One of the most common problems I encounter in life coaching and giving dating advice is when women “come on too strong” and seem to push men away without realizing it. Or maybe they’re called “too intense” or even too needy.
It’s somewhat of a cliche to say this, and it’s true that men are usually turned off by this behavior. But I feel it’s not enough to say that you just need to “stop it” and “be more confident”, and all those other cliches.
I think it’s important to understand WHY this happens, why some women behave this way, and why it turns men off. Understanding the psychology of the situation will help you to avoid the instincts that you get you into trouble, and to increase your self-confidence.
Let’s start by discussing where these problems begin.
Abandonment issues – where do they start, why, and when?
Understanding Abandonment Issues
Simply put, clingy behavior comes from a fear of loneliness. The behavior may be part of a personality disorder, or may just be a lesser form of anxiety in general. The problem is that a fear of loneliness will manifest itself with aggressive or even passive-aggressive behaviors – like invading a man’s privacy or being too masculine in your approach, or basically trying to fast-forward to a relationship neither of you are ready for.
Abandonment issues can appear in three major “attachment styles” and not all of them have the same “clingy behaviors.”
Anxious: The most common one we think about, where a person develops intensely close feelings for another partner and becomes dependent on them. In fact, the idea of losing him becomes so terrifying, she tends to forget her own personality. She can’t separate herself from her partner.
Avoidant: The same issues can lead to the opposite behavior, avoidance, which is withdrawing from others – even friends or potential partners. The threat of trusting someone and being hurt is too great to take a chance.
Disorganized: This last category has a mix of both behaviors, and it stems from the person desiring intimacy and closeness, but not quite able to communicate their needs – or accept the love they want. The person may have a fear of intimacy among other issues.
What kind of symptoms are involved and why do men find them irritating?
Symptoms might include not only clingy behavior but also showing jealousy, not being able to trust your partner at all, feeling insecure about the relationship (even when things are going well), and essentially being over-eager to please.
People with abandonment issues tend to over-give, and to either be too controlling or need too much controlling, which can be hard for a partner to live with.
It’s important to understand that this dynamic starts in childhood.
Where Abandonment Issues Come From
The partner with a fear of loneliness tends to treat their partner the way they were treated as children by a parent. Sadly, this usually comes from early childhood feelings of abandonment by a parent. It could be the loss of a parent, divorce, or even emotional abandonment. Not expressing healthy emotion, or love, or even supressing a child’s natural emotions can lead to abandonment issues.
Even lesser problems like putting pressure on a child to be perfect, or treating a child like a friend and not a parent, can cause similar issues. The child becomes afraid of being abandoned and this could continue into adulthood, sometimes in severe cases, manifested as a borderline personality disorder, or anxiety disorder, among others.
But it’s not only childhood trauma that creates these feelings. Losing a partner in death, or going through a divorce (or a series of bad relationships) as an adult, can also cause the same issues.
How to Boost Your Self-Confidence
Of course, therapy is recommended for major personality disorders. But in terms of ordinary general abandonment issues, it helps to practice more self-care. In fact, a therapist might give you that homework, to find something you enjoy doing, and boost your self-confidence that way.
This may involve tackling a new hobby, or a skill, or even something like taking a walk or writing your thought down. Any activity that makes you feel good and gets you out of the anxiety “zone” is a healthy activity.
How to Change Your Relationship
If you sense that abandonment issues are causing problems in the relationship, (like the guy distancing himself or causing conflict) then your instincts are right.
The relationship is in jeopardy and it’s time to make a change.
The problem is that when some women sense the relationship is in trouble they do the opposite of what they should do. They push harder. They panic. They impulsively smother the guy in more love, more control, more obsessive behavior – and that’s the part that men can’t deal with.
The problem is not that you love him dearly, and he wouldn’t tell you that. The problem is in how you show that love.
Loving someone means you respect their privacy, their comfort, and their independence. Your goal should not be to change him into the ideal man (or surrogate parent) that you think you need.
If you really love him then you want him to stay the same. You want him to be the man he first was before the relationship started – independent, strong, and focused. So give him back that independence that you know he wants.
You don’t have to fix him. You are not trying to resolve the conflict by talking things out and getting him to agree with you. Instead, try giving him more independence and privacy.
Back away just a little bit and see how he responds. You want to match his energy, and need him as much as he needs you. The balance is important. Staying balanced shows respect for him. Rather than “needing him” you simply want his company. The stronger both of you are as individuals, the more solid your relationship becomes.
Sometimes realizing this and changing your behavior can be challenging. You may need to control some of your impulses when you feel the abandonment feelings resurfacing.
Your pattern may be to want constant reassurance, or even fly into a rage or depression. But this behavior may confuse or scare him. Understand the desire you feel, but take a break. Try not to project your feelings onto him, or blame him for things that are not his fault.
Rather, try honestly communicating with him and explaining why you feel the way you do sometimes. Get his input. Try to understand the way he communicates love or the love language he uses. If you want him to show love in a different way, talk about it. Try to show him ways that he can comfort you when you need it.
But remember above all, you have to maintain balance. You have to give him independence. You have to take back control of your life, your emotions, and your past. It’s not fair to him to punish and reward him, hoping he figures things out.
Communicate honestly. Try to make him understand what you feel, rather than doing what feels “natural”, which may be to engage him in conflict.
You can save this relationship by talking things through, boosting your self-confidence, and showing your love for him in the way that he appreciates.