When it comes to dating, it’s important to take risks and make yourself vulnerable. Vulnerability is an important part of being human. The more we open up to our partners, the greater our relationships develop. But it’s often difficult for people to feel emotionally exposed in fear of being rejected or judged. That said, vulnerability brings people closer together and makes relationships stronger overtime. Follow the five steps below to help you protect your heart the next time you fall in love, according to experts.
1. Take Things Slowly
One main reason people end up hurt is they rush things. For example, if you’re physically intimate with someone before you truly get to know that person, it can lead to heartache if the feelings aren’t mutual. Taking things slowly also means spending quality time with someone before hitting major relationship milestones. Enjoy the present so that you can protect your heart if the person you’re with isn’t in the same place you are. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., ABPP, says, «Falling head over heels in love means, to many couples, having sex as soon as possible. The rush of infatuation leads people to take the next steps in their relationship without looking objectively at the odds of the relationship succeeding. Before they know it, they’re making plans to move in together. Unfortunately, many of these hurried unions lead to disappointment as the relationship falls apart before it’s even had time to take shape. The breakup takes its emotional, if not financial, toll on both partners.»
2. Find Someone Who Shares Your Values
Another way to protect your heart is to find a partner who shares your goals and values. For instance, you may end up getting hurt if you can’t wait to have children, but your partner doesn’t want kids. This is especially true if you’re looking for a serious, monogamous connection. If you’re into exclusive relationships, avoid dating people who never want to settle down, are only looking for flings, or desire open relationships. Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., ABPP, says that research shows «that relationships that are built on shared values are much more likely to endure. Sure, a fantastic lover offers thrills and chills, but someone who shares your core values will be by your side once the early excitement subsides and the goosebumps disappear.» If you want to prevent future heartbreak, do your best to select a partner who wants the same things you do.
3. Pay Close Attention to Red Flags
Don’t ignore any relationship red flags. If you’re with someone who’s physically or emotionally abusive, lies, or mistrusts you, these are key signs that you should end the relationship. If you don’t pay attention to these warning signs, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to future heartbreak. Abigail Brenner, M.D. says, «A red flag is a good intuitive image to help you process what you’re really feeling. At the end of a difficult relationship, people often say, ‘He (or she) told me who he (or she) was at the very beginning, but I just didn’t listen.’ Learn to trust what you feel. Your hunch is probably right.»
4. Do Not Settle
One way to prevent yourself from getting hurt is to be in a relationship with someone for the right reasons. For example, if you’re with someone because you’re afraid of being alone, this will only lead to future heartache because you’re not truly invested in this person. You’ll be longing for someone else to meet your needs. Juliana Breines, Ph.D. says, «Given the importance of social connection to our well-being, it is understandable that we seek out intimate relationships, but when fear of being alone drives our romantic decisions, it can lead us to exercise poor judgment and to choose relationships that are unlikely to last, that make us depressed or even leave us vulnerable to abuse.» To have a meaningful, long-lasting relationship, you must be comfortable with yourself while believing that you truly deserve happiness.
5. Stop Focusing on the Superficial
It would help if you focused on what truly matters. Concentrate on values, goals, and morals, rather than high-paying jobs and luxury items. If you eliminate people because they don’t fit into a certain mold, you may be missing out on a deeper connection. To protect your heart, you should prioritize what truly matters so that you find a relationship that’s fulfilling in every way. Degges-White says, «You may go crazy for someone who makes you forget your name with a single meaningful glance, but what will really make you purr for the long haul is the person who will get up first to make the coffee, let out the dog, or feed the baby on those mornings when you just have to go back to sleep.» Published Jan 7th, 2021 & updated on
Jun 17th, 2021 Relationships are wonderful. Being in a relationship can feel like you get to hang out and make out with your best friend all the time. It’s pretty great! But that can sometimes become our whoooole world! You don’t connect with your friends as much, you stop doing activities you love, all because you’re totally infatuated with this one person. You might even feel like you’re losing yourself in a relationship, which can be a little unsettling. And we knowwww how exciting it is when you’re first starting to combine your life with another person. Love can be like a pair of magical glasses that you put on and the world around you seems to change. Colours seem brighter, food tastes better, the songs on the radio finally make sense! It’s awesome. Of course, you’re going to be head over heels with this person at first! The honeymoon stage is a real thing. But the important thing to remember is to not lose yourself in this new and magical endeavour or lose who you were before you entered into this relationship. How do you do that? Let’s dive thru it!
1. Prioritize Yourself
Self care is still so important when you’re in a relationship. It means that you’re still looking after you. Self care could come in the form of keeping up with your passions, staying true to your goals, and continuing to do what you enjoy. Don’t rely on another person to fulfill you. You’ll find that you have so much in common and you looooove doing things together! Which is awesome! But you still need to fulfill your own needs by staying true to yourself and what you love. Fulfilment can come from many different parts of our lives, so just because we are content romantically doesn’t mean that we won’t eventually need to feel content in other areas of our lives as well.
2. Don’t Replace “I” with “We”
Remember that you are still an individual no matter how long you and your partner have been together. If you’re invited somewhere, like JUST you, don’t assume that your partner is invited too. If you like chocolate, don’t say “We love chocolate!” You are both your own people and have your own interests and likes. Try to keep your identities separate from each other (even though you’ll feel like you share a brain sometimes).
3. Don’t Compromise Too Much
Obviously, it’s good to compromise in a relationship to accommodate the people in it, but what’s not ok is if you’re the only one making these sacrifices. Soon the little things become everything and you don’t have yourself shining through anymore. It’s important to know when to bend in a relationship, but make sure you don’t bend so much that you break. (and if you feel like you’re being pushed to that breaking point, maybe give our article about relationship red flags a quick read.)
4. Keep Seeing Your Friends and Family
Combining your life with someone new is so exciting and wonderful! Meeting their family and friends can be nerve-wracking the first time, but soon it feels like you’re part of the gang. Even though these new people you’re meeting are kind, fun, and you get along great, don’t forget about your own friends and family. It’s natural to want to hang out with your partner all the time, but your loved ones probably miss you!
5. Do Things Without Your Partner
Keep connecting with yourself and your own likes without your partner participating in activities with you. Maybe you love to go for runs in the morning, but your partner doesn’t. Keep going for those runs! Perhaps you love to go bowling with your friends every Saturday but your partner is terrible at bowling and doesn’t want to go. That’s ok! You can keep going bowling with your pals because that allows you to both connect with your friends and yourself.
6. Have Boundaries
Having boundaries will also help you maintain your sense of self. They protect who you are and your identity. Just be sure to communicate your boundaries with your partner so that they can know what they are and respect them. Healthy boundaries can help you feel stronger, confident, and empowered within yourself and your relationship. If you don’t have any boundaries, you’ll feel the exact opposite! You’ll feel drained, exhausted, and honestly, kind of defeated. It is completelyyyyy reasonable to have boundaries in a relationship. Everyone has things that they will and won’t tolerate from another person, and that’s ok! You shouldn’t be expected to sacrifice your boundaries just because someone wants you to.
Everyone always says that open, honest, and kind communication is the key to a healthy relationship, and we agree! Don’t be afraid to tell your partner how you feel. If you think that you’re losing yourself in the relationship, don’t be afraid to say something about it. Maybe you and your partner could find things to do separately and inspire each other to find cool things to do on your own. Talking openly with your partner can be scary because you don’t know how they’ll react and you hate to hurt their feelings. But if they really care about you, they’ll support you and your needs as much as you support theirs.
8. Stay True to Yourself
Don’t change who you are and try to be someone you’re not. Maybe you hate sports but your partner is allll about them. This is one of those scenarios where “fake it ‘till you make it” does not apply. It’s not in your best interest to try and act like you think they want you to. Be honest with yourself and your partner about who you are. Otherwise, you’re going to end up faking who you are and you’ll probably be soooo miserable if you have to sit through sports games every day and wear a jersey for a team you don’t even know the name of. Take a minute and think back on your current and past relationships. How have you given parts of yourself? How can you get them back? Take ownership of who you are and be confident with yourself. Your partner will still love you no matter who you are and will be proud of you for being true to who you are. We’ll be proud of you too! When you’re in love, especially in those early stages where every call, text, or in-person meeting is enough to leave you buzzing—it can be very easy to slip into a habit where you constantly crave the attention of your partner. However, despite your best intentions, acting clingy towards your significant other may not always be an attractive trait. In some cases, it can do more harm than good in your relationship. We’ll be taking a look at what it means to be clingy, why it happens, and most importantly—how to get it under control so you can enjoy a healthy and happy relationship with your partner.
What Does ‘Clingy’ Mean?
Having the quality of clinging to someone or something: such as tending to stay very close to someone (such as a parent) for emotional support, protection, etc.
How to Stop Being Clingy
If you want to stop being clingy, some strategies can help. Consider trying some of these tactics to feel more secure and less clingy in your relationship:
- Figure out why you are clingy and work on addressing your unmet needs
- Talk to your partner and be direct about your needs
- Find ways to distract yourself
- Establish boundaries and then respect them
- Take time to focus on yourself
- Spend time with supportive friends and family, and make sure that you are not neglecting your other relationships
- Look for ways to improve your self-esteem and self-confidence
- Get treatment for any mental health symptoms you might experience, including anxiety and depression
Examples of Clinginess in Relationships
Whereas children cry and throw tantrums when separated from a parental figure, being clingy may manifest in different forms in a romantic relationship. It includes engaging in acts such as:
- Calling your partner several times a day
- Repeatedly messaging them throughout the day
- Working yourself into a panic when they don’t respond
- Constantly stalking your partner’s activities on social media
- Feeling threatened by their friends or co-workers of the opposite sex
- Constantly wanting an invite to every event your partner plans to attend
- Having less and less time for your friends
- Constantly seeking reassurance of your partner’s feelings for you
- Attempting to speed up the relationship quickly by professing love too early, dropping premature hints of marriage, etc.
If these are behaviors that you find yourself frequently engaging in, the reality may be a hard pill to swallow. However, while it may not be immediately apparent, there is an underlying reason why you tend to cling to partners during your relationships.
Why Do We Get Clingy?
Requiring constant interaction or assurance of your partner may seem rooted in your love for them, but it is more likely indicative of a separate, possibly serious condition.
Anxiety and Attachment
Anxious behavior was beneficial in evolution, when survival against wild creatures was heavily reliant on being close to an adult or a stronger caregiver. This process was managed by the attachment system—where vulnerable people innately sought out caregivers for protection, especially when they were stressed. Fast forward a few thousand years, and this behavior can be found every once in a while in romantic relationships. People that exhibit clingy traits are likely to have anxious attachment styles towards their partners. They may constantly worry about being underappreciated or abandoned in their relationships. You’ll find that a clingy person is constantly on the lookout for the first signs that their partner is pulling away from them. When you find yourself imagining the worst-case scenarios when your partner is out without you, or if you tend to panic when they fail to pick up on the first try, you are exhibiting traits that go back centuries. To avoid this, and to feel more secure in their relationship, a clingy person may do everything they can to get closer to their partners emotionally. Unfortunately, this can end up smothering their significant others, and may even be responsible for driving a wedge in the relationship. However, beyond affecting just partners, people that are clingy in relationships may be poorly adjusted. They also deny themselves the opportunity to fully enjoy their relationships.
How to Not Be Clingy
Although detaching yourself from a person you’re so invested in can be difficult, you can make some simple changes to avoid being clingy in a relationship.
Accept that there may be an issue
An important thing to do when making a change is to take personal inventory of your actions. By doing this, you can observe whether or not you are indeed clingy. If you find that you are constantly seeking to communicate/meet up with your partner, or if you are tirelessly monitoring their activities on social media—there’s a high chance that you are clingy. Accepting this fact frees you to take the steps necessary for changing your pattern of behavior. It is especially important to perform this exercise, because the word ‘clingy’ has significant power as an insult. Look within yourself to determine if you fit the bill, or if a person is unfairly describing you in a certain way. After careful introspection, if your actions don’t qualify as clingy, simply focus on building a healthy relationship with your partner.
Talk to your partner about it
After accepting that you can come off as clingy, speaking to your partner about how your actions make them feel can put things into perspective. It can provide insight into the changes that are required to maintain healthy interactions. Speaking about actions you take that set them off the most can be eye-opening. You can discuss a shared idea of what would qualify as wholesome, less-smothering communication in your relationship. It may hurt to hear that the efforts you put into the relationship, seemingly to feel closer to your partner, are in fact backfiring. However, simply focus on the fact that your relationship is still standing, and can be salvaged with the right changes.
Take some time to focus on yourself
Take the time to re-discover yourself. What are the things you like to do? What are those books you’ve been meaning to read? Give them a shot. When you feel the usual urge to reach out to your partner in quick succession, fight it off and use that trigger as a reminder to focus on a thing that benefits you directly. This is not to say, however, that you should keep away from your partner. Rather, keeping your correspondence and hangouts to a time and frequency both of you agree is more suitable can help to strengthen your relationship.
Spend more time with friends
When you are in love, it’s easy to feel consumed by your feelings and focus all your energies on your partner. This can be unhealthy for other relationships and can strain the connection you already built with friends, long before the start of your relationship. While you are learning to be less clingy, this is the perfect time to lean into your friends and family. Plan friendship dates, go on dinners, map out fun-filled weekends, and re-kindle your relationship with them. This will not only strengthen your bond with friends, but it can also serve as a welcome difference from being in constant contact with your partner.
Get help with managing anxiety
Because clinginess often stems from fears of being abandoned or replaced, it can be very helpful to your relationship and well-being to receive professional help if you are dealing with anxiety Therapy can help you understand why you become so strongly attached to people, and can give useful tips for managing your attachments. This may convey benefits that not only promote your wellness, but can even strengthen your relationship.
If Your Partner Is Clingy
If you’re feeling smothered in your relationship because your partner is clingy, try these strategies: Talk about it. Discuss the issue together, whether between yourselves or in counseling. Bringing it out into the open can help both of you explore and understand the reasons for their clingy behavior and address it in a healthy way. Set healthy boundaries. Communicate them clearly so there’s no room for hurt or misunderstanding, and make them specific to your relationship. For example, if your partner calls you continuously while you’re at work, set a specific time for a call. If your partner won’t go to a social function alone, or will not tolerate you doing so, make it clear that doing some things independently is healthy and necessary for the relationship to continue. If your partner contacts you repeatedly while you are at such an event, tell them you’ll answer once and only once. Reassure your partner. Explain that independence does not mean that you don’t care for them, and that the spaces in your relationship only strengthen the feelings you have for them. If it’s just too much, get help. If the clinginess verges into stalking, harassment, physical or emotional aggression, or other dangerous behavior, involve the authorities.
A Word From Verywell
Few would be pleased to be described as clingy. While it may appear to be a reaction to intense feelings, it can cause your partner to feel overwhelmed, and may create a rift within your relationship. Clinginess may be the result of anxiety, and can greatly interfere with the innocent pleasure that can be derived from a relationship. However, it is very possible to ease your way out of this behavior, into more healthy interactions with your partner. Accepting your traits and speaking honestly with your partner can help with managing any clinginess during relationships. “Never lose yourself in a relationship. Love your partner fiercely, but always follow your unique dreams and desires. Be true to yourself.” ~Unknown All my previous relationships drained me. Not only because I was with the wrong men and kept trying to make things work where there was no way, but also because I was a queen of justifying, accommodating, and compromising. I accommodated men because I wanted to be liked and avoid rejection. I justified their lousy behavior because I wanted to be in a relationship and not be alone. I compromised on my values and romantic ideals just to have someone in my life. On the surface, I was an independent woman, strong, fierce, and full of energy and opinions. When it came to relationships, I’d lose my power and myself completely in them. I would become a meek mouse with no voice or opinions. I would put my boyfriend’s needs first and ignore mine. I would keep quiet about how I felt. I wouldn’t question things. It took me a few love attempts and ten years of random dating to recognize my unhealthy patterns. Firstly, I was subconsciously copying the behavior of my mum, who needed to survive with my despotic dad in a very turbulent relationship. I didn’t know any better until I learned the hard way. Secondly, I didn’t feel worthy of love. I didn’t feel like I was good enough for anyone. I was afraid to be myself, as I didn’t feel like I had much to offer. Thirdly, I wasn’t happy with myself and my life and I believed a relationship would change that, so my desire to be in one was pretty strong. These patterns made me feel and act like I was desperate for love. So, once I landed myself a boyfriend, I’d do anything to please him and keep him in my life. I would be a cheerful giver. I would take all the responsibility for the relationship on my own shoulders. I would make my men’s life easier by doing things for them and sometimes against myself. I would accommodate their busy schedules, moods, and issues. I would help them improve their self-esteem and lifestyle so they’d feel happier within. I would completely disappear in my relationships. Everything in my relationships was about the men. They became my main focus and the most important thing in my life. I would abandon myself. I would give up my friends, my passions, and my dreams. I would lose my own identity in the name of love. My main priority was to keep them happy so I could keep the relationships. But even all the crazy giving and accommodating wouldn’t keep dysfunctional relationships going. So, when it came to an end, I would have nothing left to give. Every split left me feeling empty. It almost felt like a little part of me died after every relationship. I didn’t know who I was anymore because I was focusing so heavily on the relationship that I’d completely neglect myself. It didn’t feel healthy at all. When I started to become more aware of my patterns and how harmful they were to me and my love life, I made some promises to myself. 1. The relationship with myself comes first 2. A man will never be more important to me than I am to myself 3. I will always love myself more than any man in my life Although they might sound a bit harsh, these rules have served me and my relationship amazingly well so far. The truth is, your relationship with yourself is the most important one in your life. Also, it is the foundation of any other relationship, so it makes sense to prioritize and nurture it. If you love someone else more than yourself, you will always compromise too much, ignore the red flags, get hurt, and lose yourself in your relationships. You can’t love in a healthy way unless you love yourself first. Also, the love for yourself will help you set stronger boundaries in relationships, protect yourself, and find the courage to walk away from any relationship that doesn’t serve you. Along with these promises, I also made a decision that I wanted to create something different in my love life. I wanted to create a healthy and happy relationship, unlike the one my parents had and the ones I’d had in the past. To do that, I needed to become someone different. Not really a different person, but become braver and more authentic in my relationships. Otherwise, what is the point? I needed to start speaking my mind, expressing my feelings, and asking for what I wanted. I simply needed to become more vulnerable in my relationships. Firstly, I took a break from dating and focused on becoming happier and stronger. Secondly, when I found the right person, I had some new rules in place to support myself in staying strong in my relationship. I didn’t want to lose myself in a relationship again. Because, to be honest, losing yourself is far more painful than losing a relationship. And it will take you forever to find your strength, dignity, and truth again. Here are some things I did differently, before and after getting into a new relationship, that you can do too to make sure you don’t lose yourself.
Establish a strong foundation while you are single.
We lose ourselves in relationships because we don’t feel worthy of love and our boundaries are weak. When you love yourself, you know how you want to feel and be in your next relationship. You also set healthy boundaries, which prevents you from losing your identity in a relationship. How do you start loving yourself? Here are three tips you can implement straightaway. 1. Start every day by asking yourself: What do I need today? How can I be loving with myself today? Follow the answers, as they will help you be more loving and respectful of yourself. 2. Operate from a loving, compassionate place within yourself. Choose people, situations, and things in your life that serve you and don’t harm you. Honor your own needs and feelings. Be kind to yourself. Stop judging yourself. Set some powerful boundaries to protect your time and energy. Become your own cheerleader. Listen to your own intuition. 3. Change your priorities. You come first, everything else comes after. Choose yourself. Make your own wellbeing a priority. Put yourself first when you can. Make yourself important in your own life. Stop people pleasing. You matter! When you start following the path of self-love you will start showing up differently in your life and your relationships.
Know who you are.
Know your needs. Know your desires. Know your dreams. Know your values. Know your priorities. Know yourself basically. This knowledge will prevent you from compromising too much in a relationship. Your strong sense of self will help you stick to what is truly important to you. This will give you a sense of security, which comes from within and not from your relationship. I have two little exercises that will help you get to know and understand yourself and your needs better. 1. Create a list of your current needs. Grab a piece of paper and create four columns. Title each column: emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. Take your time and explore what you need in these four categories to feel fulfilled. 2. Write down your top five to ten priorities. These are the things that are important to you that you’d like to focus on right now. List them in order of importance. These exercises will give you a stronger direction in life and help you explore what is truly important to you. It makes sense to revisit them occasionally, since things will likely change over time. Your needs will be different a few months down the line. Your priorities will be different, as we are always growing and evolving. The goal isn’t to define yourself in rigid terms, but to understand what you need and want at this point in your life.
Have strong boundaries.
Know your non-negotiables in relationships. Things you won’t tolerate. Things you don’t want to compromise on. Things you don’t want in your relationship. And communicate them so your partner knows and respects your limits. Healthy boundaries will make you feel stronger and more empowered in your next relationship. If you don’t honor your boundaries, you will feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and drained. Healthy boundaries prevent you from losing yourself in love.
Have your own friends.
It’s very easy to get infatuated in a new relationship, get all loved up and forget about the whole world outside. As much as it’s a natural part of every new relationship, don’t forget about your friends. Schedule regular time with them. They’ve been your rock and a sounding board many times, and can be now as well. Don’t limit your life just to your new partner. You need some other perspective.
Have your own life.
Just because you are in a relationship that doesn’t mean you need to give up the things you love doing—even if you feel tempted, especially at the beginning when things are exciting, and you want to spend as much time with the person as possible. It’s important to maintain your normal routine as you can. Make time for the things you love doing. Make them your priority because they contribute to your happiness, so they are just as important as your relationship. Keep some hobbies you only do on your own or with people other than your partner. Plan some time every week when you do things separately. Schedule solo dates. Cultivate a spiritual practice. Stick to your exercise routine. Doing things on your own will help you stay connected to yourself and cultivate a sense of self. It will also keep your relationship fresh. No relationship can fulfill all your needs and desires. That is why you need different things in your life, apart from your relationship, to keep you growing and expanding in new directions. Also, the time you spend on your own will help you nurture the relationship with yourself and keep your independence.
Stay true to yourself.
Don’t suddenly change who you are for someone else. For example, don’t suddenly pretend you’re a football lover just because your boyfriend likes football or don’t force yourself to do shopping with your girlfriend just to please her. Be honest with yourself and communicate what you like and what you don’t with your partner. Also, make some independent decisions. You don’t need to consult your partner about every single decision. Express your opinions. Share your thoughts. Speak your mind. Tell them how you feel. All of these will help your partner to understand you better.
Talk about how you feel. Talk about what isn’t working for you. Talk about what you like and dislike. Even tell your new partner that you are afraid of losing yourself in the relationship again. I did and my partner supported me in trying to maintain my own identity. Honest and open communication will only bring your closer. You can only improve a relationship when you know what is not working. So, talk openly!
Stop the over giving and accommodating.
Over giving usually comes from not seeing your own value and seeking approval. We believe the more we give, the more love we will get back from our partner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. In the long run, it is a sure way to increase resentment and feel taken for granted. And resentment is one of the factors that determines the happiness and longevity of the relationship. So, when you over give, you don’t only risk losing yourself in the relationship but also losing the relationship. — Reflect back on your relationships. How you felt, how you compromised, how you betrayed yourself. Our previous relationships can give us a huge amount of knowledge about ourselves. So, look at the mistakes you have made in the past and learn from them. Decide what you don’t want to repeat and what you want to do differently in your next relationship. Commit to staying strong and true to yourself. Set the rules which you are going to follow once you meet someone—you can use the ones I created for myself or create your own! Healthy relationships are created by two strong and complete individuals who can exist without each other. Healthy relationships are free of co-dependency. Healthy relationships start from a healthy relationship with yourself. The stronger your relationship with yourself, the lesser the possibility that you will lose the sense of self in your next relationship. You can build strong foundations now by getting to know yourself, exploring life on your own, and establishing habits which make you happy. When you feel strong within and when you meet the right person, you will stay grounded throughout the first phase of dating and have a better judgment. You will keep a strong identity, make better romantic choices, and avoid heartache.
About Aska Kolton
Aska Kolton is the creator of the Dating Detox Revolution. She empowers single women who are exhausted with dating or drained from unfulfilling relationships to take time out to rebuild their self-love and confidence, so they thrive in life and feel happy, whole, and worthy within before they look for love again. You can join her Facebook Group here. Get her «Happy, Whole and Worthy» Audio Guide HERE. See a typo or inaccuracy? Please contact us so we can fix it!
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