12 ways to stop being needy and clingy in your relationship

Are you worried you might be too clingy or needy?

It’s easy to cross boundaries when you’re in a relationship. Especially if you’re really in love with someone.

So if you think you might be too clingy, don’t fret. It’s not the end of the world.

You can correct this behavior with a few simple tweaks.

But first, why do people become clingy?

How we react to negative emotions is largely influenced by our past psychological and emotional traumas.

Psychologists have discovered that something called “attachment style” is the main predictor of how we handle our adult relationships.

Author and psychology professor, Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D., explains:

“The way we interact with our adult romantic partners carries vestiges from our earliest relationships with our parents.”

Whitbourne says that people with a healthy upbringing are capable of “secure attachment.” They are able to value their relationships without being clingy.

On the contrary, if you grew up in an unstable environment, you might be insecurely attached. Whitbourne says this type of attachment can manifest in two ways:

“If you are anxiously attached, you are overly sensitive to cues that your partner will abandon you. As a result, you become overly dependent on your romantic partners.

“In contrast, people who are high on attachment avoidance don’t want to establish emotional bonds with their partners.”

You might have insecure attachment when you feel the need to constantly be with your partner. Being clingy is simply your response to your abandonment issues.

It actually doesn’t matter whether you are securely attached or insecurely attached. There are still a number of ways to build a healthy relationship with your partner:

Here are 12 things you can do to help you become less clingy and needy.

1. Recognize that you may have a problem.

You’re already starting to take responsibility for being clingy by recognizing that it can be unhealthy.

The first step is to accept that being clingy is a problem.

Psychiatrist Mark Banschick advises:

“There is no shame to admit that you are too clingy. And there are usually good reasons why you became that way; like anxieties in early childhood.

“Good relationships are worth a lot, so if you’ve got a tendency to be too needy, do something about it. Work on overcoming the wounds of the past, and make better relationships in the future.”

2. Learn how to cope with your anxiety.

Abandonment issues, insecure attachment, etc – all of these are a result of anxiety.

You are anxious because you think something bad is going to happen every time you’re not with your partner.

So how do you cope?

Whitbourne suggests:

“Since stress plays such an important role in the equation, the only way to avoid the descent into clinginess and desperation is to learn ways to identify and cope with the situations that trigger your anxious attachment tendencies.”

She suggests building a “stable base of attachment” by imagining the best in your relationship, instead of thinking of the worst.

You can also manage your daily stress by doing “constructive coping methods.” 

Whitbourne adds:

“When you’re feeling emotionally frazzled, you’re more likely to drill down into your own insecurities, which makes you more sensitive to possible rejection by a partner.

Bolster your resilience by developing coping strategies that both make you feel better and help you tackle the situations that are stressing you out.”

3. Work on yourself.

This happens all the time:

People find themselves in a relationship, and they suddenly neglect their personal growth and development.

Being clingy is a result of this lack of self-love.

According to psychologist Suzanne Lachmann:

“Losing yourself in a relationship can create anxiety, resentment, or even hopelessness, and can cause you to rebel, or express yourself in exaggerated or extreme ways that can threaten the connection.”

So work on yourself. And encourage your partner to do the same. It will make you better individuals. But it will make you a stronger couple, too.

Lachmann adds:

“If each partner is willing to see change and the desire for an independent self within the relationship as an opportunity for growth, that in turn will promote a positive emotional environment.”

4. Develop trust in your relationship.

Let’s face it. You have trust issues. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be this clingy.

It’s challenging to trust your partner especially if you’re full of anxious “what if” thoughts.

But if you have no reason to suspect your partner, then why go through all that anxiety?

Psychologists Rob Pascale and Lou Primavera adds:

“Partners who don’t trust can’t feel secure, so their relationship will cycle through frequent emotional highs and lows.

“That happens because a mistrusting partner spends much of their time scrutinizing their relationship and trying to understand their partner’s motives.”

Does it sound like you?

Then it’s time to cultivate trust in your partner. Free yourself of all those negative thoughts. If something bad happens, it will happen. But before then, save yourself the trouble.

5. Build your self-confidence.

One of the main reasons why we hold onto our partners so much is because we are afraid of losing them. This is completely normal.

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We all crave security, especially in our relationships. However, this tendency can manifest into extreme clinginess.

In a 2013 study, researchers found that self-esteem greatly influences you and your partner’s relationship satisfaction.

So if you want to be less clingy and more happily secure in your relationship, build your self-confidence.

Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Develop your own career. Pursue what gives you meaning. All of this can help build your confidence.

As they say, “confidence is sexy.” And your partner will certainly think the same.

6. Try to give your partner more space.

It’s challenging to go against your natural state of clinginess. But try to give your partner more space.

According to psychologist Jeremy E Sherman, couples need to give each other space – and it’s nothing personal.

He explains:

“Loving deeply doesn’t mean wanting to be together every minute. Time together is certainly one gauge of how strong the love is. Still it’s dangerous to put too much stock in time together as the indicator of relationship health.”

So allow your partner space to breathe.

If you’re in a long-distant relationship, it’s especially important to follow this tip.

7. Talk to your partner.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good talk.

You and your partner should have an open mind about the issues you’re dealing with. Communicate clearly and listen intently.

Deal with the big elephant in the room. And more importantly, tell your partner that you’re willing to work on being less clingy.

8. Try not to be too physically clingy.

Being clingy isn’t just emotional. It can also be physical.

Public displays of affection are healthy to some extent. Some people even depend on affection to feel loved and validated.

However, everyone needs to have their own personal space. And if you don’t establish boundaries, it could be a big problem.

Your partner might feel uncomfortable with too much PDA. It’s best to talk about what you both can handle.

9. Spend more time with your loved ones.

Don’t be one of those people who forget their family and friends once they’re in relationships.

Yes, your partner is one significant part of your life, but they shouldn’t be your whole life.

Don’t neglect to spend time with the people who have been with you through everything. Your family and friends will be the one to pick you up in pieces should your relationship end.

They are also a healthy source of support when you’re going through relationship problems.

Strong connections with other people will ease your proclivity to being clingy to your partner.

10. Let go of your controlling tendencies.

Like it or not, you simply cannot control everything about your relationship and your partner’s life.

Marriage and family therapist Ann Smith says:

“The controller has self created stress of feeling responsible for preventing disasters by obsessively focusing on the possible problems or even tragedies that may occur if he/she neglects something.”

Her advice? Remember that you are both imperfect people.

She says:

“Remind yourself that the best way to love someone is to let them be who they are which includes mistakes, hurts and even losses. They and you will learn more from a mistake than from taking someone else’s advice or reminders to prevent anything bad from happening.”

If someone wants to be with you, they will be with you. And if they don’t, there’s nothing you can do otherwise. Again, what you can control are your reactions to the situation.

11. Seek professional help.

There’s no shame in seeking professional help. You’re not crazy but you are acting like you are.

So talk to someone who knows how to fix that. Talk to someone who can help.

Believe it or not, you can get better. 

Speak to a counselor or a therapist who can help you get through steps of healing. Because first of all, this is your problem and you need to fix yourself first before you can fix your relationships.

A therapist can help you get a better grasp of what you’re going through. But more importantly, it’s amazing how simply talking about it to someone who doesn’t judge you can help.

12. Learn to find the balance.

This is the most important step. And probably the hardest.

Either way, you need to find the balance between having your own security in yourself and in your partner.

Trust is hard to give. But if you trust yourself and your place in your relationship, letting go of control can be a whole lot easier.

There is no greater joy than having someone to share your life with. But there is no greater accomplishment than being completely fine with yourself and who you are.

So work on that. Try to find the balance between cultivating yourself AND your relationship.

In short, try to love yourself first.

People are often clingy because they lack a sense of self. Many of us have deep feelings of insecurity and not being “good enough”.

But it’s not too late to fix it.

Starting today, practice self-love.

Invest in yourself. Focus on your own needs. Discover who you are and learn to accept what you find.

Only then can you give the right kind of love. Because it’s the kind of love you give yourself.

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Written by Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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