Needy Friends? Friendship is one of life’s most precious gifts. Friendship is satisfying relationship shared by two people who care about each other, trust each other, and only want the best for each other. A good friendship is honest, loyal, and true; good friends understand and accept one another in ways that no one else can.
A healthy friendship benefits both parties. It is encouraging, supportive, and reassuring in good and bad times. Friends see each other through the best and worst of times, and the relationship remains positive and enjoyable throughout. Friends make us laugh and feel good about ourselves; they enrich our lives.
Sometimes a healthy, energizing friendship can become weighty and oppressive; the needy friends scale begins to tip in one direction and never returns to zero. Being together is no longer enjoyable—nearly every encounter is depressing. But your friend has always been there for you, and you feel obligated to be there for him or her now. The issue is that your debt never appears to be paid off.
Consider the following questions to determine whether or not you have an emotionally needy friend
- Does your friend repeatedly make the same mistakes or choose one destructive relationship after another?
- Does your friend feel better after dumping on you, but you feel worse?
- Does your friend appear to be unhappy despite all of your assistance?
- Do you help your friend more than he or she helps you?
- Does your friend seem uninterested in your life or problems?
- Does your friend dominate every phone call or interaction with his or her problems?
- Do you feel suffocated by your friendship?
- Do you look forward to seeing your friend, or does each encounter leave you feeling drained and exhausted?
- Do you wish you could avoid your friend’s company?
You’re probably a good listener who wants to be a good friend—you want to be there for your friend no matter what. It’s understandable. However, be clear on what it means to be a good friend and to be supportive.
A healthy friendship is reciprocal and balanced; it necessitates equal parts give and take, time and effort. Good friends serve as sounding boards for each other; issues are bounced back and forth rather than being absorbed. A friendship is not the same thing as a therapist-patient relationship.
In a healthy friendship, the exchange of support should lead to personal growth rather than emotional dependency. Giving a friend a hand up, not a hand out, is what it means to support them. A good friend will appreciate your thoughtful and generous efforts rather than taking advantage of them and becoming dependent on you. A good friend values you and does not want to be a burden to you.
Why do you keep yourself in an unhealthy friendship? Ask yourself the following questions
- Do you feel guilty saying no?
- Do you take on other people’s problems to divert attention away from your own?
- Is your friend occasionally entertaining, so you can justify him or her being a downer the other 90% of the time?
- Do you consider yourself to be the glue that holds people together?
- Do you require or prefer to be needed?
- Is a needy friend preferable to no friend at all?
- Do you consider other people’s problems to be more pressing than your own?
- Do you struggle to define and protect your personal boundaries?
- Do you believe you are unworthy of healthy relationships?
If your friend has been needy for a long time and the imbalance has become a pattern in your relationship, changing the nature of your friendship will be extremely difficult.
Your friend may have chased away all other friendships, and you may be the only one left, but that is not your problem—people must learn to stand on their own two feet. You should never do something for someone else that they are capable of doing for themselves. We should strive to make our friends stronger and more self-sufficient, rather than weaker and more reliant. Tough love is sometimes required.
There are various approaches to dealing with a needy friend. Here are a few ideas
- Be truthful. Tell your friend about your problems and how they are affecting you. Explain that you are unable to play that role any longer.
- Modify the character of your relationship. Set limits and know when to say no.
- Arrange enjoyable activities with your friend to divert their attention. When the fun is over, the time spent together should come to an end. Do not end every friendly interaction by listening to their problems.
- Suggest that the person make new friends, join clubs, or volunteer to relieve some of the pressure on you. It is unreasonable for friends to expect you to be their sole and exclusive companion.
- Inform your friend that you must prioritize your own and/or your family’s needs.
- Take a break from your friendship. You deserve to take a break and to enjoy your life.
- Keep yourself occupied. Make plans, make commitments, and spend time with other friends.
- Gradually withdraw from the friendship by spending less and less time with the individual.
- Suggest to your friend that he or she seek professional help. If your friend is already seeing a therapist and isn’t getting better, insist that he or she find another.
- Suggest that the individual see a doctor who can conduct a thorough evaluation and, if necessary, prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication.
- If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, it’s time to call it quits on the friendship.
If you are in an unbalanced relationship with a needy friend, there is no better time than the present to make things right. Your efforts will benefit both of you. If you have a pattern of attracting and maintaining these types of friendships, it is time to look inward and figure out why you find them acceptable. It is not healthy behavior, and it frequently indicates a larger problem.