How Can I Tell My Clingy Boyfriend He’s Driving Me Crazy Without Pushing Him Away?

I am 36 attractive, professional, successful, educated and tons of fun (you know, the type of woman that seeks your advice) and I am in a bit of a relationship predicament. I am trying to casually date and not take anyone too seriously, and WHAM a super amazing guy lands in my lap just a bit too soon for me to fully appreciate him. He is everything I have always wanted, kind, whip smart (mechanical engineer), cute, fun, silly, well-traveled, successful, minimal baggage (no ex-wife and no kids, but wants them) and makes me feel like the most beautiful woman on the planet when we are together. I enjoy his company and the physical relationship (behind closed doors) is GREAT (for me, anyway). Here’s the kicker….he is so nervous around me that he gets really (like super, duper) clingy and can’t quite ‘get there’ many times in bed. He’s frustrated and I feel bad for him but also understand that this situation is about what’s going on in his head and not about me…so I remain patient and understanding and open to any and every suggestion to…ahem, assist. I think that issue will pass in time, but it is making him increasingly insecure around me, and resulting in him acting even more clingy outside the bedroom.

Now, when I say clingy, I don’t mean he wants to spend every waking moment with me (although he has said as much, he can keep his cool) it’s more that I can’t be within 5 feet of him without him trying to make out with me…even mid blow-dry while getting ready for work. He is amazing and I don’t want to hurt him, but it’s just a bit overwhelming to have someone ‘tethered’ to you (and your face) anytime you are in the same room. It’s becoming a turn-off and I am not quite sure how to address it. If I try to “let it go” I can see myself getting fed up, pushing way back and eventually walking. I also don’t want him any more nervous around me than he already is….he has already said things like “I’ve never felt this strongly for someone before”, “You make me nervous because there are so many things I love about you”, “I really want ‘us’ to work”…dream come true, right? But all I feel is suffocated….what is my problem and how can I address it with him in a sensitive way?

Thanks, Evan, for helping us girls out!

Jessica

A true dilemma if there ever was one, Jessica. Thanks for sharing. Sort of reminds me of this old post about guys who fall in love waaay too quickly.

Dream man turns out to have one maybe-fatal flaw, and his fate rests entirely in your hands. That’s a lot to think about. And it’s one of the interesting things about being the CEO of your love life; you’re in complete control, you make rational decisions, and it’s not nearly as exciting as being a lovesick puppy like your boyfriend.

How Can I Tell My Clingy Boyfriend He’s Driving Me Crazy Without Pushing Him AwayThe intense highs of blinding chemistry are like a drug, and we crave the drug – even when it brings out the worst in us. Which brings us to your boyfriend, who, truly, can’t help himself right now. I think we’ve all been in such situations where we are so intoxicated by another human being that we give away all semblance of control and self-respect – because that’s what we’re really feeling. I call it the Pedestal Principle: once you put someone up on a pedestal, he is immediately looking down at you.

Therefore, the only way to turn this ship around is to play dating coach with him. Walk him through your logic. Hold up the mirror to him. Let him know that you love him, appreciate him, and have never been happier with a man – but that his nerves aren’t serving him well. You WANT to see him succeed. You’re on his team. There’s nothing to be nervous about. Point out that if he was with a woman who was similarly tethered to him, he might feel smothered, too.

The Pedestal Principle: once you put someone up on a pedestal, he is immediately looking down at you.

The key is not to make him “wrong” for feeling what he’s feeling or doing what he’s doing. Just tap into the idea that he wants to please you and show him how to please you. You’re not telling him to cut off PDA entirely; you just want to chop vegetables in peace. You’re not telling him to stop saying he loves you; you just want him to relax and enjoy the safe space you’ve created together. The important part is that he feels SAFE; you’re not threatening to dump him or putting his head on the chopping block. You’re educating him about how he can be a better boyfriend and make you happier. He should want to do so – and if he can’t, then you have a much tougher decision to make down the road. Good luck.

Readers, have you ever been in the boyfriend’s shoes? Where you’re so in love that you can’t help but coming across as weak and needy? Were you able to turn it around? Or did you get dumped because of the Pedestal Principle?

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Jeremy

    Jessica, I’ll admit that I once fit this guy’s description in a relationship, years ago, where I liked the girl far more than she liked me.  So when I read your letter, it made me feel more empathy for him than for you, though I understand your predicament.
     
    The biggest red flag in your letter, as I see it, is your writing that you were trying to date casually, for fun, and that this guy came around “before you were ready to appreciate him.”  Now, I might be mis-interpreting your intent here, but this was a clear indication of the main problem to me.
     
      Many female writers have advised women to date around, and get their desire for badboys and alpha men out of their system before finally settling for the best beta man they can marry.  Many women describe this as “waiting until they can appreciate the man they will marry.” Even Sheryl Sandberg wrote, in her book, that women should use their 20’s to date every kind of “wrong man” that they are attracted to, then eventually marry a good-guy, whose sense of responsibility and equality will EVENTUALLY be the most attractive thing to women….which, of course, it won’t.
    Because what that essentially means is that the man they will eventually marry is NOT the type of man that they are viscerally attracted to.  Rather, it is a man with whom she can intellectually rationalize a relationship, but lacks the physical draw of the men she is truly aroused by.  Otherwise she would have dated guys like this earlier, and would not make comments like “I met him too soon to appreciate him.”  She needs to RATIONALIZE her arousal for the man she marries, though she never needed to do so for the men she dated previously.  And attraction can not be rationalized and still have any basis in fact.
     
    I believe that this is what is happening to you here.  You meant to date around casually with men you found arousing, and to have fun – and perhaps to eventually get married.  And here you met a man with whom you can intellectually see a future – a man with whom you can intellectually rationalize a relationship, but who does not truly stimulate you on a visceral level.  To put it really crassly, a man you marry, not a man you f–k.  And his lack of “alpha” is coming off as clingy-ness to you, and is further reducing your attraction to him, even as he attempts to show you how attracted he is to YOU.
     
    You see, I have enough relationship experience to know that a woman who is truly attracted to a man is AROUSED by his advances, not turned off by them.  When a man makes advances toward a woman and she is attracted to him, it is sexy.  When she is not turned on by him it is creepy/clingy/insert other negative descriptor.  Sounds like you are not really turned on by him, but like the idea of him.  And, poor guy, sounds like he is exceptionally turned on by you, literally to the point of dysfunction.
     
    My only advice to you (for whatever it might be worth) is to truly examine your feelings as to whether you are really aroused by this guy, or whether your attraction to him is more intellectual (he fulfills your lists).  If you find him arousing, ask yourself why you are getting turned off by him.  If you don’t find him arousing, let him go to find someone who does, and save him the pain of your inevitable rejection before he invests more of himself into you.

    1. 1.1
      Chance

      Jeremy

      It’s possible that you could be on to something, but I think your analysis is reliant on a fair amount of conjecture, and it is very Red Pill in its origin.  Sometimes it can be flat-out annoying to be smothered all the time, even if you were initially very attracted to the person.  I don’t think she would be turned on by his incessant advances even if he was an alpha, but then again, most alphas wouldn’t be behaving the way he’s behaving.   

      1. 1.1.1
        Jeremy

        Chance, I admitted to the conjecture in my post, and cautioned the OP to consider whether it applies to her or not.  Her language was somewhat telling, though.  My 2nd post about the book recommendation should be helpful regardless.  Part of “upping the alpha” is, in fact, knowing when to back off.

        1. Isa

          Meh.  Could just be cultural.  If he’s Latino, this behavior is completely normal.  Heck, getting proposed to on a first date is common as well.  He may also equate physical touch with love (as does my partner) so he’s just saying I like you a lot. 
          My partner is exactly this way (after years and years together), but he’s a first generation immigrant.  I too find it annoying and stifling on occasion (no, I really *do* need to get dressed now), but that’s because I’m German and we aren’t particularly affectionate people.

      2. 1.1.2
        Jenn

        My friend’s first boyfriend in high school was very much like this. He not only wanted to spend every waking moment with her, but when they were together, he constantly draped himself all over her, to the point where she would have to physically push him away while telling him flat-out to leave her alone. There were times when even I’d get frustrated with him because he wouldn’t give her one inch of space when we were hanging out. It made it very difficult for me to talk to her when he was literally always in her face. It’s stifling, like a little needy child who always wants to be picked up and held. I think it sounds like this woman is physically attracted to her man (after all, they are getting intimate), but his constantly needing reassurance in the form of physical affection is what’s turning her off. 

    2. 1.2
      JB

      Yeah, it’s funny that the term  “needy/clingy” never seem to enter a woman’s vocabulary when they’re REALLY into a guy and are enjoying and desiring the constant attention. Like so many other things in relationships “needy/clingy” is an opinion determined by how you feel about someone and what they’re actually doing and how often.

      1. 1.2.1
        Babs

        JB – totally true.
        @Jessica, what do you mean “you are not taking it seriously”, what the heck are you waiting for, you’re 36!! What are you waiting for? He sounds great and attentive. If you need a minute to blow dry your hair, lock the bathroom door or say, “baby, give me a minute to finish ___”.  (This is what I do)
         
        You want to be with someone who adores you. I love that my bf can’t keep his hands off me (he’s also a mechanical engineer!); why would you want it any other way?!!?

    3. 1.3
      Skaramouche

      @Jeremy

      Interesting post and insights.  I’m sure they apply in many cases but I can’t help feeling that your interpretation of the situation is significantly coloured by your own experiences.  I agree that in general, sexual advances are annoying when the attraction is not mutual but the OP very clearly stated that she is attracted to him and enjoys what they have both emotionally and physically.  Are you suggesting that she’s lying to herself about the physical attraction because of other positives?

      This sentence of yours baffled me: “If you find him arousing, ask yourself why you are getting turned off by him.”  She told you why…it’s too much to be hugged and kissed and touched at every turn :P.  Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing…

      1. 1.3.1
        Jeremy

        @Skaramouche “Are you suggesting that she’s lying to herself about the physical attraction because of other positives?”  Yes,  I am suggesting that this is entirely possible (though by no means certain), given the language that she uses and given his behaviour..
         
          On the one hand she states that he is amazing and fulfills her every criteria.  On the other she states that she met him too soon to appreciate him (big red flag, see my post above), finds his behavior “clingy” both in the bedroom and outside of it, and is worried about getting fed up and walking because he is being too affectionate/needy. 
          She states that she feels “suffocated” and asks Evan what her problem is.  This is VERY telling!  She is NOT asking Evan what to do to help her boyfriend feel more secure or change his behaviour.  She has enough insight to recognize that SHE has a problem – here she has a guy that is amazing, whose biggest flaw is showing her too much affection – and she is turned OFF by him!  She is asking Evan “what is wrong with ME.”  Her problem is that she just doesn’t feel as attracted to this guy as she should, given his attraction to her and how well he fits her lists of criteria.
         
          It is a psychological reality that most (mentally healthy) people do not act clingy in relationships unless they feel an imbalance of attraction or power.  In other words, they feel that they like the person more than the person likes them, and become “clingy” because they are afraid of losing the other person (and by then, it is usually already too late).  
          In Jessica’s story, why might this guy be acting so “clingy”?  Could be due to his own psychological problems (in which case he might benefit from counselling), or could be due his perception that she doesn’t like him as much as he likes her (as she has alluded to with her language).  Hence his clinginess, hence his displays of overt affection to her, and hence his willingness to pleasure her in the bedroom without being able to experience pleasure in return (possibly feeling unworthy of it).
         
          Scaramoushe wrote: “This sentence of yours baffled me: “If you find him arousing, ask yourself why you are getting turned off by him.”  She told you why…it’s too much to be hugged and kissed and touched at every turn :P.  Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing…”
          It is another psychological reality that people view overt affectionate behavior differently depending on their own attraction.  If they like the person, overt affection is a turn-on.  If not, then not.  Believe me, if I had an amazing, attractive woman who wanted to put her hands all over me all day, I would never leave my house.  On the other hand, if a woman I did not find attractive was constantly pawing me, I would be turned off.  In the honeymoon stage of a relationship, conventional wisdom states that “they can not keep their hands off of each other”.  It becomes a problem only if it is one-sided. 

         
             Where my postings could be WAY off – I am making the assumption that Jessica’s attraction to this guy may not be terribly strong.  I am assuming this due to her language and his behaviour.  But I could be wrong, since I never met either of them.  Hence my challenge to her to assess whether or not she finds him truly arousing.  If she does feel strong attraction to him, and just needs him to tone it down a bit, she should get him the book I recommended.  If, however, she truly introspects and realizes that in spite of his meeting her intellectual criteria she just doesn’t “feel it” for him, this would help her realize why she feels the way she does and why he is acting the way he is.
         
         
         

  2. 2
    Jeremy

    Sorry to write again, after such a long post, but I had one afterthought.  If you are truly aroused and attracted to this guy, and the ONLY problem is that he needs to “up his alpha”, get him a copy of “The Married Man Sex Primer” by Athol Kay.  Best book on the subject that I have ever read, written for men with this EXACT problem.

  3. 3
    Julia

    I am a very affectionate person so I do appreciate a man who like to kiss and touch often. However, I am in a similar relationship as Jessica. My boyfriend is wonderful and treats me in a way that I only dreamed of before but he definitely adores me and needs my constant affection. Most of the time this is not a problem but even the best things in life, like ice cream or affection, can get you a little sick after a while.

    A few months back, we were having a wonderful Saturday together, it was the first beautiful spring weekend and we were taking full advantage, we went on adventures, he did romantic things, we made out in the shadow etc but at the end of the day his constant touch was beginning to be a bit much. We were walking hand in hand and he said to me “you notice that I always have to have my hands on you, I just find you irresistible.” I acknowledged that I did notice but sometimes, I just needed a little space. I also assured him that I love his affection, that I know how much he adores me and how he treats me like an absolute queen and that I too find him irresistible.” He understood completely and now knows that if I pull my hand away or sit by myself its just me needing a little physical space. 

  4. 4
    Robin

    It sounds to me like this man is giving to receive.  My view is I admit, clouded by my last relationship that sounds exactly like this.  I stayed for 3 years.  I never got to the point where I could bend over to get something out of the oven without him thrusting behind me.
    I tried, for I thought that was love.  What I finally discovered was it was a man very insecure with himself desperately trying to get my constant approval and validation.  It’s not easy up on that pedestal, it’s downright exhausting for I became the center of his Universe and felt I held his happiness in my hands.  No thank you, but best of luck to you.
    So is he over anxious as Evan suggests or does he have deeper issues? 

  5. 5
    Fay

    I had my first “experience” with this when I started to date a man who exhibited these behaviours. I lasted 3 dates and I pleaded with him to take a step back, enjoy the process of getting to know each other and to relax and enjoy each others company (we hadn’t “done the deed” as I was sussing him out for the time being).

    It was annoying. We couldn’t go anywhere without him thinking it ok to have his face stuck to mine. I love “attention” but PDA to this extreme and so soon was off putting. When I ignored his call after date 3 (after pleading with him to give me space) the texts started….long…long texts at all hours of the night!!!

    Wow…I dodged a bullet there I reckon!!. So I agree with Robin….this could be a sign of a deeper issue particularly if you have asked him nicely and explained your feelings but he cannot understand or respect your boundaries ..that to me is a red flag.     

  6. 6
    Candace

    I was reading this post and it occurred to me that perhaps Jessica thinks he is extremely clingy because she is not at the point where she likes him as much as he likes her. They have not reached the mutual ‘likeness’ level because I think if it was mutual the attention would not be classified as ‘clingy’. I know this mismatch has happened to me before with other men in the past where I thought the guy was clingy but now I have a lovely fiancee (thanks to Evan’s advice!) who loves my attention and praise and finds me irresistible but I wouldn’t classify him as clingy because it’s mutual.

  7. 7
    Joe

    Am I going to be the first to suggest that Jessica’s BF needs to seek professional help, whether it’s a doctor or a head shrinker, or both?  She does indicate that the clingy-ness is driven by his bedroom issues…

  8. 8
    sarahrahrah!

    It seems like there is a lot of projecting over Jessica’s post.  From what I can, Jessica’s found a really great guy who is crazy about her, so much so he is losing his cool just a little.
    First, I want to state outright that I’m a bit of a fan of engineers and related types.  They are often regarded as boring by many women (especially in Northern California where they are  present in abundance).  Say what you want, but it takes a high degree of intelligence, perseverance and *conscientiousness* in order to make it into and through an engineering program and then actually produce enough to be employed in the field.  Those qualities translate into being good partner material, imho.
    However, we only know what Jessica tells us about her bf, who is great but struggling with issues in the bedroom.  We can guess that this relationship is rather young since the kinks are still getting worked out with their relationship issues and she hasn’t confronted him about his over affectionate ways.  These are things that usually get worked out in the first six months (again, imo) so I am prone to believe that this relationship is younger than that. 
    Frankly, I think a lot of the commenters have way overblown the issue.  If it’s early in the relationship, they are still working out the kinks of their sexual relationship.  As long as he is able to get an erection, everything else can be worked out together.   Nice guys might not have as much sexual experience and therefore might need to practice “holding off” with you.  If this has because a  big issues, why not try  suggest that you guys go on a sensual feast and an orgasm fast.  Enjoy exploring each others bodies as much as you each want, but no orgasms!  What this does is allow each of you to figure out pleasing foreplay and will have the unintended effect of driving you both crazy, but he will be freed up from the pressure of having to perform.  Usually works wonders for a lot of guys. 
    To deal with his octopus arms outside of the bedroom, you could tell him that it will   interfere with the feast – Chances are he will gladly comply. 
    Good luck and keep us posted!! :-)

  9. 9
    ScottH

    First, I have to say that I agree with all the positive things said about engineers.  Intelligence, adaptability, keen comprehension, generally good guys, etc….  Not all of us (oops) but most of us.

    Second, I’ve had some of the issues that the bf has.  I had one woman I dated where I couldn’t finish the job and I know it was psychological because I was more concerned with making sure that she was satisfied and I thought that she wouldn’t be satisfied if I went first so I held it (too long).   I certainly had no problem coming to the party, just couldn’t finish the party for myself.  Not only that, but she once told me about all the shortcomings of her previous lovers and it made me worry that I would be next on her list, and I probably was next (it was also wrong of her to tell me those things).

    Next, I wonder if/when he’s going to realize that she isn’t all the great things that he thinks she is (how could anybody be that great?) and if he’s going to come back to earth with a thud.  Only time will tell but it sounds like he doesn’t have a lot of dating experience.   Hopefully they can work it out and have a mutually fulfilling and mature and long-lasting relationship.

    1. 9.1
      Julia

      I work with programmers and I would say they are mostly good guys, some of them seem like they are really great husbands/boyfriends and a few of them totally deserve great girlfriends…a few more are kind awkward, I unfortunately date an engineer who was a pretty bad guy.

      I have also dated two men who had similar performance problems early on, it was just general anxiety around trying to show off but failing because of anxiety. In my experience, just being caring and understanding and letting a guy know how great everything he is doing feels is enough to put his mind at ease and the problems cease.

      I am actually really pulling for Jessica, unlike some of the other commenters, it sounds like she has a great boyfriend and just needs some advice dealing with these relationship growing pains. 

      1. 9.1.1
        Julia

        *dated, the guy I date now is not an engineer

  10. 10
    James Wu

    The issue is very very clear. And has been mentioned here a number of times. The guy is not a head case. The poster just does not like the guy as much as he likes her. Or she does not find him physically attractive enough for her. He is good enough for her to date intellectually but she is not completely into him physically. She feels that she is settling for this guy because he checks off all the right provider/mate boxes but he’s not the sexy guy that she is deeply attracted to. She needs to see this for herself. Do the guy a favor and him go. Let him find someone else who will ind his advances “sexy and fun” and “not clingy”. He is clingy because he senses that you are not completely into him and as such is trying harder to “win” your affections. But this will never work as it only causes you to pull away and see him as more “clingy”. Resentment on both sides will build.

  11. 11
    James Wu

    Jeremy and Candace have the right ideas!!!

  12. 12
    Jen

    Why not take a couple months off and see if your feelings change for him one way or the other?  And he can see if he is able to calm down and get whatever help or perspective he needs.

  13. 13
    Jessica

    Wow, thank you all for your insight, I didn’t even know my question was posted until today….and I did let him go about 2 months ago, shortly after asking for Evan’s advice.  I think many of you are correct, the attraction for me wasn’t at a level that I could see myself being happy with long term, but I CAN say that it was a direct result of the behavior exhibited.  I am a VERY affectionate person and was more than happy to don lingerie without being asked ( I LOVE feeling sexy), seduce him regularly by showing up to his house all done up and ready for action and always game make out passionately behind a corner, just out of view, in public….the straw was when I had a house full of people for my Birthday weekend and I was sitting on the kitchen counter talking to my brother towards the end of the night and he literally would not allow me to talk because he kept kissing me…when I (gently) pushed him away and said “babe, I’m having a conversation right now, can we continue that later?” He burst into full body sobs collapsing on my shoulders and begged me not to leave him…needless to say he cleared the room faster than a skunk doing a hand stand and I spent the next hour trying to console him.  The story gets juicier, but that is all I am willing to share with the public, let’s just say it didn’t end well and despite waiting a couple weeks for the dust to settle, I knew in that moment it was over.

    As for the “Not being ready” I had ended a semi-serious relationship merely a few  weeks before, one where we talked about marriage and mortgages and were house shopping….and I also lost my beloved pup of 16 years the day before we met in person…so it was less about me wanting to “date around” and more about not being 100% emotionally available to anyone for a couple of (very good) reasons. When I ended things, that is also what I shared with him, the “why’s” and timing, etc.  He begged me to not end things, begged me to call his ex-GF because she would tell me what a terrible mistake I was making, told me he wouldn’t let me go, etc..

    It was a tough conversation, but it was the right thing to do, I had to let him go and find someone that adores him as much as he adores her, and let myself be free to find a better partner for me.  xo
         

    1. 13.1
      JennLee

      ….the straw was when I had a house full of people for my Birthday weekend and I was sitting on the kitchen counter talking to my brother towards the end of the night and he literally would not allow me to talk because he kept kissing me…when I (gently) pushed him away and said “babe, I’m having a conversation right now, can we continue that later?” He burst into full body sobs collapsing on my shoulders and begged me not to leave him…needless to say he cleared the room faster than a skunk doing a hand stand and I spent the next hour trying to console him.

      Ok, this goes beyond just a difference in amount of affection desired. He had serious mental issues. It’s good that you got away from him, but be very careful because that sounds very creepy. Funny how often that word gets abused by calling nice, but unattractive guys creepy, but that was truly creepy. That’s an example of when the word really applies.

  14. 14
    NatureLover

    Take the constant love, affection and attention while you can get. Way too often, do people find themselves in relationships with people who are either too busy, too tired, too neglectful or too disinterested to show that kind of love this fellow is showing you. The way I see it, you are very lucky. I am getting from him saying “I want us to work out”, that your man is worried that you might lose interest and/or cheat and eventually and break it off with him. As to ensure that this doesn’t happen, he is constantly making his presence felt. It might be a bit overbearing, but all you need to do is reciprocate this same exact behavior to reassure him, and he should feel a lot more comfortable with the relationship and ease up a bit. :)

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