Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
What Causes Romantic Clinginess?
Physical, sexual, and emotional intimacy can bring about both joy and pain. However, many partners do not realize such close relationships with others can also create feelings of clinginess in some partners. Mind blowing intimacy (great sex) can trigger intense emotions, however, with all great and pleasing emotions, negative emotions can be triggered as well, such as, fear, feelings of loss of control, anger, uncertainty, and even rage. Most people do not conceive or even fathom the possibility of becoming clingy in a relationship as most are often surprised when they develop irrational thoughts and behaviors. With the perception of a great connection and the right chemistry, clinginess can sneak up on you in many unsuspecting ways, making it difficult to avoid falling prey to being overly needy, grabby, dependent, consuming, etc.
Unfortunately, in many situations in which clingy behavior occurs there are often past issues with unreconciled abandonment. Most children learn pretty early on when a parent leaves for a time, he or she will be coming back. Another positive correlate of clingy behavior includes a dysfunction, abusive, or otherwise traumatized past. When dysfunction and abuse occurs it is very difficult for children to develop properly, making it difficult to avoid feelings of fear and anxiety about being left alone. Children that grow up in a home that includes inconsistent adult presence are also more likely to experience abandonment issues in adulthood. The way we interact with our adult romantic partners, both emotionally and physically is highly correlated to the way in which we perceive our own parent’s relationship. Abandonment issues is not fun for anyone, not the clingy person or the person that is being clung to.
Clingy behavior can be attributed to the following factors:
Past childhood abuse, trauma, neglect, or abandonment
Mental Health Issues
Poor or inappropriate attachment style
Overly sensitive to behavioral cues
Learned behavior that has become reinforced over time.
It is not uncommon to feel anxious or afraid about the thought of a relationship ending, however, when those thoughts or behavior appear to be the root cause of your relationship problems you may be struggling with attachment issues. Many of us become afraid that if the person we are intimate with leaves, they will never return, leaving us feeling alone and unsupported. Clinginess is less often about the present, and more often about the past. The irony, is the more your worry, the more you clingy the more likely you are to drive your partner crazy, to drive him or her away.
Anxiously Attached- Overly sensitive to perceived verbal and behavioral cues that your partner will abandon you.
Avoidant Attachment- Avoid establishing emotional bonds with their partners out of fear of losing independence.
Partners that are anxiously attached often fear being left alone or abandoned. Needless to say they often base their own identity on being in a relationship. When these relationships come to an end, the anxiously attached are driven almost immediately into another one, which they similarly pursue until it reaches its own extinction. However, partners that are high on avoidant attachment have poorer quality relationships overall. Avoidant attachment people tend to avoid getting close to their partners or building and enhancing upon their relationship. This type of attachment style typically fears losing their identity in a relationship.
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