clingy women rule?
December 2, 2009 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to persuade my new girlfriend to be more clingy? Yeah, I know, strange...

So, I've been dating this new girl, and she's completely wonderful. I really can't find anything wrong with her, except for one thing: she's stoic and non affectionate.

Over the last couple years I've dated a number of women in their late 20s through mid 30s. Some of these relationships have lasted a few dates, and some have lasted several months. In the end they have always ended because of some lack of compatibility.

This new women I'm dating is completely awesome, in every way. There's nothing that I find incompatible with. We have the same interests, the same values, similar goals. We have a great love life and have a lot of fun together. Her personality balances out mine very well.

But, she's completely independent and doesn't seem to have any need for me. She'll go for days without contacting me. Sometimes I don't think she's interested in me at all. When I ask her about it, she always says that I am everything that she needs, and she's not interested in anyone else. Then I feel awkward for even bringing it up.

I guess this woman is completely different from every other woman I've dated. Typically when there's chemistry, the woman in my life will show me what she wants often and intensely. She will try to be in contact with me, and she'll want to know about my life, and she'll give me a lot of attention. This new girlfriend, she doesn't do any of that. I usually dislike overly-clingy women, but now I'm missing it. I just want this woman to show some affection toward me and to give me more attention. I want her to talk about me to her friends. I want her to seem like she cares.

Is she lying to me? If she's not, is it possible to get her to show me more? Should I write off this relationship entirely? Help
posted by TheOtherSide to Human Relations (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
she's stoic and non affectionate.

And you're not, and you don't want her to be. Well, there are two possibilities: she's like this and will always be like this, or she's like this but would respond to a non-stoic, affectionate partner in kind.

I was raised by stoic, non-affectionate people. My sisters, they're still that way. But me, I fell into a crowd of happy, huggy people in high school, and what do you know, I liked it! Now I'm the black sheep of the family, affection-wise.

Yet, yet, yet -- my wife likes PDAs, and I still don't, and I never will. There are still some aspects of me that are stoic and non-affectionate, as indoctrinated into me as strongly as my unwillingness to bend over and drink from a mud puddle.

So why don't you be the affectionate, outgoing person you are, and see how she responds, right away and over time? Don't call her out on it; just be the way you want to be. If she responds in kind (eventually) you're good, and if she doesn't, then it's up to you to determine if you're okay with that or if there is something you're incompatible with after all.

As for wanting her to act as if she wants to be with you, take it from a semi-stoic: perhaps to her, the ultimate proof that she wants to be with you is that she's with you, and maybe over time you can learn to trust that. Or not.
posted by davejay at 5:47 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

My guess is that a lot of people are going to tell you that you are insecure. That may or may not be in play in your case, but I don't think it matters - you have reason to wonder.

There may be reasons on her end that prevent her from doing certain things that she might see as showing you her hand, putting her heart on her sleeve, etc. Frankly, many people who come from a background that involves abuse seem to show tendencies of not being demonstrative. It's a protective barrier of sorts.

On the other hand, most (dare I say that?) women like to do little things that let a guy know that they care and enjoy things like leaving greeting cards under your windshield wipers, dropping a note someplace where you'll find it later, there's a long list of that kind of thing. Men, on the other hand, favor date invites, flowers or - nothing more than what you're seeing from her. In other words, it sounds like she's being more the "typical guy" in your relationship.

Like I began the post, I won't come down on you for being needy and insecure because I think tokens of affection, the little things you mentioned and I described above are, in fact, a good measure of chemistry and like-mindedness. Give it time. But if you don't see these things soon, I would wonder what you don't know about her past (maybe a legitimate reason and are her issues alone) or consider moving on to what you want in a girlfriend. Nothing wrong with that. That's what dating is ultimately, a screening out process to find a match based on many different things as they're all individual - but you'll know it when you have it. Things "missing" from a relationship are a warning sign, whatever the cause.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 5:56 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like a little from column (a) and a little from column (b). You crave a little more attention than a stereotypical man, and she's a bit less 'clingy' than a stereotypical woman. Both sound like pretty mild issues, though, and I bet the right solution is some kind of middle ground where you each try to give a little bit.

You should probably have a talk in which you tell her you don't feel needed, but you really like feeling needed, and let her chew on that for awhile, to see if she can come up with creative ways to give you that feeling once and awhile. I don't think you should tell her what to do or make suggestions: it has to come out of her.

Don't feel too bad about this. All men have egos that need a little stroking now and then, even if many of us deny it vociferously.

If she hasn't been in many relationships before (?), she might not have picked upon this yet.
posted by rokusan at 6:02 PM on December 2, 2009

"So why don't you be the affectionate, outgoing person you are, and see how she responds, right away and over time?" says davejay.

If she responds affectionately in her own way, fine. But if she pushes you away then she does not like a huggy-type person.

In which case, end of story! Or am I too simplistic?
posted by lungtaworld at 6:02 PM on December 2, 2009

Um, if you want to talk to her more often, call her more often? Directness can be useful in giving her some space to show her interest without acting needy. Also, affection can be expressed in a lot of ways. She may be showing it in quieter ways. If you're really interested, give her some time to find a middle ground that works for you both.
posted by ejaned8 at 6:05 PM on December 2, 2009

It sounds like you've got two things going on here, both related to what each of you naturally give and want/need from a relationship. Most of us are best at giving the kind of attention we like best, be it affectionate language, cuddly downtime, romantic gestures, sex, or whatever.

Some people are just naturally like your girlfriend: independent, self contained, and without a major need for lots of focused attention and upkeep. My brother in law and his wife are both like this and their marriage is really happy. They're very busy, active people who sort of orbit each other, going about their business sometimes together and sometimes apart. One of them had a job where, during the work week, they only saw each other for like 30 minutes a day for six months, and it was fine for them.

That kind of dynamic is deeply baffling to me because my boy and I are very different. We both need a lot of relaxed downtime together. We don't want the other person to entertain us all the time, but we find we do best when we have a lot of time just quietly inhabiting each other's space at home. We also need a lot of relationship discussion and communication, and we both lean on the other person for a great deal of emotional support. We're very physically affectionate at home, but rarely do more than hold hands in public.

My point is, everybody does it their own way, and provided there's no abuse/codependency/neglect going on, no one way of conducting the business is right. Obviously though, it's easier if both people are on that same kind of wavelength in terms of how much time/attention/affection they need and how those things are expressed. I think people who don't match up like that have successful relationships all the time, but they do require their own kind of work.

On one hand, in a relationship, you've both got a responsibility to try and meet your partner's emotional needs. Recognizing how you need go go outside yourself and your personal preferences to provide the affection your partner needs is a very loving thing to do. On the other hand, you're also obligated to understand that your partner is who she is and that you're likely to experience a lot of frustration if you can never be happy without far more attention than is natural for her to give.

Short answer: talk about it. Express that you've got some needs that aren't being met and see if she's willing to work harder to give you the affection you need. At the same time, explore the ways you can adjust your expectations to meet her halfway. Don't settle for less than you need to feel loved, but work on loving her just the (independent, stoic) way she is. Whether or not you'll be happy together long term may have a lot to do with whether you can find that middle ground.
posted by mostlymartha at 6:18 PM on December 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

Is it maybe excitement that you're looking for? I dated a girl a long time ago that, while we had a great time, there was not much excitement. She was happy to see me, but it was never that same spark or passion to see someone that I had with others, which I think is kind of the fun part of a new relationship. You just have to see them, or you just really want to talk to them or tell them you miss them, etc etc
posted by mattsweaters at 6:20 PM on December 2, 2009

Hate to double-dip here but I really like most of what mostlymartha said above. One thing she wrote that is key - and probably will determine your future with this particular girl: "My brother in law and his wife are both like this..." She also said, "That kind of dynamic is deeply baffling to me because my boy and I are very different. We both need a lot of relaxed downtime together."

There you have it in a nutshell - two different couples, but both happy and comfortable with the way the significant other is. It's about a fit. Kind of like a puzzle, (but not that perfect).
posted by Gerard Sorme at 6:28 PM on December 2, 2009

She may have her guard up for some reason, such as she has been hurt in the past. If that is the case, what you need to do is hang with her and establish that you can be trusted. Warm her up with plenty of non-sexual touching (such as brushing her hair or rubbing her feet) and see how she responds. Smile at her a lot. Throw out the occasional compliment (I wish I could paint you-- you are so beautiful in this light.) In short, act as openly and un-guarded as possible.

On the other hand, this may be her character. I've had a few friends that were very cool around the opposite sex-- even when they were deep in the throes of love. If that is the case, don't expect her to change. It may be the deal-breaker for you.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:45 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a reserved person who prefers quality of affection over quantity of affection, I would caution against trying in any way to wheedle more attention out of your girl. So long as you feel that what attention you get is sincere, roll in it, bask in it and take it for all it's worth. If you flat out ask for more, you may end up with nothing or worse, insincerity.

One possible strategy for getting more of what you want, however, could be to be more demonstrative (selflessly of course) on your part. Stimulus response, you know. If you put out and express your affections, she may be moved to do the same. But another caution, you must be selfless in that you cannot be hurt if they're not immediately reciprocated or in kind.

And as always, be sincere.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:18 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you said something like "your comparatively low level of clingyness* makes me feel like maybe you're not that into me, even though I know intellectually that you are," or have you said something more like "I feel like you might not be that into me?"

I'd try vocalizing something like the former in a non-accusatory way. For all we know she'd be totally fine being more clingy, and is trying not to come on too strong. Or she'd have no problem with it, but just doesn't happen to naturally exhibit especially clingy behavior.

You could say something like "I know that you care about me, but small actions like random affectionateness and phonecalls mean a lot to me. Don't hesitate to go for those things -- it would make me feel really good," and see how it goes. If things stay the same and you don't like how you feel, go on to explain to her that you apparently need more clingyness in your relationships, and talk about it. In the end, if she's unable or unwilling to be clingy as you need to be content, then perhaps you should re-evaluate being in the relationship.

re you being needy/insecure: There's that popsci/self-help/religiously-tinged, yet potentially insightful, "Five Love Languages" book, which has (maybe?) been mentioned here before. The description/amazon-overview explains the issue pretty well: people just have different ways of "knowing" that other people care about them.

*herein, like you said, clingyness = degree of affectionateness, contact initiation frequency, depending on you, etc.
posted by sentient at 7:28 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

This girl sounds a lot like me at that age (and now, but at that age it was more unusual to be the non-clingy type I think) - independent, non-clingy, doesn't call, etc. And then as well as now, the quickest way to push me away was/is to call me on it. I'd say proceed with caution.

That being said, if she wasn't into you I would think she would just say so, or if she's not that direct, stop spending time with you. I doubt that she's lying to you.
posted by chez shoes at 7:43 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

One more woman chiming in to say that if I am happy to see you when I see you, why do you care that I was busy living my life for a few days?


Why would you think she's lying to you?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:13 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you're not getting what you want out of this - i.e. attention and affection, why are you doing it?

Maybe you just like and respect her but she'd make a better friend than a girlfriend?
posted by milinar at 9:00 PM on December 2, 2009

Is it possible that her holding out on you emotionally/affectionately/etc. is what's making you want more?
posted by moojoose at 9:04 PM on December 2, 2009

How long have you been dating? Ask her if she's going to get more affectionate, or if this is how she always is. Then make any decision based on that plus your own personal tolerance.
posted by kathrineg at 9:11 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

except for one thing: she's stoic and non affectionate

... and you go on to describe how she calls you every few days and doesn't talk to her friends about you. Either there's more than one thing, or you are jumping to some conclusions here.

You talk about wanting affection and attention, and I can't tell what you mean by that. If someone told me they wanted affection and attention, I'd think they wanted to be kissed and hugged and touched, not that they wanted me to call them more often. You need to figure out what exactly you want. Not "affection" -- figure out if you want to talk every day on the phone, or hold hands when you sit next to each other, or more sex, or what. Then you need to communicate that to her in a clear way using words that will have something close to a common meeting to each of you.

I want her to talk about me to her friends.

In the opinion of a woman who would find a guy insisting on talking to me every single day to be clingy and overbearing: it seems weird and controlling that you want to dictate what she discusses with her friends. Maybe they have a dynamic where they don't talk about guys, or her friend just went through a breakup, or she likes to have privacy rather than having her friends gossip about her relationships. I would have trouble understanding why it would even be any of your business to ask for such a thing -- if you asked me to respect your privacy, sure -- but to talk you up when you aren't there? Hire a publicist.

Personally, I would find it kind of insulting if someone said I was "stoic and non affectionate" because I called them every few days. Someone asking me to call them every single day, unless it's some sort of short-term thing where they need some extra support, would seem very clingy. If I was to agree to that I would quickly find it to be a burden.
posted by yohko at 10:42 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: My observational and descriptive skills are off, because I read some of these responses, and I realize now a better perspective of what I feel. I'm a non-verbal cue kinda person, and I rely on body language and physical actions to validate verbal cues. So, it's not so much that she doesn't reciprocate affection. It's more that I read her non-verbals as inconsistent with her verbals, and my subconscious redflagging it. Also, I have trust issues to begin with (not so much insecurity).

I don't really know if she doesn't talk to me to her friends, or not. I threw that in as some extra emo color for the situation. I have no interest in controlling her. I just want to know if I'm wasting my time. Is she really into me? Will she ever be really into me? Or, am I a nice, casual, romantic distraction for her at this moment in time? I find this unusually difficult because I haven't felt as strongly toward someone for a long time. Also, normally, I'd be all about letting go and enjoying the moment, but I'm only getting older (I'm 36, and she's 32), and I want to be in something more long-term, permanent at some point in my life. Yes, I see all the irony in this paragraph, too.

All the insight and perspectives presented rock, btw. Even if they don't answer the question 100%, they're giving me new ways to look at the situation, all very valuable.
posted by TheOtherSide at 3:30 AM on December 3, 2009

I just want to know if I'm wasting my time. Is she really into me? Will she ever be really into me?

Just about everyone's way of expressing desire, passion, or interest is different. Her behaviour, if it were coming from you, would mean that she wasn't really into you. But that doesn't say anything about her emotions.

If your question is 'is this serious', and you're having a hard time reading this from her manner of interacting with you, why not just ask her?
posted by voronoi at 5:48 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, I have trust issues to begin with (not so much insecurity).

Trust issues are a kind of insecurity. If you're wondering what her stance on the relationship is, ask her. There's no other way to find out right now.

She's not playing you, if that's what you're worried about. Her behavior simply reflects who she is and how she interacts with the guy she's seeing. If you can't deal with that, ask for what you need. If she can't give it to you, then she's not the one you need.
posted by runningwithscissors at 6:14 AM on December 3, 2009

I was brought up to be stoic, and it wasn't only until my early twenties where I *learned* to let my guard down and *learned* to be more affectionate. That's right, I had to learn. Being affectionate didn't come naturally to me, but after a while, I realized that people are so much friendlier and happier if I did certain things like hugging and expressing small gestures. When they were happy, I am happy. So I learned to do these things, and after a while, I became more affectionate over time, without thinking about it.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that you should give her some time -- maybe up to a year or two. But if her stoicness doesn't seem to be easing up, she might just be incapable of changing, or she might not be that interested in you after all.
posted by moiraine at 9:59 AM on December 3, 2009

She might be compensating for a past relationship where she was either too clingy and got rebuffed or her beau at the time was too clingy and she's making a statement to you about space. If you don't mind getting into potentially icky old boyfriend talk, you might discover where she's coming from.
posted by teg4rvn at 1:04 PM on December 3, 2009

I'm sensing a lot of insecurity on your part about what you need. Obviously you want more than you're getting, otherwise you wouldn't be on here.

And no, nothing you're asking is unfair.

Just talk about it. If she's down, she'll do things differently. If she's not, part ways. It's kinda that simple...

The wrong thing to do is just to hope and wait and pine and wonder.
posted by milinar at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2009

She's into you. If she wasn't, she wouldn't be hanging around. And regarding the phone - maybe she's not much of a phone person. I'd only worry if she's a phone person and doesn't call you - if she's not calling anyone (including you), then there's no reason to worry. It's just her style.

Also, read this thread. Are you sure you're not the guy I'm dating? Lol
posted by Xere at 3:50 PM on December 3, 2009

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