How to Avoid Being Clingy In Relationships

Signs of Clinginess and What You Can Do

Verywell / Laura Porter

When you’re in love, especially in those early stages where every call, text, or in-person meeting is enough to leave you buzzing—it can be very easy to slip into a habit where you constantly crave the attention of your partner.

However, despite your best intentions, acting clingy towards your significant other may not always be an attractive trait. In some cases, it can do more harm than good in your relationship. Clinging to someone or something is a tendency to stay very close to someone (such as a parent or partner) for emotional support, protection, and more.

We'll be taking a look at what it means to be clingy, why it happens, and most importantly—how to get it under control so you can enjoy a healthy and happy relationship with your partner.

How to Stop Being Clingy

If you want to stop being clingy, some strategies can help. Consider trying some of these tactics to feel more secure and less clingy in your relationship:

  • Figure out why you are clingy and work on addressing your unmet needs
  • Talk to your partner and be direct about your needs
  • Find ways to distract yourself
  • Establish boundaries and then respect them
  • Take time to focus on yourself
  • Spend time with supportive friends and family, and make sure that you are not neglecting your other relationships
  • Look for ways to improve your self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Get treatment for any mental health symptoms you might experience, including anxiety and depression

Examples of Clinginess in Relationships

Whereas children cry and throw tantrums when separated from a parental figure, being clingy may manifest in different forms in a romantic relationship. It includes engaging in acts such as:

  • Calling your partner several times a day
  • Repeatedly messaging them throughout the day
  • Working yourself into a panic when they don't respond
  • Constantly stalking your partner's activities on social media
  • Feeling threatened by their friends or co-workers of the opposite sex
  • Constantly wanting an invite to every event your partner plans to attend
  • Having less and less time for your friends
  • Constantly seeking reassurance of your partner’s feelings for you
  • Attempting to speed up the relationship quickly by professing love too early, dropping premature hints of marriage, etc.

If these are behaviors that you find yourself frequently engaging in, the reality may be a hard pill to swallow. However, while it may not be immediately apparent, there is an underlying reason why you tend to cling to partners during your relationships.

Why Do We Get Clingy?

Requiring constant interaction or assurance of your partner may seem rooted in your love for them, but it is more likely indicative of a separate, possibly serious condition.

Anxiety and Attachment

Anxious behavior was beneficial in evolution, when survival against wild creatures was heavily reliant on being close to an adult or a stronger caregiver. This process was managed by the attachment system—where vulnerable people innately sought out caregivers for protection, especially when they were stressed.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and this behavior can be found every once in a while in romantic relationships. People that exhibit clingy traits are likely to have anxious attachment styles towards their partners.

They may constantly worry about being underappreciated or abandoned in their relationships. You'll find that a clingy person is constantly on the lookout for the first signs that their partner is pulling away from them.

When you find yourself imagining the worst-case scenarios when your partner is out without you, or if you tend to panic when they fail to pick up on the first try, you are exhibiting traits that go back centuries.

To avoid this, and to feel more secure in their relationship, a clingy person may do everything they can to get closer to their partners emotionally. Unfortunately, this can end up smothering their significant others, and may even be responsible for driving a wedge in the relationship.

However, beyond affecting just partners, people that are clingy in relationships may be poorly adjusted. They also deny themselves the opportunity to fully enjoy their relationships.

How to Not Be Clingy

Although detaching yourself from a person you're so invested in can be difficult, you can make some simple changes to avoid being clingy in a relationship.

Accept that there may be an issue

An important thing to do when making a change is to take personal inventory of your actions. By doing this, you can observe whether or not you are indeed clingy.

If you find that you are constantly seeking to communicate/meet up with your partner, or if you are tirelessly monitoring their activities on social media—there's a high chance that you are clingy.

Accepting this fact frees you to take the steps necessary for changing your pattern of behavior. It is especially important to perform this exercise, because the word 'clingy' has significant power as an insult.

Look within yourself to determine if you fit the bill, or if a person is unfairly describing you in a certain way. After careful introspection, if your actions don’t qualify as clingy, simply focus on building a healthy relationship with your partner.

Talk to your partner about it

After accepting that you can come off as clingy, speaking to your partner about how your actions make them feel can put things into perspective. It can provide insight into the changes that are required to maintain healthy interactions.

Speaking about actions you take that set them off the most can be eye-opening. You can discuss a shared idea of what would qualify as wholesome, less-smothering communication in your relationship.

It may hurt to hear that the efforts you put into the relationship, seemingly to feel closer to your partner, are in fact backfiring. However, simply focus on the fact that your relationship is still standing, and can be salvaged with the right changes.

Take some time to focus on yourself

Take the time to re-discover yourself. What are the things you like to do? What are those books you've been meaning to read? Give them a shot.

When you feel the usual urge to reach out to your partner in quick succession, fight it off and use that trigger as a reminder to focus on a thing that benefits you directly.

This is not to say, however, that you should keep away from your partner. Rather, keeping your correspondence and hangouts to a time and frequency both of you agree is more suitable can help to strengthen your relationship.

Spend more time with friends

When you are in love, it's easy to feel consumed by your feelings and focus all your energies on your partner. This can be unhealthy for other relationships and can strain the connection you already built with friends, long before the start of your relationship.

While you are learning to be less clingy, this is the perfect time to lean into your friends and family. Plan friendship dates, go on dinners, map out fun-filled weekends, and re-kindle your relationship with them.

This will not only strengthen your bond with friends, but it can also serve as a welcome difference from being in constant contact with your partner.

Get help with managing anxiety

Because clinginess often stems from fears of being abandoned or replaced, it can be very helpful to your relationship and well-being to receive professional help if you are dealing with anxiety

Therapy can help you understand why you become so strongly attached to people, and can give useful tips for managing your attachments. This may convey benefits that not only promote your wellness, but can even strengthen your relationship.

If Your Partner Is Clingy

If you're feeling smothered in your relationship because your partner is clingy, try these strategies:

Talk about it. Discuss the issue together, whether between yourselves or in counseling. Bringing it out into the open can help both of you explore and understand the reasons for their clingy behavior and address it in a healthy way.

Set healthy boundaries. Communicate them clearly so there's no room for hurt or misunderstanding, and make them specific to your relationship. For example, if your partner calls you continuously while you're at work, set a specific time for a call. If your partner won't go to a social function alone, or will not tolerate you doing so, make it clear that doing some things independently is healthy and necessary for the relationship to continue. If your partner contacts you repeatedly while you are at such an event, tell them you'll answer once and only once.

Reassure your partner. Explain that independence does not mean that you don't care for them, and that the spaces in your relationship only strengthen the feelings you have for them.

If it's just too much, get help. If the clinginess verges into stalking, harassment, physical or emotional aggression, or other dangerous behavior, involve the authorities.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

Few would be pleased to be described as clingy. While it may appear to be a reaction to intense feelings, it can cause your partner to feel overwhelmed, and may create a rift within your relationship.

Clinginess may be the result of anxiety, and can greatly interfere with the innocent pleasure that can be derived from a relationship. However, it is very possible to ease your way out of this behavior, into more healthy interactions with your partner.

Accepting your traits and speaking honestly with your partner can help with managing any clinginess during relationships.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Simpson JA, Steven Rholes W. Adult Attachment, Stress, and Romantic Relationships. Curr Opin Psychol. 2017;13:19-24. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.04.006

By Elizabeth Plumptre
Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences.