Everyone in the world has different needs in a relationship, especially when it comes to space and proximity. Some people are super independent and need a lot of time alone; others are happier being close to their friends, family, and partners as often as possible. If you’re in the former camp but have someone in your life who’s in the latter, it could be a serious struggle but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to deal with clingy or needy people with ease.
1. Make sure they have other people in their lives.
Sometimes relationships become codependent because one or both parties have no one else in their lives to turn to. If your friend or partner’s circle consists only of you, it’s no wonder they’re so needy and clingy. Encourage them to explore other connections outside of your relationship so that they can have a more varied social group (and give you a break).
2. Let them know you’re feeling a bit claustrophobic.
Communication is always the easiest route in the long term to resolving conflict, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. If you bottle it up, you’ll encourage them and risk hurting their feelings by snapping at them later on. Tell the needy person in your life that your relationship has become intense and that it’s starting to feel overwhelming. If they care about you, they’ll be happy to give you a bit of space.
3. Ask them why they need to know where you’re going.
When people are clingy, the person who’s being chased will be hyper-aware of how their spare time is being eroded. The person doing the chasing will just be thinking about maximizing time with you — they won’t understand all their emotions that contribute to that impulse. Encouraging them to explain their thinking will make them realize the pressure they’re putting on you.
4. Make them repeat themselves.
If you don’t want to confront their clinginess directly, by getting them to repeat some of their more outlandish comments, they might just recognize their own behavior. “I just want to spend every minute of the day with you — I love you!” does sound a little intense when you think about it. In their mind, this will have felt like a dramatic and romantic sentiment. Spoken in the cold light of day, however, everyone can see how controlling it sounds.
5. Remind them of all your memories.
It’s not that you want to cease all contact with them — you just need some space. You can temper the blow by reminding your partner or friend of how many good memories you already have — and it helps if there is a future plan in the pipeline too. These occasions will be even more special when you’re not taking each other’s presence for granted by being together 24/7.
6. Talk about the value of quality time.
It’s all about quality over quantity. Tell the clingy person that you love spending quality time with them, but that just hanging out every day for the sake of it isn’t enjoyable anymore. Sometimes it just needs to be said straight-up.
7. Tell them that you need space.
This conversation tends to go one of two ways. If the attraction is more of an infatuation, then this will shatter the perfect illusion of you that the other person has, and their obsession will cease. If the feelings are deeper, the person will reflect — after initial embarrassment, that is — and will want to change their behaviors and compromise.
8. Try not to take responsibility for their emotions.
Don’t let the anticipation of hurting their feelings stop you from having the conversation. They’re not letting the potential of inconveniencing you from stopping them from invading your life. They will likely be hurt or even offended by the insinuation that they’re clingy or that they have unreasonable expectations, but they’re an adult. They’ll deal.
9. Try to reschedule.
It’s important to manage the situation and making a point to reschedule your plans is key to keeping trust. Planning an alternative activity that works for both of you will show that you both want to make it work. It also proves that you’re not shutting them out of your life entirely, which may be a fear they have.
10. Share how their behavior makes you feel.
People rarely hurt each other’s feelings on purpose. That’s why it is important to communicate that your feelings are hurt in the first place, and then also explain why. By simply sharing this information, you ensure that your partner or friend will understand you better going forward.
11. Talk about your past.
This might mean that you have to be vulnerable, but if you’re serious about the relationship, then that shouldn’t be a problem. Bring up a previous instance where you were embarrassed or clingy and that will also make the conversation about space feel less like an attack or a lecture. We’re all constantly learning.
12. Talk timelines.
Make sure you’re clear about how much space you expect to receive, or outline your timelines for the next time you intend to meet up. That way everyone has the same expectations. Don’t leave things up in the air or be vague about it.
13. Show that you know how much they care.
A lot of the time, clingy people overstep because it’s one of their first relationships and they don’t know how to show that they love you. Make sure you tell them that you care for them and that you can see how they care for you. This will dial down their approaches.
14. Ask about their love languages.
It would be easy to assume that clingy people prefer quality time as their love language, but it’s still worth a conversation. They may prefer acts of service or physical touch but just didn’t have a language to articulate it.
15. Discuss other ways that they can show they care.
Just as you can encourage them to learn about types of love and demonstrations of it, this is an opportunity for you to share how you would prefer to receive love as well. This will save everyone time in the long run.
16. Suggest specific date ideas.
If you’re feeling aware that you’re saying “no” a lot, try coming to them with suggestions that you know you enjoy. You’d be surprised how many people go years of planning date nights based on what they think the other person would enjoy before considering what they’d do on an ideal date!
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