Why Do I Go From Confident To Clingy In Relationships?

Hi Evan,

I just finished reading “Why He Disappeared.” It was extremely insightful. I didn’t really fit EXACTLY into the female examples you gave but still got a lot out of the material. I tend to constantly overlook men’s flaws (to a fault,) so that’s where I didn’t fit in. BUT, I could relate to the clinginess in relationships. I tend to be the confident, self-assured woman in the dating process, but once I begin the courtship/relationship phase, I become unconfident and clingy. In my head I see what I’m doing, but I have been unable to change this flaw of mine, even though I know it’s happening. It’s extremely frustrating. Do you have any advice on how to overcome this?

Kelly

P.S. I love your wife’s blog from when she was your girlfriend. I constantly go back to it on your website, and I’m glad you included it in your book. It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever read! (In addition to yours, of course!)

 

Dear Kelly,

Thanks for your kind words about me and my wife, and for your honesty and vulnerability.

Obviously, the message in “Why He Disappeared” can’t apply in equal measure to every unique woman who’s read it, but I’m glad you saw enough universal truth that fits your situation.

First, let me share with you a personal story.

I was hired to create a magazine for JDate back in 2005. It was called JMag and it was to be patterned after Match.com’s Happen Magazine, where I was a contributor. JDate promised me that I was to be the editor-in-chief and advice columnist at JMag.

I was extremely excited.

I began working 3 days a week.

A few months later, I was working 2 days a week.

Finally, I was coming in 1 day a week to work on JMag.

I had no paid writers, no dedicated graphic designers. Just me, trying to wrangle something amazing out of piecemeal resources.

Never say anything negative – it all comes back to haunt you…

I complained to my boss. I complained to her boss. I complained to anyone who would listen that JMag was underfunded and underappreciated.

What I didn’t do was make my case effectively. I fought too many battles. I was too attached to my ideas. I didn’t know how to be a team player.

In the end, I burned most of my bridges at JDate – not because I was untalented – not because they’re a bad company – but because I failed to enroll my colleagues in the vision of greatness I had in my head.

It wasn’t JDate’s failure. It was mine. I was immature and headstrong, where it would have been wiser to be patient, positive, and enthusiastic.

The reason I’m sharing that off-track story with you is because, for a couple of years, I blamed JDate for my failures, just as I blamed other “bosses” for our failure to cooperate.

But ultimately, if you’re going to succeed in a corporate environment, you probably know that you should:

1)    Befriend important people – above you, below you, on your same level

2)    Never say anything negative – it all comes back to haunt you

3)    Give credit to others – instead of trying to take credit yourself

4)    Consider others’ points of view – just because it’s not your point of view doesn’t mean it’s not valid.

I may be able to get hired based on my resume, intelligence and work ethic, but if I were really to ascend in a corporate environment, I’d have to do a LOT better at those tasks. Less talented people who knew those things are already at the top of the totem pole.

Dating works the same exact way.

It is NOT a meritocracy.

You don’t succeed because you’re cute, smart, successful, and fun.

Dating is NOT a meritocracy. Getting the guy isn’t enough.

You succeed because you make a good choice in a partner AND because you know how to deal in relating to that partner.

Getting the guy isn’t enough.

Getting the RIGHT guy and making the RIGHT decisions is what determines whether you have a future.

Because you can be the PERFECT girlfriend to the WRONG guy and there’s NOTHING you can do to salvage the relationship.

And you can be an AWFUL girlfriend to another guy, and the relationship may persist.

You’ve seen this yourself.

The point is, Kelly, that there’s no magic formula to teach you exactly what to say and do in the context of a relationship to avoid being needy and clingy.

I think it’s a matter of seeing what works and what doesn’t, and doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

So while my IMPULSE might be to complain that my magazine was not getting the proper resources, my ACTION would be to remain appreciative and try to illustrate how content can better drive traffic and create revenue.

If you know that you scare guys off with your intensity, the only answer is to STOP BEING SO INTENSE.

And while your IMPULSE might be to have “the talk” about “where we’re going,” you will learn to bite your tongue and live in the moment. Why shouldn’t you say whatever’s on your mind? Because it’s ineffective to achieving your goal.

If you know that you scare guys off with your intensity, the only answer is to STOP BEING SO INTENSE. It ain’t easy, but it ain’t brain surgery either.

You may still be the intense questioner who wants to lock down her boyfriend for life the instant you feel a lapse in your connection… but hopefully, by being patient, being cool, and being positive, you’ll create a feeling in your boyfriend that he’s LUCKY to have found such a rare and amazing woman.

A woman who appreciates him, who gives him space, who TRUSTS that if he’s with you, then that’s exactly where he wants to be.

Much love,

Evan

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Honey

    I think that everyone has those moments in any relationship (romantic or otherwise) and what I try to remember when it happens to me is that my emotions are NOT my actions.  I can feel clingy/insecure, but decide that in the moments when I am FEELING that way, the ACTION I should take is to do something just for me.  You can only concentrate on so much at once, so putting my emotions aside and taking a productive action leads me to focus on that action, which then changes my emotional response.  I also do a lot of positive self-talk, which I’ve found super helpful in a lot of areas of my life.

  2. 2
    starthrower68

    This raises an interesting conundrum in my mind; I get, per previous posts, that a woman’s job is to sit back and watch what he does.  If she likes it, stay; if not, go.  And I also agree that not getting emotionally invested makes sense.  But at the same time, we have to be willing to risk getting hurt.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this one.

  3. 3
    AS

    In my experience a lot of confident women get clingy because their partners are bringing uncertainty to their relationship – so just to elaborate – they are never to sure when they are going to call, when they are going to be seeing one another again and in some cases the relationship has not even been clearly defined. As a result they drive themselves into a neurotic frenzy and become clingy & insecure. I guess at that stage, you need to ask yourself if this relationship is reallly giving you what you need?

  4. 4
    starthrower68

    AS,

    You raise a good point.  Abandonment fears are something that is part of how humans are wired.  This is why I say it’s a conundrum for me.  It’s true that you have to accept you’re going to get hurt.  But in order to “get hurt”, we have to be emotionally involved.  But we shouldn’t get emotionally involved until what?  The relationship is defined?  When he makes us his girlfriend?  Because, as we know, springing “the talk” is a bad idea, so we really don’t know anything until we see his behavior.  Now don’t misunderstand; I’m not making an assumption here that all men are bad, or this or that, so please don’t take this as male bashing.  I’m not willing to put myself through the “neurotic frenzy” which it is.  I agree that risk of hurt is part of the deal, but yet I’m going to use wisdom about assuming that risk.  So, does that make me negative and closed off or smart?  I might be told I’m over analyzing or applying logic for logic’s sake, but I am curious what others think.

  5. 5
    Donna

    I’m the same way, and finally have recognized that I’m the common denominator – the reason why I’ve seldom gotten the guy I’ve wanted, even though they were initially very interested.  As Evan has said in the past, you lose your edge and the very things that made you stand out in the first place.  So now, part of what I do is delete his cell phone number – that way when I’m feeling needy or inclined to ask for reassurance, I simply can’t.  All I can do is wait.  Course I can find it in case of emergency, but the number is simply not right at hand.  And if you wait, usually the inclination passes anyway.  Watch, wait, and all will be revealed to you in time. 

  6. 6
    Honey

    This reminds me that I read an article on Yahoo the other day about how people with insecure attachment styles in relationships have quicker response times when they are in (perceived) physical danger.  It’s a survival mechanism.

  7. 7
    Diana

    The experience shared by the writer is all too familiar to most women, including myself. What I have learned [for the next time] is to try and be the warm and inviting, feminine receiver, so that when I meet a good man who wants to give, I allow him the space to do precisely what he yearns to do ~ give. I accept his goodness and share my appreciation by expressing how he makes me feel and how what he does makes me feel. A good man will want to make me happy and be my hero. I receive and accept. It’s as simple as that. To sound corny, I am the flower and he’s the bee.
     
    This helps [at least a little ;)] to curtail those impulses, like wanting to be the agenda or relationship pusher [albeit nicely]. For ex., calling him if he doesn’t call me, or planning our date for him, or checking up on his day.  I resist the impulse to do anything that reflects my taking action or leaning forward.  I don’t want to function in an overly way; no managing, planning, chasing, or doing.  Over functioning does not inspire a man’s devotion.
     
    I think it has to be a combination of simultaneously showing independence and vulnerability. Sort of like, “I feel great when we’re together and I care about you. I want our time to grow into something meaningful and lasting. This means marriage to me and I hope this is something you want, too. But I know I can take care of myself, if you feel differently. What do you think?”

  8. 8
    starthrower68

    @Honey,

    I saw that article too.  It was very interesting.

    @Donna,

    Watching and waiting to a certain extent.  I do the deleting of the cell phone number or don’t even have them as a friend on the intant messenger.  I don’t initiate any contact.   To some, these might be silly little things but if they work, they work.  I try to eliminate anything that could set me up for following those impulses. 

  9. 9
    Christie Hartman

    In my experience, there are two reasons a woman gets needy/clingy in a relationship: one is that she hasn’t developed trust and confidence in men and love (and therefore in herself). The other is that she’s in a relationship with a guy who’s emotionally unavailable. Only you know which one it is. If you’re the first type, back off and work on yourself. If you’re the second, dump him and find a guy who can give you what you need.

  10. 10
    starthrower68

    Diana,

    BINGO!!!  Thank you for articulating what I’ve been trying to get across and why I struggle.  Evidently I’m the only one who struggles with doing both at the same time.  Perhaps if I were better at comparmentalizing, I’d have a lot easier time with that.

  11. 12
    starthrower68

    I was looking for, and failed to find, Mrs. EMK’s blog post.  I found it very insightful.  I would like to read it again.

  12. 14
    Karl R

    starthrower68 asked: (#4)
    “But we shouldn’t get emotionally involved until what?  The relationship is defined?  When he makes us his girlfriend?”

    That’s the way I have handled the situation when the relationship was uncertain.

    AS said: (#3)
    “In my experience a lot of confident women get clingy because their partners are bringing uncertainty to their relationship [...] and in some cases the relationship has not even been clearly defined.”

    I’ve had some experience staying confident while in an uncertain relationship.

    Last summer I went on a cruise with a large group of friends and acquaintances. On the first day of the cruise, I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with one female acquaintance (whom I was interested in). During that conversation, she told me:
    1. She wasn’t interested in a serious relationship with me.
    2. She was interested in a serious relationship with someone else.
    3. She wasn’t opposed to having some fun. (She didn’t clarify what “fun” meant.)

    Since I didn’t have any other romantic prospects on board the ship, I decided that a week-long fling sounded fun. By the end of the cruise, I decided to continue dating her just to see where things went.

    Within a couple weeks, I was spending most nights at her house. I would drop by my apartment 2-3 times per week to drop of dirty clothes and pick up clean ones.

    After three months I said to her, “Do you remember that first conversation that we had, when you told me that you were interested in having a serious relationship with that widower friend of yours? Is it safe to assume that he’s no longer in the picture?” My girlfriend giggled, blushed, and confirmed my suspicions.

    It wasn’t until that point that I fully began to emotionally invest in the relationship.

    There are a few things that help avoid “where is this going” anxiety:
    1. Don’t fantasize about the future.
    2. Don’t try to analyze everything as if it’s a clue to the future.
    3. Remember that the world won’t end when the relationship does.
    4. If this relationship ends, you can find another.
    5. Let your actions be consistent.

    Example of 5: For those three months, I never left any belongings at my girlfriend’s house. When I left, my possessions left with me. Even though I was carrying 3 or 4 days worth of clothes with me, I never tied myself to returning to her house.

    starthrower68 said: (#10)
    “Perhaps if I were better at comparmentalizing, I’d have a lot easier time with that.”

    It certainly helps.

  13. 15
    starthrower68

    Karl!!!  You agreed with me!!!!

  14. 16
    Diana

    BTW ~ Evan, your response was excellent!!
    Starthrower#68 (#10), I’m glad my words helped. Now putting everything into practice is something different altogether. ;)
     
    If you can learn to relax, take a deep breath, and focus and live only in the moment, freeing yourself of expectations, you’ll find yourself compartmentalizing much easier. Oh, but you have to promise not to pick apart the moment afterward with your girlfriends. ;)
     
    To Karl R #14, I like your five item list.
     
     

  15. 17
    starthrower68

    Diana,

    I think psychologically that is easier for people who date a lot, often, and all of the time.  I think it is a bit more difficult for those who don’t date very much. 

  16. 18
    sayanta

    Star, #17-

    That is very very true. I fall into the latter category, and even though I (hope) I’ve become more positive about men and dating, it feels like such an uphill battle sometimes for me to just be comfortable with men in social settings- ironically, I get along very well with men at work.

    Most people say, well, just date more- I don’t know…it seems like a solid solution is some ways, but for me, going on a bazillion dates (assuming I’m actually meeting men LOL) is such an energy drain.

    I wish there was a magic pill for this or something. :-)

  17. 19
    Dating With an STD

    Take a moment and try something – ask yourself if you are becoming too dependent on your partner. Does your partner know your aspirations? Does he contribute to the relationship or are you always expected to be the one who is the “giver”? You should prepare yourself to take the answers…try to accept both yes and no in your relationship.

  18. 20
    starthrower68

    I was looking on here to see if there were new posts this morning and had this amusing moment of realization when I saw there were not.  Nobody posted last night because you were out dating.  Instead of dating, I come here to talk about it.  That’s right; I’m dating Evan’s blog…

  19. 21
    isabelle_archer

    It’s funny – I’m probably irrationally unconfident in ALL areas of life – except dating!  It’s so easy for me to tell when a guy likes me, that I just don’t even give it a second thought.  If I find myself feeling clingy and unconfident, then the reason has invariably been because he’s not really interested in me.  The trick has been to learn how to sense it and cut my losses quickly and definitively instead of clinging and losing my dignity.  A sense of insecurity has now basically become my signal to bail.
     
    That said, I have started to give some thought to whether I might be bailing too quickly on the guys who make me feel insecure.  I don’t really think so.  Even though sometimes I’ve been able to forget my worries and have a good time, it always comes down to the fact that the guy is not REALLY into me (as indicated by how attracted he is to me and how much he calls), and there’s nothing that can really make up for that.
     
    I do like Karl’s story, but I don’t think it contradicts my experience.  It seems like he was having a great time with his girlfriend and that she obviously liked him — in other words, her actions were 100% different from her words.   The actions are the important part, right?
     

  20. 22
    BeenThereDoneThat

    At Starthrower
    I was not out dating last night.  I am much like you – 40 years old, divorced, kids etc.  I do not have the time, energy or enough men interested in me to be dating every night of the week.  

    At Sayanta
    Going on a bazillion dates is very draining.  I was very shy and not had a lot of dating experience when I married at 19.  Eighteen years later, divorced and facing the prospect of dating again, I realized I had no clue about dating.  And I tried to gain experience by dating a lot.   I think it just caused burn out.   Now – I just date because I’m interested in the guy and even though I date less, its actually a lot nicer.  One other thought – you have become more positive; I’ve noticed it in your posts. 

  21. 23
    sayanta

    #22, Been There-

    LOL- Thanks! Was I that bad before? :-D

  22. 24
    starthrower68

    Some (the name escapes me) had left a post on EMK’s discussions board on Facebook, and what she said really resonated with me.  She says that she actually feels more grounded, centered, and relaxed when she’s NOT dating.  She’s focused and more productive.  I thought she was inside my head because I struggle with the very same thing.  I’ve been in counseling, know where it comes from, etc., but still haven’t overcome it.  Right now, with kids, school, a career, etc., I need that focus and ability to remain grounded and centered.  Oh sure, a relationship would be great, but I’m just not sure I can do it right now.

  23. 25
    anette

    You are very wise Karl!! I like your attitudes :)

  24. 26
    Selena

    My experience has been similar to  Isabelle #21 -  the  times I’ve felt insecure when dating someone inevitably turned out to be  HJNTIY.  And it’s why I find Evan’s list  “8 Things Your Boyfriend Must Do To Be Your Boyfriend”  so obvious.

      The problem is when you are highly attracted to someone who is not doing those 8 things it’s really tempting to make excuses and look for loopholes.  And then you wonder how you “misread” the guy after he’s gone.  You may not have misread him, you may have been choosing to misinterpret what your insecurity was telling you all along.

  25. 27
    Selena

    Another reason for insecurity may be that deep down, you know the guy isn’t the one for you.  Whatever the level of attraction is, there is something else “that’s not quite right”.  You might be ignoring this because you really want a relationship, or the guy looks great “on paper”. Insecurity could be intuition expressing itself; “clingyness” an attempt to quell the doubts and hold on.

  26. 28
    Shay

    Hey Selena, you’re right on! That’s what happened to me. :)

  27. 29
    starthrower68

    I read an interesting article this morning titled, “Why can’t a man hang on to Halle Berry?” which I think was an illustration to all of us that she may be the common denominator in several failed relationships but maybe she’s just smart enough to do what self-possessed women do, and that’s walk away from a situation that’s going nowhere.   I think that’s the key is being self-possessed.   Selena, I think you hit on something huge, and that is, the impulse toward clinginess or feelings of insecurity don’t always mean the woman has an issue.  You read my thoughts when you said sometimes it might just be that still small voice telling us something is wrong.  

    Now, that having been said, I think when we have those feelings, we need to figure out where they’re coming from and what is setting them off.  But when a man says, “I’m not ready to commit”, or “you deserve better”, of “I am scared of intimacy”, BELIEVE HIM.   When he says that, you can trust that he is actually being real with you and being more than just in the moment.   In that case, the actions are likely backing up the words.  At that point, it’s time to go.  Time to clear your head, clear your heart, and LET IT GO….

    Auntie Star is done being stern now…here, let’s have some Hagen Daaz….

  28. 30
    Karl R

    starthrower68 said: (#24)
    “She says that she actually feels more grounded, centered, and relaxed when she’s NOT dating.”

    I’d say that’s fairly normal. Overall, I’m a rather grounded, centered and relaxed person. Until the dating evolves into a stable, committed relationship, I don’t feel as centered and grounded as I do when I’m single. It’s easy to understand why. You don’t know how things will turn out, and the outcome matters.

    But to pull an analogy from my yoga classes: somedays it’s easy to hold balance poses; other days I’m constantly falling out of them. When my balance is off, the best thing to do is accept the situation, maintain my balance as much as possible, and not beat myself up for having difficulty.

    isabelle_archer asked: (#21)
    “It seems like he was having a great time with his girlfriend and that she obviously liked him — in other words, her actions were 100% different from her words.   The actions are the important part, right?”

    It’s not safe to ignore someone’s words. Actions are difficult to clearly interpret. My girlfriend clearly enjoyed my company, and the sex was great. Both her actions and words supported this. But someone can enjoy both of those without wanting a more serious relationship. Her actions suggested that maybe she was interested in a more serious relationship … but I wasn’t going to trust that guess until her words indicated the same.

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