What Causes Clinginess In Relationships?

Plus, the basics on how to get a little space while maintaining intimacy.

signs your partner is too clingy

Wanting to spend time with your partner is a normal part of a relationship, but for some people, giving their partner space can be difficult. People acting out of fear, distrust, or those with insecure attachment styles can become clingy, finding it hard to give their partner the space they need. It can be difficult for people with clingy partners to separate themselves too, even though space is an important part of a healthy, long-term relationship.

According to licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Studwell, clinginess in a relationship can be defined as “excessive amounts of wanting to be with or control the other person.” She explains that clinginess in a relationship can create uncertainty and instability. It will often push a clingy person’s partner away — causing an eventual breakup if they’re not able to acknowledge and fix this particular issue.

Continue reading to find out what causes clinginess in relationships, signs your partner is too clingy, and how to deal with a clingy partner.

What Causes Clinginess In Relationships

According to Dr. Studwell and licensed marriage and family therapist Racine Henry, PhD, of Sankofa Therapy NYC, clinginess can manifest from fear, anxiety, instability, and insecurity.

“This could be as a result of a person’s previous relationship history, past emotional trauma from the current relationship, or a lack of coping methods,” Dr. Henry explains. These past experiences can make someone feel that they’re not good enough for their partner or even anxious their partner might leave them, thus resulting in clingy behavior.

For example, Dr. Racine explains if someone was cheated on in a previous relationship, they may become clingy out of fear of missing the signs of their new partner cheating. “They may believe by always being around their partner or being on top of their movements, they can avoid any future pain of infidelity.”

Clinginess can also cause negative effects in a relationship. Dr. Henry says the non-clingy partner may feel like their autonomy is being challenged, and they can’t speak their mind because of fear they’ll hurt the feelings of their clingy partner. It can contribute to the demise of the relationship, too. “A person may ghost you or abruptly end the relationship out of frustration of the clingy behavior,” he says.

Signs Your Partner Is Too Clingy

Like many issues in a relationship, there are certain signs you can look out for that will signal whether or not your partner is too clingy. Dr. Henry says this clinginess can manifest as incessant phone calls, unannounced appearances, repetitive questions, or needing a log or evidence of where you go, what you do, or who you speak to. If you find yourself withholding inconsequential information or feeling hesitant about how your partner may respond to plans that don’t involve them, they’re probably too clingy.

According to Dr. Studwell, clingy partners often don’t trust their significant other. They’re often suspicious and don’t like when their partner does things with other people without them. If you’re unsure if you’re the clingy partner, she says you can try and notice if you feel very insecure or have a hard time trusting your partner, as those feelings might result in clingy behaviors that aren’t registering with you.

How To Deal With A Clingy Partner

Couples therapy is always a great option for anyone experiencing problems in a relationship, but if you’re looking for an immediate way to deal with a clingy partner, Dr. Studwell says it’s important to remain calm. You can offer support while still voicing your concerns. “Reassure the person who is being clingy, show them they can trust you, and tell them honestly how it feels that they don’t trust you and the relationship.”

Dr. Henry echoes this, suggesting it’s best to confront the clingy behavior with specific examples of what you don’t like. “You can offer reassurance of your desire to be in the relationship and your romantic interest in your partner. You can also talk about alternative behaviors that you would like or that would make you feel like your partner is less clingy.”

For example, you can say, “I don’t like that you came to my job even though I told you I was too busy to see you. Instead, we can make plans to spend time together after work or when I have a day off so that I can give you my full attention.”

If you’re the clingy one in a relationship and notice you’re feeling insecure or untrusting, Dr. Studwell says you should slow down and find ways to reassure yourself. Dr. Henry notes that the best way to know if you’re being too clingy is to ask. “Everyone has different definitions of what is ‘too much’ and assumptions never help a relationship,” she says.

And if you do ask, prepare yourself that you may hear an answer you don’t like. But don’t despair. If your partner indicates you’re being clingy, she advises trying to listen without reacting. “You can talk about what causes you to feel insecure or unsure of the relationship,” Dr. Henry continues.

Ultimately, open communication and embracing time and space apart from each other may change your relationship for the better.


Dr. Elizabeth Studwell, licensed clinical psychologist

Dr. Racine Henry, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist