The first days of a relationship are often the most exhilarating; nothing compares to the feeling of discovering a like-minded soul and starting something beautiful together. At this stage, you may spend a lot of time with your partner, exploring new hobbies together, talking on the phone until dawn, and simply enjoying each other’s company. But while showing your affection is normal, clinginess is not. When you become overly attached to a person, you start to neglect your own friends and mental state. You slowly start pushing your partner away, damaging the relationship.
Clinginess may stem from attachment, but it’s a form of anxious attachment that shouldn’t be confused with love and intimacy, and that can affect your relationships in the long run.
Why do people become clingy in relationships?
One of the traits that clingy people have in common is that they have a hard time being alone so when a partner asks them to give them more space, they assume that they don’t like their company. Clinginess can also be caused by low self-esteem and emotional insecurity. For example, if you have been cheated on by a previous partner or had a bad break-up, you may need constant reassurance from future relationships.
When clinginess isn’t a result of a negative relationship experience, it can be a learned behaviour. If you were exposed to clingy tendencies growing up, you might consider it the norm. However, it’s important to realise that in a healthy relationship, the partners should give each other personal space. The time spent together is important, but you shouldn’t depend on them emotionally. The need to control their every move and do everything together points to an underlying issue and shouldn’t be confused with healthy love and attachment.
Am I clingy? How to identify the signs of clinginess
Identifying clingy behaviour on your own isn’t always easy because clingy people confuse their anxious attachment with a form of love. Quite often, individuals become aware of their clingy tendencies after being called out by their loved ones.
The first step in overcoming clinginess is to understand when you’re doing it. Here are some signs that you’re not expressing your affection in a healthy way:
- You want to do all activities together with your partner and feel alarmed when they want to attend an event without you.
- You call or message to check up on them multiple times a day, even if this is inconvenient.
- If your partner doesn’t respond immediately to your messages, you panic and make worst-case scenarios that they are cheating or avoiding you on purpose.
- You have little time outside of your relationship for your friends and hobbies.
- You constantly stalk your partner’s activity on social media and check every new connection they have.
- You feel threatened by your partner’s friends and co-workers, especially if they’re of the opposite sex because you feel they might steal them from you.
- You constantly ask your partner if they love you, and you need constant reassurance regarding their feelings.
- You make active efforts to speed up the relationship, suggesting things like moving in together, meeting the parents, marriage, or kids in the very early stages.
For the clingy person, these behaviours may seem normal, but for the other partner, they can be suffocating and emotionally exhausting. They may feel that they need to make great efforts to keep you happy and accommodate your emotional needs whilst neglecting their own and sacrificing their personal time.
How to manage clingy behaviour and have a healthy relationship
If you’ve spotted some of the signs of clinginess in you and want to change, it’s important to do some self-reflection and identify the situations where you let clingy tendencies take over. Wanting to be better and have healthier relationships is a sign of maturity and growth, and managing clinginess will help you be more satisfied with your life.
And yet, anxious attachment isn’t always easy to give up. Especially if you’ve been a clingy person for years, giving your partner more space can feel scary, which is why it’s important to take things one step at a time. Here’s what can help:
- Communicate with your partner. Quite often, clinginess comes from past relationship trauma, insecurities, and unmet emotional needs. Talking about these with your partner will help you become aware of unhealthy patterns so that you don’t act on them when you feel the urge.
- Invest in your personal growth. Because they place so much value on relationships, clingy individuals often end up neglecting their own lives. You may be so consumed with your partner that you may ignore your friends and hobbies. When trying to overcome this behaviour, investing in your personal growth is a great exercise. Try to think of activities that don’t involve your partner: reconnect with an old friend, try a new hobby, work out, meditate. The more fulfilling your inner life is, the less you’ll feel the need to control your partner’s every move and seek reassurance from them.
- Talk to a therapist. If your clinginess comes from a fear of abandonment, anxiety, or past relationship trauma, it’s a good idea to talk about these issues with a professional. This way, you can understand why you attach to people in an unhealthy way and work on your wellness. Although your therapist may also suggest couple’s counselling, individual sessions also play an important role.