The Difference Between Clingy and Needy

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Sex & Relationships.


Photo by paulinaclemente, courtesy of Flickr Commons.

By Rebecca Hoffman

So you’re in a relationship and it’s great except for this minor problem.  Your partner needs you for everything.  At first it was nice.  It’s always nice to be needed, but then it was annoying, and then it became too much.  After all, you’re their partner not their proofreader; you really don’t need to OK every email they send to their boss.

You label your partner as clingy, but this isn’t the problem.  The problem is they’re needy and the two terms aren’t interchangeable.
When people hear clingy they cringe, but clingy relationships are adorable.  Though they can seem childish, there is something endearing about two lovers always holding hands.  However, the word clingy still raises a red flag.  This is usually because when people hear clingy they think needy.
Being clingy is when you never let go of your partner, literally.  You like holding their hand, and when they’re using their hands you like holding their arm, and when they need their arms you hold their waist, or their neck, or their leg, or whatever part of them you can manage to get your hands on.  If you’re clingy you like snuggling and touching and just being close.  While this might make your partner feel a bit claustrophobic it’s not really a problem, long as you set some limits or you both don’t mind the complete lack of personal space.
However, being needy is something else entirely and usually poses some real problems for a relationship.  When you’re needy you’re too dependent on your partner.  You not only cling to them, but also need them to be there in order for you to properly function.  Strong, independent people who enter a relationship and then forget how to be individuals are needy.  Being needy means you need your partner to reaffirm everything you do, regardless of what it is.
When someone is needy they seem to forget that they are capable of functioning as an individual and seem to only function with the aid of their partner, whether their partner wants to help them with every miniscule decision or not.  So, how do you fix this?  After all, needy partners were capable individuals before the relationship and so they must still be like that somewhere.
Fixing a needy partner is really quite simple.  You just tell your partner to get a life, their own life at that, but in kinder words.
Relationships are great because it means you have someone in your corner.  A good partner will not only support you, but also challenge you.  However, in many successful relationships it’s usually helpful if both partners have a life outside their relationship.  Whether that’s a hobby, job, friend, it doesn’t matter.  The point is it’s something that is just them.  It doesn’t mean your partner isn’t involved at all, but it means you are the primary person making the calls in this situation.
So be as cute and clingy as you want, but avoid neediness.  Relationships are about two individuals coming together and not two individuals morphing into one spineless and indecisive mush.  Happy relationships usually are two individuals who stay two individuals, but two individuals that may cling a bit more to each other than to others.

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