Thursday, January 28, 2016

4 Ways To Not Be A Stage-5 Clinger (In A Relationship)

Confession: I'm a little bit of a free spirit. Okay...a lotta bit. As I've grown older (wiser is TBD), my life philosophy has taken the course of a "do no harm, take no shit" perspective. I like to be able to do whatever the hell I want to do, provided it's not having a negative impact on anyone else's physical or emotional health. Because, well, it's my fucking life. To that point, I think it's important that, when you're in a relationship with another person, the other person be able to also be themselves and "do them" - just as we are always telling you to "do you."

I'm not going to lie to you. I've absolutely been a Stage-5 Clinger in my past life. To be clear, there are only 5 stages of clinginess. Stage 5 is akin to 2-day old mascara under your eyes because you haven't washed your makeup off (or showered or gotten off the couch) and now you're going to need a chisel and some turpentine to knock that shit out. It just won't Fucking. Come. Off. Looking back, I'm annoyed at my behavior. So I can only imagine how annoyed the men that I've been with were at the time. It's embarrassing how needy and dependent I acted and how suffocating it must have been.

Would I change my past if I could? Nope. But it sure would have been nice, while I was out there in the dating world, if someone told me, "Saera, that dude is trying to break up with you because you're ridiculously clingy, so you should probably stop making his bed, arranging his hats, and cleaning his room for him."

So maybe I can save you some embarrassment and subsequent annoyance at yourself by sharing some things that are really sort of necessary to foster a supportive relationship as opposed to a clingy one - and where to draw that line.

4 Ways To Not Be A Stage-5 Clinger:

1. Respect Interests. Pretty self-explanatory, right? No. Complicated. Here's what respecting a person's interests means: It means you give your person the time to enjoy the things he or she loves. It'll make them happy, and they'll want to make you happy...because they're happy. This does not mean be up in their grill about whatever hobby or sport or book they're knee-deep in. You can inquire mildly about it at a later time, but it's exceedingly difficult to enjoy any activity you are really into when you have to stop every 5 minutes to explain how and why it's enjoyable. Further, their interests do not have to be your interests. You do not (and should not) pretend to enjoy something that you couldn't give a shit less about for your person's sake. It's disingenuous and the truth will eventually rear its ugly head at some point - typically in the form of resentment. I can hear the wailing of the Clingy Siren now: Why do we always do all the stuff you're interested in and we never do anything that I like to do? Blech. Nobody made you do shit. You chose. Let your person do their thing without you. And, if you genuinely have mutual interests, this does not mean that each and every time one of you partakes in that activity, the other has to be lock-step with it, which brings me to my next commandment...

2. Respect Space. Just go away. I don't mean to sound harsh, but give your person a breather from you. Presumably you're with this person a lot already, and not all people are cut out to be around someone 147% of the time. Short absences do actually help some folks regroup so they can refocus on you when you reconnect. Everyone - and I mean, everyone - needs downtime. Downtime does not mean you hovering over them while they're sitting on the couch. Leave the room. Leave the apartment or house. Leave the city. But be there if they need you.

3. Jealousy Is Gross. Warranted or unwarranted, a relationship is no place for jealousy. Pull up your big-girl panties and save that shit for when you're at Baskin Robbins and see someone eating the Triple Scoop Double-Stuffed Oreo chocolate-covered waffle cone. That's jealousy-worthy. Look - if you can't trust the person you're with, then one of you shouldn't be in that relationship. It's either you - or it's them. Either way, if jealousy is a consistent issue, it might be time to reevaluate if one or the other of you is grown-up enough to be in a relationship. Now, before you get your panties in a wad, I'm not saying "don't feel jealous." I'm saying don't bring it into your relationship and let it fester. Mature folks feel the jealousy washing over them and they sit with it, accept it as their own perspective, and sometimes admit it to their partner with the caveat that "it's not you; it's me." Unless it's them doing something genuinely fucked up. Then, bye, Felicia! No discussion needed.

4. Do You. This is my absolute favorite way to avoid being a Stage-5 Clinger. Who the hell has time to be all clingy when you're too busy being awesome at your life instead? You have fascinating interests that are all your own. You have time and space you'd like to take for yourself to do things that make you happy. You have better things to do with your energy that worry about what your person is doing or not doing. So do all of those things. Do you. Stop fretting, worrying and/or trying to control your person. You can't. Life doesn't work that way. The only thing you have control over is your own thoughts and behaviors. Thoughts and behaviors that should be purposefully directed at creating a life that is uniquely yours. Wanna knit a blanket for your cat? You should do that! Wanna go try on all the Jimmy Choos in the store? You should that! Wanna pound some whiskey and go ice skating? You should do that! Wanna write an article detailing all of the horrifying relationship mistakes you've made in the past by being a Stage-5 Clinger? Well, I guess that one's taken. But you can still do that.

And just remember: At some point, the shoe may very well be on the other foot. You may have to be the one to throw up the Red Alert for a Stage-5 Clinger you can't get off your back. Better to understand now what a supportive relationship looks like rather than a suffocating one. Start practicing these with regularity - they'll make your person happier and, I promise, they'll make you happier too.

We have a version of this list coming for singles - stay tuned.

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