The Intelligent Divorce

And further unorthodox advice on relationships, marriage and parenting

How To Fix A Clingy Relationship

Why Do Some People Get So Needy?

Sweety you're way too needy, I need some time alone.

        The Girl Who Cried Relationship, Ace da Vinci & Angel Haze.

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      Are you clingy? Or, is your spouse or partner too demanding?

The wierd thing is that you were fine before this relationship. But, now you find yourself demanding his attention. Or you find yourself paranoid about what she's up to. You don't get it, but it's ruining everything.

To understand what's happening, let's examine the power of intimacy.

The Power of Intimacy: The world of physics teaches us a lot about relationships; it’s called The Field of Intimacy. When inside the field, all the rules of behavior change. Imagine when a rock traveling in space enters Earth’s gravitational field. The rock changes course and becomes a meteor – hurtling to oblivion.

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When The Field of Intimacy works in your favor, the pull of a relationship can be enchanting. And when it triggers neurotic symptoms, it can hurt like hell. Once in the field’s grasp, you may ask yourself: Why is he so controlling? Or, why is she so angry?

Or, today’ question: Why Am I So Needy?

The Scene: Tammy heard from her boyfriend, Rory about thirty minutes ago. That’s about twenty five minutes too long, as Tammy sees it. She begins to get nervous, no agitated. Should I text? Why isn’t Rory getting back to me?

  • Tammy texts him again, not so subtly: WHERE ARE YOU?
  • A few minutes later, Rory’s back: What’s the problem?
  • Tammy: Why are you NEVER available?
  • Rory: THAT’S NOT TRUE.
  • Tammy responds: You're so selfish.
  • Rory answers: I can’t deal with this right now. GOODBYE.

Not good. Here's the question. Why is Tammy so needy?

And, why is Rory fed up?

Tammy’s Story: After graduating college Tami, age 25, has enjoyed a nice career. She writes for a well known blog and is respected, even by senior staff. Pretty and quick, Tammy has dated easily. Rory is a guy she really likes, which makes her neediness all the more annoying. She just can’t help it.

Tammy grew up in the suburbs, with a mom and dad, plus three younger siblings – all boys. Growing up, her mom dedicated herself to a great life for her kids, with endless driving, sporting events and performances. Dad, on the other hand, wasn’t around much. He ran a great business, and got most of his gratification from LEAVING home. Unfortunately for Tammy, Dad was narcissistic and not all that interested in her, despite her success.

As ridiculous as it may sound, Tammy still hopes that one day Dad will marvel in her success. She may not be consciously aware of it, but Tammy’s drive to succeed is colored by her father’s lack of true interest. And, her love interests are affected as well.

She wants guys who acknowledge her achievements. But often chooses guys who couldn’t care less. Tammy is in a neediness trap.

Rory’s Story: Life was tougher for Rory growing up. He had burdens, and in his case it was his mom who had the narcissistic tendencies, always needing to be right and in control. When Rory was three years old, his Dad got out of the house and eventually started a new family. Rory kept contact, but lived 98% of the time with his mom and older sister.

Mom was annoying. She insisted on things her way, and never said she was sorry. Control was essential, and since she was left, Rory’s Mom insisted that she was a victim in life. Since Rory was no weakling, they battled incessantly. Dad was of little help.

In essence, Rory had to raise himself.

College was a blessing for Rory, who was happy to pay for much of it himself; anything to get out of the house. He emerged bright, independent, capable and suspicious of women.

At 31 Rory’s on his was to partner in a prestigious accounting firm. Since college, he keeps his distance from women, preferring a long line of non committed flings. He’s not even sure he wants to get married one day.

The Field of Intimacy: If ever there was a crazy wonderful fling, then Tammy and Rory certainly had it; pure fireworks. Type A meets Type A for an intense love affair . Tammy loves - and respects – this self sufficient and capable older man. She finds herself wanting more and more of him. They can talk about anything, business, politics, and life. This is the brilliant, successful man of her dreams. When Tammy has sex with Rory, she feels both excited and invulnerable; it’s the time of her life.

For Rory, this young woman is the hottest girl he’s ever been with. And, it’s not just the looks. It’s the way she holds herself, her intelligence and class. She’s something else; professional, worldly and beautiful. He finds himself spending increasingly more time with her; and texting a lot.

It’s great for a few months; pure bliss. They are in The Field of Intimacy, where the world operates by different rules. Everyday is infused by the playfulness and magic of being in a love relationship. It’s what most people want.

The Field of Intimacy sucks them in. And after a few months of happiness, some old neurotic worries force their way to the surface. And, it’s not pretty.

  • Tammy notices when Rory is not immediately available. A call missed; or an unanswered text message triggers rejection fears. She finds herself wondering who Rory sees and what he’s doing. Tammy feels crazy; indeed, she’s crazed. She begins to get clingy and demanding. It’s not her, but Tammy can’t help it.
  • On Rory’s side, he needs a little distance. He’s crazy about Tammy, but it feels suffocating. He’s out of touch with some good friends and now catches up, at the expense of time with Tammy. And, despite his best intentions, Rory just can’t answer all the calls and texts – he’ll do it later. He begins to get annoyed (like he did with his Mom). What’s wrong with Tammy? Where did all these demands come from?

From the Couch: This is Phase Two of a love affair. Phase One is falling in love and entering the Field of Intimacy. Phase Two is when unconscious issues force their way to the surface. It’s a test; this couple need not lose their fabulous love affair.

Once a couple enters the Field of Intimacy, psychological dances like this are the norm.

  • This love affair triggers Tammy’s inner child. Her father was more interested in other people – anyone out of the house – and now Tammy’s back where she was at nine years old. Her Dad ignored her – and she experiences Rory the same way. She’s clingy and can’t stop it. It’s as if her adult mind has been overrun by events that happened years ago. Rory is no longer her boyfriend, he’s now the unavailable narcissist – and Tammy is left out in the cold.
  • On the other hand, Rory’s been activated. He too is back in his family of origin; with his narcissistically demanding mother. He distances by calling on friends. Rory avoids Tammy’s texts and he rages at her when it’s too much. Note that Rory may look healthier than Tammy, but he too has issues. His compulsive need to escape triggers Tammy and her demand for contact triggers Rory.

They’re both trapped; and it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Layers of Love: What you need to understand is that in intimacy, each person brings something different to the table; and the Field of Intimacy percolates it all to the surface. You may not like it, but a parental bond (or lack thereof) can affect intimacy. Like Tammy and Rory; it can happen to anyone.

  • Early love is great – enjoy it: This is a special time together. It’s all positive. But, take a moment to explore your past with each other. It may come in handy when Phase Two kicks in.
  • Learn from old relationships: Without doubt, you’ve learned a great deal about yourself from former relationships. Do you tend to run, or get clingy? Or, do you pick fights or compulsively withdraw? Perhaps, you just bore easily? My advice: take control of past triggers; and give your boyfriend or girlfriend a fighting chance. Therapy can help a lot.
  • Keep things in perspective: Once in The Field of Intimacy, you’re likely to be vulnerable to triggers. You may get really hurt or really angry. It goes with the territory. So, don’t get crazy over one bad day. Make a do-over. Forgive. Let go. Often, it’s just some random regression; and it’s really not that important.
  • Intimacy needs many roles: Sometimes he’ll be needy. Sometimes you’ll be distancing, and sometimes you can’t get enough of each other. Relationships are fluid – accept and work with the love you’ve got. Good relationships carry many roles.

Who doesn’t want love?

Just know that like Tammy and Rory, the intensity of love brings you into the Field of Intimacy, with fantastic opportunities and real dangers. The opportunity is the wonder of love; the danger is the misery of a neurotic relationship.

Being this needy is not good for Tammy. Being this unforgiving is not good for Rory.

Take Home Message: If you want to succeed, keep your relationship in perspective. Phase One will yield to Phase Two, and one or both of you will regress. It’s almost inevitable. Just don’t get stuck there. Worst case scenario: you find yourself in a neurotic bond and break up. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be?

Look to Phase Three, where you weather the storm only to feel closer to each other.

Here’s the thing, get curious about who you are; and who he is. Get to know what triggers each of you and why. Let your adult selves keep the angry or hurt inner child in place. Tammy tells him; oops…I’m getting demanding again. Sorry. Rory tells her, no worries, I’m no saint. It's okay.

They laugh it off as a stupid little moment.

It sounds simple. But, you know it isn’t.

Yet, wonderful, luscious love is worth fighting for.

 

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Mark Banschick, M.D., is a psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series.

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