I know that I can be a bit of a clingy wife. Deep down it comes from a place of love, but if I’m not careful, it just comes across as needy and even overbearing.
I’ve read a lot of self-help about how to not be a needy wife. But a lot of it wasn’t so helpful. It told me to do things like ‘give my husband space’ or ‘trust my partner’.
But that is easier said than done.
I already knew I needed to give him space, I already knew I had issues with clinginess. What I wanted to know was HOW to stop, rather than being told I should stop.
So, I’m writing this article for anyone else out there trying to be less needy in their marriage. Here are the practical steps I took that have really worked for me.
How do I stop being needy with my husband? 10 steps to take that really work
1) Talk it out
My neediness already makes me feel a bit more vulnerable in my relationship sometimes. Because I already felt too emotionally demanding, part of me was reluctant to bring it up with my hubby.
I guess I felt like even talking about it with him was just more neediness from me. But this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Even though I wanted to quietly “fix” things without having to involve him, the reality is that our relationship is a partnership.
It wasn’t MY issue, it was ours. Yes, I needed to change a few things, but so did he.
Rather than being a sign of my neediness, opening up and talking it through with my husband was really a sign of me taking responsibility for myself. The very opposite of neediness.
It was such a weight off my chest just to talk honestly about how I was feeling.
I told him how I didn’t really understand why I acted as I did at times. I let him know that I wanted to find solutions. And I accepted how it was affecting our relationship.
He listened to me, I listened to him.
I know that all the experts rave about how good communication is essential in any healthy relationship. And as challenging as it can feel, it’s so true.
2) Observe your neediness
I am not needy. But I do show needy behavior from time to time. It may sound the same, but to me, there is an important difference.
The first says I am this thing (needy) in my core. And if I am, then it is part of my whole identity. The second, on the other hand, is just behavior. It’s not who or what I am. It’s changeable.
My initial instinct was to push away needy behavior. It felt like such a threat to my relationship. But actually, the real shift happened when I simply became more conscious of it.
Pushing it away was just creating even more energy around it. So I started to observe it when it happened. Importantly, I watched it without judgment when it arose.
If my husband said he was going out with his friends, and I felt a sudden twinge of panic at being left home alone, I noticed the feelings and thoughts that came up. I noticed my emotional reaction to the news. Whether it was sadness or frustration, etc.
Initially, it didn’t change the feelings that came up. But what it did do was help give me a sort of detachment from them if that makes sense.
Feeling this detachment did lessen the impact. It also created just a tiny bit of space around the emotions I was feeling, to bring more awareness to my actions too.
If you’re here reading this article, then you are obviously already aware of neediness in your relationship. And so I’m guessing you also have the power to recognize where and how it is showing up.
If you struggle to see it at the moment it happens (perhaps because raw emotions get the better of you) then I’d suggest making a note of problematic neediness in your relationship.
Identify actions or behavior from you that with hindsight have created issues in the past, or that your husband has maybe voiced as being a problem.
3) Try to curb reactivity
This point follows from the last. The more and more aware of when neediness pops up in the relationship, the easier it is to choose what you do next.
In my opinion, when you’re working out how to stop being needy in a relationship there are two important and distinct halves.
The first is the internal work that you do to help you feel less needy. After all, this is the source. The second is the external work you do to curb the impact of any clinginess in your relationship.
I like to think of it as working simultaneously on the symptoms and the cause. That way you can instantly stop being a needy wife, whilst you’re doing the deeper work to heal the root causes.
Curbing your reactivity to neediness is where you deal with some of those symptoms. As soon as you are able to notice neediness, you can decide what to do next.
I’ll use the above example of my husband saying he was going out with friends. I still felt the twinge of neediness. But being mindful of it was enough for me to not react in a triggered way.
So rather than sulk or try to make him feel bad (which I’ve definitely done in the past) I chose to say “that sounds nice”.
I want to point out that this isn’t about whitewashing over your feelings. It’s about taking responsibility for them and deciding not to project them onto your partner. Which only harms the relationship.
Essentially, you can try to question yourself before you react. It’s not always going to work, but with practice, it gets easier.
4) Realize there are positives to being needy
If you’re anything like I was, you already feel bad enough about being needy. You already worry about whether it will push your husband away.
You don’t need any more harsh reminders about how being needy in a relationship isn’t healthy. What you really need is to stop beating yourself up.
As long as you keep chastising yourself, you’re never going to get anywhere.
One thing that really helped me get into a better mindset was a short video by Justin Brown called ‘What’s wrong with being “needy”, anyway?
Rather than focusing on all the negatives, he made me see the positives behind so-called needy behavior.
It made me sigh with relief. I hadn’t realized until that moment how I wasn’t being on my own side. I was making myself wrong. But it’s hard to grow from this place.
I’d like to share with you just a few of the positives of being needy that Justin highlighted in his video.
- Authenticity — You are prepared to show your full range of human emotions. That’s real and raw.
- It’s a sign of love and affection — You care deeply, and that as an intention is a beautiful thing.
- It can bring you closer to a loved one — Especially if you and your partner are prepared to work through these insecurities. I definitely noticed it brought us closer together when we found a way of dealing with it together.
These are just a few of the positive aspects of neediness. Justin walks you through many more.
It’s a short video (only around 6 minutes long) that packs in a lot of wisdom, so I’d really recommend you check it out.
5) Be careful with your phone use
Our phones are awesome communication tools. Let’s face it, who would want to be without one these days. But they can also be a hotbed of insecurity.
So if you’re wondering how to not be needy over text, then this one is definitely for you.
Research has shown that excessive phone use has been linked to health problems in young adults.
Here are a few ways being on my phone too much fuelled my neediness:
- I was more inclined to “check-up on” my husband by texting him a lot or stalking his social media to get an idea of what he was up to.
- I became jealous when I saw someone I didn’t recognize on his social media – like on his Instagram stories for example.
- I’d unfairly compare my own relationship with others I saw online (even though I was obviously only seeing the highlights of their relationship).
If you have any self-esteem issues then getting off your phone is a good idea, as studies show it can be negatively impacted.
Try setting rules around your phone use if it’s hard for you to limit it.
For example, I made a deal to never get my phone out when I’m in company, to give up my phone a bedtime, and to not check social media between the hours of 9 am – 5 pm.
I think being more mindful about getting off my phone helped my neediness because it helped me to focus on what I was doing in the present, rather than on other people (including my husband).
6) Understand your attachment type
Each of us approaches relationships differently, and a lot of that approach can depend on your attachment style.
Attachment theory looks at our early experiences with parents, caregivers, friends, and partners. These experiences shape our view of the world and ourselves.
The three main types of attachment styles are secure, anxious, and avoidant.
Secure attachments are characterized by trust, safety, and security. The person feels safe enough to explore new things and try new things. They feel confident and comfortable in the presence of others. They don’t worry about abandonment, rejection, or loss.
Anxious attachments are characterized by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. People with anxious attachments tend to be fearful of losing those closest to them. They often struggle to relax and feel calm in the presence of others, and they may find themselves worrying about what others might do or say.
People with avoidant attachments are characterized by low levels of emotional expression and intimacy. They may experience feelings of shame, inadequacy, and jealousy. They may also avoid closeness and intimacy, fearing that they will lose control or be rejected.
Personally, I’m not only one. I can feel and exhibit behavior from each of these. But it was also clear that I often have a very anxious attachment style.
Understanding your attachment style helps you understand why you behave the way you do in certain situations.
Knowing how you and your partner deal with things can help you to appreciate your differences, know where each other are coming from, and find a middle ground.
Simply building up an explanation for why I act as I do sometimes made me feel so much better and more empowered about working with it.
7) Practice Independence
In many ways, I’m definitely an independent woman. But in other ways less so. When it comes to my relationships I knew I could be more independent.
How do I stop being so attached to my husband?
First off, you weren’t born that way. We think of people as naturally confident and independent, but it’s not true. They become that way.
That’s why I say “practice independence”. Because it means you don’t have to feel it from the get-go, you can fake it till you make it.
Actively work on creating more independence in your relationship. Try with baby steps if it’s difficult for you.
Maybe that’s eating out alone one day, or even taking yourself off for a coffee. Arrange days, nights out, or trips away with other important people in your life — such as friends and family— so you don’t feel so reliant on your husband as your sole source of validation and affection.
Sometimes neediness springs out of boredom and building your world too much around one person. So make time for your own hobbies and interests, even if you don’t particularly feel like doing it.
The fuller and richer your life feel, the less you will notice your husband’s absence from time to time.
8) Build your self-esteem
Even though many of these tips will help you to instantly stop being needy, at some point you need to ask yourself, why am I so needy for affection?
Getting a handle on excessive neediness or clinginess does require some deeper work. Otherwise, as much as you are able to change your behavior, you’re just papering over the cracks.
At its root, for most people neediness arises from insecurity. It stems from feeling inadequate or unworthy. And when we feel this way, we start looking for reassurance and approval from outside sources. This is why we seek so much attention from our partners.
When we focus on others as being the source of our self-esteem, we end up becoming needy. We start needing love and affirmation from others just to feel good about ourselves.
To build confidence, you need to take care of yourself first.
That means taking care of the basics like making sure you eat well, exercise regularly, sleep enough, and spend quality time with yourself.
You also need to learn to accept yourself as you are. No matter what you look like, no matter who you are, you deserve respect and admiration. You deserve to be happy. You deserve love.
The more you focus on your self-worth the more you will realize just how much you can do for yourself.
9) Work to heal old wounds
The experiences we have throughout life shape us into the people we become. Not all those experiences are going to be positive.
Old traumas and childhood experiences mold how we behave in relationships. Many of us are carrying around unresolved pain and baggage from our past that is silently still calling the shots in our present.
For example, maybe you were cheating on or left broken-hearted in a previous significant relationship. So now you fear that same betrayal or abandonment in your marriage. And that causes you to get clingy.
Perhaps one of your parents or caregivers, when you were a child, was emotionally unavailable to you. So you developed a habit of trying to get their attention and prove yourself in order to feel their love.
Why am I so needy of my husband? There could be reasons lurking in your past that make you feel like this.
Some self-reflection can help you uncover things that might still need resolving. If you have big things to deal with then talking it over with a therapist or mental health professional might help you to process them.
10) Create boundaries to find a middle ground in your relationship
All relationships require compromise.
That may mean that you evaluate your needy behavior and agree to stop certain things. But it also means your partner may need to show some patience and understanding as you navigate it all.
It’s beneficial for all couples to set ground rules. Agree on the dos and don’ts that work for your relationship. That way you should be able to find common ground.
Make an agreement on the things you expect from each other (your essentials) and the things you would like from each other (your preferences).
For example, your non-negotiables might include things like fidelity, physical affection, etc. Your preferences might include things like a text to say when you will be home.
These types of relationship negotiations help you to have clearer expectations from each other about practical things in your relationship — such as how often you will text each other, or how many nights you will spend apart doing other things.
Respecting each other’s boundaries can stop either of you from accidentally becoming overbearing or unreasonably demanding within the relationship.
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