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How To Deal With A Clingy Partner – Managing Fear and Insecurities

Cain Parish

In This Article:

If you’re grappling with a partner’s clinginess, understanding its roots in insecurities or past traumas is key. Recognize signs like excessive messaging, a desire to be constantly together, jealousy, and emotional manipulation. This is how you work together with your partner to deal with clinginess and develop stronger relationship foundations. Let’s get into it.

A clingy partner of a man chasing a woman with chains littering the floor

Understanding the Psychology Behind Clinginess

Clinginess often stems from deep-rooted insecurities or past traumas. Understanding the psychology behind it can offer a compassionate lens through which to view your partner’s actions. It’s not just about being “needy”; it’s often a manifestation of something much deeper.

The Foundation of a Clingy Partner

Psychology tells us that past experiences shape our brain in ways that affect and alter our future behaviour. This is something we all intuitively understand. Lessons we take from our past will undoubtedly affect how we behave in future situations. If you try a mandarin as a child and hate the taste, you’re much less likely to reach for another one, even potentially years later.

The same goes for our relationship to other people, most notably our partners. A clingy partner is not simply just a needy person. They’ve developed an anxiety around attachment, and require constant reassurance to tell their brain that they’re okay and secure in their relationship. Clinginess is a manifestation of needing more anxiety-soothing circumstances than your average, secure individual.

Part of being able to effectively understand clinginess is recognising the behaviour and symptoms for what they are – your partner reaching out to quiet their anxiety or feelings of insecurity. Very few people choose to be needy. In 99% of cases, your partner is simply having feelings they’re unable to understand or control, and want more of your time, attention or a specific sentiment in order to make those feelings better.

The Role of Past Relationships

Past relationships can contribute to clingy behaviour. If your partner has been cheated on or abandoned in the past, these experiences can manifest as clinginess in your relationship. It’s essential to approach this with empathy and understanding. Like I mentioned above, discarding your partner’s behaviour as simply clingy or needy without recognising the emotional sentiment behind it is a shortcut to a serious issue in your relationship.

Past relationship issues can often be the most difficult to navigate, as the trauma that develops from being cheated on or emotionally abused is long lasting and often impossible to recover from without significant effort or professional intervention.

Whilst you should be striving to support your partner and help them recover from their issues, if they should so desire, it’s important to remember that you’re not their therapist. Taking on their psychological burdens or feeling responsible for their behaviour is never a good idea, and will likely put more strain on you than the clinginess could.

Identifying Signs of a Clingy Partner

Identifying a clingy partner can sometimes be a subtle art. The signs may not always be glaringly obvious, but they can manifest in various ways. Here are some common signs:

  • Excessive texting or calling
  • Wanting to spend every moment together
  • Jealousy and possessiveness
  • Lack of trust
  • Emotional manipulation
  • Guilt trips for expressing boundaries or attempting to place distance
  • Codependence

Clingy behaviour can demonstrate itself in either physical or psychological ways. Your partner, depending on the particular emotion or need they’re trying to fill with your presence, will want your physical presence, or some sort of emotional reassurance. These can potentially overlap, but it’s likely that your partner’s needs will be rooted in a desire for one over the other. 

While some signs are subtle, others are glaring red flags. These include:

  • Stalking you on social media
  • Trying to control your actions
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Isolating you from friends and family

If you’re experiencing these red flags, it’s crucial to address the issue immediately. 

If you recognise that your partner is demonstrating these behaviours beyond what would be normal or expected in a healthy romantic relationship, and goes beyond whatever boundaries the two of you have discussed, it’s likely that they’re a clingy partner.

The Emotional Toll of Dealing with Clinginess

Dealing with a clingy partner can be emotionally draining. It’s not just about managing their emotions; it’s also about safeguarding your own mental well-being. The constant need for reassurance and validation can take a toll on your emotional reserves.

If you begin to feel like being in contact with or spending time around your partner feels like effort or work, rather than relaxing or enjoyable, it’s highly likely that they’re putting strain on you. Some amount of this feeling can be normal, as relationships do take effort, and we should be expected to go out of our way for our partners, and make sure to continue upholding good standards for them. But when it reaches a point of negativity or anxiety, that’s when it’s a real issue.

Emotional Burnout: A Real Concern

Emotional burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It can manifest as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Detachment
  • Reduced performance

If you’re feeling emotionally drained, it’s essential to prioritize self-care. Our article on how Mental Health Makes Everything Easier offers some valuable insights into why it’s important to care about these things.

The Importance of Self-Care

Self-care isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a necessity. When dealing with a clingy partner, make time for activities that rejuvenate you. Whether it’s a hobby, exercise, or spending time with loved ones, ensure you’re not neglecting yourself. Your ability to manage their needs will directly depend on how well you’re able to take care of yourself the rest of the time.

Setting Boundaries:The First Step to Freedom

Setting boundaries is crucial when dealing with a clingy partner. It’s not about pushing your partner away; it’s about creating a healthy space for both of you.

The Art of Saying No

Learning to say no is an essential skill in setting boundaries. It’s not about being harsh but about being clear on what you can and cannot tolerate. If you struggle with assertiveness, our article on Assertiveness Training: How to Stand Up for Yourself Without Being Aggressive can be a helpful resource.

Types of Boundaries

There are various types of boundaries you can set:

  • Physical Boundaries: Personal space, privacy
  • Emotional Boundaries: Your feelings, your emotional well-being
  • Time Boundaries: How much time you spend together
  • Digital Boundaries: Texting, social media interactions

Designing your boundaries will depend on what parts of your relationship are the most straining. Whatever clingy behaviour your partner is exhibiting that you find difficult or taxing to deal with should be your main focus. The key is to find a compromise that still makes time for their needs, whilst removing some of the strain that you find overwhelming.

What To Do When Your Partner Says No

When you decide on what boundaries are important to you, you’ll be faced with a difficult task; bringing them to your partner. No matter the relationship, very few people like being told that their partner needs more space from them. 

Your partner can and will throw everything at you to potentially dismiss or minimise the need for these additional boundaries. Part of the insecurity that can drive clinginess is an inability to recognise fault, or an overly hurt reaction to criticism and neutral feedback.

You will have to hold firm. Your partner still cares for you, after all, and with some time, they will accept that this is something that you need. It’s best to phrase things in terms that explain that these boundaries are something YOU need in order to best be able to continue giving your partner what THEY want and need. 

In those terms, your partner has two options. Either they accept that the both of you have needs in this relationship and agree to your boundaries, or they refuse. Being refused reasonable boundaries should be a big red flag to you. They’re demonstrating that they either don’t understand or don’t care that you also have needs in a relationship, and that kind of behaviour leads very quickly to problems. There is a chance that these kinds of conversations can create dealbreakers for the two of you.

Communication: The Key to Resolving Clinginess

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship. When dealing with a clingy partner, open, honest communication can make all the difference.

Active Listening: More Than Just Hearing

Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what the other person is saying. It’s a skill that can be developed and is crucial in resolving issues related to clinginess.

The Importance of “I” Statements

Using “I” statements can help you express your feelings without blaming or accusing your partner. For example, instead of saying, “You’re suffocating me,” you could say, “I feel overwhelmed when you text me constantly.”

The Role of Trust in a Relationship

Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. When dealing with a clingy partner, it’s essential to examine the role trust plays in your dynamic.

Trust Deficit: The Root of Many Problems

A lack of trust can exacerbate clinginess. If your partner is constantly checking up on you or asking for reassurance, it may indicate a trust deficit. Addressing this issue head-on can alleviate many of the symptoms of clinginess.

Building Trust: A Two-Way Street

Trust isn’t built overnight; it’s a gradual process that requires effort from both parties. Here are some ways to build trust:

  • Transparency: Be open about your feelings and concerns.
  • Consistency: Be reliable and keep your promises.
  • Vulnerability: Allow yourself to be seen, warts and all.

The Point Of Communication

The two of you are communicating to reach a common goal; a stable, healthy and sustainable relationship. All of your focus should be on sharing as much information as possible about the things you’re thinking and feeling, and collaborating to work out what all of the information means, for both of you as individuals AND as a couple. 

You’re not communicating to berate or to persuade, just to reach a mutual conclusion and understanding with your partner. If they’re resistant to some part of what you’re saying, figure out why. It’s possible that the two of you are struggling to see eye to eye.

This was a brief overview of communicating inside a relationship. For a more comprehensive overview, consider reading What Does Good Communication Look Like?

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may need to seek professional help to deal with a clingy partner. This is particularly true if the clinginess is affecting your mental health or if there are other underlying issues like anxiety or depression.

Types of Therapy

Various types of therapy can be beneficial:

  • Couples Therapy: For both you and your partner.
  • Individual Therapy: For personal growth and self-awareness.
  • Family Therapy: If family dynamics contribute to clinginess.

When to Take the Step

If you’ve tried setting boundaries, improving communication, and building trust but still find yourself struggling, it may be time to seek professional help.

Balancing Time: Your Life vs. Your Relationship

Balance is key in any relationship. When dealing with a clingy partner, it’s essential to find a healthy balance between your personal life and your relationship.

The Importance of “Me Time”

Having time to yourself is crucial for personal growth and mental well-being. Make sure you’re setting aside time for activities that make you happy and fulfilled.

The 50/30/20 Rule

A good rule of thumb is the 50/30/20 rule:

  • 50% of your time is spent together
  • 30% is spent on individual activities
  • 20% is spent with other loved ones

This balance allows for a healthy relationship while also giving you the space you need.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Handling a Clingy Partner

Navigating a relationship with a clingy partner can be tricky. Knowing what to do—and what not to do—can make all the difference.

The Do’s

  • Be Honest: Always communicate your feelings clearly.
  • Be Patient: Change takes time; be patient with your partner’s progress.
  • Be Consistent: Stick to the boundaries you’ve set.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t Ignore: Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
  • Don’t Be Cruel: Honesty shouldn’t be a license for cruelty.
  • Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep: This will only erode trust further.

Moving Forward: Life After Resolving Clinginess

So, you’ve set boundaries, improved communication, and maybe even sought professional help. What comes next?

The Road to Recovery

Recovery is a process, not a destination. Both you and your partner will need to continue working on yourselves and your relationship.

The New Normal

Life after resolving clinginess will be a “new normal.” It won’t be like flipping a switch; instead, it will be a gradual process where both of you learn to adapt to each other’s needs and boundaries.

The progression from what your relationship was to what it becomes after you make a change is something the two of you will have to adjust to together. Comfort is the enemy here. We want to be as conscientious and assertive as possible in pushing for better habits, secure boundaries, and sustainable compromises. 

It’s hard. But so are relationships. If your partner is worth it, then the road to recovery is there. Going from clingy to healthily attached is tough, but worth it.

Conclusion

Dealing with a clingy partner is a complex issue that requires empathy, communication, and boundaries. While it can be emotionally draining, remember that it’s often a symptom of deeper issues that can be addressed through mutual effort and, in some cases, professional help.

By understanding the psychology behind clinginess, setting boundaries, and fostering open communication, you can create a healthier, happier relationship for both you and your partner.

F.A.Q.s

What causes clinginess in a partner?

Clinginess often stems from insecurities or past traumas. Understanding the psychological background can help view a partner’s need for constant reassurance more compassionately. It’s usually a manifestation of deeper issues rather than just neediness.


How can I identify if my partner is clingy?

Signs of a clingy partner include excessive texting or calling, wanting to spend all their time with you, jealousy, lack of trust, emotional manipulation, and displaying co-dependent behaviours. Recognizing these signs is crucial for addressing the behaviour effectively.


What steps can I take to deal with a clingy partner?

Dealing with a clingy partner involves setting boundaries, improving communication, and building trust. It’s important to address the issue with empathy, communicate openly about your feelings, and work together towards a healthier dynamic.

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About

Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of cainparish.com. A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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