We talk a lot about clingy girlfriends around here. We’ve all had one, and many of us have even been one. It’s hard to tell exactly where the line lies between “clingy” and “distant” – and we often assume it’s better to err on the side of too close.
The only problem with this line of thinking is that many people would rather have a girlfriend who’s only there part time.
There’s something special about knowing that the time you spend with your partner is… Well, special. And if you’re constantly over her shoulder even when you’re not together, it’s easy to see how this can become irritating.
Not everyone feels the same way about this subject, though. Some people like clingy girlfriends – or at least they think they do. More likely, what they like is a girlfriend who doesn’t leave them hanging, and they think, “I want a woman who does what I’d do in this situation.” Then, they outline a plan in their head about what would be the “perfect” amount of communication.
I bet you can already guess how this might go wrong.
The things we think we want when we’re feeling ignored aren’t necessarily the things we want when everything’s going good. And since we want our relationships to go well, at least most of the time, our expectations are a bit wrong.
It’s not really your fault, though. This is often a bit of a self-perpetuating problem. Someone who likes closeness sees the area her partner is lacking, and tells herself that she’ll do it just this much better. And then, being the Good Girlfriends we want ourselves to be, we’ll over-achieve just a bit more.
My advice to you, based on my own personal experience? Stop it. You’re probably doing more harm than good.
Mistake #1: Calling too often.
If the two of you don’t live together, you might be tempted to call each other on the phone every day. That’s good – go with this! But make sure you’re calling because you have something important to say. Relationships don’t thrive on small talk – they thrive on taking comfort in the silence.
If you do live together, the reasons to call should be even less frequent. Unless something super funny happened at work, and you’re 99% sure you’ll forget it before you get home, there’s no real reason to call her on your breaks. Whatever you have to say can wait until you get home. (Obvious exception here, if there’s something you need her to do before you get home – but most things are capable of waiting.)
Now, let’s say she’s the one at work. Even if you know when her breaks are, it’s probably not a good idea to call her while she’s there – there’s no telling if something came up and her break time had to be switched. If you’ve got something important to say, send a text, and she’ll respond when she’s free.
(Meal breaks are a grey area, but most of the time, a phone call isn’t necessary.)
Mistake #2: Expecting to come first, every time.
When you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s reasonable to assume you’re a priority in their life. (And if you’re not, trust me, that is a different issue altogether.) But there comes a time when you have to realize that just because you’re a priority doesn’t mean you’re her only priority. Sometimes, she’s going to have to focus on her family or her work, and you need to not be threatened by this.
If your girlfriend makes reasonable accommodations to include you as a part of her life, that’s wonderful, and she’s a keeper. But you should never feel upset or that your relationship is in jeopardy if she occasionally puts you in second place. She may also have friends, family, work, school, her pets, her hobbies… All of that to think about.
Try looking at it from her perspective. You wouldn’t feel right if your partner demanded you choose her over your paycheck, right? Sometimes she will have to turn down a date because her boss had a last-minute request. Trust that she is thinking of the big picture when this happens.
Mistake #3: Dropping everything when she asks.
Here’s a little caveat of all this: Some girlfriends want you to be clingy and dependent on them – but it’s important that you don’t do this. It might seem like you’re being a good girlfriend when you automatically put her first all the time, but you’re actually helping to craft her into a bad girlfriend – and no one wants to be a bad girlfriend.
If she wants to hang out and you don’t have anything important going on, great! You shouldn’t make things up just to seem more desirable. This plan usually backfires and teaches her how to live without you. But if there’s something you really ought to be doing instead, politely let her know, and discuss a better time to meet up.
When you let your partner dictate your schedule and have the last word in everything you do, you are teaching her that you’re easily manipulated. Even the girlfriends with the best of intentions will find themselves coming up with more requests if they’ve been conditioned to think that the answer is always going to be yes.
Mistake #4: Monitoring her social media accounts.
OK, I’ll admit – I’m a bit of a creepy cyber stalker sometimes. I try not to be, but when I’ve got time to jump on Facebook, I usually dive in head-first and take in everything I can in a short period of time. This means I go to the few people I care most about and binge-read their timeline.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this approach. It makes sense that, when you care about someone, you want to know what all goes on in their lives. But if all you’re doing is lurking and being a creep, this gets really awkward, really fast. (And don’t even get me started on couples’ accounts.)
Try not to read too much into anything she’s posted. After all, we’re all human, and we all post things that have nothing to do with our actual situation. My girlfriend likes to repost strip tease videos. Does this mean she’s going to leave me for a stripper? Probably not. Use your best judgment, and if there’s any question, ask instead of forming your own conclusions. You should never rely on social media presence to define your relationship.
Which brings me to…
Mistake #4b: “Marking your territory” on social media.
What is it about those people who always have something to say about everything their partner does? You know the ones – who will jump into any comment thread their girlfriend has participated in. Usually it’s something basic, too, like a little “Lol” or “Hey!” to the other girl in the conversation.
You think you’re being sneaky, but you’re not – everyone knows what you’re trying to do.
When you follow your partner around on social media, just to implant the picture of yourself with the picture of them, this is not cute. If you have something to say, say it! But if you’re just checking up on her, people are going to know. (One of those people being your girlfriend – and it’s probably going to make her feel weird.)
Mistake #5: Leaving visible hickeys.
I know that feelings about hickeys are mixed. Some people love the way they feel, some people think they’re trashy, and some people don’t really care one way or the other. But for the most part, there’s no good reason to leave hickeys somewhere they can be seen when your partner is fully clothed.
Of course, this will depend on the type of clothing your partner wears – a tube top will show a lot more skin than a turtleneck, after all. But even those who love the feeling of hickeys will likely understand that they give off an unprofessional vibe, so they should easily be covered by professional attire. Even if you are consciously “marking your territory”, the only people you need to be worried about are the people who are seeing what’s under the clothes, am I right?
(And, on a somewhat unrelated note, if you feel the need to mark your partner so she doesn’t stray, you’re with the wrong woman.)
Mistake #6: Making plans for both of you – by yourself.
Friends, there really is no good reason to not include your girlfriend in your decisions. Even if it’s a surprise, you’re going to need to have some sort of input from her – and most of the relationship should not be a surprise. There is such thing as too much of a good thing. Spontaneous and mysterious are best in moderation.
This is true whether you are tagging along or volunteering her. You don’t have to do everything together, and there are bound to be sometimes when you don’t have the same plans. Were the two of you invited to your cousin’s wedding? Make sure you ask your girlfriend before you RSVP for two. Was she invited to her brother’s bar mitzvah? Don’t assume that invitation extends to you unless she tells you it does. There are a million examples I could list, but generally, it’s best to remember you’re attached at the heart – not at the hip.
If your girlfriend is interested in being a package deal, the talk you have will reveal that. Ask her if you’re invited to the bar mitzvah, and tell her about the wedding. But don’t be mad if you two fly solo sometimes.
Mistake #7: Being “we” all the time.
This goes hand-in-hand with #6, but it’s important to realize that it’s really more than that. It feels so good to be a part of a “we” that we can sometimes forget to be ourselves. But if you’re always just half of a couple, you’ll start to lose your worth on your own. Then, when she breaks up with you because you tried to climb inside her skin and wear her face like a mask, you’ll have to figure out who you are all over again.
(Please note, this is a very extreme exaggeration, and I don’t recommend you ever wear someone’s skin and/or face. Thank you.)
If you have a hard time being comfortable with the idea of being yourself, separate from your partner, there may be deeper issues going on – usually this type of dependence doesn’t come from the relationship itself. It’s best if you start correcting this behavior as soon as you notice it, as it’s harder to break the habit once it’s become ingrained.
There are some situations where “we” thinking is appropriate, and there are other situations where it’s not. Try getting a friend to help you, if you’re having a hard time remembering which is which. Practice using “I” thinking more. If it’s easier for you, try “I-and-she” thinking while you’re getting used to the idea.
Example: We love ravioli! -> I love ravioli, and she loves ravioli too. -> I love ravioli.
It seems like a simple shift in wording couldn’t possibly make that much of a difference, but for whatever reason, it’s actually pretty important. While the second sentence technically means exactly the same thing, something about the way our brain processes these things gives the first one an implied sense of dependence, whereas the second one keeps the two of you separate.
(There are a million other little life hacks that depend on the psychology behind words, but I’ll save those for another day.)
Make sure you’re focusing on who you are as a person, and you’re giving your girlfriend room to do the same. It’s good to check in before you change plans, but you shouldn’t have to check in with each other all the time. Trust that your partner is being.