All developing relationships require a delicate balance between intimacy and independence. If your current or previous girlfriends have complained that you smother them, it may be time to think about what that means and how you can give your girlfriend more freedom. Changing your behavior will require both a change in habits and some personal reflection.
What Is Smothering?
If your girlfriend complains that you're smothering her, especially if this is a complaint you've heard before, chances are, emotional hunger is at play. Emotional hunger is an overwhelming need to be loved in a nurturing manner. Psychologist Robert Firestone notes that emotional hunger results from emotional deprivation in childhood and results in a desire for connection that is highly dependent and needy. As an adult trying to create a relationship of mutual emotional giving and receiving, you may be smothering your partner with your emotional hunger. Your demands for closeness and caring may make her feel like you are trying to control her.
Begin the process of de-smothering by taking a step back and reducing the time you spend with your girlfriend. This action will show her that her comfort is important to you. This process may feel uncomfortable for you, but recognize that your discomfort is not her fault or her responsibility. Take some time to think about and examine your behavior, as well as the painful feelings that motivate it. Reflect on your life experiences and upbringing and how they may have contributed to your unmet emotional needs. Explain to your girlfriend that you plan to commit yourself to becoming more independent and to making your relationship more mutually supportive.
In an equal relationship, your girlfriend's emotional needs are just as important as yours. The more you look past your own emotional needs to see and understand her feelings and unmet needs, the freer she will feel in your relationship. Set aside your own needs and help her process and sort her emotions to mitigate her sense that emotional support has been one-sided in the past. At the same time, learning to wait for the comfort and support you need will foster your own independence.
Look for other sources of emotional support, such as friends or a therapist. In the process, you may have to confront social messages that tell you that should be self-contained and that the only acceptable emotional support is a romantic partner. As you increase your sources of support, your girlfriend will feel less responsible for fulfilling all your needs and not feel so smothered.
Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and thecvstore.net. Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.