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Smothered in a Relationship: 37 Signs & Ways to Stop Feeling Suffocated

When you love someone, you want to give them all your love. But, it can lead to them feeling smothered in a relationship. Learn to love the right way.

feeling smothered relationship

When you fall in love with someone, it’s natural to want to shower them with love and affection. But can you ever overdo the love? In some cases, it’s possible to make someone feel suffocated and smothered in a relationship and it can affect how close you continue to be.

Truth be told, too much love is never a bad thing, as long as you control how you act and you’re aware that they need to be able to breathe in the relationship too. And you can’t make your partner hate you just because you love them a lot.

But, you can definitely make your partner dislike you when you start smothering them.

To many, smothering love is nothing but an overindulgence of affection. You may think smothering excessive love is a true sign of your love for a special someone.

But in reality, smothering is a selfish act.

You don’t smother your partner because of love. It’s because you crave their affection, you want their attention, or probably because you may want to help them with their troubles, or you may want to protect them. But are you doing it because you think it’ll make your lover feel better? Probably not. [Read: 21 secret signs of a bad relationship that predict a bad future ahead]

Making someone feel smothered in a relationship is often done without you realizing it

Almost all the time, you may be smothering your partner for selfish reasons; either to reaffirm your relationship status or to feel better about yourself as a perfect example of a loving partner.

A quick sweep across the internet on the topic of love, and it swiftly becomes apparent that conventional wisdom on the subject would have us believe that you simply can’t have enough of it.

Whilst the truth of that matter is open to debate, what certainly is true is that love doesn’t necessarily always manifest itself in the healthiest of ways.

What one person perceives as a loving and heartfelt gesture, another might see as creepy, clingy and pushy. How one person sees committed and undying devotion, another might see as stalking. What one half of a relationship might see as giving their all to make it work, the other might see as smothering.

None of this makes relationships easier. [Read: 23 secrets and real-life problems that make relationships much stronger]

What is emotional suffocation?

Emotional suffocation, put in the simplest of terms, is when there exists a state of imbalance in a relationship. Usually, this equates to differences in each individual’s needs regarding time spent together and apart.

Some wish to spend every single waking moment with the love of their lives, whereas others need a lot of personal space as well. This doesn’t mean that the latter’s love is any less, just that they have different emotional needs.

However, if you keep on insisting on being together all the time or being part of every activity your partner does, your partner might start to resent your ever-looming presence in their life. [Read: How to know when to give someone space – Don’t be THAT person!]

So now that we’ve understood how emotional suffocation and smothering in a relationship works, let’s take a look at the two different scenarios and the signs – when you smother your partner, and when you feel smothered by your partner.

And of course, we’ll share all the details you need to learn to love each other better, and prevent any kind of relationship smothering from pushing you two apart as well!

The subtle signs you’re smothering your partner

If you’re not sure if your presence in your partner’s life is starting to stifle the life out of your relationship, you can check for these telltale signs that your partner feels smothered in a relationship.

1. Your partner is becoming withdrawn

This is the most common sign that something is wrong with your relationship. There are many reasons why it could be happening, but working it out comes with being honest with yourself and asking the question: am I suffocating my partner? [Read: Am I clingy? 17 signs you probably are and the truths you should learn]

If your partner is the kind of person who needs their personal space, but just isn’t getting it because you insist on being with them around the clock, they will find the strangest ways to draw up lines to keep you out.

They start finding excuses to be apart from you – even within the home. Maybe they start spending more time in the bathroom surfing on their phone, or visiting the bathroom more frequently. They start cooking more, spending time alone in the kitchen on more elaborate and time-consuming recipes.

Any household task provides a similar level of independence, control, and pseudo-solitude, three aspects of their lives that they are desperately struggling to regain. This is one of the signs they’re feeling smothered in a relationship. [Read: 21 upsettingly real and very common reasons couples drift apart]

2. You don’t spend quality time together

Time and quality time spent together are two very different things. Time is a qualitative, not just a quantitative, entity. Spending all your time together is not particularly a good thing, and it can just make things seem tense and claustrophobic.

Quality time, on the other hand, is about putting aside any distractions and committing to a period of conversational, spiritual, and physical exploration – re-aligning your relationship so to speak.

However, spending quality time together is almost impossible when one of you is insisting on spending too much time together, which can then reduce the quality of said time.

3. It shows in their body language

Although not always a failsafe indication, body language will often reflect someone’s need to escape, which is a prime indicator that one half of a couple is feeling stifled. Some signs of feeling smothered in a relationship are: [Read: Is someone pushing you away? 23 signs, why they push and what you need to do ASAP]

a. When hugging or kissing you, the upper body is pressed firmly against yours but their hips and feet are turned away, ready to take themselves elsewhere as soon as they have finished.

b. When talking to you, their body is turned aside and their eye contact is only fleeting, indicating they are trying not to commit to a conversation, which might lead to further one-on-one time.

c. Conversations often take place in doorways, with your other half subliminally trying to show you that they have other things to attend to and don’t have time for a lengthy conversation.

d. In bed, hugs no longer consist of full on body contact. Instead, it’s a draped arm or hand half-heartedly fulfilling the constant contact that your partner feels they must dutifully attend to.

None of these things mean that your partner has fallen out of love with you, but choosing to engage in only fleeting conversations and bodily contact may mean that they’re trying to get away and feeling smothered in a relationship. [Read: 25 honest truths and ways to stop feeling ignored by someone you love]

4. You’ve become clingy

Even the most suffocated of individuals will find an opportunity to temporarily obtain freedom from his or her clingier half. This may sometimes work, but can also backfire to epic proportions.

In such situations like this, it’s fine to send a text message or two with a ‘how’s it going’ or ‘I love you.’ That’s kind of what being a couple is all about, and if the other half objects to that then it is they who have the problem. [Read: 18 serious warning signs of a clingy guy and how you can avoid them]

However, being on the phone every five minutes with them just because you’re needy is definitely not okay.

Not only does it make you look like an utter loon, it also negates any refreshing or revitalizing effect that their absence from you may have had. Here are some of the other things that you may be doing whenever your partner is getting some alone time:

a. Requiring that your partner checks in with you at regular intervals. This is fine for a teenage daughter going on her first date, but not for a fully grown adult.

Such behavior is downright smothering, and putting the onus on them to make the contact is highly controlling and manipulative. [Read: 15 signs of manipulation in a relationship you should never ignore]

b. Listening for background noises over a phone call. If you’re doing this, then it’s gone beyond suffocation and traveled into the realms of mistrust. If levels of trust decay much beyond this, then your relationship will become irreparable.

c. Making things up. This includes making up illnesses or family issues to stop your partner from having fun without you or as an effort to persuade them to return home early. This is emotional blackmail of the worst kind! [Read: How to stop being so insecure in a relationship and learn to love better]

5. Your partner is hesitant to be around you

There used to be a time when your other half would finish work as soon as the clock struck 5pm so they could run home to you.

Now they’re finishing off their work first before they leave the office, and they’re less eager to catch the quickest ride home. This can show that any activity is way more preferable in your partner’s book than spending smothered time with you.

Even if it means clocking in some overtime work or volunteering for causes that your partner isn’t all that into, he or she will take it as long as it means time away from being smothered.

It’s as if they’d take any excuse, no matter how mundane, just to get away from you. [Read: The right way to give your partner space in the relationship]

6. You’ve taken over their social media

There is an unspoken understanding between normal couples that their partner’s mobile phone and social media account is their personal domain where they exercise a degree of privacy and control. Some make the grave mistake and try to influence or even censor what their partner posts on their social media.

There would be long Q&As of why you posted this photo, why you didn’t use this same app or filter, or why is this person messaging you or tagging you in posts. They often lead to arguments and getting out of social media completely. [Read: The good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to social media and your relationship]

7. You’re often unreasonably jealous

While jealousy may occasionally occur, getting unreasonably jealous with every single person your partner interacts with can make your partner feel smothered in the relationship. Also, it reflects poorly on you.

Additionally, there’s the emotional stress of constantly explaining the relationship you have with the people attracting your partner’s jealousy. [Read: How to walk away from the destructive energy of jealousy]

8. They have to explain every little thing they do

Overbearing parents make people want to move out of their house. In the same way, people won’t think twice about leaving a micromanaging boss. Sadly, some relationships are prone to end up in a similar smothering situation if one partner is overly dominant and controlling.

Under threat of a long argument, they find themselves explaining every choice and decision they make, and report every single detail that happens during the day. This is a prime reason why someone may feel smothered in a relationship.

9. You give them grief when they fail to spend time with you

In other words, you’re being excessively clingy. While couples like to spend time together as much as possible, both have other people and responsibilities that demand their attention.

The suffocation begins when you fail to see this. You believe that your relationship alone is enough to fulfill their needs. You might get angry or even accuse them of not putting effort into the relationship. This is likely to make your partner feel suffocated in a relationship very easily. [Read: Time apart in a relationship – 21 signs, reasons why and how to do it right]

10. You give little credence to their personal commitments

There are moments where other responsibilities demand our time and attention. Normally your significant other understands if a date gets canceled or if you postpone your scheduled quality time for the day in order to take care of your personal errands.

However, if you are insensitive to the importance of your partner’s personal commitments and demands and you focus only on them being with you, it feels smothering. [Read: The checklist you need to start your relationship off right]

11. You expect them to always include your friends

In addition to the already daunting responsibility they have toward your demands, they find themselves committing their time to your friends and social circle. You expect your partner to attend your friends’ social functions. Saying no to these warrants an argument.

Again, this can easily make your partner feel smothered in a relationship and stressed out.

12. You don’t want them to spend as much time with their friends

When you start to smother your partner, you’ll probably find that you start losing the time you would normally spend with your own friends.

This situation causes you to lose your original support network so instead, you focus all of your attention on your partner. Again, they feel suffocated.

13. They consider ending the relationship

Just as our body’s normal reaction to the literal feeling of suffocation is to get fresh air, one of the clearest signs of being smothered in a relationship is the realization that your love life has become unbearable. They consider leaving you.

In the end, you can’t fight your instinct for self-preservation. If the relationship has done nothing but smother the life out of them, for their sanity’s sake, it’s only natural to look for the way out. [Read: How to successfully break up with an obsessive partner]

How to stop smothering your partner and understand why you do it in the first place

No one likes being smothered. There’s a thin line between showing affection and smothering someone.

You may not want to smother affection on your partner, but have you ever felt like your partner tries to push you away or looks for excuses to get away from you now and then?

You may just be an unintentional smothering lover. When someone feels smothered in a relationship, they’re going to change the way they act around you. For sure, they probably still love you. But they can’t handle the feeling of suffocation.

Firstly, expressing love and smothering affection is relative and subjective. What’s smothering to one partner could be unaffectionate to another. When you take time to fall in love slowly with each other, these are little things both of you can learn about each other and each other’s expectations when it comes to affection. [Read: 22 new relationship advice to have a perfect start and avoid the mistakes newbies make]

If you feel like you’re smothering your partner or if your partner ever tells you they need more space, here are some things you need to do to take the stress off the relationship.

1. Don’t use love to control someone

Don’t expect an equal measure of love from your partner right from the start of the relationship. Love needs time to bloom. Do you say ‘I love you’ often to your sweetheart because you feel like saying it, or is it because you want to hear your lover say it back to you?

Don’t use love as an excuse to control your partner or arm-twist them into doing your bidding. When you shower affection in excess, just to test your lover’s feelings or expect something back in return later, that’s definitely smothering and something that’ll piss your partner off sooner than you think.

By doing this, your partner is sure to feel suffocated in a relationship and the only way is down.

2. Give your partner their space to grow

Spending time with each other can feel great. But even if you’re having the time of your life in your partner’s arms, learn to back away and give space now and then.

You may not realize it, but at times, constantly having you around all the time may end up annoying your partner. The adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder, exists for a reason. [Read: How to give space in a relationship and grow closer instead of drifting apart]

3. Don’t always be available

Don’t always be available at your partner’s beck and call, especially if it’s a trivial matter. Do you ever skip work or put away something important for later when your lover asks you for something trivial, like meeting for coffee because they’re bored or helping them clean the house even though it’s not your turn until next week?

You might think you’re doing something nice, but it could make them feel smothered in a relationship over time.

Two things will happen here. One, you’ll feel like you’re sacrificing something important to be with your lover. That’ll make you feel like a martyr who places love above anything else. And you’ll expect the same gesture back from your lover.

Secondly, your partner will end up taking you for granted and expect the same preferential treatment all the time. Do you realize just how shaky this arrangement could turn out to be in the long run? [Read: Why people take you for granted – 16 signs and firm ways to stop them]

4. Don’t constantly call them

Keeping in touch is acceptable. But expecting an update on their life every couple of hours is just obsessive. Unless your partner and you like staying in touch constantly, avoid this behavior.

This is especially noticeable when your partner’s out with their own friends. Do you call your partner often or send ‘i miss you’ texts when they’re with friends and you’re alone at home?

You’re bored. Your partner’s having fun. You want attention. This is just another case of smothering and misusing love. [Read: Why am I so jealous? The real reasons why you feel it and how to fix it]

5. Balance your romance

Learn to better your relationship with the perfect balance of love, sex, and friendship. If you want to love someone the right way, both of you need to feel involved in each other’s lives in more aspects than just love or lust.

Learn to be a friend, a confidante, and everything else. By doing this, you’ll be able to avoid feeling jealous of anyone else who gets close to your partner as a friend. [Read: 15 rules to be a good partner in the relationship and wow your lover]

6. Keep it exciting

Make your partner want more all the time. Be innovative and look for new ways to keep things exciting in love. Instead of forcing your partner to treat you better or like a princess all the time, do something that’ll inevitably make your partner treat you better.

Almost always, we ask why our partners have become boring but we don’t realize just how boring we’ve become ourselves. [Read: 30 sexy ways to spice up your relationship and get your partner excited to be with you]

7. Have faith in your relationship

Feel more confident about yourself and the relationship you’re in. More often than not, lovers smother their partners when they feel like they’re not good enough for their partners or aren’t doing enough for the good of the relationship.

By constantly feeling like you need to do more, you may end up making things worse than better. Start believing in yourself and know that you’re hot stuff.

Feeling self-conscious about everything and assuming the worst will cause you to act in ways that make your partner feel smothered in a relationship.

8. Do you really have a reason to feel insecure?

Smothering is a sign of subtle insecurity. You feel you have to be the best partner in the world and you overdo it because you’re afraid your lover will think less of you, or *gasp* leave you for someone else.

You can’t constantly prove your love for someone else all the time. And the more you go proving your love, the more you’ll build yourself up for heartbreak. [Read: How to prove you love someone the right way]

9. Don’t be threatened by others so easily

Do you get threatened if someone at a party tries to catch your partner’s eyes? Do you hate it when you hear that some good looker has a crush on your sweetheart? If you do, then you’re probably insecure and may be subtly smothering your lover with excessive love.

If someone has a crush on your sweetheart, it doesn’t mean your partner will leave you. And if someone’s trying to make eye contact with your partner, that doesn’t mean your partner will ignore you. Instead of feeling insecure, see the bright side. Others can look and crave, but your partner is all yours!

10. Stop craving attention

Can you sit beside your partner for half an hour without craving for their attention? Do you find yourself trying to get touchy-feely, or bursting into giggles, or looking for other ways to distract your partner?

This may be acceptable at first, especially when both of you are still young in love. But if you find it hard to just spend time quietly around each other, perhaps you’re someone who wants attention all the time. A partner who constantly craves attention is sure to make you feel smothered in a relationship.

The more you crave for attention, the more your partner would shy away from giving you more attention. And the more your partner avoids giving you attention, the more you’ll start to smother them with affection in the hope of reciprocation. And this cycle would continue until both of you are confused, annoyed, and bitter all the time! [Read: Attention seeking behavior and why some people go looking for drama all the time]

11. Identify the feeling

Sometimes we’re so distracted with other things going on in our lives that we’re not focusing on where our feelings are coming from. You may be feeling anxious, but you’re not sure why. 

Firstly, see where these emotions are coming from because there is a root cause. If you feel angry, anxious, or reserved, look at the relationship with your partner and see if it stems from there. [Read: What to do when you’re feeling uncertain about your relationship]

12. Talk to them

If you suspect your partner is feeling smothered in a relationship, don’t just ignore it. It’s really a bad idea. Sit them down and talk to them about how you’re feeling.

Let them know that you’re aware of how your suffocating behavior is making them feel and that you’re going to take steps to change it. Explain that it comes from a place of love but that you know that it’s perhaps coming over a little too strong.

13. Set some boundaries

You both need to set clear boundaries. Let your partner tell you what’s appropriate and what isn’t. They have their own personal space which needs to be respected.

Create clear boundaries between you and that way, you both know where the line is. [Read: 15 rules to set healthy relationship boundaries]

14. If they ask for space, give it to them

Everyone needs their own time with themselves, friends, and family. So, if they ask for space, openly give it to them.

It might be hard for you, in fact it will be, but accept it and understand this is part of helping them to avoid feeling smothered in a relationship. [Read: The reasons why empathy is vital in a relationship]

15. Go to therapy

If you try these tips but you’re not sure if it’s working or you want a little bit more guidance then see a relationship therapist. Talk about what’s happening in your relationship.

They’ll give you tailored advice to use with your partner. Plus, they also help you decide if this is something you both want to fight for or not.

When it comes to your partner feeling smothered in a relationship, you need to accept that your actions are causing it, but also that perhaps the blame isn’t 100% on you too. Relationships are never that cut and dried.

However, by learning how to pull back and give space, you may find that your relationship thrives. A therapist can help you if everything else has failed. [Read: Relationship counseling – 10 signs you need it to save your love]

What if you are the one feeling suffocated in a relationship instead?

Maybe it’s not that you think your partner is smothered in a relationship but that you’re feeling that way instead. So, what should you do? In relationships, honesty is truly the best policy.

When the shoe is on the other foot, it can be frustrating and annoying, but it’s possible to change the future of your union and stop feeling suffocated in a relationship that you otherwise enjoy being in.

1. Remind them of the things they used to do that they miss

If you are feeling smothered in a relationship, there might be a chance that they are too and might not know it. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in things that we forget about what matters to us.

Your significant other might be blowing off their favorite things so that they don’t hurt your feelings or thinking you want them around all the time. Remind them of the things they used to love to do on their own and encourage them to take the time to do them again without fear of losing you.

If you make it a win-win scenario that you both get what you want out of a little space, then they won’t view it as a negative or get nervous that you are saying adios. [Read: How to make the absolute most out of your alone time]

2. Calm their nerves by letting them know nothing changed about your feelings for them

It might be that your partner is afraid if they aren’t in your sight all the time, you will find someone new.

Make sure to calm their fears when you ask for some space by telling them your feelings haven’t changed. You just need some room to breathe. Everyone needs some time and space alone, everyone.

If you let them know you still want to be with them, just not every waking moment, and that nothing has changed, they will probably grant you the time needed without fear or anxiety.

You’ll both feel better and give them the license to take the same time without worry. This will help you to stop feeling smothered in a relationship and take the pressure off both of you. [Read: The 15 phases of a healthy relationship]

3. Make a schedule of your time, their time, and time together

If you want some time to yourself, then make it a regular thing. If you make up a schedule of your time, their time, and then togetherness time, you send a clear message that it isn’t that you don’t want time with them, it is just that you need some time without them.

Knowing you have a plan and that you will be back is a very important part of telling your partner you need some space. Making up a schedule says to them they are still important and you have no intention of getting rid of them.

4. Don’t be sneaky or tell lies just because you’re feeling smothered in a relationship

If you are feeling smothered and without any freedom, the WORST thing you can do is lie to your partner.

If they catch you lying or doing something behind their back *even if it’s harmless*, then they not only cling harder but are resentful and distrustful of you. That ups their anxiety and makes them fearful of you ever leaving their side.

When you lie to someone, you put them on guard. It makes them think, “Well, if they lie about one thing, they can lie about anything.”

It is okay to tell someone you feel smothered and need some freedom. It isn’t okay to find your freedom through sneaking and lying. Not cool. Just be honest. [Read: 10 common reasons why all of us lie in relationships]

5. Make it gradual

If you go to them one day and say “I want some space” they are going to wonder what went wrong and what they did. Small changes are much easier on someone highly attached. Maybe suggest that you are going to go out for the night and leave for a couple of hours.

The next time, stay out a little longer, and then consider vacationing or going away for an extended time. If someone clings to you, then they are dependent on you.

If you take it gradually, they learn to lean on themselves a little more, and it won’t sound so harsh or be a shock to the system. when you feel smothered in a relationship, your need for space can make you demand it now, but that’s not going to help your partner.

6. The harder you pull away, the more they will chase

If you aren’t honest about feeling smothered in a relationship, what you don’t know is that the person who loves you feels it. They feel a change in you. Maybe it is an additional irritation, maybe just that you pull away to find some quiet time by hiding. Whatever it is that you feel, they feel in you.

And, it probably drives them to cling harder. Be honest, or you just create an atmosphere of anxiety. It makes your partner wonder if something is wrong or if you aren’t interested in them anymore. [Read: How to tell someone to leave you alone and get the space you crave]

7. Know what you want, so you aren’t leading them on

If it is more than just feeling suffocated in a relationship and you lost interest and need time to figure out what you want, then take the time. It is never easy to tell someone that you might not be into them and need the space to figure it out.

It hurts way more if you lead them on for another couple of months knowing what you already know in your heart. Rip off the Band-Aid and figure things out.

Staying with someone when you don’t know how you feel about them isn’t doing either of you any favors. In fact, it hurts you both! [Read: How to make taking a break work for you]

8. Make the time you are with them more concentrated

If you don’t want them to be so smothering, stop making them fight for your attention. Take your time alone and apart. Remember when you have made the promise to be with them, make it concentrated time and time to connect.

Staring at a television screen with them after you spent four days with your friends having the time of your life isn’t a good habit. It only tells your partner they are your downtime. If you want them not to smother you, then give them the attention they crave. [Read: 10 fun relationship games for couples to feel really close]

9. Cut them loose

Maybe you aren’t feeling smothered, maybe you just know that things aren’t right. Sometimes we know in our hearts that someone isn’t good for us and they aren’t what we want. We are afraid to be alone or to tell the other person.

If you tried the whole cooling off and backing away, and you still feel smothered, then the answer might be that you are with the wrong person, period. [Read: Breaking up with someone you love – 20 right reasons to walk away]

Feeling smothered is an awful feeling. Whether it is that your significant other clings to you like an octopus or they get upset if you want to do anything without them, be honest and find a way to create distance. You can’t go on feeling caged. You will just end up being resentful.

Similarly, if you’re the one who is causing your partner to feel suffocated in a relationship, it’s time to take stock and take action.

[Read: Should you break up? 17 signs you’re past the point of no return]

If you want to know how to stop feeling smothered in a relationship, irrespective of whether you’re the one smothering or getting smothered, keep these tips in mind. After all, many of us are addicted to smothering without even realizing it!

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...