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Why Do I Go From Confident To Clingy In Relationships?
I just finished reading “Why He Disappeared.” It was extremely insightful. I didn’t really fit EXACTLY into the female examples you gave but still got a lot out of the material. I tend to constantly overlook men’s flaws (to a fault,) so that’s where I didn’t fit in. BUT, I could relate to the clinginess in relationships. I tend to be the confident, self-assured woman in the dating process, but once I begin the courtship/relationship phase, I become unconfident and clingy. In my head I see what I’m doing, but I have been unable to change this flaw of mine, even though I know it’s happening. It’s extremely frustrating. Do you have any advice on how to overcome this?
P.S. I love your wife’s blog from when she was your girlfriend. I constantly go back to it on your website, and I’m glad you included it in your book. It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever read! (In addition to yours, of course!)
Thanks for your kind words about me and my wife, and for your honesty and vulnerability.
Obviously, the message in “Why He Disappeared” can’t apply in equal measure to every unique woman who’s read it, but I’m glad you saw enough universal truth that fits your situation.
I was hired to create a magazine for JDate back in 2005. It was called JMag and it was to be patterned after Match.com’s Happen Magazine, where I was a contributor. JDate promised me that I was to be the editor-in-chief and advice columnist at JMag.
I began working 3 days a week.
Finally, I was coming in 1 day a week to work on JMag.
I had no paid writers, no dedicated graphic designers. Just me, trying to wrangle something amazing out of piecemeal resources.
Never say anything negative – it all comes back to haunt you…
I complained to my boss. I complained to her boss. I complained to anyone who would listen that JMag was underfunded and underappreciated.
What I didn’t do was make my case effectively. I fought too many battles. I was too attached to my ideas. I didn’t know how to be a team player.
In the end, I burned most of my bridges at JDate – not because I was untalented – not because they’re a bad company – but because I failed to enroll my colleagues in the vision of greatness I had in my head.
It wasn’t JDate’s failure. It was mine. I was immature and headstrong, where it would have been wiser to be patient, positive, and enthusiastic.
The reason I’m sharing that off-track story with you is because, for a couple of years, I blamed JDate for my failures, just as I blamed other “bosses” for our failure to cooperate.
But ultimately, if you’re going to succeed in a corporate environment, you probably know that you should:
1) Befriend important people – above you, below you, on your same level
2) Never say anything negative – it all comes back to haunt you
3) Give credit to others – instead of trying to take credit yourself
4) Consider others’ points of view – just because it’s not your point of view doesn’t mean it’s not valid.
I may be able to get hired based on my resume, intelligence and work ethic, but if I were really to ascend in a corporate environment, I’d have to do a LOT better at those tasks. Less talented people who knew those things are already at the top of the totem pole.
It is NOT a meritocracy.
You don’t succeed because you’re cute, smart, successful, and fun.
Dating is NOT a meritocracy. Getting the guy isn’t enough.
You succeed because you make a good choice in a partner AND because you know how to deal in relating to that partner.
Getting the RIGHT guy and making the RIGHT decisions is what determines whether you have a future.
Because you can be the PERFECT girlfriend to the WRONG guy and there’s NOTHING you can do to salvage the relationship.
And you can be an AWFUL girlfriend to another guy, and the relationship may persist.
The point is, Kelly, that there’s no magic formula to teach you exactly what to say and do in the context of a relationship to avoid being needy and clingy.
I think it’s a matter of seeing what works and what doesn’t, and doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
So while my IMPULSE might be to complain that my magazine was not getting the proper resources, my ACTION would be to remain appreciative and try to illustrate how content can better drive traffic and create revenue.
If you know that you scare guys off with your intensity, the only answer is to STOP BEING SO INTENSE.
And while your IMPULSE might be to have “the talk” about “where we’re going,” you will learn to bite your tongue and live in the moment. Why shouldn’t you say whatever’s on your mind? Because it’s ineffective to achieving your goal.
If you know that you scare guys off with your intensity, the only answer is to STOP BEING SO INTENSE. It ain’t easy, but it ain’t brain surgery either.
You may still be the intense questioner who wants to lock down her boyfriend for life the instant you feel a lapse in your connection… but hopefully, by being patient, being cool, and being positive, you’ll create a feeling in your boyfriend that he’s LUCKY to have found such a rare and amazing woman.
A woman who appreciates him, who gives him space, who TRUSTS that if he’s with you, then that’s exactly where he wants to be.
To learn more ways in which you can better connect with your man, just click here:
I think that everyone has those moments in any relationship (romantic or otherwise) and what I try to remember when it happens to me is that my emotions are NOT my actions. I can feel clingy/insecure, but decide that in the moments when I am FEELING that way, the ACTION I should take is to do something just for me. You can only concentrate on so much at once, so putting my emotions aside and taking a productive action leads me to focus on that action, which then changes my emotional response. I also do a lot of positive self-talk, which I’ve found super helpful in a lot of areas of my life.
In my experience a lot of confident women get clingy because their partners are bringing uncertainty to their relationship – so just to elaborate – they are never to sure when they are going to call, when they are going to be seeing one another again and in some cases the relationship has not even been clearly defined. As a result they drive themselves into a neurotic frenzy and become clingy & insecure. I guess at that stage, you need to ask yourself if this relationship is reallly giving you what you need?
Thank you – this is exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been beating myself up for six weeks for getting extremely desperate/needy on a guy after just three dates. I didn’t even feel that ‘into’ him but when uncertainty was introduced I just didn’t know whether to engage or disengage and it made me really anxious. I ended up shouting at him and even sending him crazy desperate messages when it was called off! I kept telling myself that if I’ve never behaved that way before while dating it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me as a person – I’ve literally never felt anxious while dating before – but I kept thinking there must be something awfully wrong with me and I must be crazy and I’ve been feeling awful about myself. There were other factors in play (it was a strange situation, but it’s a long story) and a huge amount of stress in my life so I was actually ‘needy’ of escape as well. But hearing that uncertainty plus stress plus emptiness in my life to begin with could make me act that way and me still be a ‘healthy’ human being has made me feel better…I really hope it’s true…I’ve been calling myself a nutcase for weeks!
“getting extremely desperate/needy on a guy after just three dates.”
“I ended up shouting at him and even sending him crazy desperate messages when it was called off!”
“But hearing that uncertainty plus stress plus emptiness in my life to begin with could make me act that way and me still be a ‘healthy’ human being.”
he noticed your desperation/neediness, and it was confirmed when you shouted at him/sent him desperation texts. he maybe wasn’t that into you, either. his uncertainty could’ve been his way of indirectly ending things, because he didn’t want to hurt your feelings. or his uncertainty could’ve been trying to figure out if he should continue or not, because of the red flags that popped up. being under stress, and having a void in your life could’ve been why you acted the way you did. however, that doesn’t mean you’re psychologically healthy. there are things that obviously need to be resolved in order to go back to your usual, confident self when dating. otherwise, the high you get from meeting someone new is just going to mask the stress/emptyness.
when you finally resolve the things that you’re going through, the best thing to do is to text the other person and explain what went on, and why you behaved the way you did. even if it doesn’t get you guys back together, at least it’ll allow you both to be on good terms, etc.
Hey, just read this and thought I’d share. Find happiness and joy and live within yourself first and then the world will reflect it back to you everywhere. We are magnets for what we’re vibrating out. Happiness is a choice and I know it sounds crazy but its actually how the universe works.Think of how you’ll feel when you get the things you want and practice those feelings. The rest will be Amazing. And things to support this include Meditation, Yoga, eating well and dancing and doing what you love lots. Abraham Hicks helped me so much on this.
I feel your pain! I just recently did this with a guy. He wasn’t really doing anything wrong per se but one day he got mad at me for making a comment about his slow reply. We had been dating for 3 months and he’d ALWAYS reply within 5-30 minutes and always seems excited. And even when he was busy he’d say he was busy. However for past couple of days it took him hours to reply and his replies were noticeably short and cold. I flipped out on him about it (a mistake). Called him out and asked why his behavior is changing so much. He ignored me so I kept sending messages about him ignoring me (which I do regret but I hate being ignored). He eventually replied and said that he didn’t want to see me anymore because this was too much for him to deal with. On the surface, it seems like I’m the crazy woman. And I did feel like the crazy overly emotional irrational woman. But the truth is that he was clearly already on the path of pulling away and I just called him out on it. And me sending a barrage of messages and getting upset was his cue to officially end it. Maybe he was thinking about it a few days ago and me pushing for responses caused it. We never argue in person or anything. I was just noticing that his communication was shorter, colder, and taking longer. Could I have reacted better? Absolutely! But it does hurt and it’s upsetting. I deeply wish that men would learn that communicating that you need space or time to think or even that your confused is always the best option. I would have gladly gave him space to do so. But ignoring me, being cold, taking hours to reply is the quickest way to create a shit storm of emotional reactions from most women who care about you.
I’m sorry to read of this struggle. Flipping out over a man who doesn’t respond within a few hours though? It speaks to an issue within yourself more than it does the issue with him and his slow reply. Sorry to say.
I feel like this is exactly me now. I feel like a crazy person. I do not like this feeling but I am having a hard time letting go.
This is the best response on the entire thread! I’ve been dating a guy for 5 months and I’ve been totally cool, calm, confident, and collected up until now. In fact, he was the one being clingy (calling and texting non stop) in the beginning and I was the one who was mostly busy and unattached. Then all of the sudden, in the past couple weeks, I started to feel uncertain- I “felt” like he was taking longer to respond and not answering my calls as much as before. We talk everyday but we only see each other on the weekends (he lives 3 hours away) so when he cut our date night short to drive back home instead of spending the night with me like usual, it made me feel even more concerned. He had a really good reason to go back home but because I was already feeling uncertain, him going home made me feel worst. I started calling and texting him more than usual. He tells me that everything is fine between us and I shouldn’t worry. I know now that I’m starting to freak out and get clingy because I care more now then I did before because my feelings for him are getting deeper. I realize that he’s not calling less or texting less, I’m just wanting him to do it more because my feelings have grown. Luckily for me, he’s been dealing with only 2 days of my clinginess so I think I can recover from it. These next few days I’m just going to stop contacting him completely and try to find some solace and balance in my mind and spirit. And then after a few days of not talking to him (maybe 3-4 days of thinking and understanding myself), I’ll have a conversation with him about how I feel. I know it will bother him that I will not talk to him for that long but it’s something that the both of us may need to do in order to figure out what we truly want from each other. The distance will help us both.
Please read the book “Attached.” I will help you understand yourself and your guy and you won’t drive yourself crazy! You seem like you might have an anxious attachment style and your guy has an avoidant attachment style.
This raises an interesting conundrum in my mind; I get, per previous posts, that a woman’s job is to sit back and watch what he does. If she likes it, stay; if not, go. And I also agree that not getting emotionally invested makes sense. But at the same time, we have to be willing to risk getting hurt. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this one.
You raise a good point. Abandonment fears are something that is part of how humans are wired. This is why I say it’s a conundrum for me. It’s true that you have to accept you’re going to get hurt. But in order to “get hurt”, we have to be emotionally involved. But we shouldn’t get emotionally involved until what? The relationship is defined? When he makes us his girlfriend? Because, as we know, springing “the talk” is a bad idea, so we really don’t know anything until we see his behavior. Now don’t misunderstand; I’m not making an assumption here that all men are bad, or this or that, so please don’t take this as male bashing. I’m not willing to put myself through the “neurotic frenzy” which it is. I agree that risk of hurt is part of the deal, but yet I’m going to use wisdom about assuming that risk. So, does that make me negative and closed off or smart? I might be told I’m over analyzing or applying logic for logic’s sake, but I am curious what others think.
“The Talk” is more about removing uncertainty and relieving fears. But no “talk” or even marriage contract keeps people together. So, as Even wisely notes, why do anything that does not yield a positive result, or worse do damage? All men and women want the freedom of choice and time to make their decisions. The greatest truth I have learned is that all people reveal themselves to you over time. Given enough time all of your questions will be answered. Happiness lies in accepting what they reveal (if you like what they reveal) instead of trying fit or fill your dream relationship with someone that will not or cannot or has no desire to be that person. So in answer to your question of when do u become emotionally involved? Here’s a simple formula: 1) Know what you want and need. 2) Have healthy boundaries that support your wants and needs and respect them. 3) Have fun getting to know your person of interest WITHOUT being attached to any outcome. 4) Dont rush to sex or relationship status. 5) With all you learn from what they reveal, choose wisely (based upon knowing who you are, what you want and do they meet your needs). It helps to know men live in the now, not the future. Your comfort and certainty comes from knowing you are worthy of the relationship you desire and knowing you will not compromise your needs or values to chase a dream. if you approach from this perspective, you are in control and you will know when to open up. You will give your love as a gift. And if he is a good fit he will not pass up such a confident, cool, secure and loving woman.
I’m the same way, and finally have recognized that I’m the common denominator – the reason why I’ve seldom gotten the guy I’ve wanted, even though they were initially very interested. As Evan has said in the past, you lose your edge and the very things that made you stand out in the first place. So now, part of what I do is delete his cell phone number – that way when I’m feeling needy or inclined to ask for reassurance, I simply can’t. All I can do is wait. Course I can find it in case of emergency, but the number is simply not right at hand. And if you wait, usually the inclination passes anyway. Watch, wait, and all will be revealed to you in time.
This reminds me that I read an article on Yahoo the other day about how people with insecure attachment styles in relationships have quicker response times when they are in (perceived) physical danger. It’s a survival mechanism.
The experience shared by the writer is all too familiar to most women, including myself. What I have learned [for the next time] is to try and be the warm and inviting, feminine receiver, so that when I meet a good man who wants to give, I allow him the space to do precisely what he yearns to do
give. I accept his goodness and share my appreciation by expressing how he makes me feel and how what he does makes me feel. A good man will want to make me happy and be my hero. I receive and accept. It’s as simple as that. To sound corny, I am the flower and he’s the bee.
Watching and waiting to a certain extent. I do the deleting of the cell phone number or don’t even have them as a friend on the intant messenger. I don’t initiate any contact. To some, these might be silly little things but if they work, they work. I try to eliminate anything that could set me up for following those impulses.
In my experience, there are two reasons a woman gets needy/clingy in a relationship: one is that she hasn’t developed trust and confidence in men and love (and therefore in herself). The other is that she’s in a relationship with a guy who’s emotionally unavailable. Only you know which one it is. If you’re the first type, back off and work on yourself. If you’re the second, dump him and find a guy who can give you what you need.
BINGO. Thank you for articulating what I’ve been trying to get across and why I struggle. Evidently I’m the only one who struggles with doing both at the same time. Perhaps if I were better at comparmentalizing, I’d have a lot easier time with that.
If you find yourself feeling insecure about the guy you are dating, it’s all right here:
I was looking for, and failed to find, Mrs. EMK’s blog post. I found it very insightful. I would like to read it again.
“But we shouldn’t get emotionally involved until what? The relationship is defined? When he makes us his girlfriend?”
That’s the way I have handled the situation when the relationship was uncertain.
“In my experience a lot of confident women get clingy because their partners are bringing uncertainty to their relationship […] and in some cases the relationship has not even been clearly defined.”
I’ve had some experience staying confident while in an uncertain relationship.
Last summer I went on a cruise with a large group of friends and acquaintances. On the first day of the cruise, I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with one female acquaintance (whom I was interested in). During that conversation, she told me:
1. She wasn’t interested in a serious relationship with me.
2. She was interested in a serious relationship with someone else.
3. She wasn’t opposed to having some fun. (She didn’t clarify what “fun” meant.)
Since I didn’t have any other romantic prospects on board the ship, I decided that a week-long fling sounded fun. By the end of the cruise, I decided to continue dating her just to see where things went.
Within a couple weeks, I was spending most nights at her house. I would drop by my apartment 2-3 times per week to drop of dirty clothes and pick up clean ones.
After three months I said to her, “Do you remember that first conversation that we had, when you told me that you were interested in having a serious relationship with that widower friend of yours? Is it safe to assume that he’s no longer in the picture?” My girlfriend giggled, blushed, and confirmed my suspicions.
It wasn’t until that point that I fully began to emotionally invest in the relationship.
There are a few things that help avoid “where is this going” anxiety:
2. Don’t try to analyze everything as if it’s a clue to the future.
3. Remember that the world won’t end when the relationship does.
5. Let your actions be consistent.
Example of 5: For those three months, I never left any belongings at my girlfriend’s house. When I left, my possessions left with me. Even though I was carrying 3 or 4 days worth of clothes with me, I never tied myself to returning to her house.
“Perhaps if I were better at comparmentalizing, I’d have a lot easier time with that.”
This sounds great and all but you both started off with the understanding that it was casual and fun. I NEVER cling to men I’m only hooking up with! I expect distance from them. The men I’ve had trouble remaining unattached to are the ones that were serious. For instance, the last guy I dated said he wanted us to date exclusively and we agreed that we were on a path to a committed relationship but he started pulling away and it felt like it wasn’t progressing so I flipped out, got clingy, and he ended things. That a totally different situation.
Evan, your response was excellent!!
Starthrower#68 (#10), I’m glad my words helped. Now putting everything into practice is something different altogether. ??
I think psychologically that is easier for people who date a lot, often, and all of the time. I think it is a bit more difficult for those who don’t date very much.
Take a moment and try something – ask yourself if you are becoming too dependent on your partner. Does your partner know your aspirations? Does he contribute to the relationship or are you always expected to be the one who is the “giver”? You should prepare yourself to take the answers…try to accept both yes and no in your relationship.
That is very very true. I fall into the latter category, and even though I (hope) I’ve become more positive about men and dating, it feels like such an uphill battle sometimes for me to just be comfortable with men in social settings- ironically, I get along very well with men at work.
Most people say, well, just date more- I don’t know…it seems like a solid solution is some ways, but for me, going on a bazillion dates (assuming I’m actually meeting men LOL) is such an energy drain.
I wish there was a magic pill for this or something. ??
I was looking on here to see if there were new posts this morning and had this amusing moment of realization when I saw there were not. Nobody posted last night because you were out dating. Instead of dating, I come here to talk about it. That’s right; I’m dating Evan’s blog…
It’s funny – I’m probably irrationally unconfident in ALL areas of life – except dating! It’s so easy for me to tell when a guy likes me, that I just don’t even give it a second thought. If I find myself feeling clingy and unconfident, then the reason has invariably been because he’s not really interested in me. The trick has been to learn how to sense it and cut my losses quickly and definitively instead of clinging and losing my dignity. A sense of insecurity has now basically become my signal to bail.
I was not out dating last night. I am much like you – 40 years old, divorced, kids etc. I do not have the time, energy or enough men interested in me to be dating every night of the week.
Going on a bazillion dates is very draining. I was very shy and not had a lot of dating experience when I married at 19. Eighteen years later, divorced and facing the prospect of dating again, I realized I had no clue about dating. And I tried to gain experience by dating a lot. I think it just caused burn out. Now – I just date because I’m interested in the guy and even though I date less, its actually a lot nicer. One other thought – you have become more positive; I’ve noticed it in your posts.
Some (the name escapes me) had left a post on EMK’s discussions board on Facebook, and what she said really resonated with me. She says that she actually feels more grounded, centered, and relaxed when she’s NOT dating. She’s focused and more productive. I thought she was inside my head because I struggle with the very same thing. I’ve been in counseling, know where it comes from, etc., but still haven’t overcome it. Right now, with kids, school, a career, etc., I need that focus and ability to remain grounded and centered. Oh sure, a relationship would be great, but I’m just not sure I can do it right now.
My experience has been similar to Isabelle #21 – the times I’ve felt insecure when dating someone inevitably turned out to be HJNTIY. And it’s why I find Evan’s list “8 Things Your Boyfriend Must Do To Be Your Boyfriend” so obvious.
The problem is when you are highly attracted to someone who is not doing those 8 things it’s really tempting to make excuses and look for loopholes. And then you wonder how you “misread” the guy after he’s gone. You may not have misread him, you may have been choosing to misinterpret what your insecurity was telling you all along.
Another reason for insecurity may be that deep down, you know the guy isn’t the one for you. Whatever the level of attraction is, there is something else “that’s not quite right”. You might be ignoring this because you really want a relationship, or the guy looks great “on paper”. Insecurity could be intuition expressing itself; “clingyness” an attempt to quell the doubts and hold on.
OMG Selena, you hit the nail right on the head for my most recent breakup. I keep beating myself up over whether I was insecure or he was emotionally unavailable. I started to suspect that he wasn’t good for me because I sensed that he didn’t care for me. I know men who fall for you show real care and concern and he didn’t. This made me anxious and I knew I should get away. Sadly I didn’t or couldn’t because although I knew he didn’t truly care for me, he kept pursuing me and lavishing attention and fancy dates. He was a real catch in my mind, very successful and a great lover. I didn’t want to give it up but my anxiety kept building as I felt him stonewall me emotionally. We just broke up and I keep looking for answers and blaming myself for not having the ability to play it cool. How could I when all my alarm bells kept going off. Ugg
Hey Selena, you’re right on! That’s what happened to me. ??
I read an interesting article this morning titled, “Why can’t a man hang on to Halle Berry?” which I think was an illustration to all of us that she may be the common denominator in several failed relationships but maybe she’s just smart enough to do what self-possessed women do, and that’s walk away from a situation that’s going nowhere. I think that’s the key is being self-possessed. Selena, I think you hit on something huge, and that is, the impulse toward clinginess or feelings of insecurity don’t always mean the woman has an issue. You read my thoughts when you said sometimes it might just be that still small voice telling us something is wrong.
Now, that having been said, I think when we have those feelings, we need to figure out where they’re coming from and what is setting them off. But when a man says, “I’m not ready to commit”, or “you deserve better”, of “I am scared of intimacy”, BELIEVE HIM. When he says that, you can trust that he is actually being real with you and being more than just in the moment. In that case, the actions are likely backing up the words. At that point, it’s time to go. Time to clear your head, clear your heart, and LET IT GO….
Auntie Star is done being stern now…here, let’s have some Hagen Daaz….
“She says that she actually feels more grounded, centered, and relaxed when she’s NOT dating.”
I’d say that’s fairly normal. Overall, I’m a rather grounded, centered and relaxed person. Until the dating evolves into a stable, committed relationship, I don’t feel as centered and grounded as I do when I’m single. It’s easy to understand why. You don’t know how things will turn out, and the outcome matters.
But to pull an analogy from my yoga classes: somedays it’s easy to hold balance poses; other days I’m constantly falling out of them. When my balance is off, the best thing to do is accept the situation, maintain my balance as much as possible, and not beat myself up for having difficulty.
“It seems like he was having a great time with his girlfriend and that she obviously liked him — in other words, her actions were 100% different from her words. The actions are the important part, right?”
It’s not safe to ignore someone’s words. Actions are difficult to clearly interpret. My girlfriend clearly enjoyed my company, and the sex was great. Both her actions and words supported this. But someone can enjoy both of those without wanting a more serious relationship. Her actions suggested that maybe she was interested in a more serious relationship … but I wasn’t going to trust that guess until her words indicated the same.
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