• Resolving Problems

6 Strategies For Handling A Needy Friend

Published: September 10, 2021 | By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
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There’s a big difference between a needy friend and a friend-in-need

Friendship, by definition, is a mutually supportive relationship between two people. Yet no relationship – whether between
 friends, spouses, or lovers — is ever perfectly balanced or equal all the time.

At any point in time, one friend or the other may be on the giving or receiving end. In healthy relationships, things balance out over time — unless someone is dealing with a needy friend.

Of course, there’s a natural tendency to want to help out close friends whenever possible but it’s quite common that people find themselves dealing with friends who are more clingy, demanding, or dependent than they can handle. The friendship begins to feel like a liability with no way out, leaving them feeling beleaguered, frustrated, and sometimes, even angry.

Here are some strategies to help strike the right balance between being a good friend to a needy friend and maintaining your own emotional health and well-being:

1) Analyze the problem carefully

Get in touch with your own feelings and determine precisely why you are feeling the way you do.

  • Is it a specific demand from a needy friend that was excessive? One request after another?
  • A case of very high expectations coupled with a lack of appreciation?
  • Or do you feel like your friend is self-centered and never responds when you’re the one in need?

Because you are friends and good friendships are hard to find and maintain, the first step should always be soul-searching and thinking clearly about what has made you feel that your friend is weighing you down like a ball and chain — followed by a heart-to-heart with your friend, explaining that as much as you value the
friendship, you simply feel overwhelmed and/or unappreciated.

2) Define boundaries

When someone’s in the midst of a money crisis, for example, the person may see a friend as a buoy. You’ve picked up a few lunch checks and sent her kid a generous graduation gift but your divorced friend is asking you to loan her $3000 to meet next month’s mortgage payment. You are quite certain that she won’t ever be able to pay you back.

Whether it is a financial request or any other, use common sense, don’t extend yourself more than you want to — or can comfortably afford to. Tell your friend point-blank that you don’t mind helping out from time to time but she is asking too much, and you can’t be the one to bail her out of her money problems.

As another example, it could be that a needy friend who tries to usurp more of your time than you have available to share. She always wants you to entertain her and kill time together but you’re juggling the care of an aging parent with a demanding job.

You need to explicitly set limits to save the friendship. Tell her you can get together once a week but as much as you enjoy spending time with her, you have other responsibilities and need downtime alone, too. The point is that if you create comfortable boundaries, you won’t wind up feeling violated.

3) Be cautious about setting up unrealistic expectations at the onset

Do whatever you can to help needy friends but don’t be deluded into thinking you can be a savior. Some of us have a do-gooder mentality that encourages others to become dependent and discourages their self-growth.

Friendships work best among equals although two friends are never equal in every dimension. For example, your friend may respect your knowledge about practical matters but no one can make you laugh the way she can.

4) Just say no

It’s extremely difficult to say no to someone in need, especially a friend. We all want to be nurturing and supportive so it’s far easier to say yes. But if you think you are being asked to give too often or too much, you have the right and responsibility to politely turn the friend down. Good friendships should allow for this possibility because we can’t be all things to all people.

5) Take a step back

If you feel like a needy friend is too demanding, you may need to step back from the relationship in terms of either its frequency or intensity. Perhaps your friend is involved in a destructive relationship with a married guy. She’s poured her heart out to you over and over but fails to make any constructive change. Instead, she calls you constantly asking for support.

You may need to structure your time so you both participate in an activity (e.g. go to a movie) rather than hash out her problems all the time. There’s nothing wrong with telling her that YOU need a break from talking about the guy. If this doesn’t work, you may need to limit the time you spend together and fill the space with some less needy friends.
6) If you need to, break loose

Of course, there are times when any of us can have one — or a series — of overwhelming problems that make us needy. We want to be there for close friends when they need us, and want to be able to lean on them. We need friends to cheer our successes and reach out to us when we feel in despair. But there are limits.

If a friend is consistently draining your time and emotions and there’s never any payback, you may need to sever your ties. While disappointing, people who have reached this point in a friendship and who make changes often emerge happier, realizing in retrospect that the friendship was toxic and one-sided.

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Category: Needy friends, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (4)

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  1. R.J. says:

    Hi: Can say I’m confused: it says this article was written Sept 10, 2021 (just last year) and yet the dates of replies are 2014 & 2016….?? So I’m assuming it was either rewritten or perhaps edited last year (2021). No big deal, just something I noticed.

    At any rate, Irene, I absolutely love you! While I’ve never seen you on any TV shows, yet just from this blog alone, oh my goodness, you have helped me SO much!! And I thank you! I think I could easily be friends in real life with you, providing your dance card was not totally full (old school term) and providing you liked and enjoyed my company, too.

    This particular article really “speaks to me” and it’s such a keeper! Think I’ll print it out & read it often. I LOVE how you state there’s a BIG difference between a needy friend & a friend in need!!!! HOW TRUE!!!!!

    I’m afraid, with my giving tendencies, I tend to “attract” all the needy people out there!! Then, it’s a perpetual cycle: they end up expecting too much, I get bitter, angry, resentful…. I try to follow Biblical mandates to “love your neighbor, do good and share, take care of the urgent needs of the saints”, etc. [while it seems all others sit on their honches & do nothing…]
    Yet with my giving spirit & personality, there’s never been a time it hasn’t come back to bite me in the you-know-where! Then my giving turns into wanting to give up!! Easy to get paralyzed & trapped with others’ expectations!! (ONGOING I might add!) Then I coil up, simply needing some “down time” to regroup, except by then they’ve come to expect me to be at their beck & call!!

    Why is it that givers always get taken advantage of???

    Dr. does this make me co-dependent? Or is it the other side – the needy, clingy ones who are co-dependent? Is there a particular book you might recommend for people like me who tend to fall into that “ditch”….. of I’m tired of being in the full time helping people business!! Something to toughen my back bone with tough love to remind me that people were getting along just fine before I ventured into their lives (to seemingly solve all their problems!).

    Currently there’s a family in particular (neighbors & friends) DH & I have felt it our Christian duty (and honor) to help them … “substantially” I might add – and they have been very, VERY grateful. BUT….. then I was nearly cast overboard a week ago when they asked (under a veiled prayer request) that they’d like to go on vacation – a MAJOR vacation, except they don’t have the money!! That just went all over me!! They are expecting, (hoping anyway!) that WE would finance a trip for them!!! Goodness, I haven’t even been on vacation myself in many years!! Red flashing buzzer says that is OVER THE TOP!!!!!! We will help with basic every day things when we feel it’s right (but not if they’re using their own money on “extras” like karate lessons, gymnastic lessons for their kids)….. but a major vacation?? Thank you, NO!!

    I put it back on them – telling the mother who makes scant minimum wage & is the SOLE supporter of family of 5 – that perhaps it’d be best to wait and plan their vacation on down the road – that way SHE would have time to save for it!!!

    They think we’re like giant Santa Claus or something!! Give ’em an inch and they take 20 miles!!

    I always tell my DH that it’s one thing to give because WE want to – but all together different when someone asks, hopes, hints, or expects!! Then I put up a wall.

    If this is what codependency is – then I’m afraid I’m the POSTER CHILD!!!!

    I would so love to find/make friends approx.. my age who do not expect from me!! Where we can be on level playing field & enjoy each other just for the sake of enjoying each other. Why does it feel so difficult in today’s time to find such noble friends?

    Certainly I welcome suggestions and ideas! Every time I tell myself I am NOT going to “help” anyone this way again = different day, same cycle!! So here I find myself writing to you!

    • Irene says:

      Hi R.J.
      Thanks for your note and my apologies for any confusion. This blog has a treasure trove of posts that are still pertinent today. I’ve been trying to go through them, one-by-one, update them as necessary and republish them. That’s why you see old comments.
      It might be helpful for you to use the search function and look through some of the posts on SAYING NO. Many people have that problem but for friendships to be satisfying, they need to be balance, reciprocal, and can’t feel one-sided.
      Sometimes, when people are bereft of friendships or don’t have enough friends, they will do anything to sustain a friendship, even if it isn’t a very good one.
      Warm regards, Irene

  2. Doreen says:

    I’m a popular and perky girl. I like to flirt and enjoy getting flirted with by men and women but I am really insecure and I only have a few friends. I get jealous and I found out my one best friend thinks I’m too needy and clingy. Am I going to mess up our friendship?

  3. Therese says:

    Interesting article and I can certainly relate to it.

    I have a friend in need who has been living with me for a month now. Talk about overload. I have done some of the strategies you mention above and try to stand back where ever possible so she is not so dependent on me (like catching the bus instead of driving her everywhere) though its really uncomfortable. She drops hints about having to catch the bus constantly – I think so I will offer to drive her – I ignore her.

    She has no money, no car, nowhere else to go and I feel that if she stays with me, she may end up leaving in a body bag (joke there).

    Her only option is to sell her Villa in Bali Indonesia, pay out her debts (of which there are many) and begin again, but her balinese husband won’t agree to it.

    It may not end very prettily. I feel that she is asking more of me than I am prepared to give. I would love her to move out and get her own place, though she cannot afford that either. Now she wants to quit her job of one week!!! She is literally driving me nuts.

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