Saturday October 25th 2014

Long Distance Relationship – How Not To Act Needy

toronto_akiteng-722Question: 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!

Readers' Questions and The Love Doctor's Answers...

19 Responses to “Long Distance Relationship – How Not To Act Needy”

  1. SoberRod says:

    I’m still in pain over a relationship that ended two months ago because of my neediness. I love and give and care so much and expect the same in return. I tried so hard to stop myself from showing her how much I loved and cared for her but I felt like I was letting her down by not being there for her. I have lost someone I truly loved. It’s too late for me now but I’ll keep these good tips for next time.

  2. Keyvanps2 says:

    One more thing, she told me I’m a great guy and she feels guilty. Why does she feel guilty?

  3. Keyvanps2 says:

    Is it a good thing or bad thing that she feels guilty?

  4. I’d have to say not a good thing. No person in his/her right mind should feel good about being in a relationship with someone only because that person feels some kind of guilt. That said, there are some needy/clingy people who use “guilt” to manipulate and control someone else. Someone always — always — ends up getting hurt really bad.

    Love is best when it is freely given and freely received. Only then does it feel right (for both people involved), it’s also more fulfilling and more likely to last.

  5. tee says:

    I have someone that has been in my life for lots of years. We have been lovers and Friends. We are now both free and is now trying to see what to make of our relationship. The problem is that I got a job offer in another state and have since moved. He comes to see me and and we talk daily for hours..my problem is that when he doesn’t call me sometimes but once a day on the weekend, I begin to feel insecure. What do you suggest I do to keep from wanting to be too clingy or needy?

  6. Dav says:

    I started seeing someone who is 11 years older than me (I’m 30) and she has 2 children. When we first started seeing each other she told me that she was worried about the age difference and that she had children and I didn’t. To show her that I was commited I have constantly shown her my commitement, and I think she has mistaken this for being needy. What can I do?

  7. Response to tee…

    Your situation is very similar to the original question. The same suggestions above will help keep you from wanting to be clingy or needy.

    Response to Dav….

    Age may or may not play a role in what one considers your “neediness.” What’s important is that such behaviour is causing both of you not to enjoy the relationship. For both of your sakes, just stop whatever it is you’re doing that you think is constantly showing her your commitment. If she thinks it’s neediness, there is no use trying to convince her to see it differently. What that does is re-echo the age difference even more.

  8. Ehrlich543 says:

    My b/f complains that I’m clingy and needy but I don’t exactly understand what he means by clingy and needy because I’m independent and highly self sufficient. I have a great job, own a home at 27 and I’m not in a hurry to get married. I have a life outside of him and I don’t spy on him, so it’s not like I’m pushing him to do anything for me. Is there something I don’t get?

  9. Words like “clingy” and “needy” mean different things to different people, but overall I think it comes down to the other person feeling like they are being asked to give what they can’t give, are willing to give or incapable of giving at any one given time. It could be time, space, display of affection, sharing of feelings and emotions etc.

    It’s not uncommon for women (and men) as independent and highly self sufficient as yourself to transfer some of the skills and abilities that got you to be where you are into a relationship. Sometimes this can lead you to feel like you’re the one doing all the work in the relationship and can make you start demanding that the other person put in the same effort – or at least close. E.g. you text him and then being mad he doesn’t respond, you arrange for a surprise get away and feel hurt when he can’t make it, etc. If this demands are taken to the extreme, it can make the other person feel like you expect his/her life to revolve around you – in other words, you’re clingy and needy.

  10. Ehrlich543 says:

    You are right. I’m very self-driven and there are times when I feel that I care about him more than he cares about me and the only thing maintaining the relationship is the effort I’m putting in. How do I fix that?

  11. You can try to relax a bit and let him take the initiative once in a while. Two things are likely to happen 1) you’ll discover that as soon as you stop making all the effort the relationship kind of fizzles out or 2) he’ll step up because he doesn’t want to lose you or because he’s been waiting for the opportunity to be “the man” in the relationship.

    The question is, are you willing to find out which is which or are you just too afraid of losing him that you just keep demanding and pushing – only to lose him later than sooner.

    In addition to learning to relax a bit, I also advice you to work on why it is you feel that if you don’t “demand” time, affection, etc from a guy you wont get it. Is it the type of men you choose? How you connect? Learned behaviour from past experience? Dealing with personal issue makes it much easier to — intuitively — know when too much it too much.

    Relationships are a lot of work and effort, but BOTH WAYS, otherwise something is unhealthy about that relationship.

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  14. Gilbert says:

    I’ve been reading your blog and website for over 3 months and it has made all the difference in my relating with women! I tried for years to learn the techniques advanced by PUAs and many other books but I found that that only made me the person I did not want to be. Reading your articles and using the information in my dating, I’ve found that what women really want is a man who can own his world and gently take her by the hand and bring her into his world.

    I just wanted you to know that “You are the best!”
    A lot of thanks.

  15. Lynette says:

    My ex and i recently re-established contact, thank to your advice. He says he’s happy we are talking again but a couple of days ago, I go a text from him saying he can not be in contact with me as we were before. I think that he might be concerned that I might start acting needy and clingy which was one of the reasons we broke up. He said I didn’t give him space and I needed to find my own independence. My question to you is, how can I reassure him that I’m not that person anymore?

  16. It’s possible that he felt that you were starting to act needy and clingy again, and that’s why he felt the need to tell you he can not be in contact with you as before.

    The positive side to this is that he at least “warned” you instead of just cutting you off, and two, he is still open to contact. That says he still cares about a relationship with you. The only thing that can reassure him that you are not going to act as before is your actions, how you stay in contact. He needs to see that you can be in contact without overdoing it, and can stay connected and close without him having to tell you to back off. Unfortunately, you can only do this if you are genuinely no longer needy and clingy. Trying to restrict yourself from contacting him will not last very long because neediness is not something you do consciously, if it were, no one would be doing it because we all know it’s a turn off. But because it happens as a result of a sub-conscious fear being triggered (you just find yourself doing it and can’t seem to be able to stop yourself), you need to work on eliminating the neediness from that level.

  17. Sydee says:

    Yangki, you are right. I was needy and dependent on him and that eventually drove him away. I’m working on not being needy and hopefully I can show him that I can be the kind of woman he wants to be with.

  18. Ninatta says:

    I have this same problem. When I’m in love I become clingy and needy. This has scared men off in the past so now I try very hard not to show it. I try my best not to call, email or text him, not to show I desperately want to spend more time with him, and not to tell him I love him too often. But I am struggling with my emotions and always come out being passive aggressive.

  19. Passive-aggressive neediness is probably more annoying to most people than aggressive/direct neediness.

    In aggressive neediness, at least the person knows what you’re “bothered” about. But in passive aggressive neediness, you’re talking between the lines and hoping that someone will intuitively know what’s wrong. That’s until you can’t take it any more and explode. Then you feel ashamed of your behaviour and go back to feeling controlled, your needs ignored, etc. You really don’t change anything.

    It’s best to confront and deal with why you’re needy/clingy than trying to hide it.

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