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How to be Less Clingy in a Relationship

Middle Class Dad clingy guy couple on train tracks guy is holding flowers behind his back

Being in a relationship that is smothering and clingy, we feel like our spouse is watching our every move. To avoid that, I decided to look into how to be less clingy in a relationship.

Here’s what I learned:

A clingy spouse is an insecure spouse. Often those insecurities are rooted in childhood issues and not because of their spouse. To be less clingy, work on the root issue, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt for so-called suspicious behavior and work on trusting more. 

But there’s a lot more that goes into making a relationship successful when one partner is clingy and needy and the other is aloof or distant.

 In reality, while some spouses are super jealous or control freaks, most are just scared and insecure.

So in this post, we’re diving deep into the world of needy guys like me and how aloof and distant women like my wife come together to make a relationship not only survive, but thrive!

I admit it. I’m a clingy guy

As a clingy guy, I’m not the atypical guy who chugs beer and watches football with his buddies.

I don’t leave my dirty laundry all over the place. And I don’t forget to help around the house. OK, I’m stereotyping here, but there are guys like that out there and I’m not one of them. But I’m also not overly-needy or high maintenance either. But clingy guy probably does describe me to a degree.

There’s a lot of posts out there about needy women and there’s a lot of posts out there about women dumping clingy guys who were just short of stalkers.

But I haven’t yet found a post that matches my situation.

After all, I’m not a psycho who doesn’t let my wife out of his sight. And while I enjoy her company and like to feel her touch, I don’t need to be around her 24/7.

I just like to feel connected to her; to feel that I matter to her and that I’m #1 in her life (or at least #4 behind our kids).

And it’s not even that I think she doesn’t feel that way, but she and I communicate and show those things very differently.

After all, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, right?

Is it bad to be clingy in a relationship?

I’m a little sensitive, a little needy, a clingy guy.

I occasionally send my wife a text telling her I love her. Or maybe I post that on Facebook. If she doesn’t respond at some point during that day (especially if I see she’s “liking” other posts), my feelings can sometimes get hurt.

Now, I’m not posting or texting constantly lest you think I’m smothering. I’m talking a couple times a week maybe. But it’s nice to know you’re being thought about every now and then.

What is a distant girlfriend or wife?

My wife, on the other hand, is a hard nut to crack. She likes being alone. And she likes calling her own shots without being accountable to anyone else.

She posted an article not too long ago that really sums her up (briefly, but succinctly). That blog post was about What It Means To Love A Girl Who Is Used To Being On Her Own and it was a good refresher for me.

Having been married over 10 years, it wasn’t an eye opener or anything. But it’s nice to be reminded that there isn’t anything actually wrong in the marriage. That just because I don’t always see her telling or showing me that she loves me, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t.

You see while my wife isn’t exactly how I describe the atypical guy above, she does have some of those so-called masculine traits whereas I have some more so-called feminine traits.

I’m the kind of guy who likes to cuddle in bed or on the couch while watching TV.

I like to feel wanted and needed and to hold hands. I’d like to get the occasional text from her throughout our busy workdays.

And she? Well, she doesn’t really like those things. At least not as much as I do or as consistently as I like them.

I won’t lie. Sometimes that leaves me feeling like a lonely, clingy guy.

How do I stop being needy in a relationship?

First, it’s important to recognize that being needy is just my own insecurity and not really tied to how she genuinely feels.

So you might be asking yourself “why am I with this woman if she’s aloof and distant, which can make me needier?”

I asked my wife to tell me some of the ways she shows me love and fosters connection since we obviously show those things differently.

She mentioned:

    • When she goes grocery shopping she always buys special foodie snacks just for me
    • She encourages me to spend time with friends
    • Encouraging me to follow my own dreams and passions
    • Doing little things around the house so that I don’t have to

And I have to admit that she does do a lot of those things.

Although except for #1 they aren’t things that draw us together. But they are ways of showing she cares and making sure I feel supported.

So learning to understand different love languages is a great way to getting past being needy.

What does it mean to be a clingy guy in a relationship?

Middle Class Dad clingy guy young guy in a white button up shirt checing his phone in an office building

I’m probably guilty of being an over-communicator.

I like to talk about my feelings until I feel like they are resolved. I get that sometimes that might come off as repetitive or annoying. Because if I don’t think my point is being grasped, I’ll re-phrase it and say it again.

Does that make me a clingy guy?

Ironically in the early days of our marriage, I was much quieter and didn’t always open up. And that was a source of frustration for my wife. Now she’s probably sorry she ever asked me to communicate my feelings more, lol!

My wife, on the other hand, is more (going back to stereotypes) the “strong silent type”. She mostly keeps to herself and is often deep in thought in her own head. And she’s sometimes guilty of not communicating an issue until it’s at the boiling point.

For a clingy guy like me, if I’m not privy to your thought playbook, my mind sometimes tends to fill in the blanks where it thinks your words should go. When that happens you can bet I get a lot of stuff wrong.

But then, as I sometimes find myself saying, I’m not a mind-reader.

How do you deal with a clingy guy?

My wife has gone to great lengths to adapt to my personality.

She really tries to give me some of what I need. She communicates now more than. That way I’m not left to wonder what she’s thinking or why she’s suddenly gone quiet.

Going back to the post I linked at the top, her walls are “the encompassing shell of a place she made, a life she built, a world that belongs to nobody but her. And while it protects her, maintains her, and keeps her safe, it’s also simply, just what she knows.”

But walls also keep people out, and sometimes I feel like a needy guy outsider.

If you struggle with taking your relationship beyond average, I highly recommend my post about how to Make Your Relationship Grow.  I detail some very simple steps you can take to ensure your relationship both improves and lasts!

In talking about my being a clingy guy, I explained to her that I often feel either 100% connection (usually on the weekends) or none at all (typically during the week).

My wife went on to say that she felt I wanted a consistent level of attention all week long. But that the weekend was the only time where she didn’t have the stresses of work and school.

She also mentioned that “she doesn’t need that constant connection (the way I do) because (she) knows it’s there without having to express it”.  I, on the other hand, do like feeling a connection, and while I know it’s there, it’s nice to feel it occasionally too. Does that make me needy?

I too have gone to great lengths to give her what she needs. I’m more patient, more flexible. I try to be understanding that she doesn’t show affection the same way I do.

I’ll give her time alone when she asks for it and the occasional sleeping in while I get the girls ready for school. I also try and do a lot around the house so that she doesn’t have to worry about much; she works hard! In short, I try to be less needy!

While I used to get upset at what I was perceiving as aloof or distant behavior, I’ve now come to (mostly) be accepting of it.

I still like to check in when I see that behavior just to ensure there isn’t anything else going on, but, (in my best Yoda voice) accept it, I do.

The origins of my being a clingy guy

At the end of the day, both our points of view are based in part on fear; insecurity and self-esteem issues.

Yes, my being a clingy guy and her being guarded all come from the same sources.

Many of us have insecurity issues and I know I have mine. I know I have an innate fear of people leaving, and sometimes in my past, that has led me to preemptive strikes where I left first to in order to avoid being left.

My folks split up when I was 6 months old. By the time I was 2 my Mom had remarried. We moved well over 1000 miles away from my dad. I rarely saw him for the next 8 years. My most popular post remains my story about my Dad and my Growing Up with a Gay Father.

Following that, my Mom and Step-Dad then split up as I approached 11.

Again, we moved well over 1000 miles away from the person I then called Dad. Just a few short years later he passed away. I’ve blogged extensively about my Step-Dad as well in a well-received post called Growing Up with an Alcoholic Father.

In short, I’m afraid of being abandoned, and this fear, however irrational, can drive my insecurities in my relationship.

This guy’s advice, however, is spot on for a guy like me!

The origins of my wife’s insecurities

My wife too has many of those same issues with insecurity. But out of respect for her privacy, I’m not going to get into specifics.

I will, however, say I know over the course of our relationship that I have occasionally done things to damage trust. I know I’ve made her insecurities far worse. And she has occasionally done things to damage trust and make my insecurities worse.

Yes, in my quest to draw closer and forge a deeper connection, I have also simultaneously forced her away, and she, me.

That’s a pain we simply have to live with.

But I think recognizing and admitting it is half the battle. And it’s also a fair statement to say that while my issues have made me a little needy, her issues have built walls around her to protect her.

So it’s interesting that fear, insecurity, abandonment & trust issues can manifest themselves so differently. But they do.

If you find some of those troublesome qualities creep into your relationship, you need to figure out which stage your relationship is at. 

My post about the 7 Relationship Stages and how to take yours to the next level is a great guide for both helping you identify where you’re at, and help you map out where to take it.

How Does a Clingy Guy Love an Independent Woman?

We renewed our wedding vows in 2013. One of the cornerstones of our spoken parts was a humorous if not inaccurate comparison of us to Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and 1st Officer Spock.

Now in that scenario, I am Spock and my wife Kirk. So it’s funny that the picture I’m painting here is one of me as the erratic emotional clingy guy and her as the stoic silent one.

That being said, as I re-read those vows, crafted by our friend Jennifer Bertrand (who also officiated the ceremony) in the context of this post, I totally get it (aside from questioning why Jen called Spock “doctor”).

Those words included this part which I think is especially relevant to how I’m currently feeling:

“Is it possible for Dr. Spock and Captain Kirk to have a harmonious union?

Yes, but first they have to acknowledge and celebrate their differences,
learn to speak each other’s languages and be open to the unique point of view each of them holds.

Captain Kirk must always remember that Dr. Spock is only half human and
Dr. Spock must understand the Captain Kirk’s heart is always in the right place.”


How do I stop being clingy and jealous?

I was listening to an interview the other day with renowned marriage expert John Gottman of the Gottman Institute.

If anyone knows anything about marriage in this world, it’s certainly John Gottman. I also wholeheartedly recommend his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman.

In this interview, among many things he said was (and I paraphrase) that it’s a common misconception that in order to make a marriage work you have to lower your expectations.

He went on to say that it works much better to have high expectations as long as that’s matched with realistic views.

So how do I get my needs met while not forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to do?

That’s a great question. Of course for me as a “clingy guy” to truly feel fulfilled, the actions from her would have to be genuine. They can’t feel like something that was forced or simply done to placate me.

And in the same breath, I have to truly accept that she isn’t going to be as affectionate and communicative as I might want her to be. I need to work on accepting that graciously rather than simply sulking about it.

In short, I need to be less of a clingy guy.

The first step is simply acknowledging that I have my needs and she has hers and they won’t always intersect.

And that’s OK. I have to learn to be OK when she doesn’t reach out to me. I’ll appreciate it when she does, & understand and accept that when she doesn’t.

I need to grasp that it doesn’t mean she’s going anywhere. On the flip side, she also has to recognize that a marriage is like a garden. It has to be nurtured and watered and cared for. It doesn’t simply exist and thrive left alone – it needs love and care.

Granted as she just pointed out “you do know I kill plants, don’t you?”

If your relationship is struggling or in trouble, now is the time for action. Don’t just sit back and wait to see if things get better; you have to drive that change.

My post about the top Reasons for Divorce is well worth reading. Perfect for anyone whose relationship is struggling or for those who want to keep things moving in the right direction.


1. Give the benefit of the doubt

  • Don’t assume anything
  • Don’t read into to things or make negative assumptions

2. Understand that your spouse isn’t going anywhere (unless you push them away)

  • This one is admittedly a challenge for me as some of the most important people in my early life did indeed go away. But I get it; she’s here and has been here 13+ years. If she were leaving it would have already happened
  • But it’s also important to recognize that insecurities can potentially be one of the biggest strains on a relationship if left unchecked

3. Don’t read into her behavior or silence

  • Go off of what is being said rather than reading into silence, body language or changes in behavior

4. Giving them space when they need it

  • We all need space, time to ourselves and time with our friends where we aren’t a parent or a spouse and we’re just “us”
  • Don’t make any assumptions about the request
  • Don’t assume that time alone means they don’t want to be with us

5. Don’t punish your spouse for your insecurities

  • No doubt some of us have insecurities that are hard for our significant others to deal with. Granted all of us have some challenging behaviors
  • Ask straightforward questions rather than leading questions or engaging in passive-aggressive behavior
  • Our insecurities should not be “punishing” our spouse simply because they communicate differently than we do

and the flip side . . .


1. Recognizing that we have different needs 

  • There has to be balanced in anything we do, so it can’t all be about one, but it also can’t be all about the other; couples have to meet in the middle
  • A great marriage sometimes means putting the other’s needs before our own
  • It’s OK for things to ebb and flow and while couples don’t need to keep score, it is important that we recognize and take ownership of when we’re not giving each other what we need

2. It’s about the quality of the connection

  • It’s not about the quantity of connection but the quality
  • Sometimes one spouse gets it in their head that the other wants something from them that is time-consuming or draining when really all they need each day could be boiled down to just a minute or two.
  • Sometimes it’s just something simple like putting the phone down and talking with us and being fully present for 5 minutes

3. Communicating your needs 

  • Don’t assume your spouse knows or doesn’t need to know
  • If you are upset or down, communicate your feelings so your spouse doesn’t assume they did something wrong

4. Understanding that you both have triggers 

  • Triggers usually have nothing to do with one another or your current disagreement
  • Both of you have pasts and things in the past undoubtedly affect how you both respond to situations and to each other, even if completely unrelated. While we can’t always catch those triggers before they occur we can strive to recognize them for what they are and acknowledge that they might be amplifying the current situation
  • You also have both done things in your relationship that did damage to it and even if those behaviors aren’t present today, sometimes we do feel those triggers too, so it’s important to not make assumptions of one another based on past behavior that isn’t currently relevant

5. Take time for the little things

  • Sometimes a 2 second “I love you is worth more than hours of conversation
  • A quick text a few times throughout a week is usually all needy guys need to feel connected (but is just one of many quick ways)

Are you a clingy guy or woman?

In this post, we took a look at how some relationships struggle with jealousy, insecurity, and clinginess.

Specifically, I talked about some of my struggles as a needy guy and how my wife, who is naturally aloof and distant, and I make our relationship work.

Are you a needy spouse or a distant one?

Photo credits (that aren’t mine):

Lonely Dog –
Kirk and Spock –
Yoda Statue

Jeff Campbell