I'm too clingly, she's too independent, or just incompatible?
February 15, 2012 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Three months into a relationship, we're having communication problems. I want to talk all the time, she's ok without it, and this bothers me. I'm working to become less clingy, but should I look for a girl who's clingy too?

In past relationships, I've communicated everyday, and I never go for more than a day without talking to my girl - email, text or phone. My current girl seems to have no problems with not talking for a week or two, and this leads to me questioning if she's really into the relationship. I've considered whether I have insecurity issues, but I think for me it's "if I'm really into you and I want to talk to you all the time, you should want the same if you're into me." We're great when we're together in person, she's introduced me to her friends and mom, and we were good friends for a year prior. When we were friends, we actually saw each other about every other week, so maybe that's her comfort zone?

We've had a couple arguments because I'm used to a girlfriend who wants to share everything with me. I'd like to do the same and share my life, but I feel this girl isn't into that. These arguments are really straining the relationship. We've talked and she said she will try to communicate more, but I haven't seen change, at least to the degree that I want. What really gets me is she says she doesn't think she's doing anything wrong, and I agree. But honestly, this lack of communication nags me, and we're only three months in.

My question is, even if I get over my need to communicate often, are we simply too different? Will I ever be happy with less communication? I've tried a bit of therapy but the therapist basically said, communication is personal preference that can be based on past relationships, relationship with parents, etc. At which point do we simply give up? I suggested we take a break so I can think this out, which is my second mini-question - how long should a break be, given that we're only three months in?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think that communicating every day in a relationship is perfectly normal, and it doesn't make you clingy in the least. It doesn't mean her way is wrong, but it might mean you two aren't a very good match.

Anyhow, I do wonder about the "share everything" thing. Being able to be open is wonderful, having to hear everything that pops into someone's head can be exhausting. If you have this goal w/r/t sharing your life with someone, maybe look at that as something to work up to with someone, not something to just do and hope they get used to it.
posted by hermitosis at 6:12 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I also don't really think it's worth taking a break this early on, because a break will mean far more to you than it will to her -- that's the whole problem, isn't it? She can already go for long periods without feeling the need to interact with you.
posted by hermitosis at 6:14 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think you and this lady should go back to being friends. She's comfortable with not talking to you for a week or two, you want to date someone you can talk to every day; both are perfectly acceptable communication styles, but you need someone who matches your style a bit more.

And yeah, you're not clingy.
posted by Specklet at 6:15 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm voting incompatible. I don't think you're necessarily clingy (one person's clingy is another person's "hey, s/he's into me, awesome!") but your communication needs don't match. There's nothing wrong with your wanting to talk every day, nor her not really caring. It doesn't sound like she just doesn't WANT to talk to you, just that she could go either way. You're saying that what she's doing, even when she's trying to adjust to your needs, is not enough for you. So she either has to step it up further, or you need to pull back.

It sounds like you need to have this level and frequency of communication in order to feel secure in the relationship. So, I think the only way that you could be happy with less communication is if you changed the importance or weight that you put on it or the pace at which that has to be achieved.

I don't really see a point of a break, here, unless it's for you to work on this:

"if I'm really into you and I want to talk to you all the time, you should want the same if you're into me."

which is an unfair way to think about any relationship.
posted by sm1tten at 6:18 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are definitely not too clingy.
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:20 PM on February 15, 2012

I think you need to find someone who is more closely aligned with your communication style. It's not clingy to want to talk to someone everyday if they're your partner. That's not to say that her way of communicating is wrong, it's just that usually in a close relationship there's an expectation of regular communication - if someone is more casual or just friends, there's less of an expectation and therefore, more time between contact. Perhaps you're more into her than she's into you?
posted by mleigh at 6:20 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure you're not actually even dating if she doesn't talk to you for "a week or two."
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [25 favorites]

Amount of communication is a personal preference, true, but only talking once every week or two really stretches the standard definition of boyfriend/girlfriend "relationship".
posted by drlith at 6:30 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your communication styles and needs are incompatible. And/or she's just not that into you. Going weeks without talking with your SO in a new relationship is not normal. There are plenty of non-clingy people available who, like you, want to talk with the person they're into more frequently than that.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:33 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been criticized endlessly by women for being too independent in relationships, and even for me going over a week without at least checking in with each other seems excessive.

I would chalk this one up to a no-fault incompatibility and look for someone with whom these things come a bit easier.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 6:38 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, a week? Seriously? That's a long time, man, unless she was out of the country or something (and even then, I'd at least expect an email at some point).

And I say this as someone who is really not a "we need to talk every day" kind of person. I could easily go a couple of days without talking to my girlfriend, and most of our communication between seeing each other consists of random emails or instant message chats (I dislike both the phone and text-message chatting).

But if she's regularly going a week or two without any communication at all - well, unless she's got a good reason for it, I'd question whether you're even in a relationship. I don't think you're being clingy, at all. This seems like a pretty basic incompatibility.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:00 PM on February 15, 2012

I might meet up to catch up with people every other week or so, but I'd consider those relationships to be a not-particularly close friendships (which might not be anyone's fault - kids, work, etc get in the way). Or maybe just people I go out for a drink with or do [specific activity] with - aquiantances. I wouldn't consider any of these people to be in my close circle of friends, let alone a partner (someone I call from hospital? Tell first about promotions/family stuff/etc? Just forward stupid gifs or jokes to because they made me think of them?)

It's perfectly fine for her to have a more casual attitude I suppose, but for me, if it were that casual... what's the point of them being my partner? (Plus, I'd be really concerned about the lack of sexytimes. Once every other week is not enough).
posted by everydayanewday at 7:13 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I might meet up to catch up with people every other week or so, but I'd consider those relationships to be a not-particularly close friendships

Wow, you don't consider someone a close friend if you consistently see them every 2 weeks? Weird. OP, there is no right or wrong answer to the question of how attached one person should be to the other in a three-month relationship. You two are just too different. You're one way, and she's another way, and they don't seem to go together very well. Sorry.
posted by John Cohen at 7:56 PM on February 15, 2012

Yep, someone I see for two hours twice a month isn't really a 'close friend' to me. (I don't have to 'see' people, skyping or IMing or facebooking messaging even, I'd count, but it would have to be more regular than that. Different strokes and all that.)

Seconding that the OP and his partner just do not seem very compatible.
posted by everydayanewday at 10:10 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not really giving up at this point: your communication styles just don't work well in tandem. Each of you has different expectations regarding contact in general, which can come off as disregard or unconcern for the other, or perceived overbearingness. If this exercise in communication is a burden, stop stressing yourself and explore other relationships where you are on the same page.
posted by Giggilituffin at 10:27 PM on February 15, 2012

If you talk once every week or two, I assume you're not seeing each other more than that. So in this "relationship" you've seen your "girlfriend" a total of like 6 times in the last 3 months?

C'mon son.
posted by danny the boy at 10:47 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you want a relationship-relationship and she wants ... an occasional date.
posted by ead at 11:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You gotta bounce. It's admirable that you want to make this work, but she doesn't see a problem so there's no room for compromise. I'm a mightily independent MONSTER and even I think that a week or two with no contact sounds a little nuts for someone I'd call a significant other. This isn't going to change. You gotta bounce.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:10 PM on February 15, 2012

Does she actually consider herself to be your girlfriend? Are you actually on the same page about the relationship?
posted by gt2 at 11:55 PM on February 15, 2012

Several red flags here.

First of all, I agree with everyone that there's a vast and happy medium between "5 texts and a two-hour phonecall every night" and "see ya for a movie twice a month. I'm just going to assume you're exaggerating here for effect, and she actually talks to you in between seeing you in person more often than every two weeks. Twice a week can be pretty normal, IMO, depending on how busy you are.

we were good friends for a year prior.

Why didn't something happen sooner? My thought is that her level of attraction to you, and maybe even yours to her, has never been very high. Unless you were both dating other people- in which case, it's still a bit of a concern anyway. It's unusual that you could go a year with being friends and then suddenly BOTH develop attraction. One of you, yes. But both of you at the same time? Seems likely one of you is just coasting on the other's attention.

Part of me agrees with me that she's just not that into you. However, part of me really wants to caution you about being clingy. Being clingy, even when two people actually are very into each other, is often a destructive thing. It can ruin whatever attraction would otherwise smoulder and grow slowly. Part of me wants to let you know that I've been used as the "nice girl who will listen to the guy's problems and validate him" and this can be exhausting and demoralizing, and it's much better if you have at least one other outlet for that. No, people shouldn't play games, and yes, in a perfect world people should both be very into each other and want to talk all the time and be perfectly happy with it and never get tired of each other- but let's be real. Very often, someone likes the other a little more, and that can even be a good or at least okay thing. People are tired, people can't always be at their best. I think a more realistic approach to relationships is to at least attempt to maintain some mystery and not expect a partner to meet your needs to talk all the time.

Whether or not you stay with her, I'm just throwing this out there for your future knowledge. You show a few telltale signs of being a little too far onto the clingy side of the spectrum, maybe, IMO.

Like this?

I'm used to a girlfriend who wants to share everything with me.

This is a huge no-no. Never, ever pressure someone to "share everything" with you, even in a joking way. Comes off very badly. Especially never pair it with the deadly combination of "I want to be there for you." (Or even worse..."let me be your hero.")
posted by stockpuppet at 1:40 AM on February 16, 2012

The clinginess/distance thing has been covered, but it would also be helpful if you can give us more information about the conversation you had with her where you said you wanted a break. Did you explain why? What did she say? It's hard to advise you well without that information.

Similarly, when you say she's okay without talking more often, is she also okay with talking more often? Does she actively avoid or does she just not initiate?

Finally, how much do you like this girl? If you're not super into her, that weighs against trying to fix things.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:33 AM on February 16, 2012

My dad is the kind of person who wants to spend every second of every day with a person if he can. He doesn't like boundaries and will open other people's mail etc.--not because he doesn't trust who he's with, but because he sees the relationship as merging with the other person. If I were in that type of relationship it would end in a murder-suicide, but he's with a woman who feels the same way and they are blissfully happy.

That's an extreme case, but I used it to illustrate the point that there are all kinds of people in the world--go find someone who is as "clingy" as you are and bask in the mutual attention.
posted by Kimberly at 6:08 AM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm you and my wife is her.

The not talking for two weeks is odd, but whatever. You just need to get used to her personality and she with yours. Sometimes you'll get on each others nerves, but that's life. You need to realize that you don't need to share everything and tone it down a notch, and she needs to realize that she needs to get comfortable with having a guy around who shares a little to much, or rather just talks a bit too much. If that doesn't jive well with either of you then I'd get out now. Two weeks may be too much, but someone that didn't need to talk for a week might fit you better. Two people that talk ALL THE TIME might get annoying later in life.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:32 AM on February 16, 2012

Forget about names like "clingy" and all that. There is no normal way to communicate but the way you need to. If you are the kind who loves to share your thoughts etc and spend time with your SO then that is what you need. Accept it. Then go find someone who likes the same so that you both can share that with each other. (all these words like co-dependent, clingy etc. etc. are invented by people, ignore it) Do what is comfortable for you.
posted by pakora1 at 8:06 AM on February 16, 2012

At which point do we simply give up?

After you've made a good-faith effort to accommodate her needs, after you've clearly and plainly told her what your own needs are and why they're important to you, after you've given her an opportunity to meet your needs, and after she hasn't taken advantage of that opportunity.

I'm sorry, man, but you're there. You've asked for more intimacy, and she's answered "no." There's nothing left to do here but move on.

(And for the record, neither of you is doing anything wrong. You're just incompatible with each other. Let her go find someone who prefers infrequent contact and live happily ever after, and you go find someone who wants to talk every day and do the same.)
posted by Zozo at 1:37 PM on February 16, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
I think I need to be more fair. We did see each other more than once every two weeks, more like multiple times a week. However, if for some reason we cannot due to other plans, travel, etc, she's ok with it while it kills me. That said, while she's traveling, she'd send me small notes once in a while (sentence or two) of what she's up to.

On whether we're on the same page in the relationship, I think we consider our SOs. She talks about me as her bf and I've met a lot of her friends.

I think the most revealing issue is I consider "not seeing each other" for two weeks to be a big deal, and most of the answers so far agree, BUT maybe my definition of not seeing each other is different than what's commonly understood. And what's really eating at me is she seems to be not as bothered as I am. We've talked about this, and she says maybe she'd miss me, but I call her and communicate enough that she doesn't feel like she needs to initiate contact. She's actually said, if I initiated less, maybe she'd want to talk to me more. That feels like games to me, but maybe that's human nature?

I guess the question boils down to, is this type of "separation anxiety" healthy, or something I should try to change? Should I look for someone who needs the same level of contact as I do?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:17 PM on February 16, 2012

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