Feeling smothered by a friend

Published: August 9, 2011 | Last Updated: August 9, 2011 By | 6 Replies Continue Reading

It becomes uncomfortable for both friends when one wants to
spend more time together than the other. It can make one feel smothered and
the other feel rejected.



Dear Irene,

It seems my divorce has killed my friendship with a good friend, simply because
my life has changed.


My friend was never a true fan of my husband when I was married. My life was a
perfect scenario for her: She loved how available I was simply because I
didn’t spend a lot of time with my husband. He was always traveling and I
needed time off from being a mother when he finally came home. To be frank, I just
didn’t want to hang out with him. Needless to say, that marriage is over.

Now, a year and a half later, the BF that was supportive during the tough times when I was married has gone selfish on me. The first sign was she didn’t offer
to help pack when I was moving (although she admitted feeling guilty months
later). Then she felt threatened about where I had chosen to move to (closer to
family but still only 15 minutes away from her by car). And finally, once I
found a man who cares about me I began to receive subtle comments and guilt
trips that she never sees me anymore, we don’t hang out on weekends, etc..


During the marriage, my BF and I had a
lot of great talks, went shopping, drank wine and watched movies on weekends.
The friendship was great for both of us but has deteriorated. I’m a single mother with a
career, a new relationship, and I’m trying to rebuild my relationship with my
immediate family. All of this takes up my time.


It’s hard to hear her cry and her
husband tells me she simply misses me. What can I do? I feel smothered, judged,
and controlled and I’m truly trying to do my best for everyone in my life.

However, I find it ridiculous to feel so obligated to this friend. I have had
friends for years whom I don’t see and with whom it’s super easy to
reconnect. And there are others I see every couple of months and they have no
qualms about it. This friendship has grown apart and it’s very sad because we
had a lot of fun in the past. Should I say something?





Hi Laura,

A change in circumstances is the most
common reason why friendships fall apart. It may be that one friend goes to
college, one friend gets married, one friend is infertile, one friend is
unemployed –or one friend gets divorced. Of course, this doesn’t have to be
the case, but any major life change or transition has the potential to upset
the delicate equilibrium of a friendship.


It sounds like you’ve gotten out of a
bad marriage at the same time as you’ve moved and become a single mother.
Clearly, you have a lot on your plate right now. In addition, you’ve gotten involved
in a new romance, which can be  consuming of time and emotions.


You seem to be fond of your friend but
there’s been a recent mismatch between the two of you — in terms of how much time she wants
to spend with you and how much time you have to give. You must speak to
her and explain how you’re feeling just as you did in this note to me and set
some reasonable boundaries. Having
a long talk together will help you understand her point of view and will show her you still care about the
friendship. Hopefully, she will understand. At the same time, you need to understand how big a change this has been for her.

A big caveat: It’s a mistake to shrug
off a good friend simply because you’ve fallen in love. Perhaps, you can set a regular
time when you see each other that feels comfortable for you, even if it is
only once every few weeks for coffee or such. Or, perhaps you can go marketing
with your friend on Saturday mornings to catch up at the same time as you get some chores done.


Friends don’t substitute for lovers and
vice versa. Your life will be so much richer if you make some time for friendship,

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene


Other posts on The Friendship Blog
about dealing with smothering friends:


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Comments (6)

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  1. ginger says:

    I hear what you’re saying about letting go and turning to other friends thereby strengthening the relationships you have with them. I have done that, too. I’ve been more appreciative of and put extra effort in making my existing friendships work well. Interestingly, I also find myself being more tolerant of one-time issues such as a phone call not returned or a thank-you not stated. I try to focus on the whole now, more than I ever did before. I appreciate the fleetingness – and value – of friendship.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with you on this. So much time wasted on listening to people complain who refuse to do anything about it, and when you finally have had enough you put your foot down and say either do something about it or keep quiet about it …..then the friendship is over….Because you won’t listen to there sob stories anymore!! I had a friend for over 20 years who did the same thing to me, would call complaining but when I wanted to go out and do something together(Like have fun) she was to busy….but she had time to call and complain. Then she had the nerve to say I take thing to personal….I say get a tape recorder and start recording your complaints and before you know it you wouldn’t even want to hear yourself anymore!! LOL The friendship is over and has been but it was one sided, If I listened and keep quiet we would get along fine. I just couldn’t do it anymore…..

  3. Anonymous says:

    I guess I’m on the other end – I had a friend for almost 18 years and had a break up because, though I spent a lot of time listening to her troubles, she would not listen to me. When I tried to talk she would either discount my comments or would simply not listen at all – it was like what I said didn’t count. Also it seemed as though I had to be the “bad” one in the relationship, the one who drank smoked, and she was the superior one because of all the things she didn’t do. I spent time that could have been spent with my family listening to one way conversations. Now I have realized my family is number one, and stay away from people who call just to complain and drain energy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ginger — you’re not alone. Almost the same exact thing happened to me. My former best friend got met a guy, and within 6 months was engaged and married him 2 months after that. in the 9 months that she went from single woman to wife, our relationship grew distant. I talked to her, and she said she wanted to figure out her new married life, so I gave her time — over a year and a half, to be exact. But by the time 18 months had come and gone, we were more distant than ever. I reached out to her again to tell her I missed her, try to talk about the problems in our relationship and fix them; she replied and said she was “sorry” to hear how I felt, but didn’t want to revisit our issues and didn’t want to be friends anymore. It was hard letting go of her and our history, but that’s all we had left — history — that I was desperately trying to hold on to. She wasn’t the friend I knew before, and the friend who didn’t think our relationship was worth holding on to wasn’t any kind of friend to me. I think about her sometimes, but I’m getting used to life without her. I think, though, that if she did want to reignite the friendship, I would turn it down — if she could let go of our friendship so abruptly, it tells me she doesn’t value me as a friend (the way I want to be valued, anyway), in the first place. One thing I found, though, is that in letting go of her, I turned to my other friends and strengthened the relationships I have with them. Support and true friendship comes from the places and people you least expect sometimes!

  5. ginger says:

    I was very interested in reading the question and answer above. I could associate with the story. I felt like I was the “needy friend”. I was recently ditched by a friend, who I had been so close to before. She kept on distancing herself so I decided to ask her what was going on. At first, she said nothing. Then, she said that we were very different people and she didn’t want to be close friends anymore. That stung! We were different but we were also similar. I thought that was a lame excuse. I am one to try to work things out and, at the very least, talk about issues so I did just that. It turns out that she didn’t think we saw eye to eye anymore on our friendship (incl. phone calls, hanging out, etc.). I wanted to spend more time with her than she did with me. Interestingly, she was the one who wanted to spend lots of time with me after she broke up with her husband and subsequent boyfriends. Once we got close, I wanted to remain close and continue to spend as much time with her as I had in the past. Unfortunately, she changed. I have lots of friends that change and that doesn’t necessitate an end to the friendship but in her case, it did. I recently read about “attachment” styles and how different people have different attachment needs (i.e. secure, anxious, and avoidant). I’ve discovered that my former friend is “avoidant” and I’m “anxious”. She turns her head at the first sign of conflict and I try to get close to get the reassurance I need to know that we’re still good friends. That pushes her away even more…and then I try to get closer…etc. You can see that it’s an ongoing cycle. Anyway, I’ve come to terms – mostly – with the end of our friendship but part of me (the anxious part) hopes that our friendship will re-ignite sometime, somehow.

    • Sam says:

      Very interesting comment, I have been meaning to look into attachment theory after my hairdresser told me about it. You explained it very well, thank you. Makes perfect sense. Sounds like anxious or secure types would suite you best. I am curious to know what what I’d be catagorized as. When I date secure or anxious types things go smoother. I have recently dated avoidant types (like my father) and all three disasterous. My first boyfriend was anxious type and he rekindled relationship with me in college and later in life. I would have considered it, we match well, but he is too anxious and I just couldnt deal with it sometimes. He later married someone else also anxious type. I would like to learn more. Best of luck to you! You sound very thoughtful and like a good friend to have in one’s life. So consider it her loss. You will make other great friends, who do value you.

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