Incessant calls, 100 texts a day, making an issue if you are late by 5 minutes – is your partner doing any of this? Then chances are you are in a clingy relationship! But the good news is that no matter how suffocated you might be feeling, it is not the death knell of your relationship.
First, find out how clingy your partner really is. If it is mild and you think you can tolerate it, you can let it go or confront them before it gets too much. However, if it is too over-the-top and you can’t stand the idea of this obsessive love any longer, you may need to take the help of a counselor.
How To Identify A Clingy Relationship And What You Can Do About It
Some signs are obvious and some develop over time. But how do we identify when a relationship has become clingy? We asked our expert Gopa Khan what a clingy relationship is. Here is what she said…
What is a clingy relationship, according to you?
A clingy relationship is one in which one partner is emotionally extremely dependent on the other. It’s like they can’t breathe without the other person. Basically, the person feels that he or she cannot live at all without his or her partner at any time.
Even when the other person is busy with work or interacting with friends, they want their significant other to be only with them, regardless of their other priorities. That’s a very unhealthy relationship.
I know of a case where a lady came to me and said that even if she was late in returning home from the office or any other errands, even by 10-15 minutes, her husband constantly nags her about her whereabouts.
One aspect here is neediness and interest on the husband’s part, but the other part of it is abusive. I have another client who says life is meaningless for her without her boyfriend. These two examples give you an idea about clingy relationships and how frustrating they can get.
How do the signs that a person is being clingy in a relationship become noticeable? Is it from the very first date? Or does this tendency develop over time?
It varies from person to person, relationship to relationship. Usually, the best way to identify clinginess is to see whether a person is overly emotionally dependent on their partner. As a counselor, I would know from the very first incident.
Most people who do not know what clinginess is might overlook the symptoms initially thinking it to be a harmless crush that will lose its intensity. They don’t understand that it can transform into an obsessive love that they will pray to get rid of.
I used to have a client who was of the opinion that she had a loving husband who was just a tad bit possessive. However, later on, problems started arising if she was late even by a few minutes.
In TV shows and movies too, the male character’s possessiveness is always shown as caring, and this misconception in popular culture has made relationships very suffocating for women. Often people come to realize later how clingy and needy their partner actually is.
There was a husband who came to me to talk about his wife, who used to call him up 10 times or more while he was away for some important business trip. There are different degrees and types of clinginess. Unfortunately, women in our society are taught to be dependent in a relationship, both financially and emotionally.
Also, I’ve seen cases where a person who has not got any nurturing or love from their parents, starts looking for support from outside, either from their spouses or relatively close friends.
How do you realize if you or your partner is being clingy?
Most clients I know are clingy, but they don’t think it’s an issue unless their partner says it’s an issue for them. They are more than happy to be clingy, regardless of how desperate it may make them look.
It is when the other person says that there need to be some boundaries when the neediness starts becoming difficult. They may also start to feel some sort of resentment towards their partner.
If you want to salvage the relationship at this point, you must consult an expert, otherwise being with each other will become nearly impossible.
What is the worst that can happen in a clingy relationship?
A clingy relationship tends to get sour after a certain period of time. One of the partners is then likely to move on after feeling suffocated. I have had clients come up to me and say that each and every one of their relationships had ended in the same way.
I, then, start showing them the patterns. The clinginess literally comes to a point where the other person wants to run away. This is the worst scenario. As a result, the person feels abandoned and rejected.
Unfortunately, a majority of them do not realize their mistakes. A friend, family member or a counselor has to step in to make them see what is going wrong in their relationship. This pattern is unhealthy for any relationship.
As you said, continuously calling a person is something that should definitely be avoided. How do you suggest someone confront this situation?
I think clear communication and setting emotional boundaries are the two very important factors to maintain a stable relationship. Also, sometimes clingy people do not get the signals their partners may be sending out in a bid to get them to take a step back and create some space in the relationship.
If you are not taking their calls, they feel rejected, and they begin thinking terrible things about themselves; but they keep calling you anyway. The best thing to do is to be open about it and tell the other person clearly, “Look, I’m busy, I’ll call you 4 times a day and that is it. You can send me a message, or an email, I’ll go through them.”
What’s important here is sticking to a routine of calling 4 times a day, and they will get used to it. Soon they’ll realize that regardless of whether they call you 30-40 times or 10 times a day, you are going to call them at the previously fixed 4 times, and that is it. So, they will stop with their clingy behavior eventually.
Apart from calling, do you think continuously texting a person, even if you are not getting a reply, is also a sign of clinginess?
Yes, definitely. It is a very prominent sign of clinginess – constantly texting and wanting to be in touch, even when you are not getting a reply from the other person. Not only is it a sign of clinginess, but also an example of being extremely insecure and low on self-esteem.
If you’re not getting proper replies knowing that the other person is busy, they are going to drift away from you because they think you are desperate. Remember, everyone needs a little space!
Related Reading: 8 Rules Of Dating Texting You Must Follow In Your Relationship
Do you think these unhealthy practices of continuously texting should also be curbed?
Yes, it should be avoided. I try to tell my clients that they should not encourage such behavior, even if they feel tempted to reply. Instead, they should just let their partner know that they would talk to them when they are free and take it up from there with direct communication.
Unless the message is conveyed clearly your partner is going to keep bugging you with texts and calls, regardless of whether you answer or not. Speak to them calmly, and tell them why they are annoying you.
How do you help people who are exhibiting traits of clinginess in their relationship?
The first step is making them aware of how their clinginess is affecting them in the first place. Most of them suffer from frequent mood swings. If their partner is with them, they are happy. If they are not there, they are unhappy.
Making them aware of how their behavior and certain clingy traits are affecting their feelings in the first place and empowering them to have certain boundaries in their personal lives is important. As is ensuring that they understand that your privacy has to be respected.
It is giving them the knowledge that being in love does not mean that you will be with a person 24×7 or continuously calling/texting them. And making them realize that it is completely okay if their significant other is away from them for a couple of hours.
I had a client complain to me that her husband was away for a week on a business trip and did not keep any contact apart from one phone call. She was very upset and she thought it was not right. Then I had to make her realize that her husband may not like her continuously calling him up while he was at work.
So it essentially comes down to communicating the importance of having personal boundaries in a relationship. You have your own needs and so do they- you just need to tell them, ‘give me space!’
What should an individual do if they start feeling suffocated in a relationship?
Open communication is the key. It is very good to lay out the bare minimum that needs to be done. Just say to your partner that calling you up 10 times a day is affecting you in a not-so-good way. If someone calls you that many times a day, it is best to not answer their every call, for your own good.
I had a client who complained that his girlfriend used to call him up 30-40 times a day. It was annoying and irritating for him. And if he would not take the call, she would make it a very big issue. He started switching off his phone and making excuses like he was in a no-network zone.
Related Reading: Ignoring Someone You Are Attracted To? Do It With Finesse
That’s what a clingy relationship does – it eventually drives you away from your partner/spouse. They begin lying to you just to avoid you. Ideally, boundaries should be set at the very beginning of the relationship.
There should be concrete relationship boundaries, and you should make sure that you have a life outside of your romantic partnership. If you don’t, you’re going to end up feeling choked and will end up resenting the other person.
I strongly recommend such people seek individual counselling.
So, can the clingy person step back? Yes, they can. Seeking individual counselling would make them see their inner child. More often than not, it is the inner child that is needy. They don’t realize it because it is in their subconscious mind.
It could be that they didn’t get the love and attention they needed as a child, and now they are looking to fill that vacuum through a romantic relationship. Couples can’t go on this way, and it is definitely not healthy. It is more like a parent-child relationship. We help them move on to an adult-adult relationship.
To what extent does counseling help in dealing with clinginess? Is it a complete solution or does something else need to be done as well?
Counseling does help to a certain extent, but a lot depends on the other person as well. They take their time to be independent. Then there are some people who are completely unable to do so. It is the society that makes them emotionally and financially dependent and they are not able to become independent.
So, it is a choice. Counseling definitely helps, but there are people who choose to become independent without going for counseling. It depends on the individual, how they want to handle themselves, and their issues. When it starts affecting the relationship, and they begin hurting their partners, is when they realize they need to make drastic changes.
Related Reading: 11 Signs You Are In A Codependent Marriage
Could you give us an example of how counseling has helped to improve such relationships?
There was this woman who was very dependent on her partner for every single thing. From 6 am to midnight she would constantly nag him about his whereabouts. The other person just could not take it anymore. This woman did not think that it was an issue, but her partner really did.
Ironically, the man was the one who came to me for counseling. I suggested he set some strong boundaries. I assured him that his partner could become independent after a certain period of time. And she did!
Setting boundaries for the person who is being clingy really helps. At the same time, I’ve had clients who worked on their self-esteem. Ultimately, a clingy person is an insecure person. You have to be nurturing to them because you do not want their insecurity to increase. So, I think making that person more secure is what helps. Your role is important in helping them overcome their esteem issues, so that they can become independent and self-sufficient individuals.
After going through counseling and other medical procedures, do clingy people really learn to give space in a relationship?
It is a challenge. It is something they have to maintain for the rest of her life. I had a client whose girlfriend used to be very possessive and did not give him any space at all in the relationship. Today, 10 years later, he happily tells me how independent she has become in the relationship.
The connection between them has also become stronger. It is not obsessive love or anything unhealthy. We certainly cannot expect a change overnight; change takes time and happens gradually. One’s personal determination and self-growth play a key role in bringing about any change, especially if it is at a fundamental level.