Blame the caffeine for all the 5 a.m. phone calls
January 2, 2007 9:07 PM   Subscribe

[Insecure Female Filter] Help me feel less clingy when asking for affection from or even just displaying it to my more stoic significant other. Back story & lots

We have been going out for a bit over a year, after being friends for over two years. We're both in a rather vigorous academic program. Thanks also to extracurriculars on both our parts, we tend not to see each other more than once a week or once every two weeks outside of school, although we do share two high-stress classes.

I'm the “Let's tell everything to my diary in exceeding emotional detail!” type, whereas he is more of the “I'm okay, why wouldn't I be?” type. He's always been incredibly receptive when I'm feeling neglected/insecure, and we're usually pretty good about communicating and solving issues.

My current problem is two-fold:

1. Winter Holidays and the bit of free time it gave us led to an increase in time spent together, both in person and online/on the phone. With a week left before school starts and assignments becoming a real threat rather than a distant shadow, most if not all of the increased closeness has ceased. We're back to keeping an MSN window open and typing maybe one or two lines every ten minutes, etc. While I understand that this is natural and assume that this is a byproduct of stress, the transition is painful (as it was when we switched from summer to school)

2. It seems as though I'm the only one who feels this strain, and even though he is, as I've mentioned, receptive when I have a problem, I always feel guilty if I bring a problem of this nature up with him. Though I do understand that people simply have different needs, and he may not see either the decline in communication OR me bringing said decline up as a problem, I hate feeling like I'm the one causing any/all unpleasantness in our otherwise healthy and happy relationship.

If I take to being affectionate to make up for the gap, though, it feels like I'm bothering him, or like his replies/reciprocations are cursory and obligatory. Having mentioned this sort of problem before, I don't think this is necessarily the case... he is simply more stoic than I am, and perhaps in less need of explicit affection. I do not think this is a “deal breaker”, so MeFites, I would love your input on what I can do to reduce my feelings of clinginess/guilt for needing more affection. I'm normally a very independent person with an active life outside of school and this relationship, so the breakdown of rational thought concerning this issue is irritating to no end.


Tidbit worth noting: Upon giving the draft for this question to a friend to check over, she makes the observation that this seems to be "a perpetual issue". Make of this what you will. =)
posted by Phire to Human Relations (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A) You won't change him, because his condition isn't a problem in his eyes.

B) You need to figure out which of the mutually exclusive descriptions for this you used is accurate: It's not a "deal breaker", or it's a "need". Both can't be true, if he is expected to be the only source of such intimacy for you.

Given A and B, if it is a need, then it's a need he won't be fulfilling, and that's that.

Personally, this is looking like a situation where the MeFi Standard Relationship Response is appropriate.
posted by NortonDC at 9:21 PM on January 2, 2007

What's perpetual about the issue, according to your friend- the way this relationship is going, or the way all your relationships go? Just checking.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:29 PM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

The way this relationship seems to have me pining for affection all the time, sorry, should've specified.
posted by Phire at 9:31 PM on January 2, 2007

you could try living together. it MIGHT make you feel more attached and clingy and less willing to consider your alternatives, but on the other hand the increased incidental daily contact might meet your requirements.
posted by lgyre at 9:39 PM on January 2, 2007

From all the qualifiers in your post (and your past questions), I'm guessing you're not generally a person who makes a lot of demands on other people? (Not a bad thing, you just sound very self-sufficient.) I tend to also be rather self-sustaining, which makes it feel really hard and bothersome when I have to ask something of another person; I'm just not used to doing it, and I'm used to solving my own problems, so it feels like I'm bothering the other person way out of proportion to the "offense" even to bring something like this up.

I'm not sure I have a solution for you (or myself). Best I've been able to do is recognize that almost no one in my life has ever described me as overly needy (or even just "needy"), so I can't be that bothersome. Also, many people ask for much more than I do and still do not seem needy, so I can probably up the requests and still not be too bothersome. And I also try to remember that expressing my needs and desires is how I let other people get to know me, and refusing to ask for things is a way of isolating myself.

Which leads to the clingy thing you ask about, I think. I suspect that when we act in ways that isolate us from others to whom we want to be close, it makes us nervous. So you're more or less hiding something from your boyfriend, and that isolation bothers you, so you get clingy because you don't like the isolation, but that doesn't really solve the problem. The problem is that you've set up a wall between you and your boyfriend, because you're not telling him what you need.

None of this is meant as judgment; like I said, I do this all the time in my various relationships. I'm working on it :)

It sounds like you have other strong relationships in your life, and not relying on this guy for all your emotional support? If that's not the case, then re-pursuing your active life and taking some of the pressure off your boyfriend would probably be a good thing. But if it's really just a disconnect with him, then realize that you're not clingy, you're probably just scared of opening up, and try to work past that.
posted by occhiblu at 9:40 PM on January 2, 2007 [7 favorites]

They're highschoolers.
posted by NortonDC at 9:41 PM on January 2, 2007

^ for lgyre
posted by NortonDC at 9:42 PM on January 2, 2007

(My "try to work past that" conclusion wasn't meant as glibly as I think it came off -- I don't mean that it's easy, just that identifying your being scared to open up as the problem (if you agree it's the problem) should help focus your energy in a way that solves the problem, rather than just fretting about being clingy.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:45 PM on January 2, 2007

If you are in high school, as has been suggested, don't stress over it. Odds are maybe one in a thousand you'll still be together a year after graduation. Signifigantly worse (read: mathmaticially insignifigant) if you are going to different colleges.
posted by Riemann at 9:46 PM on January 2, 2007

Rule 1: Guys are oblivious.

Thus, what exactly is the problem again?

If you're concerned he doesn't like/love you because he's not returning affection in same way you are, worry no more: He never will. He's a guy. Doesn't mean he doesn't like/love you.

If you're concerned that he thinks you're bothering him with the way you show your affection, worry no more: He probably hasn't noticed. He's a guy. Doesn't mean he doesn't like/love you.

Moreover, if he ever gets to the point where he thinks something's wrong he'll probably just blurt it out. Guess why? And guess what it doesn't mean.

(This relationship sounds so much like a typical example of a nice girl/boy relationship that I'm a little jealous.)
posted by krisjohn at 10:02 PM on January 2, 2007

Do you not have friends or sisters or even a mother that you can gab to? It's ok to talk with others besides your boyfriend.

If you don't want to be clingy you should restrict your clinging to a well-defined schedule. Give him his own time and his space but there should be a well understood place-time where you two can sit down and really talk. And no, you're not burdening him by talking. As long as he understands that you just want to talk and you don't expect him to get all hero like and solve all your problems then there's no issue. Couples talk each other's ears off with all sorts of bitching, moaning, and inane daydreams and delusions -- it comes with the territory.
posted by nixerman at 10:40 PM on January 2, 2007

If you're not getting what you need from a relationship, and the other person is not willing to compromise so that you get what you need out of a relationship, then dont be in that relationship.

It's pretty simple, really (big picture, anyway). There are plenty of guys out there who love the whole PDA/snuggling/pet name thing, you shouldn't feel obligated to stay with one who doesn't match up with what would make you happy.
posted by softlord at 12:17 AM on January 3, 2007

I heartily agree with what softlord has said, plus I think it's a terrible idea to let yourself settle for less. You're barely out of the gate and making a compromise like this could turn out to just be a lesson in suppressing your needs & putting others first in an unhealthy way. It's fine for someone much older to forego an aspect of intimacy, they have more experience & know what they can and can't live with(out). Regardless of your obvious intelligence and maturity, you're still doing all the big learning-who-you-are stuff... Don't learn to swallow your feelings or sacrifice your needs.

My first serious boyfriend was very similar to your "Mr. Stoic", and it was terrible breaking up with him (last year of HS) because I loved him & he was a good person, but I was always fighting with myself to hold back and not "bother him" or be "clingy". One day I got sick of feeling like a clingy, bothersome loser simply because I wasn't one. Now I'm with someone who is more suited to me in that respect & the difference is amazing, everything in my life is easier and less stressful & there's this extra bit of joy in my life that was totally missing with my Mr. Stoic. The off kilter nature of that relationship effected so much of my life without my fully realizing it at the time.

Rule 1: Guys are oblivious.

No, as a rule, they are not.
posted by zarah at 6:56 AM on January 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, you're young, so this is a good lesson to learn now. Figure out what you need from your partner in terms of affection/attention. Then find a guy who gives that much naturally and enjoys it. Trust me, this really is a deal breaker. You don't want to get into a situation where you are committed to someone who makes you feel bad for wanting attention. That will trash your self-esteem and be a constant stress on your relationship. And, frankly, I would be suspicious of a guy who only gives more attention to you after a long, emotional conversation about it. Sure, people can change, but it's better to find someone who loves to give that kind of attention, rather than someone who is just going through the motions because you asked. I wish someone had told me this when I was younger. I repeat: IT REALLY IS A DEAL BREAKER.
posted by gokart4xmas at 9:19 AM on January 3, 2007

I suggest that you try making him do more of the work for a while. Take a step back and let him be the one to call or make the plans for your next get-together, or whatever. Stop being the one who moves the relationship along, and let him take the reins for a while.

Give it 4-6 weeks like this, and see how it goes. You'll see him less often than you might like, but it could help him see how valuable you are to him. It will also help you get some insight into his personality as well.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:32 AM on January 3, 2007

I should note that if you were 20 or older, I'd just second gokart4xmas, but I think that as teenagers, you and this guy are still flexing and figuring out what your needs and personalities are, so it's a little different when you're younger.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:35 AM on January 3, 2007

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