Clingy Love – A Correspondence
Posted Jan 07, 2014
Yet love often falls flat. It burns out or gets TOO intense. You find yourself needing space, or demanding ALL his time. You worry when you don’t hear from her, or you begin to feel anxious when you do. Does she really love me? Is he losing interest?
When Love Triggers Problems:
Love can be hazardous, yet it opens the door to our greatest dreams. It can lead to connection and bliss. It can also lead to hurt and rejection. And, often both with the same person!! In past posts I proposed the idea of a Field of Intimacy, where so much psychological baggage gets opened. If you handle it, you’ve got a love to last. If you don’t, watch out.
A Reader's Question:
Thank you for writing an article that was neither silly nor pretentious. This article speaks to so many issues I have dealt with all of my adult life. My romantic relationships are riddled with rage, worry, and fear of abandonment. Waves of happiness and moments of deep intimacy make my sinew physically recoil. Irrational fears, controlling behavior, and emotional neediness have destroyed potentially healthy relationships all of my life. Even potential to friendships, or just to happiness in general, I viscerally react. Eye contact, even. Mine is scattered and sporadic and uncomfortable.
But here is the kicker: My mother and father created and raised me in a beautiful, stable home filled with unconditional love and proactive parenting. My mother breastfed me until I was maybe one. She read to me. She drove me to school. Her life revolved around our family, and not in an unhealthy way. My father went to work every morning at 7, came home every night at 6, we ate dinner as a family, and he happily washed the dishes to give my mom a break. In short, I believe that she was an excellent mother and wife, and he was an excellent father and husband. They are still married after 46 years.
So what gives? My brother and sister are both married, happy, and have beautiful children. Me, I am perpetually falling for yet another guy, spending the first third of the relationship in a romantic frenzy and the second two thirds on an emotional free fall of ALL or NOTHING. "I love you/this is never going to work/I love you/You're going to leave me/I love you/Please please don't leave." And I eventually wear them out, and their love for me no longer outweighs the exhaustion of trying to calm me down and comfort my worry. They fell in love with a cool, kind, fun-loving woman and wind up with an anxiety-ridden child.
If my first experience with love was beautiful and warm and caring, why am I so spiky and fiery and hostile, thirty years later?
The Road to Neediness:
There is a lot of pain here and I am sorry.
The fact is that we don't completely understand how people end up needy. There are many roads to Rome, and sometimes it is a combination of many factors. Here are some thoughts. Perhaps something will ring true for you.
- The Role of Abandonment: Clinginess may have its origins in abandonment, trauma or unavailable parents. This is a common explanation. You get close and then dormant wounds become alive again. You are a competent woman, who finds herself impossibly demanding. The source lies in a painful past.
- The Role of Temperament: Or, it may develop more benignly, because some kids are constitutionally demanding. As infants they take longer to warm up AND settle down. Such kids may internalize parents differently than those who settle with ease. The good enough parent can never be truly enough. The problem may lie in a person’s temperament.
- The Role of Development: Or, some people get stuck in the idealizing part of development which gets activated during romance. Intimacy is a field which digs deeply into the psychology of early life. We all idealize our folks as young kids and this idealization can get reactivated as adult romance. But, love is not simply romance. It is making life work with a person that we love. Romance transitions into love. If you have a developmental immaturity then this transition may be difficult.
- The Role of the Oedipus Complex: Or, some people recreate the childhood experience of being unable to get what they really want. Freud labeled this phenomenon the unresolved Oedipus Complex. It goes like this: We adore our mother or father. We are unable to have them for ourselves. We recreate this drama in adult life by choosing partners that will never really choose us, or by pushing them away in our anxiety to hold onto something that we unconsciously believe that we can't have. Some psychologists believe that this formulation is farfetched. I don’t.
- The Role of Experience: Finally, we are all moved by experience. Just as we learn from childhood, we also learn from adult life. Many of us don’t learn from experience, but rather repeat the same mistakes over and over again. You are hurt by someone, and you are injured. You look for others like her, with the hope of overcoming it this next time. You regress and get needy. She rejects you. And, the cycle repeats. The mind can be quite rigid. And, attraction to someone we can’t have can become habit.
There are many roads to an unhappy Rome. It may start with a temperament issue and then get locked in by the pain of repeated rejections. Or, abuse can lead you to seek partners who can’t give you what you need. If you want something better, that is a good thing.
Clinginess poisons love.
And therapy can detoxify clinginess.
The mind can act habitually, with love and fear of rejection near the top of the list. By objectifying your experience, therapy offers an opportunity to try something new. Habits, no matter how ingrained, can only be managed if you know when they're activated.
You have some choice.
Hope this helps.
Here three pieces that may be of use.
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