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5 Ways to Be Less Needy and Clingy in Your Relationships

by Ashley

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Do you send your significant other a “I miss you” text after being apart for one hour? Or do you find that you can’t ever cook those mouth-watering brownies without calling your mom and having her guide you through the recipe step by step? If you answered yes to these questions, I hate to break it to you but you may be a stage 5 cling-on. In other words, you’re super needy.

We all need each other in this world and to some extent, it feels good to be needed. But when that neediness borders on obsession or leaves you feeling paralyzed without the other person’s assistance, you have crossed over into the realm of unhealthy “need”. When you start to leave behind your needy ways, you discover that you actually like yourself and you are capable of doing whatever you set your mind to.

This article will teach you ways that you can abandon your label of clingy and replace it with a confidence that allows you to tactfully navigate all of life’s relationships.

What happens with needy relationships

I’ll never forget when my high school boyfriend looked me dead in the eye and told me, “Ashley, we’re breaking up. You’re just too needy.”

So I did what any reasonable high school girl would do in that situation. I yelled back at him, “No I’m not!” Needless to say, that relationship ended that day.

But as much as I hate to admit it, my high school boyfriend was right. I was too needy.

I lived in constant fear that he would leave me for someone else and acted from a place of jealousy. And because of that, our relationship was destined for failure.

Research indicates that if you are anxiously attached to each other, then both individuals in the relationship are less likely to experience satisfaction and a greater sense of commitment. Whereas individuals who demonstrate secure attachment, meaning that they both still have a strong sense of self, were more likely to thrive and produce satisfaction.

If you want to cultivate healthy and life-giving relationships, it’s critical that you prioritize a sense of healthy attachment that still leaves room for each person to be their own individual.

The importance of being independent

It may sound almost counterintuitive that independence is a necessary part of a healthy relationship, but the research validates this point.

A study in 2013 found that if each individual in a relationship embraces autonomy and self-direction, then both parties were more likely to experience satisfaction in that relationship. People also reported being happier when they felt that the choice to remain in the relationship was their personal choice.

I have found that in my relationships, I’ve had to strike the right balance between being my own individual while also expressing how that relationship is an essential part of my life. It can be easy to go too far one way or the other, which almost always results in relational conflict.

But striving to find that balance in a relationship is always worth it because in that balanced space is where we are able to experience fulfillment in life when it comes to all forms of relationships.

5 ways to be less needy

Follow these 5 tips if you’re ready to give your loved ones some room to breathe so you can both experience the joy that comes from a healthy relationship.

1. Develop your own interests

I think a huge factor in helping me be less needy in my relationships was discovering who I actually was and what it is that makes me feel most alive.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our relationships that we lose sight of who we are as an individual. And as someone who has been down that road all the way to the dead-end more than once, believe me when I say it’s worth figuring out who you are and what you like.

I remember I was dating this guy in college and he told me that I needed to find something else to focus on besides him. Ouch, right? But in hindsight, he really was right.

It was during this time that I decided to explore my interests that ranged from nerdy academic clubs to kayaking and river rafting. And through doing this, I learned I actually enjoy spending time with myself.

Maybe your interests are more subtle. Take yourself on that solo date to the movie you’ve been dying to see. Or go to the concert you’ve been interested in going to for months.

In other words, do more of the things that make you happy.

When you take time to explore what you like, you realize that there is space for you to develop and grow outside of your relationships. And this leaves room for the healthy space both you and the other person in the relationship need.

2. Make mistakes and learn

Sometimes we become needy because we’re afraid to mess up. We start to rely so heavily on others for help to do things “just right” that we end up annoying them and give up an opportunity to learn.

In college, I absolutely despised physics. And consequently, I found myself constantly relying on my lab partner to help me with my homework because I was terrified of not getting perfect grades.

My lab partner was super helpful, but it became clear after the fiftieth time of asking him to help me understand an electrical circuit that his patience was wearing thin. He very politely told me that he wasn’t always going to be able to help me with my homework, so I would have to find other ways to learn.

So I did my homework on my own and I did get a B-, which as a self-identified perfectionist at the time killed my soul. But it turns out, the feedback from my professor on my homework helped me learn the concept and then when the test came around I did just fine because I actually understood the concept instead of relying on my lab partner.

All this to say, I am still not the girl you want to call if you have an issue with an electrical circuit.

3. Get at the root of the issue

If you and I are honest with ourselves, there is a deep-rooted issue that underlies our “neediness”. And in order for us to be not needy, we have to identify and address this issue within ourselves.

My neediness typically stemmed from a lack of security or a fear of abandonment in my relationships. I felt that by clinging tighter to the other person, I could assure they wouldn’t leave me.

But come on, no one wants to sign up for that type of relationship. And I knew that.

It wasn’t until I did some deep work and realized that even if the other person left me I would be okay on my own that I was able to engage in healthy relationships. And to be honest, this is where I give much credit to my school therapist in grad school because coming to these conclusions on your own isn’t always easy or feasible. 

4. Establish clear boundaries

Part of what seeing a therapist helped me understand about myself was that I needed to just be blunt with my boundaries in relationships. Because when I didn’t communicate my boundaries to my partner or friends, my behavior often turned controlling or needy as an attempt to create those boundaries and meet my own needs.

When my husband and I were first datings, I put into practice the art of establishing clear boundaries together. The majority of these boundaries were in relation to expectations regarding what we both deemed our needs in a relationship.

It might sound uncomfortable to have these types of discussions, but through expressing my own needs to my partner in this way I immediately felt that sense of neediness dissipate because he knew how to meet my expectations and I knew how to meet his.

It sounds counterintuitive, but setting boundaries in all of your relationships may be the thing that actually sets you free from your neediness.

5. Practice good communication

I definitely saved the best one for last. If you take nothing else from this entire article, at least start using this tip because this is how you find fulfillment in any relationship in life.

I have realized through many of my failed relationships that my neediness usually was heightened during times when my partner or friend or family member was not communicating.

If I didn’t get a “good morning” text, I was positive my boyfriend wasn’t in love with me anymore. Or if my friend didn’t answer my call, I thought they must be mad at me.

Sounds ridiculous, huh? But I never communicated to my partners that I found “good morning” texts important. And I don’t answer my phone all the time, so why did I expect that from my friends?

It’s like I expected these people to be able to read my mind and because they couldn’t I felt I needed to “fix” things, which usually resulted in me being too needy.

So many issues and insecurities can be addressed with good old-fashioned communication. Express yourself openly in your relationships and you will be able to ditch that suffocating sense of neediness.

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Wrapping up

So maybe you should wait at least a few hours before sending your boyfriend the “I miss you” text when you part. And maybe it’s time to take a hack at the brownie recipe without mom’s help. Because I know you don’t want to be a stage 5 cling-on that annoys the ones you love most. Use the tips in this article to dump your needy ways and to start cultivating healthy relationships.

Have you ever been told that you’re too needy and clingy? What steps did you take to not be as needy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Ali Hall AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

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