Monday, 27 February 2012

He Used To Be Confident And Now He's Clingy

Dear Babs

I am 46 and my partner is 12 years older. We are both self employed and successful. We met a little over 2 years ago at a dinner and he moved in with me after a few months. We both have grown up children who we both get on with. So on the face of it everything should be perfect. Of course it isn't and that's why I writing to you. When I met my partner I thought he was a positive and confident man but now he feels clingy. He wants to know everything that happens in my life and if I appear not to want to share he sulks for days. I have to say I find this pretty infuriating. The other thing is he doesn't like me going out without him. He says he's ok with it but it doesn't feel like it. He accuses me of preferring my friends company to his and sometimes that's true. I feel stifled. I thought I was getting a partnership of equals and he seems to want a mother who he can have sex with. I hope I don't sound too brutal but I'm at my wits end. We tried therapy briefly but that didn't feel useful. We haven't had sex for a couple of months but that wouldn't matter so much if we were friendlier. I think he has problems and if he would only face up to that I think we could be ok. What would your advice be? 

Dear Belinda

It sounds as if you are angry and disappointed and your partner is fearful and insecure. You say he wants a mother and to be honest you are sounding quite parental. You don't say how long you have been experiencing problems but I imagine that in the beginning it felt ok for both of you. With that in mind I am assuming there's either been a catalyst that's brought about this change or that there's been a gradual deterioration.

You say you should be happy and yet you're not. This sounds as if it's because you both have a different idea of coupledom. It sounds as if you want freedom in a relationship and he wants a more traditional relationship. I am also wondering if the age difference plays a part? It feels as if you want someone to be there when you get home. Whereas it feels as if he's wants more intimate companionship. 

For most couples when they get into difficulty there has been a gradual eroding. This is usually as a result of them failing to talk through problems as they occur or a reluctance to compromise. You say therapy didn't feel useful. Is that because you failed to form a therapeutic alliance with the counsellor or was it due to your polarised positions and you both not wanting to change? If it's your shared intransigence, I am not surprised sex has become a casualty. If a man doesn't feel secure in his relationship he's likely to have problems with his erections. If a woman doesn't feel friendly towards her partner she's unlikely to want to have sex and it doesn't sound as if you're friends.

If you don't want therapy then my suggestion would be a frank talk about where you go from here. If the pair of you refuse negotiation what do you have left? If you go down the self help route you still need the desire to change. At the moment it sounds as if your desire is for him to change. If that is the case in my opinion in the longterm that will not work. You both need to feel you are gaining. The only way that can happen is for both to give. 


  1. My sympathies lie mainly with Belinda.

    The comment, "He moved in with me after a few months" is significant to me. Not, "We decided to live together". It sounds like a passive acceptance of co-habitation. I would also guess that the problems with sex began fairly early on.

    Her partner may be clingy for reasons that have nothing to do with her. Only too often we put people on pedestals in the early stages, and it can take a while before we acknowledge this. It is even more difficult to accept when a "decision" has been made to live together so early in the relationship.

  2. Thanks for commenting Kathryn. I was thinking whilst reading your response that it's interesting what is significant for each of us isn't it? In my experience relationships are rarely about one person be right and the other wrong. It's more about relationship fit. 

  3. I agree that it isn't a matter of right and wrong, definitely not, but it is often possible for an outsider to assess a situation in 2 minutes and predict the outcome, which may not actually come to pass for 2 years.

    That comment may not be relevant in relation to this case of course, when all one can do is read between the lines.