7 Lessons To Transform Clingy Insecurity into a Superpower for Healthier Relationships
“Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end.” – Anthony Robbins
After four years of therapy, reading hundreds of relationship books, and creating a long-term healthy romantic relationship, I have come to view my insecurity as a superpower designed to strengthen my relationship.
Here are the 7 lessons I learned on my journey.
1. Find Secure Sidekicks.
Even superheroes need sidekicks to support them during difficult times. On your journey, I would recommend finding a sidekick, if not multiple, who will give you positive experiences to help you with building strong relationships.
As the research highlights, a secure attachment style is a result of internalizing multiple experiences of comforting individuals who help foster a sense of security, positive self-esteem, and the ability to calm oneself in order to reach out in a healthy way.
Lucky for clingy folks like me, our current relationships can support us in earning security and rewiring our brain in such a way that we can regulate our emotions and be direct about what we need to be happy in a relationship.
Examples of Trusty Sidekicks
Looking back, investing in a therapist has been the best decision I’ve made in the past five years. My psychoanalyst has to help me develop a more balanced perspective on my relationships and insecurity.
With his support, I took risks to assert my boundaries, left unhealthy romantic partners, and took ownership of what I needed in a relationship to be happy. All of this work was extremely difficult, but it’s changed my life for the better.
Secure Romantic Partner: A loving, caring, and emotionally available romantic partner will respond to insecurity with attentiveness and care. The trust built in that relationship will encourage you to be more direct about your feelings and needs rather than using protest behavior. If you are dating and find yourself attracted to potential partners who are unavailable, read this article.
If you are married and feel insecure on a regular basis, I’d recommend recruiting a couple’s therapist/coach who can guide your relationship to a more secure place. Three therapeutic models I trust include The Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy.
Secure Friend: After I read “Attached”, I reached out to a friend who I knew was secure and started spending time with her. When I texted, called, or requested something she was responsive, direct, and clear about what she could and couldn’t do. I could tell she valued our relationship and me.
Over time I internalized these experiences and was able to replicate these secure thoughts and behaviors in other relationships.
2. Turn Insecurity into a Superpower.
Clingy lovers have a hypersensitive attachment alarm and are often aware of subtle threats that others are not. The problem is this alarm can also be a false alarm and can lead to a person misjudging a situation or a partner which leads to hurt feelings and relationship problems.
The research has discovered that if the clingy partner waited a little longer to react and gained more information about the situation or their partner’s intent, they then had an advantage of noticing when something is wrong and could constructively use that awareness to reconnect in a relationship.
3. Know Your Go-To Clingy Thoughts and Protest Behaviors.
By becoming aware of your clingy thoughts and protest behavior, you can then pause, and ask yourself what would be a better way to respond to this situation to get what I need?
4. Ask What Would Super Secure (Wo)Man Do?
Attachment research highlights that all of us have experiences of people who are secure. Whether that is a friend, a distant relative, etc. When I’m working with insecure clients, I often ask them, “How would your super-secure [aunt] respond to this?”
Doing this flips the internal script on how to think and behave. 17 at any given moment that determines how people are likely to think about relationships or be motivated to act.
The more times you ask this and act on it, the more you strengthen secure thoughts and behaviors, including those related to expressing feelings, asking for what you need, and being vulnerable about your fears.
5. Honor and Express Your Clingy Insecurity in a Positive, Actionable Way.
Clingy lovers often neglect their needs in relationships because they don’t believe they deserve to have them met. As Brene Brown puts it “if we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.” Learning to accept what I deserved, putting up boundaries, and asking for what I needed in my romantic relationship was hard initially, but now it feels authentic and has actually improved my relationships.
The first step is to recognize your needs as valid. The next is learning how to transform them into a positive, actionable tool.
For example, if I fear my partner is going to abandon me, instead of trying to manipulate my partner, I might say “Hey babe, I’m feeling disconnected from you and would like to grab some ice cream with you later tonight and just talk. You in?”
I’m making a clear request and taking ownership of what I need in the relationship to be happy. If you notice, I’m also putting a plan in place so I can make that happen, making it much easier for my partner to say yes. For a framework on how to do this in your relationship, read this article.