How to Stop Being Clingy and Needy
Have you ever felt like you are too clingy? Or even worse, have you ever been called a clingy girlfriend by your boyfriend?
If you have, then welcome to the club, so have I.
While none of my exes ever straight up accused me of clingy behavior, there are many times where I felt needy and clingy in my romantic relationships.
And even though I know now that many of my past boyfriends were not a good match for me and therefore kept triggering an insecure attachment style, I am also self-aware enough to take responsibility for how I may have shown up needy.
The truth is, I desire to be in a healthy relationship in the future. And in order to do that, I have to understand what causes clinginess in a relationship and how to stop being clingy.
What does clinginess mean in a relationship?
When I think of a clingy person, I think of someone that needs constant reassurance that her romantic partner loves her and wants to be with her.
Meaning that in your dating relationships your lack of confidence leads to unhealthy behaviors such as:
- Trust issues whenever you are not together
- Controlling who he talks to on social media
- Not giving him and personal space
- Checking on him all day with text messages and phone calls
- A constant need for reassurance
As mentioned above clinginess often shows itself in behaviors that point to a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. When you are clingy you feel like nothing your boyfriend says or does satisfies your hunger for attention, approval, and love.
Despite his words and actions, you still find yourself anxious and constantly doubt his love for you.
All these are signs of a needy girlfriend that can seriously sabotage a good relationship. But the question remains what causes clinginess in the first place?
What causes clinginess in a relationship?
If you constantly feel anxious or insecure in your romantic relationship, then your clinginess may be caused by one of the three following issues.
Your anxious attachment style
If you have been following my blog for a while, then you know that I have been learning about the different attachment styles.
This is because I wanted to understand myself better. I used to have an anxious attachment style which is considered an insecure attachment style.
So, if you are anything like me, then you might have noticed that you tend to suffer from relationship anxiety or clingy behavior.
While I’m not a clinical psychologist, I do know that one of the causes of clinginess is an anxious attachment style.
Because of your early childhood experiences with your primary caregiver, you now tend to cling to your partner for a sense of security.
You require a lot of attention and often worry or stress about his love for you, which leads to clingy behavior.
The good news is, that you can become securely attached. One of my favorite YouTubers shares tons of advice on how to reframe your mind so that you can meet your own needs and decrease your needy behavior.
Your subconscious abandonment issues
Number 2 of what causes clinginess in a relationship is the fear of abandonment. This fear is very closely linked to the anxious attachment style and often overlaps.
However, when you have a fear of abandonment you do anything to avoid being abandoned by your current partner.
That might look like wanting to spend a lot of time together, feeling anxious whenever relationship problems or challenges arise and having a hard time keeping healthy boundaries.
Abandonment issues often appear over the course of our lives because of wounds from childhood or past experiences.
Maybe you experienced the loss of a loved one as a child or you may have perceived a recent breakup as abandonment. That impacts your subconscious mind so much that you build different responses and patterns of how you attach to men in your romantic relationships as an adult.
One of the responses your subconscious now believes is “I am not good enough for this person”. And that triggers an unhealthy behavior of needing to hang on to him.
You have low self-esteem
The last mindset that can cause extreme clinginess in a relationship is low self-esteem.
Whenever you have abandonment issues from a previous relationship, it can lead to a lack of self-confidence in your new relationship.
Suddenly, you doubt that you are enough, because your last relationship ended. Maybe you feel insecure about your looks and it shows in your body language. Maybe you are afraid that he doesn’t find you interesting enough and now you get worried whenever he wants some alone time.
Low self-esteem manifests in different ways. However, it always affects relationships negatively because the clingy partner projects his worth onto the other. That puts immense pressure on your boyfriend and can discourage him from continuing the relationship.
So, for women with lower self-esteem, it’s very important to figure out how to stop being clingy if you want to remain in a long-term relationship.
Is being clingy toxic?
Whether you are currently in a relationship or simply dating, you have probably experienced clinginess before and know how neediness can ruin your relationship.
Being overly clingy, controlling, or even jealous seriously turns a man off and makes him question your confidence in yourself.
Neediness shows that there is a lack of self-esteem and lowers your chances of finding love in the first place because it often leads to self-sabotaging behavior.
It communicates that you do not believe that you are worthy of love, and therefore need constant reassurance from your man.
Unfortunately, this behavior will weigh down the relationship in the long run, because of the pressure you put on him to validate you.
And ultimately lead to a breakup.
And if you are now thinking: “Oh no, I acted needy and desperate now what?!”. Then you have come to the right place.
Below are a few tips on how to stop being clingy, that will not just improve your romantic relationships, but also your sense of self.
How to stop being clingy and needy
In order to become less clingy, you have to overcome your anxiety and insecurity in relationships. Because if you don’t, you run the risk of pushing away many close relationships. And here is what you can do:
1. Seek to understand your subconscious fears
I truly believe that most of our behaviors are either inspired by faith or controlled by fear. And neediness, clinginess, and desperation are all rooted in the fear of abandonment and rejection.
However, whenever you do something out of fear it is in misalignment and eventually breeds more anxiety and more exhaustion.
So if you are looking for how to stop being clingy and needy, you need to go deep and find out where that fear stems from. Which experience has shaped your thinking and is there a single event that could have led to it?
In my case, I know that my fear of abandonment comes from my past romantic relationships.
For almost 10 years the only romantic affairs I would experience were situationships. During that time it seemed like nothing I ever said or did was good enough for any guy to want to commit to me.
That considerably lowered my self-confidence and made me believe that I was not beautiful enough, funny enough, or smart enough to keep a man. In short, I felt like I was not good enough to be committed to.
So, I started overcompensating through people-pleasing and other needy behaviors. Which would turn men off even more.
It wasn’t until I got to the bottom of why I felt so fearful that I was able to stop being needy and desperate.
2. Look for professional help
Once you understand yourself better you might want to look for professional help in the form of a counselor or even a clinical psychologist.
I recently started seeing a therapist and after only 2 months in, I’m already impressed how much of a difference she has made in my life.
Even though I have a pretty emotional support system made of family and friends, there are just some things I can’t share with anyone.
I realized that I needed to share my subconscious fears with someone that would not judge me, but be able to help. Good thing, I was already an advocate of therapy, so the decision came pretty easy.
In just a few sessions she has been able to help me understand me better and provided so many great ways for me to deal with relationship anxiety.
Your therapist will help you to reframe your thinking so that you don’t get overwhelmed by the many what-if scenarios that tend to breed anxiety.
He/she will also help you develop a coping mechanism that you can use to self-soothe whenever a situation seems out of hand.
However, you don’t have to see a counselor. You can start by educating yourself.
Books, like Attached by Amir Levine, are great resources that explain our mental health and attachment styles in simple terms. You just need to be open to look at your past experiences and try to identify common patterns.
Of course, it may take longer to get to the bottom of your clingy tendencies, but that is better than running on auto-pilot and risking getting in another clingy relationship.
3. Focus on yourself
I know this point is usually very hard for anxiously attached women to hear. But it is so important! There is no better way to overcome clinginess than to learn to focus on your own interests and your own life.
In order to have a healthy relationship and make your partner feel at ease is to detach your happiness from his actions. Meaning that no matter his behavior you don’t want it to control your joy.
That’s why you have to immerse yourself in your passions, your hobbies, or simply family and friends. Build a routine that makes you happy without spending time with your boyfriend 24/7.
One thing I learned in my past relationship, is that every time I lose touch with how much I used to enjoy life as a single woman and get hung up on how much I want to be married and have kids I become more clingy.
Whenever I focus on the state of the relationship too much I get fearful because I can’t control my boyfriend.
So I started going out by myself more often and doing things I enjoy doing and feed into my self-esteem. It reminds me of my independence and pushes me to prioritize self-care and self-love.
The more you make this a habit, the less your relationship status matters.
You want to be in a place where a relationship is solely the icing on the cake and not the epicenter of your being.
4. Avoid avoidant types
Yes yes yes, I said it.
As a woman with a default anxious attachment style, I have learned that there is a good chance that I will fall back into old habits if I date a man with an avoidant attachment style.
And that is usually a bad thing. Because I am not my best when I’m the needy person in a relationship.
And I promised myself last time that I will stop dating men that I’m not compatible with. You have to stop getting into a long-term relationship with emotionally unavailable men or men that have a difficult time committing.
Look for someone that enjoys spending time with you, appreciates open communication, and loves physical contact!
I know that may sound like I’m describing a unicorn, but believe me there are plenty of men out here that have a secure attachment style and will not trigger your fear of abandonment.
Book on how to stop being a clingy girlfriend
As I already mentioned above, one of my favorite books in the world is Attached by Amir Levine. It’s the first book I ever read about attachment theory and it completed changed my relationship.
He perfectly explains how anxiously attached people feel and what our emotional needs are. He is so specific that when he talks about the different protest behaviors I laughed because it is so me.
But he also perfectly describes the relationship dynamic between an anxious person and an avoidant person which helped me understand my past relationships better. So, if you are in a long-term relationship and seeing signs of clinginess in your behavior, then this book will be a game-changer.
I have recommended this book to many of my clients and it helped them cultivate secure and healthy relationships with their boyfriends. So before you go make sure to grab a copy of Attached.