Irene S. Levine, Ph.D.

Irene S Levine Ph.D.

The Friendship Doctor

My clingy friend is getting on my nerves!

Friends need a balance of time together and time apart to grow.

Posted Sep 17, 2010

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

My best friend has been with me through the ups and downs of life since we were both eight years old.

I'm now in my junior year at college. Four years ago, I decided to go to a state school and study to become a vet. I was ecstatic the day I received my acceptance letter but the next day, my friend got hers too. At first I was thrilled to have her go with me, but when I asked her why she wanted to go to the same school, she told me it was so I wouldn't be lonely.

I didn't tell her at the time but that comment made me mad. I was perfectly able to take care of myself, and I was able to make friends on my own. The thing that really bothered me was that she was following me!

I pushed the thought to the back of my mind because I thought it would be sort of fun to have my best friend at college with me. But she got really annoying, trying to take all the classes that I took, and trying to be with me all of the time. I understand that she was trying to be a good friend, but it got on my nerves.

Now I'm at the breaking point, because she won't get the message that we need some space. On top of that, she is a party pooper. How do I tell her that she is getting on my nerves without hurting her?

Signed,

Nicole


ANSWER

Dear Nicole,

The years after graduation from high school through college are ones when people grow and change a great deal. It seems like you and your friend had a relationship that remained on an even keel for more than a decade; you both depended on one another for support.

As you suggest, your friend seems overly attached to you now: taking the same classes and wanting to be with you all the time. While this may have been reciprocal at one time, and appropriate when you were younger, it isn't any longer. It's great that you've grown in self-confidence and found a career path that interests you. She needs to do the same.

Since your friend hasn't responded to your subtle messages seeking more space between you, you may have to be more explicit. Tell her that you want to remain friends but that you both need to expand your horizons and meet new people too. Can you have a supportive heart-to-heart with her and find out why she hasn't been able to become more independent or get involved with other friends? Perhaps, by talking about it, you can both figure out what is holding her back.

Friends need a balance of time together and time apart to grow. When a friend is extremely possessive and clingy, it's easy to become resentful. It's likely that your friend doesn't feel good about the way she is acting either. If you can't sort this out on your own, you may want to suggest that your friend talk to someone in the college counseling office.

Hope this helps.

Best,
Irene

Prior posts on The Friendship Blog about coping with needy friends:

Needy Friends: A friend indeed?

Getting out of a sticky friendship

Why don't friends just talk about it?