A new love or romantic interest can have you feeling energized and wanting to spend every waking moment with that person. The intensity of a new romance is usually easy to spot — they’re always holding hands, kissing, cuddling, gazing into each other’s eyes or spooning together in bed. A lot of couples are naturally clingy and physically “touchy feely” especially when it’s new and exciting and everything is roses and rainbows. Over time, the excitement is usually replaced with a warm and comfortable feeling of intimacy and commitment. Long gazes into each other’s eyes get replaced with a peck on the cheek on their way out the door to work, and spooning in bed gets replaced with stretching out and kicking the covers off.
This shouldn’t suggest that the couple has lost their passion for each other. While sometimes this is true, other times the couples who are in an authentic and intimate relationship often reach a level of intimacy and commitment because of their ability to be vulnerable with each other.
Being clingy in a relationship in and of itself is not a problem, unless you happen to be dating or married to someone who appreciates their personal space a little too much, where they don’t like to be bugged and are unwilling to compromise. That is a huge red flag. On the other end are those sticklers who appreciate their own space but still make amazing partners by compromising and understanding the nuances of each other’s language of love and personal needs within a relationship.
The problem arises not so much with clinginess, but neediness.
“We’re only as needy as our unmet needs”. ~John Bowlby
When Ummet Need Becomes Neediness
There can be a fine line between clinginess and the insatiable desire to hold or be with your partner, and neediness which stems from feeling helpless, fearing abandonment and possibly even trying to control the relationship.
Neediness is just that: it’s a need that has gone unmet or was met with betrayal earlier in life which has now left a void or hole within a person in the form of co-dependence, an inability to trust, a fear of abandonment or a need to micromanage and control the relationship. If a person’s safety needs were violated or not met they can micromanage themselves and others to feel a sense of control (i.e. safety) over the relationship. If a person experienced abandonment, they may become clingy and needy — highly codependent or constantly needing reassurance and comfort that they’re not going to be left behind or forgotten. Or, if a person’s trust was violated by someone they cared about, they may become sensitive to criticism, have a “wall” up in the relationship or always seem on-edge waiting for the other shoe to drop.
· Constantly seeking approval or validation
· Feeling unsure or insecure when alone
· Difficulty letting others in emotionally
· Micromanaging the relationship or their partner
· Questioning their fidelity or investment
· Often bouncing from one relationship to another
· Confusing times of being alone as feeling lonely
· Desperate need to fill a void with relationships
Being in an intimate relationship with someone whose needs may be lacking can be challenging, but authenticity and openness are your best bets in helping understand your partner, in building empathy and for them to build trust and a solid foundation with you.
Chances are, if their needs were not met at some point in their life, it may take some time to help them build trust and intimacy with what has been lacking in their life.
If they’re needy, that’s one thing. A deficit in needs are usually seen across the board, not just with you as their partner. They may not trust their friends, or think their boss has an agenda. Manipulative, on the other hand, will find a way to violate your boundaries, to bulldoze your needs or get angry at you for having needs. If you’re feeling emotionally drained after trying to support them, or you find yourself constantly having to repeat yourself, this may be more about manipulation than need.
“One point to consider, are your feelings. You should not feel guilted into feeling sorry for your partner or compromising your own needs to meet theirs.”
Here’s 4 tips to help a needy partner feel more secure in a relationship:
Challenge them: healthy relationships are the ones who love and encourage each other to be better versions of themselves. They are vulnerable and authentic and can discuss pain and areas for growth together without arguments, defensiveness or discards. These are the same relationships that push each other towards success and in achieving greater intimacy. Show your partner that you’re there for them if they question your investment. Challenge any faulty beliefs with authenticity and honesty and allow each other to recognize how you both are supporting each other for a common goal.
Allow for Space. A great way to help foster independence with a needy partner is to have your own hobbies or work you can do from home. Working side-by-side on your laptops or across the room from each other allows for necessary “me” time while getting work projects done or study time in and also helps provide a safe space for a partner who may need a little extra TLC.
Change the Mindset. Hearing about “deficits” and “needs” can reinforce there being deficits and needs in your relationship. Instead, change up how you view “neediness” as an opportunity for playfulness or creativity with your partner. Try a new hobby together, jump in the car for that drive up the coast or plan that trip to that Bed & Breakfast in New England. Setting up goals or fun things to do together can also help establish a sense of foundation and trust for a needy partner.
Make Sure Your Needs are Being Met. With so much emphasis on a partner who is needy, your needs can easily get swept aside. It’s OK to have needs, and it’s OK to make sure your needs are being met as well. If you need a break or a few hours alone at the batting cages, you should be comfortable in telling your partner this. And they should be respectful of your needs….
…even if you receive a “How’s it going?” text message from them while you’re at the cages.