How to shake a clingy friend

Published: August 9, 2009 | Last Updated: August 9, 2009 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

My friend and I have known each other since high school. We went to college together and I was in her wedding. We both were in the same phases of life at the same time (engaged, newly married, etc.). I enjoyed having someone to talk to about these things since many of my friends aren’t married or even in relationships.

In high school, my friend never seemed happy unless she "bettered" me in some way. This died out once we reached college. However, when I got engaged, she began pressuring her then-boyfriend to get engaged as well. For a while, she and her now husband were our go-to couple friends. After a while, I began to feel that she was using us as her excuse to make her husband stop playing video games (his only hobby) and get out and do what she wanted to do.

A friend of ours began hanging out with the four of us. Then they began hanging out with him without us—talking about whatever they had done when we weren’t around, interjecting memories about a dinner together or movie they saw, with no real reason other than to mention that he hung out with them, without us.

This wouldn’t bother me if I hadn’t gone through this with her in high school. I thought we were grownups and well past anything like that. We began looking for a house about six months ago, and so did they. When we bought one, she was jealous but cloaked it with fake congratulations and feigned interest in every detail of the house. They bought a house a month later in the same subdivision. They are impossible to shake.

I feel as though her "friendship" is poison, making me the self-conscious, anxious teenager I was in high school. I don’t like living this competition. I’m not looking to be lifelong friends with them, so how do I break it off now that they have infiltrated every one of our social circles and our neighborhood?



Dear Molly,

Since you’ve decided you want out of this friendship, you need to act that way: If she wants to get together, make yourself less available both as an individual and as a couple. When she invites you for another round of competition, say something like, “I have so much to catch up on…” or “We’ve been so busy with….”

Above all, don’t initiate contact with her. Apart from shared history, your life and that of your high school friend are now interwoven by geography and common friends so it would be better to drift apart rather than make your distaste for her explicit. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable each time you see her (or make your circle of mutual friends uncomfortable). It may turn out that your children-to-be attend the same grade at the same school!

If you are consistent in your behavior, hopefully she will get the message that you are backing off. When you see her, simply say hello and acknowledge her with a smile but don’t go any further.

Unfortunately, it sounds like your friend’s one upmanship is an enduring personality trait that stems from her own insecurities so it isn’t likely to change. All you can do is change your own behavior.

My best,


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Steve Pavlina wrote a really insightful article about how to stop complaining, so if your friend is still like this you could pass it along to her.

    Or you could be honest and say “marge, what happens between you and bob is your thing, so I wish you all the best with our situation and feel I am not helping you by listening to chronic complaining about him” or something along those lines.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear Irene,

    I’ve been friends with someone now for over two decades. She’s intelligent, a good person and very honest, but since her first marriage fell apart and she remarried, all she does is complain about her current spouse. I tried asking her what she’s going to do about this. She said she doesn’t know. It’s gotten to the point where I dread seeing her because she just keeps talking about how her husband is unemployed, unromantic and always arguing with her.

    I feel sorry for her, but I’ve been avoiding her since she seems to be in a tape-loop when it comes to understanding that she needs to either do something about her marriage or leave it.

    Do you have any suggestions for getting someone to stop complaining?


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