When Clara was a child, her younger sister survived leukemia. Clara was so worried that her sister would die that, for years, she snuck into her room at night to check for breathing. Clara’s parents lacked the bandwidth, to focus on both their daughters, and they failed to give Clara the emotional care she needed. A childhood of worrying about her sister while lacking support led Clara to be anxious, controlling, and insecure.
Years later, Clara and Benjamin met and fell in love. But, Clara was clingy and possessive. She criticized when he watched sports with friends, pushed him to get a phone (it was 2002…) so they could always be in contact, and maneuvered internships at the same office so they could live and work together. And, if he prioritized other things over her, she got angry.
Clinginess is a way to increase a sense of security by keeping another person physically and emotionally close. To a partner, clinging feels controlling and tramples independence. So, the negative coping skill (clinging) a person adopts to make them feel safe is ultimately self-defeating and drives others away.
Here are tips to lessen clingy behaviors to improve relationships.
Notice Patterns: Answer for yourself: What makes you feel anxious? How do you respond? How do things play out? Once you’ve identified patterns, it’s easier to plan around the high-stress situations.
Pick Your Responses: You can’t choose your feelings. You can choose how you respond. List ways you can respond to negative emotions with positive behaviors. Fill in this blank with five different options. When I’m clingy, it’s an expression of _____ (i.e. anxiety? Insecurity? Etc) ___. Five things I can do for myself are ________ (i.e. walk, read, meditate, yoga, paint).
Build Yourself Up: Increase your confidence by engaging in activities you enjoy, having friends and social life, and setting (and achieving) personal goals.
Honest Communication: Tell your partner you recognize that you are clingy. Work with them on setting boundaries around your clinginess so they can help you with accountability. Openly acknowledge the importance of independence in healthy relationships.