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How to Cope With a Clingy Girlfriend or Boyfriend

by Anna Green

Clingy behavior often stems from insecurity. Although it is common in younger people who do not have a great deal of dating experience, older individuals who have experienced hurt or rejection -- either in romantic relationships or in childhood -- may also become clingy. Preserving your relationship often means setting clear boundaries and helping your partner work through the issues underlying the issue at hand.

Establish Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries can be a good step in deterring clingy behavior in your relationship. You should discuss this with your partner, explaining that you need more physical or emotional space and clearly outlining any other relevant needs. Discuss your partner's needs as well. In short, establish boundaries together. For example, if your boyfriend calls you at work multiple times and is distracting you or is simply bothering you by constantly trying to spend more time together than you are able to give, discuss this and talk about how you can be there for one another without compromising your respective needs. Although it may be difficult for your partner to accept at first, reassure him that you care but need your personal space -- to rest, work and pursue activities that are meaningful to you.

Talk About How Clinginess Affects You

Without criticizing your partner or labeling her as "too clingy," talk about the ways that the behavior is affecting you and your relationship. Start your statements with the word "I," recommend counselors from the IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program in their article "Setting Boundaries with Difficult People." For example, you might say, "I feel distracted and frustrated when you text me multiple times when I'm at work." Likewise, you could say, "I feel hurt, like you don't trust me, when you constantly ask for reassurance." By focusing on your feelings, you may be able to avoid starting an argument or making your partner feel more insecure.

Pursue Your Own Interests

Although every relationship needs work, it is also important to find a balance between your partner's needs and your own needs. Even if your partner becomes upset, cries or tries to argue with you if you cannot spend time with him, try to maintain your own identity, interests and hobbies. Reinforce the importance of these things to your partner. You can even frame the time apart as an opportunity to find new things to talk about when you are together again.

Encourage Your Partner to Find Help

In many cases, clingy behavior does not mean that you are doing anything wrong in your relationship. It simply means that your partner is insecure, worried or has low self-esteem. Although reassurances and positive messages may help, if this clingy behavior does not subside with time or begins to harm your relationship, you may want to encourage your partner to seek professional counseling -- either with you, as a couple, or individually.

Walk Away if Necessary

Sometimes, a clingy partner simply might not be in the right emotional place to have a relationship. If the clinginess starts to affect your work, mood or relationships with others, this may be a sign that it is time to move on, especially if your partner refuses to work on the clingy behaviors or acknowledge how they are affecting you.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.

Photo Credits

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