Clinginess is good—when it comes to your favorite pair of skinny jeans. When it comes to relationships? Not so much. Even though our clingy ways only manifest “because we care,” they’re still not healthy, and when we take them too far, we run the risk of alienating our S.O.’s. It’s kind of like killing a plant by overwatering it.
But don’t freak out, because we’ve talked to experts to identify the top clingy things you do and how to stop. Your little love fern (name that movie!) will have a long, healthy life.
1. You need to be in constant contact.
You and your boyfriend just had a super-fun hiking date, and now he’s dropping you off at your apartment so you can take a shower and relax a bit before grabbing dinner together. You kiss him goodbye, skip inside… and then send him a text telling him how much fun you had.
After you get out of the shower, you notice your puppy doing something adorable, so you send him a quick Snapchat. Then, while browsing through Facebook, you see a funny article you know he’ll love, so you tag him in a comment.
Does this scenario sound familiar? With all of our different communication options, it’s easy to stay in touch with your S.O. 24/7. But this gets annoying, fast—and can make your girlfriend or boyfriend feel totally smothered.
“It feels like an invasion of privacy,” explains Dr. Ish Major, a certified psychiatrist and relationship expert. “‘She already texted me today; why is she hitting me up on Facebook? I talked to her last night; why are we Snapchatting, why are we Instagramming?’ At some point, it starts to feel like she’s checking up on you.”
How to stop it
To gauge how much interaction is too much, hang back for a couple of days and see how often your S.O. texts, calls, Snaps, etc. Maybe you talk just as much as you always have, in which case, awesome; you’re not being stifling! But if you go from having a “goodnight phone convo” every night to once a week, that’s a clear sign that the Noah to your Allie (or the Allie to your Allie) wants to communicate a little less often.
“If he [or she] is texting, text back. Take his [or her] lead on that—don’t exceed it,” Dr. Major says. “Two to three texts per day is plenty. And keep social media check-ins to a minimum. Let [your S.O.] have that, since you’ve got the phone calls and you’ve got the texts.”
2. You shut out your S.O.’s friends.
It’s really common to think your GF or BF’s group is a bad influence or just that they spend too much time together. Or maybe you don’t know why you don’t like his or her friends — you just don’t!
Your lack of enthusiasm for your S.O.’s squad can manifest itself in a lot of ways (unless you have J-Law-level acting skills). You probably encourage your boyfriend or girlfriend not to hang out with them, or you make comments like, “Carly is kind of annoying” or you refuse to engage with them when they’re around.
Unfortunately, Dr. Major says this can be a huge deal-breaker.
“Guys and girls hate when their partners start doubting the friends—when the partners think they’re the only good role models,” he says.
To some extent, your S.O.’s posse is a package deal. When you started dating him or her, you also signed up for his or her group. On the other hand, you’re definitely not obligated to put up with super-sketchy behavior all in the name of love.
How to stop it
If you have a legit reason to dislike one of your partner’s friends—like she’s always encouraging your partner to break up with you—then you should definitely have an honest discussion about the issue.
“Be open and tell your partner what’s worrying you,” says Jay Hurt, relationship coach and author of The 9 Tenets of a Successful Relationship. “You can work through it together. Don’t just say, ‘I don’t like that person’ and leave it at that.”
However, if it’s a trust or insecurity problem on your end, you’ll have to take a different approach.
According to Dr. Major, you have to put faith in your S.O.
“You’ve got to trust him to know he’s with you, and he’s not going to do anything that would hurt the relationship—regardless of his friends,” Dr. Major says. But he says ultimatums don’t work. “You’re trying to change behavior or friends he’s had for years,” Dr. Major says. “Nine times out of 10, you’ll be the one left in the cold.”
And if you don’t trust your S.O. to respect you, that probably means you shouldn’t be together.
3. You seek positive affirmation 24/7.
Not knowing the answer might be fun when you’re playing Clue, but when your heart’s at stake? You definitely want to know the deal. Unfortunately, this can lead you to constantly ask your boyfriend or girlfriend how he or she feels about you.
“Some women ask a thousand and one questions,” Dr. Major says. “Why are we together, what do you like about me, etc. In the honeymoon stage, it’s great because we want to profess our love—we want to shout it from the rooftops! But over time, it gets very old.”
If you’re always forcing your S.O. to compliment you or verbally show that he or she cares, your S.O. will start resenting you and will be even less likely to tell you sweet stuff.
How to stop it
Ironically, you should use your words.
“The idea in your partner’s mind is, ‘Hey, I’m here with you, we’re in contact, we’re seeing each other, that’s should be enough to let you know I’m into you,’” Dr. Major says. “We forget to say it—but our S.O.’s need to hear it.”
So instead of constantly pestering your boyfriend or girlfriend with questions like, “Are you still into me?” or, “Where do we stand?”, give him or her a reminder that you need positive affirmation.
“Say, ‘I appreciate everything you do. You show it to me. But it sure would be nice to hear it every now and then,’” Dr. Major says. “Just a reminder—that’s all it takes.”
He also says we should cut our S.O.’s a little slack and recognize they’re showing their affection through their actions. For example, it might not be your boyfriend’s style to go all Romeo and compare you to the sun or your hand to a shrine or whatever, but if he’s bringing you Starbucks at work, hello—he cares. (Did Romeo ever bring Juliet a Chestnut Praline Latte? We think not.)
4. You do everything together.
Pop quiz: When was the last time you two spent some time apart? Was it when one of you visited the bathroom? If yes, then Houston, we have a problem.
“It’s kind of a cliché, but absence really does make the heart grow fonder,” Hurt says. “You need a little distance to appreciate what you have.”
But walking the line between enough time together and too much can be kind of tricky. Just what is “too much,” anyway?
“I’d say two or three times a week is a lot. If it’s more than that, that’s a clue you’re spending a lot of time together,” Dr. Major says. “You don’t need to spend five out of the seven days together. Not even four.”
There’s another way to tell if you’re being clingy.
“If you’re not developing relationships with other people, if you’re isolating yourself with your S.O., then you’re spending too much time together,” Hurt says. While it may feel like you and your S.O. are the only people in the world, there will definitely come a time when you need connections with your friends, family and so on. Don’t neglect them now, or you’ll regret it later.
How to stop it
Dr. Major suggests relying on your own group more. For example, if your partner wants to go to a concert with friends, call up your friends and see if they want to grab some dinner. That way you’ll remain independent—and still enjoy your night.
Plus, when you’re in a relationship, it’s good to have your own interests. You feel more fulfilled, and you don’t have to rely on your S.O. for entertainment.
“Everyone wants to feel good about who we’re dating,” Dr. Major says. “We want to feel we’re dating an independent woman who’s got her own life that doesn’t revolve around us. That makes the time we do spend together even better.”
5. You drop all your other obligations for your S.O.
The last time your girlfriend asked you to hang out when you already had plans, what did you say? Did you tell her you couldn’t, so you guys should do something a different day? Did you invite her along to whatever you had planned? Did you cancel your first obligation so you and your GF could be together?
While wanting to be available for your girlfriend or boyfriend all the time sounds romantic in theory, it implies that you consider everything in your life to be less valuable than your SO. We highly doubt that nothing—college, your best friends, your family, your hobbies—all come second to your SO all of the time.
And while it seems counterintuitive, your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t want you to be available 24/7, either. The more available something is, the less attractive it may seem (Thank you, “supply and demand” chapter of our Econ 101 textbooks!).
How to stop it
You definitely shouldn’t lie to your partner and tell him or her you’re busy when you’re not. But don’t stop making other plans, whether they’re things you do by yourself (like reading at a coffee shop, going for a run or practicing your photo skills) or with other people. And if your S.O. asks what you have going on, don’t cancel those plans so you can be with him or her.
This will probably be a little hard at first, like only watching one episode of Gilmore Girls at a time when you really want to binge-watch the whole day away. However, by making your relationship last longer, you’ll actually have more opportunities to be with your boo.
If you’re exhibiting any of these four behaviors, then just remember, the road to clinginess is paved with good intentions. However, by recognizing what makes you come across as needy, you can change your ways. Confidence, independence and healthy relationship, here you come!