Sometimes, you might find that your partner constantly wants to hang out, even when you try to signal that you need some alone time. Or maybe every time you make weekend plans with your best friend, your partner gets upset. If you're dating someone super clingy and you want to tell them you need room to breathe, there'd ideally be a simple solution. But unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to know how to say you need space in a relationship, especially if the person you're seeing is pretty obsessed with you.
I don't use the word "obsessed" lightly here. While I'm guilty of the occasional hyperbole when talking to my friends, I realize there's a difference between someone who double texts you and someone who makes you feel genuinely uncomfortable. If you're starting to feel weird about your relationship, the first step is to ask your partner for space. If they understand where you're coming from and become less attached, problem solved. But what if they don't?
I talked to Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, founder of Rapport Relationships, to find out what strategies you can employ to try and chill things out in a relationship, as well as for some insight on when to end it with someone who continues to exhibit obsessive red flags.
1. Pay Attention To Their Initial Behavior
If the person you're with has a pattern of narcissistic behavior, they may come on too strong at the beginning of your relationship. In fact, if they are overly enthusiastic within the first eight weeks that you're dating, it's almost always a red flag, according to Dr. Rhodes. "It usually indicates a high level of either self-involved behavior or narcissism," she says.
According to Dr. Rhodes, you may feel flattered by the attention at first and think you finally found someone who is really into you. "It’s hard to tell in the beginning whether or not someone’s being anxious and overly excited versus that there are some major red flags," she continues. The only way to find out which one is by being assertive.
2. Be Brave And Ask For What You Need
You need to be clear and direct about what you need from your partner — and why. If you need a break, Dr. Rhodes suggests saying something along the lines of, “I’ve been working a lot, and we’ve been spending a lot of time together. This weekend, I really need to take some time for myself and recharge my batteries.”
She explains that someone who is simply excited about a new relationship will respect what you've asked for and won't interfere. Someone who is more obsessive and has other underlying issues, however, will continue to pursue you and likely violate your boundaries.
3. Seriously, Just Say It
It should be easy to send a text message or tell the person you're dating that you need space. So why does it feel like the hardest thing in the world? "In our dating culture, we’ve trained people to be highly avoidant," says Dr. Rhodes. "They’re really scared to say something to someone else." In order to determine if this person deserves to be in your life, Dr. Rhodes suggests setting up a mini-conflict within the first eight weeks of your relationship. If you don't test your partner's flexibility early on in the relationship, you may not have any indication of their problematic behavior until much later. So ask for space, and see what happens.
In the event that you feel like your partner is obsessed with you, the best way to handle the situation is to speak up. Their reaction will tell you everything you need to know.
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