• Resolving Problems

My best friend exhausts me!

Published: February 15, 2011 | Last Updated: February 15, 2017 By | 10 Replies Continue Reading


Hi Irene,

I have been best friends with this girl for 35 years. We are now both 42. She’s always had self-esteem issues and thought she was fat and ugly. She is a beautiful person and has a beautiful soul but her negativity and drama seem to be overshadowing all her good qualities. Last year, my boyfriend and I moved in together (just an FYI, she introduced us). Knowing from past experience she wouldn’t be happy for me, she was the last person I told and it turns out with good reason. When I told her, she said she’d lost her best friend, and I ruined everything because she is alone now.

She says my boyfriend is the only one I care about and I don’t talk to her anymore. Meanwhile, when I ask her to come over for dinner she tells me I’m doing it out of pity. On more than one occasion, she has tried to lie on me so I can stroke her hair like a child to comfort her while she cries. She literally cries that she is alone because she is fat and ugly (which she is neither) and that she misses her dog that she had to put down last year, and that she misses her boyfriend who treated her like garbage every second of the relationship. She tells me I’m not around anymore and that’s true in a way because I am trying very hard to bring positive things into my life and she drains all of my energy.

Years ago, yeah, I might have joined in the pity party with her, but I’ve grown and I don’t want to be that person anymore. Just today she emailed me saying she knows all I care about is my boyfriend and it’s okay because she’s used to being alone and she knows she’s just unlovable and fat and ugly and no one will ever love or want her. How do I respond?

I’m tired of trying to convince her that I do care for her; she’s like family to me. I don’t have the energy to constantly tell her she’s not fat and not ugly. I feel guilty because we’ve been so close for so many years and I want to help her but every time I try the tough love bit, she won’t speak to me or she tells me I just don’t care about her anymore. Now she is out of work and the other day I mentioned I was going out with some friends from work. She was annoyed because how could I actually go out and do something while she was home alone and out of work.

I know this post seems all over the place, it’s because there are years of situations that I could reference. I’m just exhausted and the thought of losing such a long time friendship is heartbreaking, but I cannot put everything I have worked on for my own self-image and positive outlook at risk. I’m at a loss.

Signed, Exhausted


Dear Exhausted,

I’m not surprised you feel so drained. You’re having a hard time setting boundaries and your friend simply doesn’t have a clue about where you end and she begins. It sounds like she is so needy, dependent, and self-loathing that she can only think of herself. No matter how much you try to comfort her, you won’t be able to fix what’s broken on your own. If your best friend isn’t happy for your happiness and successes, you have to question whether she’s really able to be a good friend at this time.

It’s always hard to let go or back off from such a long-standing friendship. But while your friendship was once satisfying, it doesn’t seem to be that way now (for either of you). You can’t allow your friend to take you down with her. You also need to be mindful of and nurture your relationship with your fiancé. Talk to your friend when you both are relaxed and tell her that you really care about her but she needs to speak to a mental health professional because she is so down on herself. If she is unwilling to listen to you, can you speak to one of her relatives and express your concern?

Tell your friend that you will continue to be supportive but her problems are more than you (and she) can handle on your own. Set clear boundaries regarding how often and what you’ll do when you’re together. Spend your time together doing things you both enjoy rather than allowing her to wallow in her misery.

I think you are headed in the right direction. Stay strong.

Best, Irene

Other posts about needy friends on The Friendship Blog:

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Comments (10)

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  1. Tracy says:

    This person is manipulating you. She may not relaize it that. She is trying to lay guilt where it doesn’t belong. One person cannot be everything to another. All her eggs are in one basket (which is so unfair to you) and she is looking for validation for her existence from you.
    Is there a way you can suggest therapy?
    I have been in both sides of this fence and therapy has helped so much that I too am no longer the needy friend or the one who is depended on to the point of exhaustion.

    Good luck. Setting boundaries can be tricky and awkward but is worth your sanity.

  2. Anonymous says:

    But it does have negative consequences. And I think you judged a little harshly the point of the comment. Maybe it’s personally touching you but someone who is 42 years old and engages in this behavior is harming themselves and others. The loving thing to do is to not ENABLE this self-destructive behavior through proper boundaries and encouraging the person to get mental health.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “pity party” . . . “going on and on” . . .”not facing it.’ Man, that is COLD. Icy icy cold. Of course it is not the friend’s responsbility to help her friend solve her “deep issues.” Or course the friend has to set boundaries, perhaps not hang out with her friend too much. But using these terms really do minimize and trivialize the friend’s problems. No one WANTS to be the way her friend is. The fact that she “is 42 and still going on and on” doesn’t mean she is deliberately “choosing” to be this way. I would strongly recommend that people stop trivializing another person’s problems as a mere “pity party.” Let’s retire that term when it comes to thinking about people’s emotional problems. It shows a lack of compassion and undrstanding and the friend will detect this attitude.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am that friend who has given her all to help a friend through a messy divorce.. and l am so burnt out that l had to get therapy for myself. It took everything and has left me emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. I could not enjoy life just like her- both broken. I realized l was an enabler, she knew how to manipulate my heart strings. Suggestions made to reach out for help were rejected, my boundaries never respected,only to guilt tripping me into continuing on. -complaining l was abandoning her just like everyone else.. made me stay around and endure some more, going on 1 1/2 years now . A total disservice. You have to live it to really know how difficult it is.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow this is very poignant comment and very good advice.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dear Exhausted – Life has lots of challenges. You have to preserve some of your energy for yourself so you can deal with those challenges. Even the positive ones take energy.

    Your friend is full to the brim with negative self talk. She’s the only one that can change the script … with professional help. You can’t do it for her, nor can a therapist. So don’t continue exhausting yourself by trying to accomplish the impossible. Only she can make the necessary changes.

    I’d recommend taking a break for yourself, and then decide whether you can be supportive. Exhaustion – physical and emotional – should be taken seriously.

    If she’s willing, and you have the energy – you might offer to go with her to the first appointment. Your input will help the therapist and the environment may help her hear your message. Then take a break knowing you’ve done everything you could. But don’t do the guilt trip thing on yourself if you can’t!

    Take care.

  6. Fran17 says:

    I can identify with your friend in many ways as I feel ugly, fat and also boring, but I am in therapy and am hoping to change my self image. Your friend does need therapy. Her problems are too much for you to handle. She needs expert help. Don’ t feel guilty as there comes a time in everyone’s life where they need to put their own needs first.

  7. Irene says:

    Thanks for weighing in with your advice!



  8. Laura says:

    She needs to hear it from you, the friend that has put up with her all this time, that she needs to go to therapy. She’s been like this all of her life. The fact that she is 42 and is still going on and on about being fat and ugly is a sign that she has deep issues. Friendships aren’t going to solve them. I would be supportive of her if it’s going to take her to the therapist and make it clear that her long-time negative outlook is what is the problem and that not facing it is what’s hurting her in the long run. But I wouldn’t hang out with her and listen to her pity party. Put up those boundaries now. Just because she doesn’t want to move on and let you have a life isn’t a reason to expose yourself to negativity that hurts you. Sometimes the most helpful thing for a person might be what seemingly is the most painful thing to them initially.

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