How Do I Avoid Clingy and Desperate Men?

This may not seem like a problem to some women, but for me it is. When I am dating, I like to really take my time and get to know someone before I put any “name” on what we’re doing. It’s just having fun with someone, getting to know him, and see where things go. (I believe it’s called dating.)

There were a few men in the past several months that I liked. They were nice and I could see an eventual relationship coming of our dating. Here is the problem I’ve had…we go out once (maybe twice) and have a good time. There’s some kissing involved (but no sex). We make plans to go out again. Over the next several days he calls me constantly, starts talking about wanting a commitment from me, about our future together, and basically freaks me out from wanting to even go out with him again. (And yes, this has happened at least three times recently.) I understand liking me and wanting to spend time with me, and hoping that things will go further.  What I don’t understand is why they get so obsessive.

I’m a divorced mother with two young children, but I am not looking for someone to “rescue” me. I do want to be in a relationship, with the right person, and I do want to be married again. However, I am not going to jump into something so quickly that I am blindsided. Are these men just so desperate that they don’t understand the fundamentals of dating? Any way I can avoid this in the future? It seems to be happening to me a lot recently.

Leah

Dear Leah,

Yeah, it’s a drag when a guy says he really likes you and makes a supreme effort to see you. I’m sure all the women who are waiting by the phone for their dates to call are feeling particularly bad for you.

I kid, Leah, because it’s about as ironic as any dating situation can be. We want people to be real, authentic, and emotionally available, yet we cringe and we flee when they are.

I wouldn’t say this is the height of hypocrisy, because I don’t know how you get when you really like a guy. Maybe you never get excited and let down your guard. But imagine you did. It would be a shame if a man distanced himself from you precisely BECAUSE you said you liked him.

What it really comes down to, Leah, is timing. You keep finding guys who are ready to take the plunge, you dazzle them on a date or two, and you listen to them start gabbing about rings and honeymoons. That has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. They want to be married soon. You do not. That’s perfectly fair. But imagine the shoe was on the other foot.

Let’s say that you were 39, single, and childless. You meet a great guy. It wouldn’t be too unreasonable for you to get excited about him being the future father of your children. Of course, if he’s already a father of two, and also recently divorced, he might not be ready to dive back into a committed relationship. That’s nobody’s fault. That’s simply two good people who may be compatible, but are not a good fit at the time.

I’m particularly glad you wrote this email because it’s useful to hear from a woman who just not that into HIM. It goes to show that, as abhorrent as we find the concept of “game-playing”, sometimes a little game playing is exactly what is necessary to keep the fire burning.

When someone makes himself too accessible, too willing to jump into a relationship, we question him. We wonder how anyone could like us this much this soon. We immediately devalue those people. But when we’re crazy about someone and show it, we want that person to reciprocate. Can’t we just be REAL with each other? Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Apparently, it’s not….

I remember a woman that I went on a date with about seven years ago. At the end of the night, she said to me, “I’m glad to have you in my life”. We’d had fun, but after three hours, I wasn’t yet “in her life”. So I did what most people would never do. I told her that I thought she was great, but that she might want to hold back on the big proclamations until we get to know each other better. I told her that because I liked her so much, I didn’t want to get scared off by her intensity. Class act that she was, she took it in stride, and we remained friends for years after dating.

Needless to say, that’s not going to work for everyone, but I think an authentic conversation is a lot better than dropping every guy like a hot potato the second he tells you he’s interested.

Let’s face it: It can be hard to keep your feelings below the surface when they’re just bursting to get out. But take it from readers like Leah: full disclosure is like polyamory. It may sound great in theory, but in doesn’t work in practice.

 

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Comments:

  1. 61
    Sparkling Emerald

    Personally, I think when someone complains that the other is “clingy” or “desperate” (no matter which gender is complaining that the other is “clingy”) it just means that there is an imbalance in feelings of affection. I’ve only felt that way about guys I really wasn’t that into. I wouldn’t mind daily contact from someone I was really into. From someone I’m only feeling luke warm about, I would probably feel smothered. When the feelings of affection are mutual, no one complains about the other person being clingy or desperate.

    1. 61.1
      Julia

      So true Sparkling Emerald. I think we also date/love differently. It could just be conflicting styles. I have been thinking a lot about communications of needs, styles, wants lately.

      1. 61.1.1
        Goldie

        I think you’re onto the root cause of this issue, Julia. As I understand now, my ex and I had completely different, what they call “love languages”. Whenever I take any of the tests to find out what mine is, the result is always “action”. I’m guessing his is a combination of quality time and touch. So when we were together, I admit that he often came across as clingy to me. I’d have things to do around the house, and instead of showing his love by doing these things with me (like I said, action), he would (the way I saw it) not even let me do anything and instead insist on me holding hands with him all day like he was five years old. Whereas he probably saw me as cold as detached, using house projects as excuses to slack off on spending quality time together.

        Of course it didn’t help that none of us really knew anything about languages of love, or even if we knew about them, none of us realized how important it was to understand them in each other.

        I can now totally see how someone whose primary language of love is touch or quality time, can come across as clingy or needy to someone with a different primary language. Even if their attraction is mutual and at the same level.

        1. Sparkling Emerald

          I am beginning to think that the problem with relationships isn’t our differences, (we all have them) but how we regard them. I think some differences would make 2 people inherently incompatible (such as a polyamourous and a monogamous person) or someone who wanted kids and someone who did not. But many differences could be bridged, if BOTH people were willing to navigate those differences RESPECTFULLY, and not judge the other person as “Clingy” or “Needy”. Why label and judge, why not look at it as the other person has some DIFFERENT needs and wants than you. Chances are you also have some overlapping wants and needs as well.

        2. Goldie

          This is in reply to Sparkling below.

          Of course I didn’t come out and call him clingy, I am not that immature. We talked about it, I acknowledged his need for quality time, and tried my best to meet it. Turns out, I don’t do intense quality time very well. It physically wears me out, especially on top of my other responsibilities. Towards the end of our time together, I was like a zombie, and had fallen asleep at the wheel once, to my complete horror. Some differences cannot be bridged, whether we go about it respectfully or not. But I certainly believe that it is worth a try, as long as both of you keep the communication channels open, and keep track of how each of you is feeling and why.

  2. 62
    judy

    Sasa 28 – “poor loser”???? What a mean thing to say about a friend.

    At lunchtime today, I spoke with a woman whom I expect you would call a loser too. She is afraid to go out and meet someone, in case she falls in love and gets hurt.

    Hm.

    We’ve all been there.

    For me, if a man moves too quickly and I’m not sure that he is in love with ME (and me the same with HIM), I would not necessarily think him clingy and desperate – but would slow down to make sure of what I’m feeling. Putting labels on it doesn’t help.

    I’d already be a teeny bit cautious if a man starts talking love on the second date. Maybe it’s just me.

    1. 62.1
      Sparkling Emerald

      Isn’t it sad how wanting a relationship is now seen as something only “losers” want ? A friend of mine recently married, and she said she was out at the blue bar taking dance lessons, and she told a group of women that she had recently married. Then she told me “Oh, they were all saying things like “oooh, where did you meet him” ” and in her mind that made them “desparate”. Really I don’t get that at ALL. If someone said “I just bought a house” I would probably say “Ooooh, where did buy ?” If someone said they were getting ready to fly to Europe I would probobaly say
      “Ooooh, where in Europe ?” But sheesh, treat getting married like its some kind of GOOD news, and you are considered a loser ?

      1. 62.1.1
        Goldie

        I’m shaking my head at your friend’s reaction, Sparkling… Those women were just being polite. She was the one who told them she’d just gotten married. What did she expect them to say, “oh, that’s nice”? “sucks to be you”? “been there, done that, never again”? Of course they expressed interest by asking where she’d met him. That’s not desperate at all, that’s normal conversation.

  3. 63
    Leah

    What is the date on this letter, Evan? I’m guessing about 5 years ago? Looking through your blog (it looks great, btw!), I remembered this letter that I had written and looked it up. I’m still dealing with the same issue, however many years later. I’m still single. Haven’t been in a relationship for longer than 3 months in the past 8 years (since my divorce). I always tell myself that it’s because I’d rather be alone than with the wrong person. But do I keep passing up the right person? I do believe that there is more than one “right” person out there for each of us. When I look inside myself, I really do want to be in a relationship with someone, and when I have been in those short ones, I feel very good. I always find some reason though that it can’t work. There have been legitimate reasons (like the guy who did LSD, or the guy who was married), but then there were also reasons like, “I’m just not feeling it,” or, “he’s too conservative for me.” I always bring my “A-game” on a date. I’m attractive and fun to be with, so it’s rare if I don’t get a second date. But if I start feeling like someone is into me before I’m into him, I just freak out…and that is MY problem!

    1. 63.1
      Andy

      Hey Leah I think you are absolutely on point that when you feel like someone is into you before you’re into them you freak out. Unfortunately I think that is a fundamental difference between man and woman. I am in my 20s, it is currently near the end of 2013 and I’ve been through this multiple times. I’m young kind goal oriented decent looking and I have great first dates and often get second ones. I recently read something about a second date slump. I’ve been single for 3 years since my last relationship and when I go on a great first date I just fall too fast and scares the girls away. I think it also has to do with the fact that I’m becoming more desperate as I’m single for a longer amount of time each day, but the main thing is I know how interested I am in one date and I need to “play the game” by hiding my emotions better until she starts liking me a lot too. Girls just take some time to decide and to build a comfort level I guess. In retrospect I sound so smart but I wish I can pull this off as I have been letting great girls slip away :( it makes me sad. Don’t be too hard on yourself, guys like me need to learn or girls like you just have to open up faster which is not a good or easy thing to do. Better for the guys to stop showing all their cards so fast..

  4. 64
    Albert

    Perhaps you are being too hard on those ordinary, decent guys our there who really, honestly want marriage instead of a long courtship and the possibility of a long life as a single, independent man; are honest enough to say so up front; and are not willing to try to learn how to live “fulfilling lives” as a single.

    It would be so refreshing if a dating website had a section for men and women interested in and perusing marriage, so such men would not have to wade through dozens of women who aware afraid of or unwilling to make the commitment of marriage and say so right up front, so marriage-minded men won’t waste their time on them.

  5. 65
    Albert

    Leah, I find myself asking how to avoid women who are fiercely independent, and would rather stay that way instead of making the commitments a marriage requires, and fing intelligent, educated women who are not “allergic” to marriage commitments.

  6. 66
    Albert

    Andy, perhaps some guys show their cards so fast is that they want to be honest from the start. And not spending months or years as singles, hate the single life, and want out of it as soon as possible. Such honesty should be appreciated.

  7. 67
    Albert

    I am convinced there is a Jill out there for every Jack. The problem is that dating sites are all failing miserably in bringing true marriage-minded marriage-focused singles of ALL ages together, instead of setting them up to be rejected precisely because they want marriage.

    Wanting marriage or remarriage should be no reason to be considered undesirable or “creepy.”

  8. 68
    Mothman

    Clingy only happens when there’s no mutual attraction. Sure, the attraction may build over time, but I think the person who doesn’t like the clinging will cut their losses fast. Women complain about men showing too much interest but really ladies, perhaps you aren’t showing enough? Men are the gateway to commitment…

  9. 69
    jamal

    soman are just desperate to find a guy when they stay single for a long time 

  10. 70
    Mrcanada

    Interestingly shallow but very real perspective from the letter writer.
    Remember these men arent all the desperate losers that the writer thinks.  I know from my own perspective as a man dating a woman that i have a lot of options and im pretty good at sourcing more.  
    Ive been “let go” quite rudely by women when i express a valid genuine interest in them and start talking about taking the relationship to the next level.  How are the ladies supposed to know that i am liking what im seeing and that im not some committment phobe or serial multi dater other than to express my interest.
    Also, i want to see if im wasting my time.  There are a great many women out there who will string a guy along, make him think hes the only one and then abruptly announce that they have met the love of their lives and are going exclusive with someone else.  If a girl wont entertain even the thought about going exclusive within five dates she aint exclusivity material.  Im not talking about a ring, just talking about labels and where each person might like to be.
    Women like that are a godsend.  Normally by the time i am even asking that question its because ive got 2-3 fresh potential dates lined up, been banging a casual partner on the side, and im wondering if i should go out with the fresh prospects and start something new or not and whether i should wrap things up with the casual partner.  
     
    Giving me attitude when im testing if she wants to go further allows me to downgrade that woman, convert her into a new casual partner, set dates for the new prospects and go looking for more.
    The typical woman game of pulling away because i tried to advance the relationship gives me all the room in the world to do so.  I can send a few texts which she wont answer which gets me off the hook for ignoring her, her lack of initiative means im likely not going to get interrupted when in the sack or on a date with one of the other girls and eventually my absence when things get busy will have the girl (who is like the writer) hungry for more and i can get my casual fix out of her.
    Eventually casuals dry up because they arent committed and are still looking so you as a guy dating need to keep bringing in fresh stock and women like that are perfect.  They want you around but dont want you around too much, or calling too much or texting too much.  Gives you room to look for mrs. Right.
    So take it from me ladies, next time your going to slap the needy label on some guys face just think of what ive said and remember that this could all be going on in the background.  And before you call me or any man who would operate this way a pig, put it into perspective: if you were to say yes lets do it you just gave this “pig” finally a reason to escape all this madness and dump all the other girls so he can simplify his life and focus all his energy on you.
    Which, ironically is what most women want a man in a relationship to do.
    Madness.
     
     

    1. 70.1
      Dawn

      With your story you’re actually confirming that we should filter out the fast-forwarders like you.
      You approach dating like it’s a job-interview. The vacancy just has to be filled, it doesn’t really matter if it’s me or one of the other “2-3 fresh potential dates lined up“. To top it off, you even admit you’re banging someone on the side. So, no genuine feelings for the girl you’re dating and not a real catch to say the least. 

    2. 70.2
      jay. bee

      Very well said.  I am that exact guy.  I keep a team of women to meet my needs.  However,  we are still needy.

  11. 71
    Wes

    If a man has the good looks, height, financial and social status, plus the high practicality of being a trophy boyfriend to show off to her girlfriends, he is pretty much set.   He can attach himself to whatever woman he pleases like just like superglue.  His height and good  looks make him immediately desirable, so in essence the woman is the “clingy” one in the equation.   If’s he’s everything that she wants from the surface level, she’ll more than likely do her best to hold on to him in hopes of discovering a golden personality that matches the quality of his looks.   When the relationship all goes to crap, the so-called clingy, needy, lesser attractive guys are the ones she desires for that shoulder to cry on, but nothing more than that.
    Lesser attractive, shorter guys who don’t have “tall” guy looks and tall guy pseudo-social status are labelled “clingy” even though they show the same amount of interest in a woman or less.  Women will go even further than that and deem these men as creeps.  Only certain men are allowed to be clingy because the women desire them by virtue of social customs.

  12. 72
    emma

    JOHN- ‘What do the single moms expect men to do the other six nights when they’re unavailable and don’t want to be exclusive ?

    What did you mean by this comment? are you saying that if you cannot see a women 7 nights a week you have nothing to do? It seems a bit odd to me that you feel the need to see a woman or a few women to fill your time. Do you not have friends or hobbies? surely thats not a nice place to be and makes you feel lonely when you are spending an evening without a woman?

  13. 73
    Slow Gee Nee

    If a man is laying it on thick, he’s pretty much trying to get you into bed.
    If a man is talking to you about things other than laying on the thick flattery, he is probably trying to get to know if he is going to like you.
    I heard these guys in a bar giving the ladies their numbers. 6, 7, 7.5, etc.

    I asked, “SO, I don’t here any 9′s 10′s, are you guys that fussy or just that single?”
    “Well, we reserve the rest of the numbers for personality”
    “So, if I have this right, aprox 70% for looks, and 30% in reserve for personality”
    “Ya, that’s about right”

    So if a man likes your looks and approaches, he’s into your looks. If he’s checking out the rest of you, by listening and talking about things, he’s checking out your potential. If those are the rules, than any man who doesn’t get to know you personally, is either trying to get laid or being a cling on. Meaning he’s just wanting a woman’s company period. Nothing to do with you as a person. Also something he probably does often enough. Also as stated above. I know a few men who actually go right for clingy, knowing most women will back off, just so they can fool around behind your distanced back.
    It’s another MO for some men. How can you tell? Women are usually a bit mysterious, men who get mysterious or secretive about anything usually have something serious to hide. Be aware if the guy laying it on thick mentions anything that says “Let’s not talk here, I’ll call you later”

    Intuition, use it. Mainly when you want to look at someone and say “Are you for real?” go ahead say it.

  14. 74
    GL

    BEWARE of this kind of man. I just got done with one. I have reason to believe that he was trying to manipulate me. If he wooed me, I would be connected to him and he could then get devotion, which leads him to getting basically everything he could think of. Like booze and cigarettes. As time went on it became apparent I would be giving him rides, paying for all the dates, and taking care of his emotional needs like a mother. It got worse and worse and I could tell being my boyfriend (someone who does things for me), was becoming a problem. I just read another article about this that said these men are not healthy. That is most likely the case. To jump into a relationship and get committed early on is not a healthy decision, or at the very least, immature.

  15. 75
    John

    Men feel jealousy when they hear that a woman they are interested in is seeing another guy. We don’t feel insecure.

  16. 76
    Jay Bee

    After reading this post and many of the comments, I am finally understanding that I am that “clingy” and “needy” guy.  I was recently in a “relationship” where I felt that she was the “one” after 2 or three dates.  She constantly told me that I was always too serious and asked to just have fun.  I allowed my past and personal insecurities to dominate our communication, thus driving her away.  I could go into a long dissertation of why I am driving people away but I won’t.   I will take a lot of this advice and work on myself.  Is it possible to change or am I stuck being needy since it’s in my personality? Note: the only I don’t show neediness is to date multiple women at once.  I guess, I am getting smaller needs met from a lot of people.  A chuckle as I write this because I am realizing that I need help! Lol

  17. 77
    Nan

    Jay Bee….you sound like the guy I am seeing now……he knows he is driving me nuts with his behavior and is trying to change but it is his nature…..as well as the result of his past and personal insecurities.  His admission that he knows this about himself makes me like him a lot more……but he still drives me nuts. I have to hit him with a fly swatter to make him stop kissing me, hugging me and all that stuff….lol….but that’s not the hardest part. The hardest part is knowing his expectations are so high for our relationship, and the pressure is so great on me……what if I just can’t meet his expectations and have to back off?   He is a wonderful person in every way. IT is so painful to hurt someone who is good and decent and you care about……but maybe I can’t ever say “I love you” and he is saying it after just a month??  So my challenge is to make sure I communicate to him…constantly…..where I am coming  from and that I need to take things slow, etc.  Then, at least I will have been honest and open and won’t have a guilty conscience if things don’t work out.   We are in our 60′s….both of us are widowed….but I guess I have dealt with the loss of my soul mate differently than he has.  I understand his loneliness totally. But I have chosen to make the rest of my life a challenge and be independent and be more of a risk taker, etc. Someone to share my life now would be awesome and welcome….but not a necessity. I fear in his case, he simply needs to be with someone 24/7.   It’s a tough one….we are amazingly compatible as well.   Maybe I am the one who has to change?  Am I just detaching because I am using “independence” as an excuse for hiding emotionally?       I could go on and on…….anyway….what a great topic this is……

  18. 78
    Nan

    Being alone can get lonely…but not for everyone.  But is choosing to be alone selfish, in a way? 

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