• Keeping Friends

I am the needy friend!

October 21, 2014 | By | 14 Replies Continue Reading
A woman is frustrated and feels like “the needy friend” because of the boundaries set by her friend.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I looked through this blog and found lots of advice about how to handle needy friends – but not very much advice for the friend who feels needy. I am the needy friend.

I am an only child and moved very often as a child. As a result, friendship is of paramount importance in my life. Many of my friendships have had the qualities of close relationships, in that we may see or talk to each other every day, live together as roommates, take trips together, start businesses together, make art together etc.

I like to have friends in my neighborhood who feel comfortable stopping by on their way home, having dinner together, even running errands together. In short, they are very active friendships – and I have many of them.

For the past ten years, I have had one friendship that means a great deal to me. I would make her my maid of honor. This girl has always been different from my other friends in that she is very formal and has very defined boundaries. She would never stop by unannounced, and if she ever does, she seems very uncomfortable.

When we make plans to go to the beach, there are a thousands of formalities to go through before we get to the actual point (things like she doesn’t realize I would love to drive her there; she thinks it would be a burden so she’d rather meet me there, etc.).

I recognize that I am encroaching on her boundaries – even by offering to drive her to the beach. The truth is it irritates me that she has such stringent boundaries – I think life is short and I want to know people. I want to have the time for real conversations to develop, for humor and ideas to flow. I want to help and to be helped, to be there for each other.

She has expressed many times that I mean a lot to her. She means the world to me. I always consult her on big decisions – her words always ring in my ears even years later. When we do get together it’s always nice – even though it really is just for an hour every few months. Oh, and that hour is always very constrained – by her, she is very busy.

My question is: Is the person who has set up these boundaries always correct? What if I feel constantly irritated at the slight nature of our actual physical friendship? Even though great declarations are made between us, the reality is not enough for me.

Do my feelings count – or is it always the person with boundaries who has the upper hand? And on a related but different note – how do I make new friends who have similar ideas about boundaries to me?

Signed, Stella

ANSWER

Hi Stella,

You seem to make friends easily and that truly is a gift. It’s not surprising because you sound sensitive and responsive to the people who become your friends. I would hardly characterize you as needy.

However, this particular relationship sounds frustrating because you and your friend have such different styles. In response to the questions you’ve raised:

  • Of course, your feelings count.
  •  Yes, the boundaries your friend creates are correct for her.

Although it would be nice if your friend were more open and spontaneous like you, she brings so much to the friendship that you consider her the one person that you would choose as your maid-of-honor. That says a lot.

Clearly, you have decided it’s a friendship worth keeping in spite of how you feel at times. And if your friend hasn’t changed her stripes in ten years, it is unlikely she will. I realize that this may be frustrating but her personality is part of her just like the shape of her nose or her height. It may be inborn, the way she was raised, or a combination of the two. It’s not a question of her having the “upper hand;” some people require more privacy and aloneness than others.

You could try tinkering around the edges a little bit and I imagine you have: Like letting her know that you welcome driving her to the beach if she seems reluctant. But my suspicion is that if you try to change her too much, you may risk losing the friendship.

It’s too bad your friend can’t offer you “the whole enchilada” but perhaps you can look to some of your other friends for the quality time, closeness and spontaneity missing from this friendship. If you find yourself getting too irritated with her too often, you may want to set your own limits on how often and under what circumstances you see this friend.

Hope this helps a little.

My best, Irene

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Category: Creating and maintaining boundaries, KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (14)

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  1. Martha Stefanski says:

    My 2nd visit with a new Theraphist, he says he is frustrated with me, that I had no concept of time in our meeting; that I am so needy.
    At the end of session we had “now time”. I answered how I felt about the session; him. Then he told me, saying the above.
    I am needy. Look at my diagnosis. Too soon for this comment from him, he has not earned the trust, the right.
    I am a mess.
    I don’t think I can go back but I have to tell someone why.
    There is no clock in the room. His cell phone went off but was it his alarm?
    I am there for treatment Chronic Depression; PTSD childhood related.
    Goal is EMDR therapy; he is suppose to be trained, certified; experienced.
    My next appt is this Wed 27 May 2015 at 4 pm.

  2. Barbara says:

    Boy am I glad to have seen your post as I could have written it myself.

    Like you, my friendships tend to be open and casual. However I made friends with the mom of my daughter’s BFF, who establishes boundaries that to me are ridiculous, and have left me hurt after feeling one too many times that I’m getting brushed off.

    For example, just carpooling with our girls seems to be too much for her, when we live just down the street from each other and are going to the same event. And it bothers me that I feel needy, when really, it’s so silly to drive 15 miles in separate cars.

    I feel I’m friendly and open, and a supportive friend, but this doesn’t seem to be appreciated. Despite the fact that when we are together we have fun and she confides in me, I’m really over feeling that most of the time I’m being kept at an arm’s length distance.

    Finally, I’m mourning the loss of a friend that treats me like I’m unimportant, and it bothers me that I’m so hurt. When yet again this friend turned down an invitation to have dinner at my house, yet was open to meeting at her own house, I mentioned that it had been a long time since we hung out at my house, and that when I extend the invitation it doesn’t seem to work out. This was in an email that she didn’t bother to respond to.

    Sadly her lack of a response is actually quite telling. I just hope this friction doesn’t bleed into our daughters’ friendship.

  3. Lonely says:

    I tend to be the needy one too. I am not sure that my friend even cares most of the time. She claims just because she doesn’t make an effort doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. I don’t think just hitting like on my fb post is really putting effort into the friendship. I wish she would at least text/email hi or something.

    I lost all my close friends due to a fall out with a close friend a 1 1/2 years ago. I have tried to reconcile with them and they won’t even speak. It isn’t her problem and she was there for me when the fallout happen. Yet, know I feel she is abandoning me also. It is not fair to feel something is wrong with me when honestly I think she is just a lazy friend. She told me something it takes her 6 months to respond to emails. It is only hurting me though if I don’t initiate because then I just wait and wait to be remember or noticed. When I do initiate a text or an email she may or may not respond if I say something negative, mention my still current heartache of old friends or something it is positive. I did finally say why do you ignore me. She said I didn’t ignore it I just chose not to respond. She knows I won’t just walk away from the friendship but does she even care. I think any decent friend would send a text, email or something after a few weeks of silence. I am not silent because I am giving silent treatment. I just find it very disheartening that I have to initiate everything and then half the time she doesn’t respond. Yes, I need other friends but I have tried everyone I know and tried to make a few new. I guess I am still reeling from the rejection of the close friends and feel maybe I am not good enough to be loved or hung out with. I am an extrovert, whose love language is quality time and ESFP. So, I am not trying to be needy. I just want to be a part of my friends or “friends” lives.

    • Jacey says:

      Hi, I just want to say kaybe your friend feels insecure about your friendship. I mean, my best friend has expressed to me that she feels frustrated that she always has to initiate things between us, but in all honesty, half the time I am terrified of being rejected.You see, she’s pretty popular among many people and she seems so close to so many people and even though she has sworn that I will always be her best friend, I get so scared sometimes. I believe her but at times I feel so doubtful. She means the world to me and it breaks my heart when she seems so close to people, especially if it is people that I have not been on good terms with There are still times when she and I do not speak for weeks at times due to these problems but we both know that we are both holding our breaths and are very scared of how our friendship will end up. She states that she feels like she is the needy one and yet…I feel like I am much more needy, especially when I feel insanely jealous whenever she talks to someone else and they seem like best friends instead. When these things happen, I feel lonely and insecure.

      • Lonely says:

        Jacey,

        You might be right. I hope you work everything out with your friend. I am sorry you feel sad and lonely. I understand both feelings.

  4. Luella Nicholson says:

    Hello
    I am not a needy person but I can be counted on
    to always be there to wish you a really good day.

    Sincerely,
    Luella

  5. Amy Anne Jones says:

    Stella – I think we must have this in common! I can be needy sometimes and my friend is so much the opposite I can;t tell why we have this connection, but I thnk we really do. But it is an endless problem for me that she is more distant than I want and I always want more. Yet we continue to work through the problems. Best wishes to you!

  6. Maddie says:

    You don’t seem overly needy to me.

  7. Ruth says:

    Your friend reminds me of me. I grew up in a home where it was taught to not be a burden to anyone nor cause anyone to go out of their way.

    Part of this includes not staying at someone’s home for long because they may have other plans they have not shared with you, or they may need to do other things after I leave so it would be selfish of me to suck up their whole evening, afternoon or day.

    Sometimes I would rather meet someone at an agreed upon place because I don’t want them to go out of their way; if they say they don’t mind, they are just being nice to me. As you can tell these messages are pretty programmed in my brain.

    Now that I’m grown I acknowledge that I use these boundaries to control the potential for being burned in a friendship.

    Key word = control

    I think your friend is very blessed to have such a loyal friend as yourself. You sound like an amazing friend. My advice is to continue to accept her where she is with all her boundaries. Does she have many friends? She needs you, and she needs to know you accept her where she is with all her quirks. If she is like me, if you pressure me, I’m gone. I can only give “this” much, and no more.

    That being said I do have one friend that is even worse than I am at this. I love her dearly but have learned that she will not give up her precious little free time to spend with me unless it’s a lunch hour from work. When we are together she is frank and open about very intimate details so I know she trusts me. And she tells me she loves me almost every conversation. While I would love more time with her, her husband is very needy and she must reserve her mental and emotional energy for him. I choose to accept this situation, and to not be a burden to her by requiring more than she can freely give.

    Also one thing that comes to mind is I am a classic introvert. If your friend is also, and you are an extrovert, trust me, it’s not just you she does this to….the best way for me to explain an introvert is that an introvert has only so much “social energy” and the more that “social energy” is drained (like a cell phone battery) the worse the introvert feels. We must find our “safe place” quickly or risk snapping at people or being rude to people with no reason or no call at all. We are very self aware of this, and I for one consider it a deficit on my part. I wish I could handle more socializing but I can’t.

    Thank you for pouring yourself into this relationship. She truly does need you and your love and friendship. The fact she verbally acknowledges her gratitude and appreciation pretty much says it all.

  8. Lynn says:

    I really like Amy’s response — and I often remind myself to treasure the truest and most amiable friends I have whenever someone in my social circle disappoints me in some way.

    Over the years you learn that people are truly individual, and that the “chemistry” we have with one friend might be missing from another. That just means that each friendship is different, and it’s natural that some will be stronger than others.

    There’s another thread on this great site about reciprocity that relates to this issue. I used to get hurt, miffed, or offended when a few of my friends didn’t reciprocate after I invited them over for dinner or to several parties in my home. It took me years to learn that some friends simply don’t enjoy entertaining in their homes, or they don’t like to cook dinner. These friends might show their appreciation in different ways, or do other special things for me. (If the relationships were truly “one-sided,” and some were, I cut the cord and let them drift.

    But I think it is important to consider that everyone has their own style and comfort level when it comes to friendship. And this can vary from time to time, depending on what is going on in each person’s life.

  9. Patricia says:

    Hey Stella,
    I do whole heartily agree with Irene. But would like to add my little point of view.
    As Irene has commented, it seems that you have a great circle of friends which you seem to spend quality time with – and that my friend is fantastic because as you probably have read on some of these post, there are a lot of women out there that are lonely and friendless. So you are very fortunate that you are definitely ahead of the game. And i believe that you should concentrate more on their friendship.
    As for your boundary friend – treasure her and your time together always. As you care about her so much, accept her as she is and do not read into anything. She may have a different way of dealing with life and friendships. It sounds like you care very much about this person and it would be a shame to lose a friendship because she doesn’t act like you do.
    You are blessed with all the friendships that you have in life. Continue being who you are and try not to put to much expectations to this one beloved friend.
    Patricia

  10. Amy F says:

    Great that you have the insight to recognize your neediness. The default boundaries in a relationship must be the person with the strongest boundaries. With this friend you’ve got to decide if her friendship is worth the uncomfortableness you feel wanting more. From your letter I get the sense that she is, but only you can decide that. If what she is willing/able to offer will never be enough for you, can you live with that?

    Ask yourself whether your frustration comes from wanting more, from feeling insecure, from disliking boundaries or a combination of these and other things. Your response will tell you more about you than hurt.

    I know with some of my relationships I set stronger boundaries than others, and often that has little to do with how much I care for the friend. I can only take one of my friends in very small doses, she’s too exhausting. I’m glad she’s my friend, but if we spent more time together, she might not be. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the friend, it’s about my level of comfort. She has other friends who she sees and talks to more so their boundaries might be more compatible.

    As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized life is far less enjoyable when i ruminate about what I wish I had instead of being content and grateful for all the people I have.

    • Leone7 says:

      So agree with this. Have been through many friendship journeys and learned, first and foremost, to ask myself “Is this a healthy friendship?” Usually when I start asking myself a lot of other “But, why?” questions, it’s a signal of change.

      I no longer “explain away” things that are just unpleasant for me in the friendship. I address it in a kind way, we reach and understanding, and the friendship progresses. The other option is: Someone is sort of moved to an outer rung…still there, still nice to be with, but not my inner circle. They may have reacted badly to an exchange to get there, or I just did it on my own for my own comfort.

      I have been on the greater giving and the greater receiving end. I have been the person to whom friends tell all their drama. It used to never bother me…I could listen endlessly. Then, after a life-altering event: Less patience. I required friends where there was more reciprocity. Overall, I have found that people range in their capacities to receive (this and other information and experiences) – which is why boundaries are set up in the first place.

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