How To Tell The Difference Between A Clingy And Attentive Partner

Everyone wants an attentive partner. That type of partner who's always thinking about them, wants to spend oodles of time with them, and prioritizes them. Attentive partners are great and make for a healthy relationship. But there's also such a thing as being too attentive to the point of being clingy. Clinginess, even for those who are madly in love with our partners, can be really difficult to handle. When someone is clingy, it can throw a healthy relationship into a tailspin because what freedom you have depletes so you can cater to your partner's needs to be with you 24/7, and that's no way to live.

"The needy person mistakenly believes they 'must,' 'have to,' and 'should' be in the relationship in order to be OK with themselves," Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and professor at Pepperdine University, tells The Zoe Report. "At an unconscious level, they believe they are unworthy, unlovable, bad, and flawed unless they are 'needed' by another."

While an attentive partner isn't afraid to spend time without you, a clingy partner has insecurities and even abandonment issues they need to work out so they can offer the right amount of attention, without smothering the person they love (via MindBodyGreen). Sure, clingy can seem endearing at first, but it gets old fast.

A clingy partner makes you their universe

Being such a major priority in someone's life can feel really great! However, clingy partners put you first, as in above all else and everyone else, making you the center of their entire existence. This is unhealthy for both of you. Not only does it suggest that they have nothing else going on, as they sit around waiting for you to show them attention, but just knowing that's what they're doing can feel overwhelming and suffocating (via Elite Daily). It's not your job to validate their existence by being at their beck and call.

An attentive partner gives you space to live your life and go out with your friends and family, and they don't give you a hard time about it. Why? Because they have friends, a family, hobbies, and a life, too (via Healthline).

A clingy partner blows up your phone

Although we live in a culture in which we're all glued to our phones, a relationship that has a healthy balance of trust and mutual respect for each other's time doesn't need each partner on the phone with each other at all times. However, a clingy partner is likely to disagree with this. That's because clinginess is an off-shoot of jealousy.

"People who are jealous and insecure will tend to cling to their partner as a means of keeping a closer eye on them," Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., tells Bustle.

An attentive partner doesn't feel intimidated by the fact that you have other things going on, so they don't feel the need to constantly be in touch with you. This isn't to suggest they're not thinking about you, it's just that they're emotionally secure in your relationship with them so blowing up your phone at all hours never crosses their mind (via Psych Central).

A clingy partner will try to exert control

When your partner starts making demands of you, no matter what the scenario is, you know you have stage-five clinger on your hands.

"Needy individuals will use the language of empowerment," Steven M. Sultanoff tells The Zoe Report. "They will say things like, 'You have to...,' 'You must...,' and 'You should,' 'You have to tell me where you are,' 'You must call during the day,' and 'You should respond to my texts within 15 minutes,' and so on."

This type of language isn't just controlling but can also be deemed as threatening. Someone who's an attentive partner doesn't make demands. They love you as you are, and the last thing they want to do is control you or overstep your boundaries.

"In a healthy relationship, both parties discuss and agree upon important subjects that are meaningful to one another," leadership and relationship coach Jennifer Howell tells Everyday Health. "However, if your partner repeatedly ignores what you value, including your boundaries, that's concerning." Concerning and clingy.

A clingy partner stalks you

Because a partner who's clingy needs to keep an eye on you at all times, they'll not only bombard your social media with comments, likes, and questions about your whereabouts but they'll also actually show up uninvited to places where you happen to be (via Bustle).

While a fun surprise from your attentive partner, because they happen to be in the neighborhood can be sweet, a clingy partner isn't about fun surprises; they're about showing up to check on you and make sure you're not doing anything they don't approve of like — gasp! — having a life without them. 

Attentive partners have what's called "secure attachment," and don't need to be around their partner all the time or creep up into their space when they're out with friends (via Psychology Today). Attentive partners have a life of their own but make space for you in it instead of trying to infiltrate your life — that's what the clingy partner does. 

A clingy partner needs constant reassuring

Someone with secure attachment and a healthy view of their relationship doesn't need to be coddled and told all the time that they are loved and valued. Healthy relationships in which communication is paramount don't need this incessant type of reassurance. But clingy partners need to constantly be reassured that they're loved, they're important, and all the rest of it.

"The sad thing is that often, no matter how much the partner gives, or allows, it will never be enough to make the [other] partner feel trusting and secure in the relationship," Martinez tells Bustle.

Although some people don't mind a clingy partner and are able to work with it, others just can't do it — especially people who value their independence and freedom. But if you love your partner, despite their clinginess, then talking to them and making them understand why and how their neediness is a problem can help.

"I suggest lovingly bringing it to their attention," couples therapist Beverley Andre tells MindBodyGreen. "I stress lovingly because tone can easily turn this conversation into an accusatory one. Convey to your partner the behaviors you have been noticing, and from a place of curiosity ask if they have noticed it as well, and if so, what is the behavior connected to. Once those answers are known, both of you can address any unresolved issues that may have come up and then transition to creating healthier boundaries within the relationship."