• Keeping Friends

A student seeks advice on dealing with a clingy friend

April 14, 2015 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading
Sometimes a clingy friend can make us feel like running in the opposite direction.

QUESTION

Hi,

I’m in my last two years of high school and I just changed schools at the start of the year. This meant leaving all my friends behind, which was fine because I knew that some friendships last and some don’t.

One person that I knew I would be keeping in touch with is my best friend. We’ve been best friends for a long time and got close really quickly, even though we are complete opposites. However, she has also been clingy. However, I find it particularly hard because clingy people get on my nerves.

I thought after changing schools, we’d still be good friends but I’d have my space. But I constantly get phone calls, messages and emails from her about how much she misses me, asking what I’m doing and where I am, etc. She even sends me pictures of the two of us with friendship quotes all around us.

I feel like I see her more than when we went to the same school, and all of this is really getting on my nerves. I’ve tried giving her subtle hints but it doesn’t work. If anything, she tries to contact me even more. I’m honestly getting a little creeped and I don’t feel like its healthy for either at us.

I would outwardly tell her what she is doing is frustrating me but she is very sensitive. What should I do?

Signed, Jasmine

ANSWER

Hi Jasmine,

Whether they are adults or teens, sometimes people are clingy when they feel insecure. Your clingy friend might be worried she’ll be replaced but her clinginess is having the opposite effect of pushing you away.

You’re not alone in being put off by neediness. I bet if you asked 10 of your classmates, at least 9 would say to go in the opposite direction when they have to deal with clingy behavior.

You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders. I admire how you’re looking for kind ways of having a less intense relationship with your friend. Setting boundaries is healthy for you and your friend. Learning to do so assertively is a skill you’ll continue to develop for a long time, so don’t worry if you’re not 100% uncomfortable yet.

The kindest thing you can do is tell your friend how you’re feeling. It might be the only thing you can do to save the relationship. I would:=

  1. Talk to her in person, if you can, so she’ll be able to see the look on your face, your body language and hear the tone of your voice and not misinterpret your words as being harsh or angry.
  1. Use “I” statements, “I care about you a lot and value our friendship. I’ve felt stressed and a bit overwhelmed by the amount of times you contact me.”
  1. Say something positive before and after your “complaint.”  “I love that you haven’t forgotten me since I left ____ school. You’re such a good friend. But when I hear from you so often, I feel frustrated. I don’t want to feel resentful returning your message. You’re my best friend. I don’t need pictures or quotes to tell to remind myself of our friendship, it’s always with me.”
  1. Tell her want you want.  “If I heard from you ___ times a week, I’d be excited to return your calls.” Then I’d look for some feedback and her reactions. If she doesn’t respond positively:
  1. Regardless of her reactions, don’t waver—as long as you know in your heart you’ve been as sensitive and kind in your delivery.
  1. Reassure her once again, if necessary (any more than that might just feed into her clinginess). “I’d I didn’t love you and care about our relationship, I would have just backed away and not said anything. I’m talking to you because I care. Saying nothing would have been easier, but probably ended our friendship.”

Being direct with people is hard, especially with people who matter. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Good luck with your friend.

Signed, *Amy Feld


*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.


Some prior relevant posts on The Friendship Blog:

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (5)

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  1. ang says:

    Hi Jasmine, I’ve had to deal with this problem. My husband’s longtime friend’s wife is very clingy over me and a mutual female friend. She’s very bossy and insecure, and it’s never enough with her. She doesn’t have many friends. We’re still friends but later on I’ve had to find ways to avoid talking to and seeing her as much, even if she doesn’t like it. I know this girl is one of your best friends, you can try to find ways to not always answer her phone calls or not see her as often. Pick and choose, but still be close with her, without having to answer to her as often. I hope you two can still be friends and that she can understand you needing space. Maybe she can try to find additional friends so that she’s not always relying on you. But good luck!

  2. Someone Who Has Been There and Back says:

    The thing about clingy people is this: they’re seeking to fill a void inside themselves with you. They’re always going to be emotionally hungry and any attention, affection, or affirmation you give them will never be enough. It’s important to look for red flags in people’s behavior that signal this toxicity. Here are some that I’ve learned:

    Idealizing your friendship: gushing about how amazing you are, using dramatic words like “soulmates”, saying that you complete them, this person is on cloud 9 and it will seem unnatural. I’m not talking about hints here or there of gratitude, I’m talking about over the top statements of praise, and they are hoping you’ll say these same things back to them.

    They’re always disappointed in other people. This is a big red flag and a foreshadowing of your friendship in the future. This is what happens when the clinger idealizes a person, adds expectation, and then are let down by this person. Anger results and the person who was once idealized is now demonized. It’s like the clinger has a wheel of fortune of disappointing people in her/his life, they spin the wheel and land on who they’re mad at this week.

    Their expectations are crazily unfair and don’t match the reality of who you are. Let’s say you are an introvert and need time some alone, the clinger will not even acknowledge or notice this about you, they will expect you to always be available to fulfill their needs. Your needs do not matter… Which brings me to the next flag….

    They don’t see you clearly. They don’t know what you want or how you feel (even if you tell them). They only see you as a provider of things they want. They project their thirst for love on you and in this way; you’re a big movie screen that they can project their own lonely movies on (where you’re the hero that saves them), and they will never see you underneath that screen.

    Learn to recognize these signs, they will serve you well and keep you from getting involved with a person who will drain you like a vampire and then angrily turn on you once you have nothing left and start to speak up for your boundaries. Clingers are not real friends, they can’t be because they don’t know how to be. They can’t be good friends until they solve their issues of self-centeredness and externalizing their pain and emptiness on other people.

  3. tanja says:

    When you are young, such as yourself, you may not be able to see the whole picture. Quite simple put, I would get clingy when I got a sense that a friend was pulling away. The friend did not pull away because I was clingy, there could have been other issues, I sensed it, became clingy and that became the excuse the friend used, when that was not the root cause at all. Now, when I was younger I was usually clingy with boyfriends that I felt were being a bit more distant than usual.

    Anyway, with my husband now, I am not and I never was clingy, I liked myself better. If people ask why I married him, I would say, for the first time, I never felt jealous or insecure, I trusted him completely and so did not call every single day, if he wanted to talk to other women, that was fine. I whole heartedly trusted him because he made me feel secure and loved no matter how often he called or talked to me in the beginning. The relationship was so easy, so natural. It is the same for friendship.

  4. Dionne says:

    I’d probably just decide how much I wanted to deal with her, then go ahead and only do that. For example, only twice per week, answering one phone call or text and one in-person visit.

    When she asks about it, just say you’ve got a lot going on and would rather wait to answer her until you get your other stuff out of the way and can give her your undivided attention. Don’t get dragged into any big explanations or cater to her clinginess.

    I don’t think it’s really anything for the two of you to work out together. After all, I’m sure she’s gotten the message by now that she’s bugging you knowing it does not stop her.

    You are in charge of how much contact you will have with her and her clinginess is something she will have to learn to handle on her own. If you stick with it, she will get used to it and fill in the void with other people and things. Good luck.

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