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How to stop being clingy in a relationship: 22 no bullsh*t tips

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In this post, I’m going to show you how you can stop being clingy in your relationship.

(Step-by-step)

In fact, if you follow these tips, not only will you feel less dependent on your partner, but you’ll create a healthier relationship as well.

We have a lot to cover so let’s get started.

Are you being too clingy and needy in your relationship?

Before you can work on a problem, it is necessary to diagnose yourself first.

Clinginess, neediness, or possessiveness manifests itself in behaviors like:

  • Moving too quickly in a relationship
  • Being irrationally jealous of people in your partner’s life
  • Messaging your partner excessively
  • Monitoring your partner’s social media activity constantly
  • Neglecting friends, family, or even work to spend time with your partner

Many people might not be aware that these are negative behaviors or refuse to admit to themselves that they are clingy.

Although it is natural to love your other half and wish to express it, it can be unhealthy and suffocating to be the only focus of someone’s attention.

Is your partner the only thing giving your life meaning or purpose?

If so, you may have a problem.

Clinginess is a sign of emotional trauma. When people are looking for closeness, emotional support, or constant reassurance from an external source, they could be experiencing low self-esteem or a fear of abandonment.

And staying in denial will not improve the situation.

Once you have processed and accepted the knowledge that you have become clingy and needy, you can take the necessary steps to change your behavior.

How to stop being clingy and needy in a relationship: 22 tips

1. Identify clingy behaviors

Recognizing how clinginess can be unhealthy is the first step towards taking responsibility for it.

There really is no shame to admit if you are too needy because there are probably valid reasons as to why you are.

Good relationships are valuable and rare so being clingy may signify that you want to be proactive in caring for your partner, albeit to a slightly extreme degree.

However, it’s still good to take note of exactly which behaviors you should correct so you can unlearn them.

Some common clingy habits are:

  • Tagging along everywhere with your partner
  • Growing angry if they choose to go somewhere without you
  • Asking a number of prying questions
  • “Investigating” on and following their whereabouts
  • Checking up with them constantly on social media
  • Obsessing over your partner texting back
  • Freaking out or assuming the worst if they don’t hear back from them immediately
  • Isolating yourself from other people to make time only for your partner
  • Losing interest in former passions and hobbies
  • Growing jealous over their attractive co-workers or friends
  • Sacrificing your happiness for theirs

Once you’ve identified exactly what you have to change, you will have an easier time making changes to these habits.

2. Let your partner be free with the following actions

When someone is more clingy than they need to be, they have the inherent belief that if they grip tighter to their loved one, they’ll be less likely to lose them.

But it’s time to wash that theory away, and heed author Richard Bach’s famous words:

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.”

By “free”, we don’t mean ending the relationship. Free in this case means trusting the other person in the relationship enough so that they can…

  • go about their day without texting you to check-in several times an hour (or you texting them)
  • meet people without you worrying who they are with
  • make decisions on your behalf without your feeling a loss of power
  • keep their social media private if they wish
  • act in ways you don’t understand yet you do not see this as threatening to you in any way
  • be in touch with former partners if the need arises (such as co-parenting children or shared events in the family like a death) without you feeling jealous

We can all agree that taking action is the best way to induce change, so start the process of being less clingy by allowing your partner to do the above.

3. Learn to trust your partner

One of the building blocks of a solid, healthy, and satisfying relationship is trust.

That is, believing the other person is in your corner, with your well-being at heart.

Knowing that they are just as committed to making this relationship work as you are, and that they will do all in their power to keep you happy and safe.

In general, the more you trust the other, the less you are anxious about your relationship.

Sometimes, the other person has done or said something that has caused you to lose your faith in them.

On the other hand, your life experiences may have taught you that trusting others is NOT a good idea. 

Whatever the case, if you’re lacking trust in your relationship, it is clear that this situation needs to be addressed by both of you.

The best way to do that?

Through a face-to-face conversation about it.

By communicating with each other, you’ll be able to talk about why you (or your partner) are too clingy and what you can do about it.

Perhaps you both just need to reassure each other that you do indeed trust each other, and then set some boundaries (we’ll get into that later).

In your conversation, you should have 2 goals:

1. Your partner is made aware of why their actions or words caused you to lose trust.

2. A plan is made to avoid such situations in the future.

4. Understand what the consequences of extreme “clinginess” are

Myth: Clinginess and neediness will make you and your lover grow closer together.

They will see how much you love and care for them so they will endeavor to reciprocate it — returning all your love to you.

If this is the myth that motivates your intentions, the reality is that clinginess is counterproductive.

Your partner could grow complacent about you because they know you will drop everything for them.

They would stop exerting effort into building the relationship and relish their power over you.

Far more likely (and less sinister) is that your partner will feel pressured because you expect them to fulfill your emotional needs.

They would feel suffocated at the thought that they are your sole source of life and happiness.

Instead of staying with you, they will feel trapped and try to escape.

Remember, you are only part of their life and not their whole life — the reverse is also true.

Having plans, goals, and dreams of your own makes the relationship easier for your partner because they don’t have to coddle you all the time.

5. Establish and observe boundaries with your partner.

The secret to defeating your fears is simple: face the fear and see how pointless it is.

You might not like it but your partner has a life away from you.

It is a fact that many clingy people have a tough time coming to terms with.

They don’t want their partner to have dinner with friends, see a movie, or hang out at a bar — at least, not without them.

You have to give your partner space and set up boundaries in order to make room for the lives you had before the other came into the picture.

Allow them the opportunity to be someone else because they don’t exist primarily to play the role of your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Set up rules like:

  • Calling in only once a day
  • Allowing them “me” time twice a week
  • Banning yourself from checking their social media accounts

Little boundaries like this will give them a chance to miss you and remind you that you aren’t twins attached at the hip.

Recommended reading: How to give him space (and avoid losing him): 10 effective tips

6. Encourage your partner to develop their own interests.

It’s easy to forget about yourself when you’re in love. You put your partner’s needs ahead of yours and spend all of your time on them.

In the long-run, this breeds resentment for both parties. They may have hobbies or interests they dropped so they could spend their free time with you.

Or maybe they neglected their old friends in favor of spending more time with other couples you befriended together.

If you’re trying to combat clinginess, it’s important to encourage your partner’s sense of self.

Allow them to renew or pursue their passions in life.

Don’t make them feel guilty if they spend more time away from you or stopped texting you back.

Establish clear boundaries so that there’s balance for both of you..

7. Put down your phone.

Once upon a time, it was a lot easier to be not-clingy.

As landline phone calls were not easily accessible and there was no email or social media, couples would catch up about their respective days in the evening.

Clingy behaviors like checking our phones for message replies are purely a 21st century thing.

Rather than allowing your partner to focus on their day or enjoy some downtime, you look for their attention by texting, calling, or bombarding them with pictures, article links, and emails.

The endless back-and-forth conversation leaves you with nothing new to share once you see each other in real life.

In other cases, you might want to check on your partner’s social media feed to see if they are having fun or doing things without you a

Can you believe that there was once a time in the not so distant past…just 30 years ago or so…

Partners left the house in the morning to go to work, and they were not in contact at all until they returned home at night! 

At that time there were no (or very few) mobile phones. Workplaces generally forbid personal calls during work time unless, of course, there was an emergency.

This meant that for 8-10 hours every day, partners did not see, speak to, or chat with each other. As a result, they got a break from one another…and had something to talk about during dinner—the classic: “How was your day?”

How often are you in touch by phone in your relationship? Is it excessive?

Check it out by choosing a 24-hour period. Keep track of ALL the times you are in touch with the other in a proactive way (not reactive such as replying with a short comment or emoji).

This includes not only voice and chat but also sending images, forwarding things, and posting links.

For the same 24-hour period, keep track of ALL the times the other was in touch with you in a proactive way.

Let’s look at the proactive contact numbers for your 24-hour period. How much difference is there between the two numbers? In other words, how much MORE are you in touch than the other is in touch with you?

If the difference is more than 5, you should consider dialing it back.

For example, in a 24-hour period you are proactively in touch with the other 25 times. The other is proactively in touch with you 16 times.

This difference of 9 times may be why they see you as “clingy”, even though you may see it as being loving and showing you miss them.  

And that’s unhealthy too.

The next time you get the urge to contact your partner, try to hide your phone away or assign it to a friend so you won’t be tempted to use it.

Minimize the time you spend in front of your screen and pay more attention to what’s going on around you.

8. Keep yourself busy.

Clinginess becomes a problem for people who put their partner at the center of their lives and nothing else.

Instead of expecting your partner to entertain you and fill your waking hours with activity, it should be up to you to find something else to do.

Here are a few good examples on how to keep busy and regain your individuality:

Spend more time with family and friends: There were people in your life before you met your significant other and oftentimes, these are the people who remain once you break-up. Reconnect with your parents, siblings, and friends purposefully. Don’t invite them to hang out with you only to cancel your plans once your partner decides you should go on a date.

Travel without your partner: Whether you’re organizing a trip abroad with your friends or planning to drop by a nearby city to try a restaurant, travelling without your partner can reinforce your sense of self. Plus, absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Meditate or exercise: Mindfulness activities and physical exercise can do heaps for the state of your overall health. Allowing your mind and body to move away from your partner can refresh and ground you to who you are as a person.

Discover hobbies and interests: When you got into a relationship, you may have neglected things you were passionate about or forgot to pursue something you thought looked fun. If you’re actively working against your own clinginess, new hobbies and interests will definitely help you take your mind off your partner.

9. Minimize physical clinginess.

Body language is often used to communicate affection, such as holding hands or embracing.

However, constantly touching your partner can be uncomfortable for them. They might not mention it to you but you could be intruding on their physical space.

Give your partner room to breath by establishing a no-contact schedule.

Maybe you can promise not to see each other or go on a date for a week.

Or if you are planning to meet-up, avoid touching each other for as much as possible.

If you and your partner are living together, try to set a time when you would both be in different parts of your home.

One of you can stay in the bedroom while the other lounges in the living room. You can also utilize “Do Not Disturb” signs when you want to be left alone.

10. Develop your social network.

When you are in a clingy relationship, you’ll find that your significant other is probably the only person you ever see nowadays.

If so, it’s time to talk to other people and give yourself a social break from your partner’s company.

Try to do something on your own like:

  • Share a meal with your group of friends
  • Sign up for a club or a class
  • Join in on a girls/guys night out
  • Pay your parents a visit
  • Invite an acquaintance out for coffee

11. Take new relationships slow.

Latching on to a person you only recently started seeing is a defense mechanism against rejection.

You’re afraid they’ll break things off so you act as aggressively as possible so they don’t let you go.

However, moving the relationship too fast would probably just scare them off and cause them to run away.

Relax and take it easy. You should savor the opportunity of getting to know someone new, not jumping the gun and demanding commitment.

12. Avoid babying people.

When children are born, some parents adopt a notion that they need to be there for their kids 24/7 so they can take care of them, giving rise to the term “helicopter parent”.

Likewise, a clingy person has the tendency to think that their partner really needs them so they hang around and try to help their significant other — even if they don’t really need help. It’s a frustrating situation for everyone.

It’s a good time to remember and respect the fact that your partner is a grown adult, perfectly capable of seeing to their own physical, mental, and emotional needs.

If they need your help, they will let you know so don’t coddle them. It’s best to let go of the mindset that their life would be incomplete without your attention or advice as well.

13. Build up your confidence and self-esteem.

Clingy people often have a low sense of self-worth. Because they are insecure and fear abandonment, they become clingy or needy towards their partners for validation. If you sense that you’re someone with poor self-esteem, you should try to look for confidence-boosting things you can do like accomplishing a project on your own.

Find a purpose you can dedicate yourself to and cultivate your passions outside the relationship. Once you learn to resect and love yourself, others will too — but by that time, you won’t necessarily need them to survive or be happy.

14. Work on your anxiety, jealousy, or trust issues.

Internal problems like anxiety, jealousy, or trust issues can cause you to self-sabotage your relationship. Instead of enjoying your significant other’s company, you might end up fretting over “what if’s” and starting fights with them unnecessarily.

Maybe you’re worried about their infidelity or you don’t have enough faith in the strength of your connection.

Whichever it is, you have to address your issues so you can enjoy a healthy relationship.

As much as possible, channel your anxieties and suspicions into something productive instead so that even if those “what if’s” happen in the future, your happiness would not be tethered to just one person.

15. Practice self-reliance.

Depending on your partner to meet your physical, mental, social, emotional, or even financial needs would burden them with more responsibility than what is fair in the relationship.

It’s time to get rid of the idea that your partner is your other half and that you are incomplete without them.

Center your thoughts on yourself and build yourself up from within so you can take responsibility for your own happiness.

The best part of practicing self-reliance is being able to share a richer version of yourself with your significant other.

16. Avoid controlling tendencies.

When neediness, fear, obsession, and desperation are combined, they usually manifest as controlling behaviors — but none of these things contribute to love or happiness.

The fact is, you simply cannot control everything about your relationship and partner’s life.

They are their own person and can make their own decisions.

The only thing you do have control over is yourself and how you react to what happens next.

Accepting that neither of you are perfect and that mistakes naturally happen will help you feel less pressured to exert control over everything.

17. Learn to like being alone.

When people are in a relationship, they allow their partner to love them to the point that they don’t feel the need to love themselves.

In turn, they neglect their personal growth and development. Anxiety, resentment, and hopelessness settle in once they lose themselves in the relationship and forget to value their individuality.

The cure to this problem is to dedicate time for yourself and learn to enjoy being alone.

Do whatever fulfills you and keeps you busy so that you don’t depend on your significant other for a sense of identity.

Trick yourself into liking alone time by doing the things you normally wouldn’t be able to do if your partner is around.

Enjoy food you love (that they don’t like) or catch a movie you’ve been wanting to see (that they didn’t).

Or simply drop your “social guard”, soak up the quiet, and reflect on your life.

Doing so will promote a positive emotional environment because you and your partner are pursuing your independent selves together.

You will bear witness to each other’s growth, introduce new people to each other, and share interesting stories of the things you experienced separately.

Recommended reading: How to be happy alone: 7 tips to get your life back on track

18. Figure out what “attachment style” you are

Attachment theory is a psychology theory that describes the nature of emotional attachment between humans.

According to psychologists, there are 4 different attachment strategies adults can adopt.

They are:

Secure attachment style: People who are comfortable displaying interest and affection. They’re also comfortable being alone.

Anxious attachment style: These people need constant reassurance and affection from their partner. They often have trouble being single or alone.

Avoidant attachment style: These people are uncomfortable with intimacy, and are extremely independent. They tend to have commitment issues and feel suffocated when people get too close to them.

If you’re interested in taking a test to figure out what attachment style you are, click here to take a quiz.

If you’re overly clingy in your relationships, then it’s likely you have an anxious attachment style.

The good news is that your attachment style can change over time, though not without effort.

Psychologists have theorized that one’s attachment style corresponds to the degree of positive/negative self-image and positive/negative image of others.

Therefore, if you’re the anxious attachment style, you can work on creating healthy boundaries and fostering a healthy self-image.

Find something you’re passionate about, get good at it, and make that a focal point of your life, rather than your partner.

If you’re the avoidant type, you can work on opening yourself up to others. A great piece of advice for avoidant types is to find something great in everyone you meet. Become curious and stop being judgmental.

But remember, you need to work out what attachment style you are first. Once you know, you can work on change.

19. Are you clingy because you need them in your life?

One common reason a partner can be overly clingy is that they do not have enough resources to live a basic life, and they rely on their partner to provide those resources. 

In these cases, the person clings to the other as their means of financial support.

Sometimes challenging things happen. It could be that you are studying full-time and don’t have a spare moment to work.

Perhaps you have a temporary physical condition which is keeping you off work completely or only partially on the job.

In these circumstances, realize that your situation is temporary. At some point, you will graduate. Your studies will give you a higher earning power. Eventually, your good health will return, allowing you to return to full-time employment.

Try to let this understanding bring you peace and calm. 

Then, take a fresh look at your financial relationship with the other.

Can it be done in a way that reduces clinginess?

Perhaps a weekly/monthly budget could help, with the funds being transferred to your own bank account, giving you some independence.

In this way, you won’t have to ask for every penny, causing you to feel (and seem) totally clingy.

So, why aren’t you earning money? Why have you chosen this option? Do you enjoy being taken care of? Are you feeling somewhat lazy? 

We all want a break from work now and then, sometimes for quite a long time. However, we must realize that our “work rest” is our choice.

Our partners, friends, and family should not suffer our clinginess as a result of our decision.

Since you have control, change your situation if it is causing stress in your relationship(s). 

In general, there is always legal work if someone is serious. It may not be in your profession. It may not be at the salary level you are used to. It may require some additional training, but you will be earning an income, and you will feel (and seem to others) less dependent and clingy.

20. Try not to rely on your partner for your own self-worth

This one is about self-esteem and self-worth. Having low (or no) personal “wealth” is about believing that we are worthless, without value, unimportant.

Since we feel empty, we cling to others to “fill us up.” For example, we feel that we are unloveable, so we hang on to our partner good or bad because who else would want us?

It is time to increase your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth.

An effective way to do this is by taking some of your eggs out of your “relationship basket.”

Chances are, you have been defining yourself in a large part (or perhaps completely) by your relationship.

So, it makes sense to be clingy because without this relationship, who are you? What do you have left?

Excessive neediness leads to clinginess, and neither is attractive.

Here are some other “baskets” to put your eggs into:

  • Spend more time with family and friends.
  • Travel, especially on your own—you will see how self-reliant you can be.
  • Take a course or start a hobby.
  • Volunteer—giving to others ends up being a gift to ourselves.

21. Create more space between you and your partner 

Even in the strongest, most loving relationships, partners need time apart from each other. 

As we mentioned above in the phone section, being “no contact” in the old days was one way this was achieved naturally.

Today, we are used to being in touch much more often. So, for the sake of good relationships, we need to consciously build in “apart time”.

Limit phone contact

You could go “no contact” during the workday or limit proactive contacts to a low number. In effect, you would be updating an old school hack. Easy to do and doesn’t cost you anything.

Alone together

For partners sharing a home…

  1. Schedule some time in which you each occupy different parts of the residence WITHOUT being in contact at all. For example, from 9-10 am every Saturday, you are in the garden and your partner is in the kitchen.
  2. Use a “do not disturb” sign. Yes, the same as in hotels. When the person hangs the sign on the doorknob of a room and closes the door, they are not to be bothered (not even by phone) unless there is a justified emergency. Make sure you use this option also, even if you feel you don’t need it, in order to give your partner some space.

Do it by yourself

You don’t always have to have someone with you when you shop, take a yoga/pilates class, go to a movie, eat out, walk along the beach, go to the gym, etc.

Is it nicer together? Sure, but you are a grownup, and grownups know how to do things by themselves when needed…and it is needed, so your partner/the other has space to breathe.

Nights out

This is the popular “girls night out / guys night out” suggestion. The idea here is that each of you can go out without the other in a non-threatening way. It means that you are not dependent on each other to have a fun night out. 

If you don’t have a “tribe” because you’ve been clinging onto the other person in the relationship exclusively, you are going to have to build one. It is easier than you think.

Many people you know will be willing to be casual friends with you. You are not asking for a big commitment, just doing something enjoyable together once in a while. z

You will be surprised how many people are looking for a tribe, too. 

22. Consult with a therapist.

Couples tend to think of therapy as a last ditch-effort for when a relationship is going south.

However, couples therapy can be extremely beneficial whether you attend together or even alone.

A therapist can help you actively work through the issues plaguing your relationship, which is much better than simply wishing the problem to go away.

Even though talking to your partner may work in some cases, it can be somewhat difficult to turn to this solution as well.

Insecurity is not the only cause of clinginess; your partner’s behaviors could have been a big contributor.

Maybe a betrayal had occurred or one partner had reasons to doubt the other person’s love.

Therapy can be effective because you’re asking a non-judgmental, objective outsider to help untangle your misunderstandings and pinpoint appropriate solutions for your unique situation

The results

By learning about your attachment style and choosing to make changes, you will stop being so clingy.

This is better on both sides. You will feel more empowered and independent. Your self-esteem will be increased, and your self-image will improve.

The other person in the relationship will not feel so “choked” and dragged down by your neediness.

They will be able to see you as the person who attracted them in the first place.

Overall, these changes will help to strengthen your relationship and change it in positive ways.

 

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Hack Spirit review team. In our reviews, Hack Spirit highlights products and services that you might find interesting. If you buy them, we receive a small commission from that sale. However, we only ever recommend products that we have personally investigated and truly feel could be valuable to you. Read our affiliate disclosure here. We welcome your feedback at [email protected].

Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook.

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