December 3, 2021

Clinginess: a Quality that might End your Relationship.

Human beings are complex creatures.

And the holiday season reintroduces us to human vulnerability on a deeper level.

People’s fears, insecurities, anxiety, anger, and resentment meet alcohol and sleep-deprivation. Voilà, we find out what happens behind closed doors in way too many homes. The psycho-analyzing writer in me finds stories everywhere I go and even when I am not looking. The Ayurveda-yoga educator in me tries to understand human behavior from a holistic perspective.

Let’s be honest; holidays might not be the most wonderful time of the season for many. People’s traumas and open wounds are unleashed. We enter social spaces with all our brokenness pouring over. At every gathering, you will probably notice that one couple where one of the partners needs continued reassurance. No matter how many times their partner praises them, it’s never enough. They continue to cling. I have also noticed couples where one of them can’t make it—the partner missing from the event constantly messages and calls. I don’t think it’s FOMO (fear of missing out) that gets people to check-in constantly; it’s deep-rooted attachment issues.

Why do people get clingy?

We met a couple at a party recently where the woman, let’s call her Maya, doesn’t “allow” her husband to go out to the bar with his buddies or have a boy’s night out or go to the movies. The man was inebriated and annoyed. He blurted, “It’s because she doesn’t have friends or life of her own.” My husband and I stood with them, surrounded by awkward silence. This conversation came up because a few weeks ago, my husband had to travel overseas to help his family. Maya asked how and why I “permitted” my husband to travel. It’s the holiday season; shouldn’t he be home with me?

I am at that phase in my life where unless it’s work or clients or people I care about, I will not partake in conversations that don’t add value to my life or if they rile me up. But that doesn’t mean I won’t think or write about them. Haha, nothing is safe around a writer.

I wondered where Maya was coming from. Her word choice felt too domineering. What makes her so clingy and needy in her relationship? Why did she feel threatened because I “allowed” my husband to be with his family even though it’s not my place to tell him how he spends his time? Did she think her husband would want to “negotiate” some “me time” because another man, meaning my partner, had been given the green signal? Did Maya lack confidence and believe that she always needed her partner around for help and support? Or did she believe he would cheat on her when they weren’t together?

I am not a psychologist or a therapist. My Ayurvedic counselor mind automatically goes to doshic imbalances. I imagine insecurity, anxiety, and fear are at the root of being unhealthily attached. Hello, that’s a sign of Vata imbalance! Being clingy in a relationship can also stem from a person’s lack of other interests and hobbies—a sign of Kapha imbalance. The unnatural attachment by itself is a sign of Kapha dosha vitiation. If Maya were my client, I would have designed the perfect Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle tips for her to be able to slowly let go.

Give people space

I truly believe that nobody should rely on one relationship to sustain them. You cannot be everything to your partner and it’s important to make connections with people outside of your relationship. The same rule applies to your partner as well. That’s why I have friends for heart-to-heart chats; friends I practice yoga with; hiking friends to explore nature; my group of writing friends; friends I brainstorm my business with; girlfriends who like to travel together; the friends I like to try out different restaurants with…you get the picture. My husband has his buddies, and we have couple friends whom we hang out with. We both also like our alone time.

I truly believe being territorial in a relationship can eventually lead to its demise. If there is a constant conflict at home where people need to pick sides, who wants to be in such a toxic relationship? My husband is not an object to be owned. He is also a son, a brother, a son-in-law, a friend, a cousin, a colleague. I am his wife, period. But I don’t need to see myself in the other roles in his life and take up space. If he can do all those roles without any resistance or pressure or clinginess at home, he is also a nicer person who wants to be home. When he doesn’t have to pick between being a son or a brother or a husband, he is also at peace, which makes our marriage stronger.

By the way, similar rules apply to me. After I lost my mom, I spent several Diwalis with my dad in India. I go on trips with my girlfriends and do solo yoga/meditation retreats. “Me time” and time with just my girlfriends is something he supports. My husband encourages my fierce independence, and I support his decision to catch up with his friends. We both love hanging out with each other and intentionally carve out time. But we are both equally supportive of the other person’s need for space and activities with their buddies.

Stop Being Clones of Each Other

There are different kinds of couples, I get it. Some like to do every activity together and spend all non-working moments in each other’s company; others like to mix up couple-time with individual pursuits and interests.

When I completed my first yoga teacher training, one of our very well-meaning friends asked my husband, “Aren’t you afraid that Sweta now being on the yogic path might mean you both develop separate interests? Do you not worry that your marriage might end because you will now drift apart?” My husband patiently explained to this friend that having separate interests is necessary for the health and success of a relationship.

If you are in a marriage and afraid to grow and explore because your partner might get offended, isn’t that a sign of decay? It’s so important to be able to do things without your partner. It’s equally important for your partner to enjoy things without you. Remember: it’s the unique facets of your personality that make you a better team. The quality of your relationship changes and you grow as individuals when you both have something to teach the other person. I know all about Tom Brady’s diet and lifestyle because my husband is a football fan, and he understands yoga off and on the mat, because I tell him about it. Being a couple doesn’t mean you have to be clones of each other. It’s quality time versus quantity with each other and carving out time for individual endeavors too.

My parting thoughts…

On one hand, it’s normal for your partner to need you and vice versa. But it’s important to recognize signs when they/or you become emotionally overbearing. Have an open communication and convey your frustrations with kindness. Sometimes, we might not even realize that we are smothering people.

But if you don’t see any change, I would suggest getting help. I have seen friends cheat, walk away, get separated when they couldn’t find space in their relationships to breathe.

“Love should not cause suffocation and death if it is truly love. Don’t bundle someone into an uncomfortable cage just because you want to ensure their safety in your life. The bird knows where it belongs, and will never fly to a wrong nest.” ~ Michael Bassey Johnson


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