• Keeping Friends

Self-centered friends with hefty needs

Published: August 31, 2008 | Last Updated: April 9, 2016 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
On dealing with a needy, self-centered friend…

One of the most popular posts on my blog has been one on the topic of needy friends. An anonymous poster recently wrote about her “friend,” whom her husband labels as an “emotional vampire” who is sucking away all her energy. Read on…


Dear Irene,

This site has been a real help to me. As a woman I think we gear ourselves to try and help those around us. I am in the middle of a relationship with a ‘needy’ friend.

Her husband is never good enough (tho he tries!) Always yelling at her children (tho they try!) and complaining to me all the while. The kind of person who ALWAYS asks for some sort of favor when you see them, childcare, to borrow stuff etc.. She asked if she could store around 2 bags of yarn in my garage and showed up with twenty 30-gallon garbage bags full.

It’s causing stress between my husband and myself (we typically have a great relationship) and my children. If I don’t answer her phone calls (there are MANY during the day) she usually shows up at my house. My husband calls her an emotional vampire who is sucking all my energy away. I have started saying no to her (the last favor she asked of me, when I said I didn’t have time she started to yell!) but I stuck to it and will try to continue to do so. It’s hard though- because I have to see her at the kids school- but I just need to stay strong and do what’s best for my family first.

Signed, Anonymous



You haven’t expressed anything positive about your friendship with her but even assuming there is, it sounds like you need to set some boundaries and stick to them! It’s great that you recognize your own priorities and there’s nothing wrong with telling her that you like your privacy and feel uncomfortable when anyone pops in unexpected. Multiple phone calls are too much if you feel like they are too much.

I understand the potential discomfort of bumping into her at your kids’ school but if you handle it calmly and graciously, without attacking or blaming her, you’ll establish some needed distance. On the other hand, she sounds so self-centered that she might not even notice the change in her relationship with you and will decide to pounce on easier prey.

Good luck and let us know what happens.

Best, Irene

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Comments (4)

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  1. LaurenM says:

    Thanks to Irene for giving such wise and practical advice, as always. And thanks to Sophie for the excellent analogy regarding the solar energy and our own precious personal and emotional energy. This is both enlightening and also very down to earth.

    Kudos to Irene for providing such a great website which is a unique interactive font of wisdom given freely to all of us.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is a very good analogy on the concept of energy, thank you for posting 🙂

  3. Irene says:


    Thanks for always chiming in and making things so clear with your wonderful analogies and clear-thinking,

    I love the idea of thinking of a toxic friend as someone who completely saps your energy to th extent that it becomes deadly. Why should anyone allow that to happen to her?

    Thanks for posting.



  4. Sophie says:

    She sounds like a bully to me. And abusive.

    Irene is right on the money, as always (I followed advice you gave me recently, Irene, and it’s helped), but I’d also like to share a way of thinking I’ve recently learned –it’s all about energy. The person who taught me, a therapist and meditation coach, lives off the grid, in a house with solar energy. Therefore, she has to think about how much energy she uses for what. For example, if she uses a hair dryer, she can’t run the washing machine that day because she won’t have enough stored energy.

    We are the same. We have only so much energy, some people and activities suck our energy, some people give us energy. But we have to decide where we invest it.

    </p.I have stopped investing energy in people and activities that don't deserve it or give back. I think about it in very literal terms. When I feel myself directing energy outwards, I take a moment to decide if that is what I want to do, or if I would prefer to retreat and protect my energy for other purposes.

    Your friend yells? Let her turn blue. It’s not your problem. Protect your energy for yourself, your husband and children and friends who deserve it. As Irene says, your “friend” will eventually drift off to suck the life force from someone else.

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