How to Handle a Friend Who Wants Too Much of You

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There are times in our lives when we find ourselves in friendships that feel one-sided, where it seems that we are giving more than we are receiving in the relationship. While all of us at Darling believe in giving selflessly of our time, emotions and advice, there may come a point when we need to establish healthy boundaries with a friend who appears to be emotionally dependent on us, using the bond we share as a means of validating her identity and self-worth.

So how do we handle a situation like this with love, clarity and grace? Read on to hear our thoughts and chime in with your own advice in the comments section.

Be Patient

Before jumping to any conclusions about a situation or season your friend might be in, take the time to identify signs that may indicate that a friend is depending on you too much. Does she want to spend large chunks of time together every day? Does she express frustration or jealousy when you have other plans with different friends? Does she seem emotional when you aren’t able to discuss a problem or an issue with her?

While these answers alone don’t necessarily mean that your friend is counting on you more than she should, they are indicative that something difficult may be going on her life. Maybe she’s struggling at work or in her relationship; perhaps she’s having a family dispute or trouble with a roommate. It’s possible that your friend isn’t able to communicate clearly and instead of being forthcoming with her problems, she may prefer to work things out on her own. This mindset can have the unintended effect of social dependency; your friend will pack her schedule to the brim and cling on to loved ones in an effort to distract herself from the problems she’s facing.

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Resist the temptation to confront your loved one immediately; sometimes these things have a way of working themselves out without our intervention. Practice patience and continue being there for your friend while setting up healthy boundaries to protect yourself. (More on that in a minute.)

Be Direct

If you feel that your friend is indeed depending on you too much and she isn’t making strides towards resolving her personal issues on her own, it might be time to have a direct conversation about the situation. Approach your loved one in a time and place that is comfortable for her; don’t create an environment that feels aggressive or hostile. Speak gently and kindly, but directly. Make your point clear and concise, and don’t expound upon examples of her clinginess.

The bottom line is that your friend is likely struggling with something and this difficult season of her life is resulting in an unhealthy dependence on you, perhaps as a way to affirm her identity and validate her self-worth. Don’t beat around the proverbial bush in an attempt to address the issue indirectly. Simply treat your friend with love and confront her with kindness to determine if your frank conversation can result in healing, giving your friend the power and confidence to move forward — on her own.

Set Up Healthy Boundaries

While being supportive of your friend in need, make sure to set up healthy boundaries to protect your time — and your heart. It can be emotionally draining to give — and give and give — of yourself to someone who needs to lean on you and you can find yourself resenting your loved one if you don’t carve out time for you. Strive to protect your alone time by putting your phone on the Do Not Disturb mode after a certain hour or make it known that you schedule solo appointments, exercise classes or therapeutic activities to help keep yourself energized and rejuvenated.

Prioritizing alone time does not make you a bad friend; in fact, it likely makes you a better friend in the long run, as you end up feeling refreshed and ready to help friends tackle problems or obstacles as they arise.

Prioritizing alone time does not make you a bad friend; in fact, it likely makes you a better friend in the long run …

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Know When to Seek Professional Help

If you notice that your friend’s clinginess causes her to act out emotionally or even violently, you may need to seek help from a professional. If you no longer feel safe with your friend or if you think she is a danger to herself, identify professional means of support and consider staging an intervention with friends, family members and counselors. Your friend’s safety and mental health are more important than the repercussions you might face from initiating an intervention.

Have you been in a similar situation with a friend? How did you handle it?

Images via Tess Comrie

Rachel is the Development Director for the Touch A Life Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of exploited and trafficked children in West Africa and Southeast Asia. She currently lives in Dallas, TX, with her husband, their baby girl Ruby, and their cuddly English mastiff.

9 COMMENTS
  • Dana June 7, 2017

    This is a terrible article. For a magazine that claims to have people that give selflessly, you’re perpetuating the abandonment of not supporting the friend you’re whining about. Maybe having some empathy would be useful to the friend. Maybe they’re going through the hardest time of their life and need people in their corner. Being so quick to judge and cutting them off can scar them for life. Maybe you’re the only lifeline that friend has.
    Don’t be so quick to judge. You could lose that friend you find clingy to suicide.

    • Rachel Brown June 13, 2017

      Dana, we are so sorry that this piece offended you. Our intentions were certainly not to imply that friends should abandon loved ones in need; rather, we tried to fill this piece with empathy in regards to meeting friends in the places where they are suffering while also protecting our own hearts. We also empathize the importance of seeking professional help during times when loved ones may need additional assistance, but we apologize if that did not come off clearly. We would never advocate on behalf of abandoning a friend who was on the edge of inflicting pain upon herself.

  • Natalie Ann Redman May 29, 2017

    Great post! Very helpful.

    • Rachel Brown June 13, 2017

      Thank you, Natalie!

  • Anonymous May 24, 2017

    I can’t believe how relevant this article is to my life right now! It was perfect timing for me to click the link to open this page… My best friend has had a few episodes in the past where she has become hysterical, dwelling on past traumas and falling apart. In these states, she becomes completely and emotionally dependent on me and will not let me leave her side. Seeing her so sad and feeling helpless, these situations take an overwhelming toll on me. I don’t want to be selfish because it seems like I am the only one who can help her, but I cannot take the pressure of fixing her problems because I honestly do not know how. Even though she avoids talking about it the next day, I will be persistent in having a direct conversation. I think she needs professional help because I certainly do not have all the answers for her, and having someone else to talk to about her past will only benefit her health in the long-run. I value our relationship so much and hate not knowing how to handle her emotions. I feel like helping her find a professional is the best thing I can do for her.

    • Rachel Brown May 26, 2017

      You are so brave for sharing this and you sound like a wonderful friend who is thoughtful, caring, and loving. We will be thinking of you and your friend!

  • Anonymous May 24, 2017

    I had a friend who became extremely possessive and controlling, we’ll call her A. I didn’t even notice it until I talked to her roommate, who we’ll call K, who was also one of my really good friends. As soon as we started talking we realized how strange and abnormal some of the things she did were, we had just been afraid that maybe we were being to sensitive about things. Countless times she would “borrow” things from us (without asking) and then ruin them, lose them, or not return them. If we were all hanging out together, if K and I started talking directly to each other, even if just for a little bit, A would get this look of anger on her face and just turn to her phone and act really cold to us for a little while. It got to the point where K and I sneaked around to just hang out without A because we didn’t know how to handle such a volatile situation. Things with K and A fell apart faster than with me and A, and I tried to play mediator and handle the situation carefully, but eventually it got to the point where A was 100% lying about K to me and even trying to lie to me about myself. Things blew up between me and A at that point and we basically cut her out of our lives. She tried to stalk us on social media, so we blocked her on Facebook and I even went as far as to unfriend/block people who I knew she associated with pretty frequently so she couldn’t use them to stalk us. It was a really horrible situation, but I’ve never regretted ending that friendship and have not once considered going back to that toxic relationship. It’s a hard situation to get out of, and I don’t know if K and I did it the right way necessarily, but you can get out of those friendships that aren’t good for you, and don’t be afraid to end it!

    • Rachel Brown June 13, 2017

      Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It sounds like you tried everything you could. We will definitely be thinking of you and your friends.

  • Anonymous May 24, 2017

    Luckily, I’ve never encountered a friend like that!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

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