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Coach Kim: Are you attentive or clingy in your relationship?

POSTED: August 23, 2017 9:01 a.m.
Kim Giles/

In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham help you ask the hard questions about the way you show up in your relationship.

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In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham help you ask the hard questions about the way you show up in your relationship.

Question:

I need help with feelings of insecurity. I’ve been dating this woman for a little over six months and we have a great time together. We both have been divorced so our lives are busy with our children, our careers, and trying to juggle everything, and make time for each other. When we are together I feel like our relationship has a future, but when we are apart, I feel like I’m deluding myself as she tends to fall off the grid. I know she is busy, but what is a realistic expectation for communication, phone calls, and texts so that we stay connected and part of each other’s lives? I’ve never thought of myself as needy, but I am finding myself needing more communication than I am getting. What can I do here?

Answer:

There are a few questions here we want to address, but let’s start with “What is the right amount of communication in a dating relationship in order to feel connected and move the relationship forward?” The answer can be summed up in two words… it depends.

It depends on the kind of person you are and the kind of person she is.

Some people need more attention, validation and communication to feel safe and secure than others. Some actually need time and space without communication to feel safe and secure.

As you mentioned, you appear to be one of those people that are a little insecure and needy for communication and connection to feel safe. The question is does this woman know this, but she isn’t that into you… or is she taking time off the grid, because she needs that space to feel good herself and that need has nothing to do with you?

You may want to ask her some questions about whether she needs time alone and off the grid to refill her bucket or if she’s one of those people (like you) who likes to be in touch and connected most of the time.

The trick is getting the balance right for your relationship and that you learn how to ask for what you need to create healthy expectations for you both so that you don’t let each other down, disappoint, smother and overwhelm the other.

Sometimes we also have expectations (or have become used to the communication styles) of our previous partners, which could set the expectations in your current relationship, and this can be a problem because these people are different.

Here are four questions to answer to help you become clear on your needs and how healthy they are, and how to set healthy expectations in your relationship. Then, we will give you some language and communication tips on how to ask for your needs to be met.

1. Why do I need constant communication — am I looking for validation?

This question is an important one to sit with. When your phone beeps with texts as the day goes along does it make you feel validated, special and important? The answer I imagine is yes, as it’s this way for all of us. Therefore, if the phone doesn’t ring or buzz with texts, do you find yourself experiencing self-doubt or not feeling as valuable?

We say that not getting messages is then triggering your fear of failure – the fear that you may not be good enough. Therefore, feelings of insecurity and doubt about your relationships may creep in whenever the communication slows down. It’s like your self-worth and self-esteem get a little boost every time you are communicating, and your ego and self-confidence get used to this boost, and this means when it’s not there, the fear creeps in, you start comparing yourself to others and you feel less of value and importance. When your self-worth is relying on these messages, it will always go up and down, and you will always feel at risk.

If you want a healthy relationship, you must start with a healthy self-belief and confidence that is consistent so you don’t ride a rollercoaster of emotion and make your self-esteem your partners responsibility.

Ideally, you want to be in a place where you feel valuable, important and worthy all by yourself and when you receive it from others it makes your self-love tank overflow not fill up. To achieve this, you may need to change the factors that determine your worth. We recommend a perspective that says your intrinsic value does not change when you receive attention from others and it does not change when you don’t either because you see your intrinsic worth (and the worth of all human beings) as unchangeable and the same all the time, no matter what.

You are unique, a one of a kind, and there never will ever be another you (just like everyone else on the planet) this means you have infinite and absolute worth, that no person or experience can diminish or change. At least you can see it this way if you want to because it’s all perspective.

We recommend you watch yourself and the boost you receive from others when you receive attention through communication and just remind yourself that your value and self-esteem does not depend on the contact or attention you receive from your significant other. The more you work on this, you will enjoy validation and attention, but you won’t need it to be OK and happy.

2. Do I need communication to feel that I belong?

Many of us have a deep desire to belong to someone or something as a way of feeling connected and worthwhile. Being invited to things, included, and asked for your ideas and input makes us feel valued and that we belong. This feeling of belonging can make you feel safe and secure in the world and that you don’t have to face your challenges and trials on your own. Without connection through constant communication, many people feel isolated, disconnected and that they just don’t belong.

This becomes a problem when you need this feeling of belonging as a crutch, or a safety net of sorts. Once again, this is dangerous ground where we place our safety and confidence in the hands of other people and do not take responsibility for it ourselves.

Watch for this need to belong and the safety and confidence it gives you. Explore the idea of feeling strong, courageous and secure without constant communication. This will give you an idea of whether you really have displaced yourself and are looking to others to make you feel OK.

3. Do I feel comfortable being alone?

We all have different levels of comfort and security in our own company. Many of us fill up and feel most balanced with other people around. Other people feel their best and more balanced when they get a chance to be alone to fill up their cup. They might like to read, exercise or even just hang around the house all alone, and this restores them so they have the energy to pour into the people they love later on.

These two ways of restoring and refueling can often cause miscommunication and misaligned communication expectations in relationships. For example, if you are a person who feels best with other people close and your significant other likes to be alone, you might see this as rejection or take it personally. In fact, this is not about you at all, it’s just about her ability to restore balance for herself, so it’s going to cause problems if you are offended. Discussing this with your partner helps you both set realistic expectations and make sure your needs and hers get met.

4. Do I make myself and my life happy, do I have enough interests, passions or hobbies?

Is your life (without your love interest) rich, full of interests and happiness or have you placed a lot of expectations and pressure on this relationship to fulfill all your needs?

Often, we are so excited about our relationship and we enjoy each other’s company so much that we can unknowingly place all our joy in this one place. We can neglect our self-care, our balance, our friends, our family, our hobbies and maybe even our career as we just want to spend our time with our new love. This can be unhealthy and dangerous ground as long-lasting and healthy relationships have balance on both sides.

Maintaining your relationships with your friends and family, continuing to make time for your hobbies, and ensuring you still look after yourself with exercise, good food and sleep, is essential to you being your best. When you are balanced your relationship will thrive.

Some of these might or might not have been accurate for you, but keep in mind nothing can make love die quicker than neediness and co-dependence, and nothing is more attractive than confidence.

You may also want to put yourself in the shoes of your love and even ask yourself how she would answer these four questions. Once you feel like you have been objective you may want to have an open a discussion with her about your needs and expectations in the relationship. Ask her to tell you what she expects first, then ask if you can share your - but don’t come across needy or weak and make sure she does not feel attacked or criticized.

Remember to have fun, laugh and to keep the communication you have meaningful, engaging and enjoyable. When you become too serious or high maintenance you will push people away.

You can do this!
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