Warning: We've Got a Stage Five Clinger

Want to push someone far away? Cling as hard as you can.

By , Columnist

For those who may not be in the know, the term "Stage Five Clinger" was born of the forever quotable comedy Wedding Crashers in 2005 and instantly became an Urban Dictionary classic. It's now popularly used to describe any person who is extremely clingy, needy, and desperate in a romantic relationship.

I'm sure every one of you knows an SFC, or perhaps have had the misfortune of being one in the past. They're the best friend who always falls off the map when they start dating someone new, or the sibling who backs out of plans in favor of doing something with their significant other. They're the ones who, when you finally do get to see them, can't shut up about their boyfriend and be courteous enough to ask you about your life. In short, they're usually the ones who induce spurts of head-banging frustration and everyone else is secretly bitching about.

Unfortunately, I can't cure anyone of the SFC bug. It's rare for an outsider to make a friend aware of their problems because people usually resent being told that their behavior needs work. What I can offer is more along the lines of a vaccine: If I inoculate you ahead of time with knowledge I can protect you from the worst of the disease. While extreme clinginess isn't quite a "disease," it's just as unhealthy.

Falling for someone produces a cocktail of feel-good chemicals that swirl around in your brain, bonding you to your new person and making everything seem euphoric. You love that you've found someone who enjoys you just as much as you enjoy them: the more they want to be with you, the more you desire to be with them, and on and on.

Of course, that's what a new relationship is supposed to feel like. The honeymoon phase is an undeniable perk of dating someone new. Without all of that time and energy spent on this new person, we'd never learn all that we need to know to connect on a deeper level.

After the honeymoon phase peters out (and it always does) and is replaced with a calmer but deeper and more sincere romantic connection, most people return to their original state of being. Activities that were cut in favor of doing new things with a new person find their way back into the picture. In a healthy relationship, exiting the honeymoon phase leads to a return of independence.

But what exactly happens when, instead of being lifted out of the honeymoon phase of a relationship, you're sucked in deeper?

The euphoric state that new love puts you in is absolutely unique, and it's understandable that someone would want to extend that feeling.  In fact, that cocktail of feel-good chemicals pumping through your brain can be more than just desirable, they can be addictive.  And instead of becoming addicted to the exhilarating feeling, you become addicted to the source of the feeling. And why limit exposure to something so wonderful?

At first you may want to spend as much time as you can with someone, which seems acceptable. Then you might cancel plans here and there with your friends or family because honestly, they don't make you feel as intensely loved and wanted. After that, you might stop going to your weekly club meeting or yoga session, because you want to be there when your significant other is available to spend time with you.

After a few months, your partner might say that they want to go spend some time with their friends without you. Instead of saying "Sure, have fun!" you get annoyed and jealous that they crave time with people besides you. In fact, you worry about what they're doing when they're not with you, because you aren't there to keep tabs. You start to demand regular text updates or calls at designated times, because you deserve that kind of communication with someone you love. You two start to fight and bicker and you get accused of being too controlling and needy.

Let me spell something out: Clinging to someone is guaranteed to push them away, not bring them closer.

When you become overly clingy and needy, forsaking friends and former activities for one person, you make your life all about them. Instead of this person being an important portion of your life, they become the entire pie, as it were. You give up going to your book club to have more free evenings available to your significant other. Your life is no longer about you, with your partner as an added bonus, but rather they are your life, and you become the negotiable bonus in your own life.

The problem is, the more you give up people and interests that you once enjoyed, the more you give up those things that make you "you." You're essentially abandoning many of the qualities that made you attractive to your significant other in the first place, which is an extremely effective means to push someone away. Why should they stay with you if you don't resemble the person they originally fell for?

Avoid 'Stage Fiver Clinger' behavior, because once it starts, it's very difficult to stop. It will destroy a relationship and it can turn you into someone you don't even recognize. The following tips are the keys to a successful and healthy relationship:

  • Give your partner a choice.
  • Don't be in contact so much that you deprive them of a choice.
  • Don't give up your friends, family, activities and interests - maintain them, because they make you who you are.
  • Don't always be available at every second of the day, and don't demand that of your significant other.
  • Spend time apart, because it makes the time spent together that much better.

And remember: you are your own damn person, and you're not allowed to be second-string in your own life.

Each week in "Relationships by Rachel," TMR columnist Rachel East tackles relationships in all their blissful, heartbreaking and mind-boggling glory.

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Rachel East is a freelance writer specializing in relationships and relationship advice. In addition to her regular column on TMR, Rachel contributes relationship content to the Levo League, formerly known as Pretty Young Professional, a website for young, professional and ambitious women. Her writing…

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