How to deal with “clinginess/neediness” in a relationship

Nov 23, 2021

Mike Korman

I’m a certified coach therapist supporting and guiding those desiring more compassion and connection to themselves and in their relationships. I weave together nonviolent communication and mindfulness.

Noticing yourself, or your partner, becoming clingy in your relationship?

Here are the basics of why this might be happening…

The first thing to understand is that we all have needs as humans. 

We all need love, to be seen, to be heard, we all need challenge and growth and touch and a sense of connection. 

Two, our needs can be met in millions of ways. They don’t depend on just one person to meet them.

I can meet my need for love by watching a rom-com, or by hopping into a warm bath, shutting my eyes and listening to music I love. I can also meet my need for love in caring relationships, both intimate and plutonic. 

Third and final point – clingy behaviour arises when we forget this; when we believe that only one person – like our partner – can give us what we need. We literally cling on to them for dear life. If they don’t love us, then we are unloved. This is our experience.


It doesn’t matter how many other people in our life love us. In that moment we are completely dependent on their love for us. 

Nothing else matters. 

If they don’t give us love in the exact way that we want it (e.g. with a gentle touch or saying “I love you” or responding to our text message in the next few minutes) then we feel unloved. 

We have temporarily forgotten something of crucial importance in relationships. That my needs can be met in multiple ways. My needs are never only able to be met by just this one person in just this one way. 

Understanding this statement is the key to freeing ourselves from clingy or needy behaviour.

What do I mean by clingy?

I use the words “clingy” or “needy” because they are accessible to many of us. But what I’d love to do is suggest different words. I don’t use these words because they don’t really describe for me what is really going on. 

What is really going on when we are “clingy” or “needy” is that we are in a state of distress. 

Clingy and needy sound judgmental to me. If I use them to describe my own behaviour then it feels as if I’m battering or criticising myself. I don’t feel compassion towards myself. I feel distant and I feel a contraction in my body. 

I want to have a compassionate relationship with myself because not only does it just feel good but it is the way that I can most easily make changes in my behaviour to behaviours that better serve me.

So I suggest being more compassionate to ourselves when we notice clingy or needy behaviour. I suggest reminding ourselves that we are really just trying to meet our needs and that we’ve temporarily forgotten that there are more than just one person that can support us in meeting these needs. And also reminding ourselves that the most efficient and kind way to lessen our “clingy” behaviour is to be compassionate to ourselves. 

Compassion is a shortcut to the changes we want to see in our lives. 

So far I’ve said the following. That clingy behaviour comes from us believing that our needs can only be met by one person. When we believe this we enter a state of distress. To reduce our distress and thus our clinginess we need to remember that our needs can be met in infinite ways by infinite people. 

5-step process

I want to share a 5 step process with you that you can use anytime you feel that you are clinging to one person (i.e. that your emotional state is highly dependent on another person’s actions or words). 

This has been designed by Marshall Rosenberg (founder of Nonviolent Communication) 

Although you can do this alone, I highly recommend doing it with a friend:

  1. Think of one of the needs that you want to have met by this person: love, care, intimacy, connection, being seen/heard. 
  2. Mourn (allow yourself to feel sadness, pain) at the fact that in this moment this other person is not able to meet your need in the way that you’d most like. It doesn’t mean that they never will be able to meet this need of yours, just now. 
  3. Ask yourself: what does this need (love, care, intimacy etc.) mean to me? OR how is this need alive in me? Shut your eyes and let the question sink into you. 
  4. Either think of a memory where this need was very present and very met or think of a fantasy whereby this need was brilliantly and completely met (go wild). This will start to connect you to the place in you which is not dependent on anyone else to be fulfilled. Spend at least 5 minutes imagining/remembering.
  5. Open your eyes and think, together with your partner if you have one, of at least 3 ways that you can meet this need with: other people (not THE person you feel clingy towards) and with yourself (doing things that aren’t dependent on anyone else). 


For example if you choose the need for love and you got to step 5, you might say that I can meet my need for love by having good conversations with friends and family that I love or by going out with my friends for a fun night or by helping someone in need that I love in some way. 

And about meeting this need with yourself you might say I can meet my need for love by doing things that I love. I could go bouldering or go do pottery or go for a hike listening to Katy Perry blaring in my ears or I could go and take myself for a massage and then go sit and have a coffee in my favourite cafe reading my favourite book. 

This is how we come out of clingy behaviour. We remind ourselves and take active steps to do things that also meet these needs of ours. 

We show ourselves how we are not dependent on one single person to meet our needs. 

Yes, we might want them to meet these needs and yes it will hurt when they don’t, but we will be OK. We can constantly remind ourselves that our needs are much bigger than one single person. And that we have the power and the freedom to meet our needs in an infinite number of ways. No one can ever take that from us. And when we live more like this we become less dependent on any one person. This creates freedom not just for us but also for them. 

They will feel that. It feels nice, like something is lighter, freer. It feels like a burden has been lifted from their shoulders. You might find that they actually show more interest in you or are more open to meeting your needs than they have ever been. 

I’d love to hear anything that resonates with you in this article.

Mike Korman
I’m a certified coach therapist supporting and guiding those desiring more compassion and connection to themselves and in their relationships. I weave together nonviolent communication and mindfulness.

Reach me directly here...

5 Steps to Healthier Communication in your Relationships

Experience less tension and more peace in your relationships. Based on Nonviolent Communication.

On its way. Check your inbox (including spam)