Quora: How can I stop myself from getting clingy in relationships?

Original question:

How can I stop myself from getting clingy in relationships?

I’m 18 & I’m relaxed in relationships, but normally after 2 months I find myself getting clingy & it puts guys off, even if they were really into me. I hate this & don’t know how to stop this habit.


Wow. Are you serious?

At 18, you’re able to recognize this habit in yourself that’s limiting you from living a joyful life? And, you’re on quora seeking guidance on how to alleviate this off putting habit?

You freaking rock. Seriously.

Shoot. At 18, I was such an unpleasant person to be around (friends would say I still am today) and had little self-awareness and drive to improve myself.

I acknowledge you and your awesomeness for showing up here.

Anyway, before going on, I’ll preface my answer by saying I don’t know your situation, personality, history, temperament, world beliefs, or anything about your life really.

So I’m going to tell you what has worked for me.

Where does the clingy mentality come from?

One word: fear.

I mean, when you examine all the available emotions, it boils down to either love or fear.

Generally, a person is clingy, attached, jealous, dependent, overbearing because of fear, specifically fear of loss.

And if you feel fearful of losing things like personal belongings, money, friendships, relationships, guess what?

You’re like EVERY other human being out there.

It’s normal. Don’t beat yourself up or take it personal. That’s just how we’re wired.

Think of it this way: out in the African Savannah where our ancestors came from, life was tough. Resources were scarce, including mating partners.

She had to squander her resources and protect her tribe carefully to maximize her chance of surviving and passing on her DNA code.

So of the “nature vs. nurture” concept, that’s the nature side of it. There’s also the nurture component of it.

People are born loving and kind creatures, but somewhere along the way we are taught fear, jealousy, and hatred.

If history has baked this into your system like it has done for me, we have to acknowledge it, accept it, and honor it as part of who we are. (thank you society constructed norms, family, friends, and media)

But, accepting reality doesn’t mean we resign to it. In order to change and move forward, we must first accept where we stand.

When you’re sinking in quicksand, it’s unhelpful to deny and ignore the fact that you’re in quicksand. Accept that you are indeed in quicksand and then you can mindfully move forward with resolution and full truth and clarity of the situation.

If clingyness is fear based, and we can be taught fear, then we can unlearn it as well.

Most of our life is spent unlearning a lot of things. I’m still unlearning a lot of things that no longer serve me from my childhood.

Cool. So what do I do mister?

Before we get into principles and tactics, let’s do a 10-second exercise.

When you think of a phenomenal leader, how would you describe her?

I’ll give you 10 seconds to think about it…

What do you have? Maybe something like following?
-high standards

Notice these qualities are all heart-mind based skills and qualities. I use the word skill because skills can be cultivated with training and practice. Anyone can learn them if they committed and have an effective strategy!

On the flip side, no one that I have worked with has ever said the following qualities are necessary to be an effective leader:
-slick back hair
-high heeled
-designer suit
-corner office
-lots of money
-drives a Ferrari

This exercise shows you that leadership and all its skills and qualities can be developed just like the attributes of healthy, meaningful romantic partnerships.

Same training. Different arena.

After all, we all want to be a leader in not only our work space, but our family and relationships, right?

So, below are the guiding principles along with recommended tactics to try that have worked for me:

1) Practice more love, kindness, and acceptance for yourself

This is probably the hardest part, or at least what I have struggled with most.

You cannot give what you don’t have.

When you truly love yourself, you will feel enough. You won’t need anyone in your life to feel loved and enough.

You may want to have someone, but it’s a choice rather than compulsion. You choose to want them in your life rather than crave them to obtain peace and harmony.

When you start to feel clingy, How do you respond? What do you usually tell yourself?

Do you beat and berate yourself? Or do you show yourself love and forgiveness?

Choose to respond to ourselves like you would to a young child. If an adolescent made a mistake, would you yell and scold in excess? Probably not. So don’t do that to yourself.

We will always make mistakes, like any other human beings. Mistakes will not go away anytime soon. But what we can do is respond kindly rather than react negatively.


  • Practice mindfulness meditation

There’s two components to mindfulness meditation: awareness and compassion.

With mindfulness meditation, you’ll develop sharp awareness of your emotions, both positive and negative.

You’ll be able to detect these emotions arise within you throughout your day or in turmoil more easily. It’s like an awareness muscle that will be exercised throughout the day. You’ll get better at it the more you practice.

Then, like two wings of a bird, you’ll need exercise compassion as well.

In my early days of meditation, I made the mistake of sharpening my mindfulness by 1000x, but without compassion I became paranoid, anxious, and critical about myself. Major depression mounted as I became aware of all my flaws and crazy thoughts.

I recommend reading or listening to the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. It’s a game changer with massive returns for less than 3 cups of coffee off amazon.

Also, if you’re serious about meditation, I recommend committing to a 10-day silent Vipassana Meditation Retreat.

Consider it like a meditation bootcamp that will teach you the fundamentals of mindfulness meditation. It’s 100% free, but please donate because they provide you food and housing for 10 days.

This was the best vacation I had ever done in my life.

  • Surround yourself with excellence

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

Similarly, your love and acceptance is the average of the 5 people who you spend the most time with. Your income is the average of the 5 people who you spend the most time with. The same applies to your weight, fitness, and motivation.

There’s power in proximity and exposure. This is an uber effective hack because you’ll passively absorb the qualities of the people you surround yourself with.

If you surround yourself with self-loathing, clingy jerks, guess what? You all will only reinforce and tolerate each other’s negative behavior.

Think of your current toxic relationships and loving relationships. Take steps to spend less time with toxic individuals and more with loving folks.

In short, just hang out with cool people.

  • Got no one to talk to?

If you have no options in surrounding yourself with excellence, consider talking to counselors, therapists, or coaches. Any good listeners that ask thought provoking questions and challenge your world beliefs for the better will do.

People are often stigmatized for talking to these professionals, as if there is something wrong with them. Whatever. I spent years talking to counselors and therapists to get an extra pair of eyes on my growth.

I had a blast with all my counselors and sessions talking about both lighthearted and heavyhearted matters like my history, family life, dating life, and school related activities.

It’s really no big deal, unless you make it. See what resources are available at your school or ask around for recommendations. Google is your friend here too.

2) Nurture an abundance mindset

This second principle overlaps with the previous.

When you practice cultivating feeling enough and loved, you will develop an abundance mentality.

On the other hand, when you feel like you constantly need to have more love, money, stuff, attention, it’s a sign of scarcity, the polar opposite of abundance.

Scarcity is fear based meanwhile abundance is love based.

Like self-love, acceptance, and compassion, an abundance mindset can be practiced and developed.


  • Practice gratitude every chance you get

For a long time, I would always wake up and ask Siri, “How many people died yesterday?”

The answer is 154995.

Bizarre tactic? Totally. But effective? For me, yes.

I’m reminded that no matter how bad things are in my life, I am still alive.

This is a hack for me to start my day. You don’t have to do this exercise, but you can find other ways to practice gratitude.

Every morning, tell yourself or journal down 3 or more things you are grateful for.

You’re alive.
You’re breathing.
You have a roof over your head.
You have a great school to show up to.
You have a loving family.
You have a great significant other.
You have an iphone to wake up to.

Practice gratitude even when you slip back into a clingy state.

When this does happen, how do you respond? We talked about how beating and berating yourself probably isn’t the best course of action.

Try expressing gratitude instead, because there is a lot to be grateful here.

You’re in a loving relationship.
Feeling clingy maybe means you really care about the other person.
You’re feeling such beautiful emotions.
You’re empathetic.
You’re intuitive.

If we look back in our lives, we may see that our worst days are our best days. They shaped our lives or taught us something valuable.

Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. We just have to open our eyes and hearts to recognize this.

Find beauty in everything that happens to you, be it good or bad.

  • Expand your options

On top of developing an abundance mindset, it’s helpful to also create abundance in your actual reality.

It’s easier to act your way into thinking than thinking your way into acting.

When it comes to jobs, schools, buying things, relationships, pretty much all realms of life, options are good to have.

Options gives you confidence. No options can make you desperate.

For relationships, having options means that if one relationship is not working out, you have another one to turn to.

No big deal. You won’t get over invested, clingy to any one particular person.

In the dating realm, they call this “spinning plates” versus “one-itis”.

Those with one-itis believe that there is a special someone out there that’s just right for them; a soulmate you might call it.

This notion overly romanticized and leads to unhealthy relationships and an overall bleak outlook on life.

Personally, if I were to subscribe to this notion, I would be overly dependent and overattentive to a single person. I may overlook other potential partners who are a better fit for me.

As you know, being clingy isn’t sexy either. My would find me unattractive or undesirable.

On the opposite hand, spinning plates means that you are balancing multiple relationships at once. This might look like one relationship is serious and the others are budding.

I learn a lot more about myself and gather more data by engaging with multiple prospects. There’s a lot less data and insight to be gathered if you’re in fewer relationships.

That’s why it’s foolish to marry the first person you meet, because you don’t know what you truly want in a partner. Just saying, the data advises that you meet multiple people throughout your life.

This is not to say to embrace infidelity. If you tell someone you’re exclusive with them, then by all means you should.

Be transparent and clear about your intentions up front. If they make a wrong assumption, the onus is not on you.

In short, when you spin plates, you’ll create a more abundant environment for yourself where you’ll be more confident, secure, and detached from any single relationship. Not to mention, you’ll accelerate your learning process and move faster towards potentially having that optimal lifetime partner

I wrote about this on my blog as well: Options gives you confidence

Anyway, thank you for reading, if you made it this far past my rambling. I think you are amazing for asking such a thoughtful question, regardless of your age.

Even if you find my answers distasteful, I have no doubt you will find the right advice to incorporate into your life while leaving out the not so useful tips.

Feel free to email me at hi@evanvpham.com if you want to chat further.