Clinginess can be a confusing thing to decipher at the beginning of a relationship. It can be mistaken for passion and the attachment can appear endearing—even sexy.
As the relationship develops, it’s not wrong to rely on your partner. But constant clingy behavior can emotionally alienate your significant other instead of bringing the two of you closer together.
Can your personal relationship pattern be called clingy? And what effect can clinginess have on your partner?
Take note because here are ten things being clingy does to a relationship—and what this could mean for yours.
1) Your significant other might feel like they’re being monitored
Most of us can probably name at least one couple we’ve known where one partner is constantly texting them to find out where they are and what they’re doing.
“Clinginess can be a red flag in a relationship, especially if it is persistent and makes the other person feel suffocated or overwhelmed,” says Sanam Hafeez, who is a neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind in New York City.
Of course, it’s natural to want to spend time with someone you care about, but being overly clingy can harm the relationship because this can compel your partner to feel like they’re being monitored and controlled.
For example, there’s a difference between wanting to spend time with your partner and making them feel guilty for not hanging out for, say, the sixth night in a row.
“Having needs means having specific requirements or desires you would like your partner to fulfill,” says Hafeez. “It’s normal to have needs and communicate them respectfully. On the other hand, being needy or clingy typically involves excessively seeking attention or validation from your partner.”
Hafeez says that this dynamic can lead to an imbalance in the relationship, where one partner is overly dependent on the other for their happiness and well-being.
2) Being overbearing can overshadow what attracted you to them in the first place
Maybe when you first started dating, you were happily doing your own thing living the single life. You had a job you loved, family and friends you adored, and a few hobbies that kept you busy and living life.
When your now-partner entered the picture, they were attracted to this version of you: happy, engaged with the world, and confident.
But then somehow your partner became your world, and the other things started falling away bit by bit.
On the one hand, it’s understandable that being with someone new can be exciting and sometimes you’re so infatuated that you can’t get enough of them.
But if you make your romantic partner the center of your life—so much so that you expect to know their whereabouts at all times, and you think you should spend every spare minute together—then all you’re doing is pushing them away.
You’re also making them forget the person they were drawn to in the first place.
3) You have to have a sense of independence for them to be interested
Remember: a relationship is supposed to add to your life, not be your life.
You’re already whole and complete on your own, so you shouldn’t depend on your partner for your own self-worth.
Independent people are unique and attractive because of their confidence, their self-sufficiency, and their own hopes and dreams.
These qualities can enhance a relationship, says relationship writer Kerry Carmody. “If they’re in a relationship with you, it’s because they truly want to be with you, not because they’re lonely, bored, or wanting emotional or financial support.”
You can’t expect to be the center of their universe, Carmody says. “Being in a relationship means that dating and falling in love is only a part of a person’s world, and definitely not their only focus.”
That doesn’t mean they won’t make you a priority in their lives, but that they’re also not going to let other important aspects of their life fall by the wayside to be with you.
As one relationship coach puts it: the need for independence doesn’t have anything to do with their lack of investment in you.
4) Jealousy can make them feel like they’re being judged
Maybe your “cling button” doesn’t get pushed unless jealousy rears its ugly head and ruins your jive.
Of course, it’s normal to feel a pang of jealousy if you see your partner flirting with a sexy someone at a dinner soirée.
Irrational jealousy is something else, says relationship writer Alexis Anderson.
If you’re lashing out at your partner for mentioning, or spending time with someone you feel threatened by, then this form of clinginess can certainly affect your relationship.
Excessively checking their social media for some sign of interaction is also problematic.
It’s better to have an open, honest communication about what’s going on. “You can try to resolve these feelings by discussing it further,” says Anderson.
5) Your romantic partner isn’t responsible for your happiness—or your self-esteem
This one has to go on repeat: a relationship cannot be the be-all and end-all. It’s about two people coming together to live life.
No doubt you make each other happy but your happiness and self-concept has to come from more than just the relationship itself.
“A relationship won’t fix the sadness you might be feeling,” says relationship writer Jose-Andres Alegria. “[That’s] like putting a band-aid on a gushing wound,” he says.
“Have you noticed that truly happy and healthy relationships always have two individuals who go about their things and make time for each other—not two codependent people making time for the outside world?”
Alegria advises that getting lost in the identity of your relationship can be just as harmful as neglecting your partner.
While your partner should love, care, and support you, there is no substitution for self-love.
It’s through self-love that you can start to build the foundation for a healthy and happy relationship, he emphasizes. Just as your partner needs to make time for you, listen to you, and care for you, the same needs to be done for you by you.
This way, you aren’t relying on your partner for something that you should be giving to yourself.
6) Their own self-esteem could take a hit
Repeated questions, investigations, and surprise check-ups send out a clear message to your significant other that you don’t trust them.
“Having to justify and explain themselves at every step of the way can be detrimental to your partner’s self-esteem,” says the team of writers on relationship platform Bonobology.
Even if you end up regretting your behavior and try to redeem yourself and make amends, the damage is done, and your partner may not want to continue the relationship.
7) Your partner may feel resentful in the relationship
If you’re being clingy you could be misinterpreting your partner wanting to do things outside of the relationship as abandonment, thinking you’re on the road to a break up.
So what do you do?
You cling on in an effort to close the gap you’re feeling as an attempt to gain more intimacy, surmises relationship coach Julie Nguyen.
“While you feel panicked if they’re not around you physically, your partner can feel exhausted and resentful that you’re using them as a crutch for your emotional welfare,” she says.
This will just make them pull back even more and the harder you try to bridge the distance, the more distant, cold, and aloof they will become—until they eventually withdraw altogether.
8) They might question the compatibility between you
If clinginess continues to be a pattern, it’s only natural for your partner to question the compatibility between the two of you.
They may feel that you want more than they’re willing to give and at some point, they’ll get tired of the same old drama.
They’ll also feel that they don’t want to share things—even inconsequential things—because they don’t trust how you’ll react.
They could come to the conclusion that you both aren’t a fit for the future.
9) The reality is they could start to feel repulsed
It’s not hard to see how clinginess can be considered a turn-off.
It could be constantly asking for reassurance about things, says Nguyen.
Here are a few common clingy-worthy questions:
“Do you think I’m attractive?”
“I need to know how much you love me.”
“Do you think you’ll ever leave me?”
“I love you so much that I would do anything for you. Would you do anything for me?”
“If you love me, you’ll…”
Having an insatiable need for reassurance isn’t going to bring your partner closer to you. Because even if they tell you the things you want to hear, the fact that it’s pretty much being coerced will make it feel inauthentic—to both of you. And it will never be enough.
10) They might check out of the relationship—this could include cheating
Even if your partner doesn’t physically leave the relationship, they may check out if it in other ways.
This could include spending more time at work or out with friends. It could even mean cheating—although according to research this could work both ways.
A team of researchers at Florida State University studied 207 newlywed couples six times over four years. The couples were asked about how secure—or insecure—they felt in their relationships.
Their findings? People who worried about their spouse leaving them were more likely to cheat—or be cheated on.
The study showed that infidelity rates were the highest in couples where either partner was scared of being abandoned.
Some things to consider when it comes to clingy behavior
Real love should inspire calm, not anxiety, Nguyen says. If you find that you’re feeling clingy in your current relationship but don’t have a history of feeling clingy, it could be because deep down you don’t trust your partner.
At the same time, one person isn’t meant to give an all-encompassing security to anyone, adds Nguyen. “Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you can have.”
We usually know when we’re being clingy and can catch ourselves and pull back.
But if you can’t recognize your clingy behavior, then there could be an issue of self-esteem and self-concept that you need to work on—perhaps under the guidance of a mental health professional.
It’s important to note that phases of being clingy can be understandable. We’re all human after all and can have periods of vulnerability.
If, for example, you are grieving the loss of a loved one, and you feel the need to be with your partner as much as possible because it makes you feel safe and it gives your mind and emotions a bit of a break, I don’t think this is a bad thing because it’s usually temporary.
Some parting words of wisdom
Nguyen says that clinging behavior can serve as a unique tell that a person has a dysregulated relationship to their attachment system. This could be a cause for your relational anxiety and could come from childhood.
“If there wasn’t an early opportunity to fortify trust with a caregiver, it becomes harder later on to nurture emotionally safe relationships and feel your needs can be expressed and attended to.”
“As an adult, you may then externalize that internal angst toward your partner and what they can do to remedy your insecurities.”
If you know or suspect this is the case, then talking to a licensed therapist can help you work on any such attachment issues.
While this article explores the topic of “if being clingy can ruin a relationship”, as mentioned, it can be helpful—and perhaps even life-changing—to speak to a relationship coach about your situation.
With a professional relationship coach, you can get advice specific to your life and your experiences…
Relationship Hero is a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations, like those we discussed in this article.
They’re a very popular resource for people facing this sort of challenge, and they could help shed light—and offer cohesive strategies—on your specific situation.