The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

My BFF exhausts me!

Your friend simply doesn't have a clue about where you end and she begins

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I have been best friends with this girl for 35 years. We are now both 42. She's always had self-esteem issues and thought she was fat and ugly. She is a beautiful person and has a beautiful soul but her negativity and drama seem to be overshadowing all her good qualities. Last year, my boyfriend and I moved in together (just an FYI, she introduced us). Knowing from past experience she wouldn't be happy for me, she was the last person I told and it turns out with good reason. When I told her, she said she'd lost her best friend, and I ruined everything because she is alone now.

She says my boyfriend is the only one I care about and I don't talk to her anymore. Meanwhile, when I ask her to come over for dinner she tells me I'm doing it out of pity. On more than one occasion, she has tried to lie on me so I can stroke her hair like a child to comfort her while she cries. She literally cries that she is alone because she is fat and ugly (which she is neither) and that she misses her dog that she had to put down last year, and that she misses her boyfriend who treated her like garbage every second of the relationship. She tells me I'm not around anymore and that's true in a way because I am trying very hard to bring positive things into my life and she drains all of my energy.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Years ago, yeah, I might have joined in the pity party with her, but I've grown and I don't want to be that person anymore. Just today she emailed me saying she knows all I care about is my boyfriend and it's okay because she's used to being alone and she knows she's just unlovable and fat and ugly and no one will ever love or want her. How do I respond?

I'm tired of trying to convince her that I do care for her; she's like family to me. I don't have the energy to constantly tell her she's not fat and not ugly. I feel guilty because we've been so close for so many years and I want to help her but every time I try the tough love bit, she won't speak to me or she tells me I just don't care about her anymore. Now she is out of work and the other day I mentioned I was going out with some friends from work. She was annoyed because how could I actually go out and do something while she was home alone and out of work.

I know this post seems all over the place, it's because there are years of situations that I could reference. I'm just exhausted and the thought of losing such a long time friendship is heartbreaking, but I cannot put everything I have worked on for my own self-image and positive outlook at risk. I'm at a loss.

Signed,
Exhausted


ANSWER

Dear Exhausted,

I'm not surprised you feel so drained. You're having a hard time setting boundaries and your friend simply doesn't have a clue about where you end and she begins. It sounds like she is so needy, dependent, and self-loathing that she can only think of herself. No matter how much you try to comfort her, you won't be able to fix what's broken on your own. If your best friend isn't happy for your happiness and successes, you have to question whether she's really able to be a good friend at this time.

It's always hard to let go or back off from such a long-standing friendship. But while your friendship was once satisfying, it doesn't seem to be that way now (for either of you). You can't allow your friend to take you down with her. You also need to be mindful of and nurture your relationship with your boyfriend. Talk to your friend when you both are relaxed and tell her that you really care about her but she needs to speak to a mental health professional because she is so down on herself. If she is unwilling to listen to you, can you speak to one of her relatives and express your concern?

Tell your friend that you will continue to be supportive but her problems are more than you (and she) can handle on your own. Set clear boundaries regarding how often and what you'll do when you're together. Spend your time together doing things you both enjoy rather than allowing her to wallow in her misery.

I think you are headed in the right direction. Stay strong.

Best,
Irene

 

Other posts about needy friends on The Friendship Blog:

Needy Friends: A Friend Indeed?

Handling a friend who doesn't get the message

Help! My friend is too clingy!

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.

more...

Subscribe to The Friendship Doctor

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?