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Stage 5 Clinger
January 8, 2007 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
I've had an on and off again relationship with this girl that I really like but there is one problem that pushes me away. When we're together she always has to be touching, cuddling, whatever. It's too much for me. I feel cloisterphobic.
How can I tell her to ease up a bit without hurting her feelings or making things awkward?
You are in a touchy situation, no pun intended.
When you say her physical contact is too much for you, it would be good for you to clarify what exactly is overwhelming you. Are you feeling smothered? Are you afraid that if you allow her to get too close to you that you will lose your freedom or your identity? Do you feel afraid that she's pushing for a deeper level of intimacy or even a commitment that you aren't ready to give?
When you are clear on the exact nature of your discomfort, then you'll be ready to talk to her. Keep in mind that behavior has a meaning not only to the person who is engaged in the behavior but also for the receiver.
We not only want to have you talk about how you experience her behavior, we want to find out more about what her behavior is saying to you about how she feels. Is she afraid to be dropped by you? Is she not sure that you know how much she likes you? Is she not sure how much you like her? If so, is her constant need to touch a request for reassurance that you like her. Are you not giving her enough verbal reassurances of your love? Was she abandoned as a kid and is her clinging a symptom of a fear that you will drop her?
In other words, we want to find out if her touching is motivated by wanting to reassure herself or you?
To begin the discussion, tell her that there's something happening between you that you'd like to understand better. Then tell her that it is very common for two people to have different levels of need for physical contact. Tell her that you've noticed that her need is quite high. Then ask her to talk about what her need for so much contact says about how she feels inside, how she feels toward you, and how she feels about your relationship. Ask her if there is something that she needs from her on an emotional level that you aren't giving her.
When you fully understand where she is coming from, talk to her about your discomfort. After a thorough discussion, you will understand each other much more. With this understanding, you will be able to directly respond to her needs; this, in turn, will make her feel more secure and less in need of clinging.
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