Question: I’m currently in a long distance relationship. We live in different countries. We met on a dating site and kept in contact via email, text and phone for 4 months. We met in person for the first time last month and it was instant fireworks. Since meeting in person, our relationship has changed a lot; some of it is for the better but most of it for the worse. I know he is thinking about me and he knows I’m thinking about him. We tell each other “I love you” in every conversation. But for me emails, phone calls, etc– aren’t enough anymore. I need a lot more than that. I need him by my side. It hurts when I tell him I miss him and he tells me to live in the moment and enjoy what we have. To try and work on my “neediness” I’ve been spending more time with friends but it’s not enough. I can’t imagine doing long distance for any length of time.
My question to you is how do I slow down, stop acting emotionally and physically needy? I’m afraid I’m freaking him out. I sense him pulling away and I don’t want to push him away further. If it ends, it will be because of my pushing things so hard.
The Love Doctor’s Answer: It’s perfectly natural to want to be with someone you’re in love with. What is unnatural and unhealthy is wanting to spend every spare moment with that special person or feeling and acting like life is not worth living without him/her. No one – unless they have serious issues of their own – likes a clingy girlfriend/boyfriend.
And if you already have clingy tendencies, long distance relationships can be a lot more trying because distance can trigger anxiety-induced neediness.
1. Make a commitment to yourself
The fact that you realize that what you’re doing isn’t good for your relationship is already a positive step. This is a problem from within that can only be solved by you and/or with the help of a self help book or professional. Commit yourself to becoming aware of when you start running negative messages in your head over and over and tell yourself to stop it. Tell yourself that whatever happens, you’ll be just fine.
The best cure for neediness and clingy behaviour however, is working on what’s causing you to behave that way in the first place.
2. Re-examine your expectations
Neediness and pushy behaviour in many cases is a sign that you’re somehow afraid that you will not get what you want – it’s that fear that drives your behaviour. You may be expecting him to reject you, let you down or hurt you because it’s happened before and are reacting out of past experiences. Do an inventory of your expectations of 1) what love is, 2) what is realistic for the stage your relationship is at now 3) if it’s worth your time, effort and love etc.
3. Talk to him about it
I don’t mean just tell him how you feel, beyond that, tell him you’re aware of how your behaviour in the last x-weeks isn’t helping the relationship and want to learn how to enjoy what you have. Then suggest and agree on a balance that’ll satisfy both of you. Don’t just stop communicating or “emotionally shut down” with the hope that’ll he’ll figure out on his own what’s going on and act. Most people are not good at mind-reading, he may assume something worse and completely pull back or break-up with you.
Relationships take two. If the two of you can’t openly talk about how you really feel, or if he can’t support your efforts to be a better person, lover and partner, then there is a lot more for you to worry about than pushing him way.
4. Start a ritual
Rituals or routine patterns of interaction give you something to look forward to, and reduce anxiety levels during times of stress and transition. For example you can pick a time once or twice a week when both of you stop whatever you’re doing and commit quality time talking to each other about anything and everything.
5. Diversify your social network
In addition to doing the things that distract you from thinking about him and missing him, do things that make you truly happy. Do something that make you feel you have great qualities that you can share with the rest of the world. Volunteer, get involved for a cause etc. When you’re more focused on meeting the needs of others or making others happy, the neediness and unhappiness within becomes secondary.
6. Take it one day at a time
Train yourself to relax and learn how to receive love instead of always trying to give more to get some. This means not trying to dictate how everything should be done/said and letting him run the show sometimes.
You have come this far, don’t mess up a good thing!