How to Stop Being Needy and Clingy in a Relationship?

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Have you ever been in a relationship with a clingy or needy person?

Or have you ever been one?

Such can have a significant impact to your relationship, hence we want to help.

We asked 13 experts, how to stop being needy and clingy in a relationship?

Here are their top insights.

Dr. Jess O’Reilly

Dr. Jess O’Reilly

Resident Sexologist, Astroglide

We might cling to a partner for a number of reasons:

  • we love being around them;
  • we’re afraid of losing them;
  • we feel more confident with them by our side;
  • we’re used to having a partner take the lead in social planning;
  • we want to exercise control over whom they socialize with.

Clinging to a partner, therefore, can be both functional and problematic.

People of all genders can be equally needy, but owing to cultural prescriptions of gender, we often express our needs in different ways.

While women may be encouraged to express their needs verbally, men may be more inclined to demonstrate their needs through actions. This isn’t necessarily an innate difference, but a cultural one rooted in socialization.

Being “needy” is not inherently negative, as we all have emotional and practical needs; however, if you’re more needy than your partner, it can result in tension or conflict.

Some ways we express neediness:

  • Checking in via text regularly when our partner is busy.
  • Calling in the middle of the workday.
  • Tagging along to social events uninvited.
  • Making plans as a couple without verifying whether or not our partner is available and interested.

The inclination to cling to a partner has always existed, but technology has offered additional tools to enact the associated behaviours. We are now accustomed to receiving instant responses via text and/or digital media and this expectation permeates professional, personal and intimate relationships.

When we don’t get a response right away, we’ve conditioned ourselves to overreact and worry that something is awry. Some couples address this by letting their partners know in advance that they’ll be unavailable for a few hours when they’re out with friends.

To stop being so clingy:

#1 Don’t label yourself! Though you may be inclined toward a certain behaviour, you’re in complete control of your actions. Don’t label yourself or allow others to label you.

Just because you have acted one way in the past does not mean that you will repeat yourself in the future. If your partner has expressed that you’re a bit clingy, acknowledge their feelings/interpretations and make an offer to adjust your behaviour.

You may also want to offer an explanation for your behaviour (e.g. “I feel even more confident with you by my side”) to open the lines of communication.

#2 Push your comfort zone and reach out to a friend to book time with them (separate from your partner); if you’re used to hibernating with your partner, this can feel uncomfortable, but a little discomfort can result in significant growth.

#3 Talk about it. What holds you back from being more independent? Why do you want to spend so much time with your partner?

Discuss and address the underlying feelings that drive your clingy behavior – -then you can make changes as needed.

Jordan Madison, LGMFT

Jordan Madison, LGMFT

Licensed Graduate Marriage and Family Therapist, FIT Counseling LLC

Here are three tips I suggest to reduce needy and clingy behaviors:

#1 Understand what’s making you “cling” in the first place.

Doing some self-reflection is always necessary in a relationship. If you want to stop doing something, you must first understand the purpose the behavior serves.

Do you just crave attention from the people in your life? Are you expecting your partner to fill a void in your life? If so, remind yourself that your partner should not be responsible for your happiness, they are just one source of it. Happiness is an inside job.

#2 Enjoy time with yourself.

One of the main reasons people tend to “cling” to others is because they do not want to be alone. Spend more time with yourself doing things you enjoy.

Read related article: The 100 Best Self Help Books of All Time

Treat yourself to a movie, or take yourself out to dinner. Once you become more comfortable spending time with yourself, you’ll be less inclined to feel that you need to be with your spouse at all times.

#3 Have a life outside of the relationship.

You had your own life before you got into a relationship, and it is healthy to maintain a piece of that life once you’re in a relationship as well.

Continue to be involved with people and activities that have no relation to your spouse. They can give you other sources of comfort or companionship that you may be clinging to your spouse for.

It’s also important to note that separation anxiety is distinct from clingy and needy behaviors and such be taken seriously. If you find that you experience intense distress upon separating from your partner you may want to consider reaching out to a therapist or counselor for additional support and strategies.

Nicole Issa, Psy.D.

Nicole Issa, Psy.D.

 Licensed Psychologist | Founder, PVD Psychological Associates

Many of my clients start therapy due to relationship difficulties and namely, are struggling with being insecure and how that manifests as clinginess and neediness.

They see themselves start to begin the pattern of texting or calling repeatedly, asking for constant reassurance that their partner is still interested, or dropping everything else in their life in order to ensure that they are available to their partner as much possible.

They know that they will “scare off/smother/annoy” their partner, and yet they cannot seem to stop doing these things.

Dialing down the neediness and clinginess is important for your relationship’s survival.

It is, more importantly, essential for your own sense of self-worth and self-esteem to stop this pattern. Constantly texting or calling or asking for reassurance has a detrimental impact on your self-esteem and may make you believe that you are not worthy and ultimately you will lose yourself in the relationship.

Three tips for stopping the cycle of needy and clingy behavior:

#1 Maintain healthy boundaries and your own sense of self.

Continue to prioritize self-care and the activities that help you feel good about yourself like going to the gym, taking time to read or follow your favorite podcasts, or seeing your friends. Make sure you are not blowing off work, family, or friends. All of these things will help prevent you from falling into the vortex of insecurity and being “that” person.

#2 Make a list of evidence that your partner cares about you.

Write down the positive things they say about you so that you can reference the list when you are feeling lonely, insecure, anxious, or down. This will help you learn how to hold onto the fact that they do care in the face of your insecurities and negative emotions.

#3 Set some rules for yourself with social media.

It is never a good idea, for example, to look up your new love interest’s pictures with their exes or keep tabs on them by following them on Instagram or Facebook during times that you are not together. Use the time that you are apart to do things for yourself.

It is also very important to ask yourself what is happening in the relationship that is leading to your needy or clingy behavior.

If you know this is due to your own insecurities, then that is something for you to work on, but it is also possible that your significant other is doing things to fuel your behavior such as gaslighting you or intentionally provoking you as a form of control.

It actually is not uncommon for someone insecure to end up dating someone controlling, manipulative, and abusive. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship or if you are fearful of your partner, it can be helpful to see a therapist and make a plan to extricate yourself from the situation.

Kim Olver, LCPC, NCC, BCC

Kim Olver

Licensed Professional Counselor | Founder, The Relationship Center

I think the way to stop any behavior you don’t like is to first develop an understanding about why you do it, determine if it is actually effective and then if it ineffective, decide what you want to do instead.

People become needy and clingy for several reasons.

One is that they have a high need for connection and believe being overly close in a relationship communicates how much they love the other person.

Two is that the person is worried the relationship will end and becomes desperate to keep the other person. (This can be because of past experiences or something the current person is doing or has done.)

Clinginess develops to try to keep the other person involved in the relationship.

Finally, people can use needy and clingy behavior to attempt to control the other person through guilt, as in “I really need you.”

When a person realizes which one(s) is/are the reason(s) for their behavior, they can then move forward to evaluating whether their behavior is truly effective in getting what they want.

Rarely does needy and clingy behavior reap the desired goal. Being needy and clingy repels others rather than bringing them closer. The needy person can even see this happening and feel powerless to change their behavior, especially when he or she hasn’t yet conceived of a better way to improve the relationship or to accept the fact that the relationship is over.

The final step in stopping the needy and clinging behavior comes when the person decides what they want to do instead.

Questions such as, “Is there something better I could do to get what I want?” or “What kind of person do I want to be?” or “What can I do to be OK without this relationship?” are helpful in deciding one’s next step.

‘Stop doing’ behaviors don’t work. It is almost impossible to just decide to stop something that is at least working a little bit without having a plan for what you will do instead.

Mark B. Borg, Jr., Ph.D.

Mark B. Borg, Jr., Ph.D.

Clinical/Community Psychologist and Psychoanalyst | Author, Irrelationship and Relationship Sanity

There are, I’m sure, many answers that will suffice to answer the question, how to stop being needy and clingy in a relationship. 

However, in my experience to simply stop being needy or clingy misses an essential element—one might even say goal—of romantic relationships: to allow us to feel loved, cared for and accepted as we really are.

For better and for worse, a genuine experience of being accepted as we actually are is going to have to include an acceptance of us with needs.

And I find in the couples that I work with that it is often a person who is uncomfortable with her or his partner’s needs who tends to refer to that partner as “needy,” and that being called needy does not decrease, but increases, behavior that could be called “clingy.”

So, maybe this whole question of needy and clingy is less about being perceived—by self, by others—as needy and more about each one of us finding, in romantic relationships especially, a good fit between what it is that we genuinely need to feel loved, cared for and secure and our partner’s actual ability and willingness to meet them.

Margaret Paul, PhD

Margaret Paul, PhD

Relationship Expert | Co-creator, Inner Bonding®

Being needy and clingy are symptoms of self-abandonment.

There are four major ways people abandon themselves:

  1. Ignoring your feelings
  2. Judging yourself
  3. Numbing your feelings with various substances and activities
  4. Making your partner responsible for your feelings of self-worth and safety

When you abandon yourself, you create feelings of inner aloneness and emptiness. Just as an actual child feels alone if their parents abandon them, and then they may become needy and clingy, you may become needy and clingy when you abandon yourself, trying to get the love and attention that you are not giving to yourself.

In order to stop being needy and clingy, you need to learn to love yourself. You need to learn to fill yourself up with love to share, rather than trying to get love.

Learning to love yourself means that you learn to take responsibility for your own feelings and needs, defining your own self-worth and creating your own inner safety. The more you learn to love yourself and take responsibility for your happiness, the less clingy you will be.

Irina Baechle, LCSW

Irina Baechle

Relationship Therapist and Coach, Irina Baechle Counseling LLC | Author, A 5-Step Connection Guide To Your Dream Marriage

Differentiation is the ability to keep our individuality in a relationship and not lose ourselves emotionally.

To stop being needy and clingy in a relationship, maintain your own identity by keeping separate interests and hobbies that you take pleasure on your own. Enjoy some separate time and hang out with friends without your partner.

While it is healthy to be honest about your feelings and vulnerable in front of your partner, don’t confuse this for clinginess and being needy in a relationship.

If you can differentiate yourself, you will be able to cope with relationship challenges and soothe yourself and your partner more successfully. For instance, not being clingy in conflict situations means giving space to your partner who is experiencing emotional distress while remaining close enough to show empathy and let them know that you care and support them.

Nanci Deutsch, L.C.S.W., CHT

Nanci Deutsch, L.C.S.W., CHT

Founder, Inspired and Empowered Living and the Soul Adventures Coaching Program

Five Steps to Empowering a Woman to Love Herself First:

When you love yourself first and take care of your needs, you will find you feel more confident and independent. Here are steps that will help you learn to love yourself and feel more empowered.

#1 Ask yourself what do you really want from the other person. Often it is love or more attention.

#2 Then imagine you are connecting with the part of you that wants more love or attention. How old is it? What does it want? Often it is a child part of you such as yourself at 4 years old.

#3 Now imagine you are taking that 4-year-old and hugging and loving her. Imagine loving that child as much as you can. If you can’t do it yourself, then imagine bringing in a loving person from your past such as a grandparent. It is essential that child aspect of yourself that has been longing for love and attention now feels loved. You may need to continue to work on loving this part daily, so it begins to feel that affection more deeply.

#4 After giving that part the love and attention it needs you may want to imagine it getting small enough to put into your heart. And feel yourself integrating, becoming calmer and loving yourself more.

#5 Then become aware of how you are feeling now. Usually, you feel more full and are not needing it as much from outside yourself. It is an inside job and it’s crucial in learning to love and care for yourself more.

As you feel more self-love and learn to satisfy your own desires first, you will find you do not feel as needy and dependent on others to fulfill your needs.

Devika Shallivan

Devika Shallivan

Model | Actor | Writer | Entrepreneur

#1 Know or Judge what other person needs.

One of the key things to look at one doesn’t come needy and clingy in the initial phrase is to be aware of how much you and your potential partner want to spend time together. That means to have some sort of conversation directly or gradually observing your other half.

Different people are different in terms of how much time they want to spend time together. It depends also a lot on knowing where your relationship might be heading.

Are you just casual friend whom you are happy seeing once every 3 months? Are you more of girlfriend and boyfriend who would like to spend time together initially more to get to know each other?

#2 Know that your relationship would go changes.

A relationship can be like waves. Somebody would need more emotional support when they had a bad day at work, somebody died, got laid off, etc.

While some people would like to spend more time when a crisis hit. Some would rather spend time alone. A relationship, in the beginning, can be like every waking moment I want to be with you took we have some trust and we are ok being bit separate. Always see what other people want and listen to their needs.

#3 Have a hobby, friends, and life without that person.

It is very easy not to put someone on a pedestal if you have hit right off and especially when we think that this person might be the One.

Have a life without that person. Go for dinner or lunches alone or even in Cinema. Yes, alone. It might be boring but enjoying your own company is crucial.

If you can’t bear your own self how would others do? Also have different people in your life like friends, mentors, therapists, coaches, and parents.

Avoid one person to be everything of you. As you would be highly disappointed when you realise they aren’t that great. It would also be very exhausting for them to be all of the people you need.

#4 Do not expect instant gratification.

People are busy despite it hardly takes a few minutes to answer a text. Some people find it very difficult to write a few things and sometimes do get paralysed while communicating on apps, twitter or facebook. Wait for sufficient time before communicating again. Have a maximum number before you contact them.

#5 They aren’t into you as much as you are.

This is hard truth sometimes you aren’t their priority. Maybe it can be the wrong time in their life. They are just not that much into you. You can’t please everyone. Sometimes people would not like someone for irrational reasons. You weren’t tall enough, you remind them of their ex….etc. There can be many reasons.

#6 Don’t take it personally.

It can feel heartbreaking when anyone doesn’t see you same as you see them to be. Sometimes you hit it and both are in the same wavelength and later it fizzles off. They realise something about you wasn’t their value. They think they wouldn’t fit in your world. You both are in different worlds. It is best to do as much to keep in touch but be detached to the outcome.

Bonnie Winston

Bonnie Winston

Celebrity Matchmaker | Relationship Expert

Being less needy and clingy in a relationship is important. No one likes an overly dependent partner, but sometimes you can get so intertwined that’s it hard to uncouple, even though it’s in the best interests of the relationship.

Basically, you need to devote some time to being apart, to bring out and indulge in behaviors to better yourself inside and out.

Join a book club. There is nothing better than getting out of your own head and into someone else’s journey, whether it is a novel or historical fiction. You may even make a new neighborhood friend or two.

Volunteer at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or animal shelters where you are needed and your time and energy is deeply appreciated. You may even make a new friend here as well, albeit a four-legged one!

Besides working on your body at the gym, work on your brain by taking an interesting course such as a foreign language, or learn a new skill like playing the guitar or calligraphy.

Go back to a hobby you had, whether it’s bowling, candle making or golfing. Take a film class like classic foreign films, or try actually making a film, anything to develop the muscles of being on your own.

You will bring a fresh, new perspective to the relationship when you are stronger on your own.

Susan Petang

Susan Petang

Certified Mindful Lifestyle and Stress Management Coach, The Quiet Zone Coaching

Needy and clingy behavior can be the result of low self-esteem.

Most mental health professionals advocate using positive affirmations to boost self-esteem. I take it a step further, though, with my coaching clients.

Our subconscious minds won’t believe the affirmation and will sabotage our effort. The solution is to create a situation in which we’re successful and base our affirmation around that.

For example, in a situation where your reader might normally be clingy and needy – their partner is going out with friends – they could rehearse beforehand how they would rather act.

By practicing their actions and words ahead of time, they can create an affirmation around it. “I did a great job in being reasonable! I know I can do this when the time comes.” When their partner actually leaves, another affirmation can be made: “I did a fantastic job! I can do this again as many times as I need to!”

Another strategy is to work through the emotions that are causing the needy, clingy behavior in the first place.

Here are some steps your readers can take to do that:

  1. Label the emotion. “I’m feeling afraid because I think I’ll lose my partner.” I’m afraid I’m not good enough for my partner to love me.”
  2. Identify the thoughts that are causing the emotion. What were you thinking when you started feeling that way? “I can’t let him/her go out without me – my partner might find someone else!”
  3. Look for illogical patterns. For example, who says that the partner will find someone else? Why do you think you’re not good enough? What experience has made you think that, and why would that happen here? Keep asking yourself, “Why?”, and use logic to dispel the illogical thoughts.

RB Kelly

RB Kelly

Body Language Expert, The Body Language Boss

Neediness and clinginess can be a death-knell for a relationship.

If that’s something you struggle with, it’s important to act now and change your pattern of behavior before you destroy your relationship for good.

Your partner is not the other half of your soul – they are their own complete and wonderful human being. They have needs, wants, and desires that are totally separate from you and their relationship with you. They can survive without you, and you can survive without them. If you don’t already know and believe that, then your relationship is already in trouble.

If you feel unhappy and unfulfilled, a romantic partner won’t fix that. If you can’t be happy alone, you’ll never be happy with someone else. But, you can see a counselor or licensed therapist and take steps to be happy just the way you are.

Neediness and clinginess step from one of two different things:

The first thing that causes neediness and clinginess is outright selfishness.

When you don’t care about your partner’s needs and wants, you will selfishly take their time and attention without giving them any of the freedom and breathing room that they need to thrive. They’re feeling smothered? You don’t care.

In fact, you’ll probably turn it around and call them the selfish ones. This selfishness leads to many toxic behaviors that scar the other person in the relationship and drive them away, leaving you alone – until you find your next victim.

The next thing that causes neediness and clinginess is ignorance of body language cues!

If you can’t read your partner’s body language, you can’t tell they’re feeling smothered or irritated until they finally blow up in your face.

When they finally blow up, you’ll feel so shocked, defensive, and possibly embarrassed that you’ll be hard pressed to keep from shouting back, and the whole argument will be painful and unproductive for both of you. They’ll be angry and you’ll be ignorant of what you did wrong – and unable to prevent it from happening again.

This is where body language training comes in. If you truly care about your partner and want to strengthen your relationship, then it’s important to learn how to read their emotions and react appropriately.

Read related article: The 10 Best Books on Body Language

If they’re feeling smothered, they may not feel comfortable telling you how they really feel – which means you need to discover their true emotions on your own. Your partner will broadcast their emotions through their body language, and by learning to read their body language you can tell what they are secretly feeling and intending.

Once you know what they’re feeling, then you know how to react to their feelings in a way that honors the other person, stays true to your boundaries, and strengthens your relationship.

Multiple studies by separate scientists have found that happiness and satisfaction in a relationship increase when awareness of nonverbal communication increases. So if you’re serious about taking your relationship to the next level, you need to learn how to read your partner’s subtle nonverbal signals.

Marlena Renee Cole

Marlena Renee Cole

Professional Relationship Expert and Strategist, Love Me Right

4 Reasons Why You Are Too Needy and Clingy:

Everyone desires a genuine connection with others. Building relationships can be a daunting task based on your past, fears, and life experiences.

However, what happens when a person becomes too needy or clingy is that they self sabotage the relationship and it usually ends.

Most people are aware when they are clingy and needy.

#1 Unconsciously fear they are not good enough.

We all have some self-doubt. However, this self-doubt can be debilitating for some people and cause them to try extremely hard not to mess up the relationship. If you struggle with a lot of self-doubts, you will tend to work to compensate for what you feel you lack. As a result, you come off very co-dependent and insecure.

#2 Concerned that because something happened in the past, it will happen again.

For instance, if you were cheated on in another relationship, you carry around an assumption and fear in your heart that it will happen again. Some people will choose to be guarded and not allow others into their life. But most times people try to prevent the past from repeating itself in attempting to control the relationship which in turn make you appear needy and controlling.

#3 When people have experienced heartache in the past to try to avoid it, they begin to do what I call “forecast”.

The forecast is when you interpret what someone actions mentions. Then you react on what you “think” it means instead of finding out the truth. This behavior will cause you to appear to be clingy, defensive and maybe even a little unstable.

#4 Most people are not taught how to build a relationship.

It may seem perfectly reasonable to you to be clingy and needy in a relationship because you believe it is the best way to create a connection.

One universal truth is that every human being was built for meaningful, deep, and mutually beneficial relationships. Having the appropriate communication and relationship skills will help you have the relationships you desire and deserve.