“You’re too clingy,” he said, after a breakup speech that left a knot in my gut.
“But … I just thought … things were going well,” I said, with the sudden sharp urge to crawl under the table.
Ouch. Ever had someone dump you or pull away without warning (if so, here are 5 easy ways to get over the breakup)? This happened to me over and over in different ways until I got some key lessons about relationships, namely ones about clinging and neediness.
One reason for this unfortunate “it’s not me, it’s really you,” situation is that you attached yourself to the other person like you were boarding the last lifeboat off the Titanic. Whether it was because you felt insecure or you simply don’t know any better, acting clingy and desperate is a one way ticket to breakup town.
Here are my 7 key ways to avoid being clingy in a relationship:
1. Let the other person pick up the ball on occasion.
Are you the one initiating contact every time? Do you do it frequently? Even if you’re excited about a new relationship, pull back a little and let them come to you. Don’t go overboard and start ignoring them, quite the contrary. When it comes to communication, make sure you aren’t flooding your beloved’s inbox only to receive a trickle in return.
2. Follow your passions.
Over and over again, people tell me that they’re looking for a partner who has serious interests outside a relationship. So many people make someone else “their world” and this is frankly, a huge mistake. Falling in love with your own life means searching for your own job fulfillment, pursuing your own hobbies and goals and not sacrificing any of it when someone new pops into your life.
3. Don’t neglect YOUR people or force your lover to neglect theirs.
Say it with me: “I will NOT neglect my friends or family for my relationship and I will not get possessive of my partner’s private time with their people.” Keep space in your life for people other than your partner and vice versa. Vow to never, ever blow your friends off to hang out with someone new.
4. Until you’re exclusive, date more than one person at a time.
This one is tricky and most experts mention it but frankly, that’s because it works. Dating more than one person before the “exclusivity talk” is one big secret that lots of successful daters use to their advantage. The reason this works is that when you’re actively playing the field, you simply don’t have as much time to focus only on one person to the point that you begin to smother them.
5. When you feel that “ruh, roh, maybe they’re pulling away” feeling, give it more time!
One big sign of clinginess is that your imagination runs wild when patterns in the relationship change (whether it’s legit or not). For example, say s/he always calls on Thursday, but this week hasn’t called. This is not a reason to get unhinged and start obsessing about their coming departure from your life. It’s just an example, but if you have a tendency to dwell and analyze, focusing on “the end” can actually create a self-fulfilling prophecy and sabotage the relationship.
6. Avoid focusing too much on what the other person is doing when they’re away from you.
When a relationship is new, it’s easy to actually create problems that aren’t there by wondering what the other person is doing 24/7. When you start worrying what they’re up to all the time, you’re giving all your power away on a silver platter. Putting tabs on them reeks of insecurity and will make them feel like you don’t trust them.
7. Let past relationships stay in the past.
Don’t try to compete with their mythical “ex.” I talk to people all the time who are worried about the relationship that their new partner had with their ex and how they measure up. This reeks of desperation and insecurity! Develop your own “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about exes. Conversely, don’t compare and contrast your new partner to your ex out-loud or otherwise.