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My clingy friend calls me too often

Having a clingy friend can be very stressful and demanding. You need to decide whether you want to keep the friendship on the same track or make some changes. 

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

My friend calls a minimum of ten times per day! I have done the whole “I’m busy, my grandson is here, late for church etc.” She talks on and on.

I stopped answering many of the calls only to get messages that would say it was IMPORTANT that I return her call. Every time so far, there has been absolutely no urgency to those calls whatsoever.

Recently, I got a call from her husband’s number that I answered assuming something may seriously be wrong with her. But no, it was her saying her phone battery was dead. No doubt a ploy to get me to answer! The conversation?? A great deal she found on dresses for her granddaughters!!

I’ve had several pop-up visits and today I received a text blatantly asking me where I was. I have told this friend that I’m a low-key person, not outgoing, and I don’t like talking on the phone. As you see…she hasn’t gotten the message.

I am also in a new relationship and as a 47-year-old woman, and finding a man as good as him is has been important to me. We all go to church together and she is a fine Christian woman. She would do anything for anybody, especially me.

I do not want to end our friendship but I don’t know what else to do! There has to be some mental issue behind this clinginess. It’s like a girl crush on me and she is dominating me. I feel so smothered. Please help. I am very non-confrontational.

Signed, Sara

ANSWER

Hi Sara,

You probably need to meet with your friend (or call her) to say that her friendship is important to you—but you need to step back a bit to focus on this new relationship. Tell her that you feel pressured now, that you have less time for yourself, and just don’t have time to talk on the phone as you did in the past.

You need to be firm and direct with this woman because it sounds like she is pressured and has little respect for your boundaries. I understand that this may be uncomfortable for someone who hates confrontation—but you can’t let some temporary discomfort stop you from addressing what could easily become a chronic problem.

Perhaps, you can come up with a plan to meet twice a month for lunch or to talk by phone on Saturday mornings to check in. Also, be sure to let her know how much you value your friendship (because it seems like you do), and that you don’t want to lose it, but that you also need to make some time for yourself and the new man in your life.

One question that occurred to me was whether your friend has always been like this, or whether this is something new? Has she been clingier since this man entered your life? If this is so, she may feel threatened that your new relationship with him will change the nature of your friendship with her.

Regardless of her motivations, you really have no choice but to do what’s best for you.

Hope this is helpful.

Best, Irene


Other post on The Friendship Blog about strategies for handling a clingy friend:

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Category: Communication, KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (14)

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  1. Fatima says:

    I’m learning so much from this experience with my ex-clingy friend. Both about myself and dependent people. This same situation, happened with a boyfriend as well. He actually STILL tried to contact me after 7-8 yrs. of not dealing with him!!!O-O So it’s time for me to do some revaluation of myself! I don’t want this to become a “repeat” occurrence in my life!Scary!

  2. Anonymous says:

    There’s a couple of things I’d like to respond to here. It is a little lengthy but I’ve had a personal experience with the issue.

    First of all, target/victim blaming is no longer acceptable in modern psychology. Please don’t blame the person being targeted. Reasons for being slow to know how to deal with a good friend’s clinging behavior are very complex, including the fact that she might be more perceptive and have some understanding of her friend. Modern Americanized society does not agree with one’s being perceptive or understanding but that is not based on a truth but a narrow, socialized stereotype peculiar to a particular culture.

    Secondly, it is true that people are always clingy for a reason. Sometimes this is a temporary thing that the person is going through. The person is probably not doing it out of spite, narcissism or the need to control others, but might have a problem with panic which they themselves wish they could control and are even trying to control but presently can’t. I know this since I once went through something similar myself after having had a traumatic experience. I couldn’t go for counseling about it (although I considered it) since I had a phobia of counselors since it was a counselor I’d seen over a minor issue as a late teen who had traumatized me in the first place.

    It took me some time but I managed to get over the problem myself through extensive reading and through living abroad (in more caring, less developed and more group-oriented cultures, in fact) and becoming stronger that way. Not everyone would be able to do this, however.

    Also, when I was going through it, I knew it bothered people, so I’d only go to one and sometimes two very trusted people and hide the issue from everyone else. I went to these people since they usually knew the right things to say when I was in a panic to help me believe in myself. Basically, in my case, I’d panic over things since I’d been shocked out of trusting my own judgement even though I wanted to and knew what I believed. These people would encourage me to trust my judgement and I’d immediately calm down again.

    Sometimes I’d only need 5 minutes with them to calm down. The problem arose if I was needing encouragement over an approach I wanted to take to something which they didn’t agree with. As a free individual I had the right to do things the way I wanted to, but unfortunately I would often need validation over things, and we are all different.

    And in regards to the crisis lines, when I tried them they normally made me feel one million times worse since they didn’t understand me at all and would say things off the tops of their heads, or offer advice although this goes against their guidelines. So I’d occasionally try to call them and be put in a much worse state and then have to call one of my couple of trusted people just to calm down from what they had said. In any case, I did get over the issue with time.

    Cutting the person completely off only makes them panic more and could devastate them. They are not doing this to drive the person they are going to crazy, or for any devious or negative reasons. From my experience, they might have an issue with panic. They might also need some closeness with others (in my case I had only one family member and although I made superficial friends very easily at the university, I still felt isolated). I’d suggest explaining to them clearly that you support them and are trying to understand, but that it is also very stressful for you. And set some boundaries, but not in a harsh way, as though they are “bad” or to “punish” them, but only to help them become stronger and to help yourself as well, and explain this nicely and supportively to them. They usually need kindness more than anything; shocking them wont help.

    And as long as they are not in my former situation, although mine is rare (where I had been emotionally abused by a counselor as a young person)suggest nicely that they see a counselor as well to help them become a bit stronger. I’d not harshly tell them they have issues and should get help, but I’d tell them supportively that a counselor is better able to help with such things and can also help them to get stronger so they can help themselves better and not have such an intense, panicked need for others’ constant support.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was going to add too, that in my case even if I suggested they saw a counselor I’d not say that is to replace me, but only in addition. I’d set some time that I could talk to them or hang out (something less than what they were doing that was better for me) and then I’d suggest they see a counselor as well.

      Btw I’m not on this site about myself but to get advice about a friend! But I found some very good advice on another site. It also said not to be harsh with them, to be supportive, and to just wait several days before responding to their calls/messages etc so they get the idea that you are still friends but that you need your own space too without your even having to tell them. If you are worried about emergencies, I’d also suggest nicely telling them about the counselor or even family doctor for that if they hate the idea of counselors. They also suggested helping them to make other friends by telling them about groups etc. I think some Meetups could be good.

      So I just meant, I’d not want to cut them right off unless they were just acquaintances I hardly knew. But I’d help them find others to go to as well and just limit my time with them.

  3. Arrie says:

    The first time someone called me five or ten times a day would be the last. I would ask them what they were thinking and advise them I don’t operate this way.

  4. Lisa says:

    I have had to block my clingy (no exaggeration !!!!) best friend of 5 yrs(coworker,on medical leave)from calling me(can’t block @ work). I have blocked her home & cell numbers from my cell phone.

    I have set boundaries with her(i told her not to call me @ work–way too busy with my demanding job that has steadily increased with the volume of work I do, to listen to 1/2 hour of crying). I’ve asked her to stop calling me at home. My free time is mine. Her incessant calling stresses me out really bad.

    I have told her to call crisis line in our state.

    She calls my home and work anywhere from 2-5 times a day, sometimes everyday. I have learned to ignore her calls so far.

    I have set boundaries with her. She ignores them and doesn’t care. I have told her not to call me @ work–way too busy with my demanding job that has steadily increased with the volume of work I do,(to listen to 1/2 hour of crying). I’ve asked her to stop calling me at home. My free time is mine. Her incessant calling stresses me out really bad.

    When @ work if I didn’t answer a call,instant message or email ASAP, she assumed I was ignoring her and walk over to my desk. I could have had someone @ my desk or been on the phone.

    She has issues and has been committed once. Sorry for being a “meanie”, but she left me with no choice but walk away (2nd time), this happened last year also. It’s too much for me to deal with and I have a family and a job that demand my time also.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    • Michelle says:

      Good for you for redeeming your space! Some people needs to be put in their place otherwise, we will have a stressful life like the one they are living with.

    • Fatima says:

      OMG! I’m dealing with that right now! I’ve know this girl for 4+ years and she is driving me bananas!!! At first it was ok, but then I noticed that when ever I tried to hang out with someone else or a guy she would get ANGRY and POSSESSIVE!

      I was confused? Because she was acting like she had a girl crush on me or something! The icing on the cake was when I visited her while on vacation. I told her to plan out a few things for us to do. I figured some fun stuff nothing too expensive or anything.

      Well she pulled out ALL the stops…nice restaurant, a play, club, etc. Now normally nothing would have been wrong with this BUT it was something about the way she was acting/staring at me in a weird way!

      I felt very uncomfortable! When I left I didn’t contact her right away because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t over reacting! She kept asking me what was wrong, why haven’t I contacted her? So I told her in the nicest way I knew how. And she took it all wrong, and started saying how I was giving her signals, and a hold bunch of BS! This was the last straw for me, I cut her off for two years! And guess what her father died and she came back to town and used this to contact me. I figured since her dad died I could be supportive. I hung out with her for a few and now she wants to stay at my house until she leaves.

      At first I said yes, but then remember everything that happened. And told her I think it would be best if she stayed at her families house but she could visit.

      She blew up, saying I thought we were friends, my dad just died, etc.,etc. just being manipulative! I’m not cold hearted or anything but this is just her way of getting back in! This isn’t the first times she’s tried something like this, but I didn’t think she would use the death of family members! Sorry but this is the absolute end for me…I’m so done with this clingy girl! There’s some serious underlining issues with one!

  5. martha says:

    Take 2-4 days before returning her phone calls and provide no explanation for doing so. If she dare asks, tell her that you were busy & DO NOT OFFER more details. This is what I’m doing to a friend now (let’s call her Amy). I know that it irritates her, but I have to keep my sanity.

    As for surprise visits, no one else does that to me besides Amy. She has done this several times, even on occasions when I have said I can’t entertain & can’t go out because I was truly sick at that time. One time, I was feeling sore & I felt like I was coming down with a fever. I walked to a massage place (a few steps away from my apt) and on my way home, Amy called & wanted to hang out. I told her I was walking home from getting a massage & I told her what I was feeling & that I wanted to stay home and rest so I can go to work the ff day. She still came in to my apartment and FORCED me to dine out with her. I think that this attitude of Amy grew worse because I never did anything about it. Like the OP, I am non confrontational & I didn’t want to hurt my friend nor to damage our friendship. However, I realized that the friendship will inevitably get damaged if I let her continue with her ways as I had this growing resentment towards her. I hated how she won’t take NO for an answer, I hated how she’d call me at 7am to ask if I wanted to hang out. I hated that when I decline, she asks why & works around my reason to get what she wants and I hate that when she calls, she literally doesn’t stop until I pickup the phone. Even if that means me having 20 successive missed calls from her. It makes me mad that when I am not able to answer her calls, she then calls my husband NONSTOP even if I have already told her that my husband does not like getting calls when he’s at work! Because of these, I have mastered NOT to pick up her calls ever because of fear that she might be in front of my apt, waiting for me to open the lobby door. I also do not open my front door unless I know it’s a package delivery guy or my apt mgr. I don’t care who needs me, but I now do not ever open my door for anyone I am not expecting to show up. If someone knocks on my door, my husband & I stop what we are doing & make as little noise as we can. I am not going to tolerate surprise visits from Amy or any one anymore.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Maybe this ‘friend’ is lonely and scared of losing you as you might be the first real friend she has had. Talk to her though and see if everything is okay. Clingy people are clingy for a reason.

  7. Lori says:

    Gosh-this doesn’t fit my understanding of friendship at all. This is a woman who wants to control you and will react with anger at being thwarted. Think of a drowning victim. You can try clearly communicating limits and using the “When you do this I feel such and such…” feedback technique – but I would not hold out much hope that anything will change because she sounds so very needy. The best thing you might do is give her a book on co-dependency and offer to talk about it after she’s read it. (There is one called A Christian Perspective on Codependency or something like that – you said you both go to church. It states that our self-worth should come from God’s love for us, not from others.) Maybe you can help her without being her lifesaver. But again- that’s ministry, not friendship.

  8. This friend would make me totally insane. Maybe COLD TURKEY is the way to go — a hiatus and then after six months you could build back up to a healthier friendship. But this reader is not thinking about an important question — WHAT COULD SHE POSSIBLY GET OUT OF HAVING A FRIEND LIKE THIS? I think she also needs to do some work on herself to figure out how she allowed her friend to get so clingy. Every relationship is a 2-way street. She’s not the victim here but an actor in an unhealthy play.

  9. sheryl says:

    Very good advice, Irene. It’s tough to deal with something who is so suffocating!

  10. Amy says:

    You need to set very clear boundaries with her, but honestly, it might be too late. She might be the kind of person who is so needy, that setting limitations will make her needier. 10 times a day? That’s beyond excessive. She doesn’t sound like the type of person who takes cues well, so you’ll have to be direct, if not blunt.
    Tell her you only have the time/energy to talk to her once a week (or whatever suits your schedule). If she calls you more often, tell her if she doesn’t respect your boundaries, you’ll have to discontinue the relationship.
    As when setting boundaries with kids, avoid excessive explanation and reassurance. You don’t want to fall into the trap of stoking her ego, or she might become more dependent on you.
    Good luck. This will probably be difficult.

  11. Excellent advice, Irene. I like your catch that the friend may be reacting to the new relationship. A good possibility. Great post.

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