaries for the pace you would like to take will improve your confidence in your relationship and relieve any pressures to move faster.
On one hand, it’s totally normal for your partner to need you, however, the trouble comes when they become emotionally overbearing. In most cases, your partner won’t know how their neediness impacts your relationship–in which case, the behaviors can be resolved through open communication. Being honest about what concerns you and getting clear on your motivation will help them move past these unhealthy behaviors. That said, we understand that setting boundaries with your partner can be difficult. Take a look at this article for more tips on handling conflict.
And if your partner displays one or more of these clingy behaviors and open communication about how it’s making you feel does not result in changes in their behavior, that’s a sign that the relationship is unhealthy and you should talk to someone or get help. Connect with a peer advocate in real time by texting “loveis” to 22522 or call 1-866-331-9474.