The Friendship Doctor

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5 Tips for Unloading a Needy Friend

Some friends are always in need of one thing or another

There are some friends who are so needy that the friendship begins to weigh you down like an emotional ball and chain. They're always in need of one thing or another: money, favors, help, coddling, praise---or simply more time and attention than you are able or willing to give.

Like a wailing toddler, they can be so demanding that their friendship becomes fatiguing. You begin to dread their calls, texts or emails---but you feel guilty about it. What kind of person would put up with a friend like that? Many people do:

  • People who like feeling needed---or once liked the feeling (even if they don't anymore)
  • People who feel like they aren't worthy of healthier, more balanced relationships
  • People who are stuck---either feeling angry or sorry for their needy friend---and feel unable to get out of it

Once you begin to recognize that a friendship is a drag, you've taken the first step in relieving yourself of the burden.

Here are 5 options for unloading a needy friendship:

  1. Change the nature of your friendship by learning to say "no" and setting boundaries (e.g. "Even though we are both single, I don't want to spend every Friday night together.")
  2. Tell her that you have to tend to your own needs (or those of anyone else you can think of, including your grandmother in Toledo)
  3. Slip away and gradually spend less time with her and add other less demanding friends to your inventory
  4. Take a relationship sabbatical or hiatus from the friendship (You deserve a break for what you've endured!)
  5. If it's that bad, simply cut loose and run!

Remember, the term toxic friendship refers to a relationship that is consistently negative and draining. It is the pattern, not the one-time or occasional lapses that predictably occur between good friends. If your truly needy friend has been that way for some time, the real possibilities of changing the relationship verge on hopeless.

Whether it's with a friend or a relative, many of us get involved with people whose needs can never be satiated. No matter what you give, what you do, how much, or how often, it will never be enough. Since character tends to endure, this person probably treats everyone else the same way she treats you. It's likely that many of her friends have already dropped out of the picture and that's why she is so dependent on you.

Have you experienced a needy friend? Any luck divesting yourself of the relationship or remedying it?

 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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