How to Deal With a Needy Friend

Whether it's your BFF, a co-worker or classmate, having a friend who seems to lean on you a little too much and too often can be frustrating and annoying. Not only is this kind of relationship unhealthy for you, it’s not doing your friend any favors either. How can you stop your friend from making you his/her one and only?


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    Determine if your buddy is truly too dependent on you. Some indicators of dependency may include:
    • During social situations, he/she likes to be absolutely stuck to your side. Do you go to a party together, but find that your friend won’t mingle with others and is in every single conversation with you the entire night? Or does he/she always assume that when you're going out, he/she is always part of the group (even if you only want to go out with people from work, for example)?
    • Your friend's decision making always has to involve your input. If you're being summoned to determine if (for example) the blue sweater or brown t-shirt is right for every evening, then your friend may be having trouble making decisions on his/her own and has come to rely too much on you stepping into the breach.
    • Your friend opts to spend time with you versus pursuing a romantic relationship. Has your friend turned down dates or other events to hang out with you? Or does your friend constantly need your approval and/or advice about romantic connections?
    • It seems that your friend requires a tremendous amount of your time on a daily basis. From lengthy phone calls to daily visits after work, you feel as if your friend is always “there” and you hardly have time to socialize with other friends and perhaps even with family members.
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    Change the dynamics of your relationship by mixing up your interactions. Perhaps the same old stale plans are turning the relationship into a co-dependent situation.
    • Make your own plans and encourage your friend to make plans with other people. If you're joined at the hip, it may be time to branch out and do activities with others. Make plans with a friend you’d been meaning to have lunch with for months and then suggest your friend reconnect with old friends or someone new at work, for example.
    • Mix up the schedule. If you hang out every Friday night, suggest instead having lunch on Sunday. If you get pushed back about not attending your usual Friday night gig, ask him/her if there’s a friend out there he/she had been meaning to do something with, but hasn’t had the time. Suggest that your friend invite the other friend out on Friday night.
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    Change your language. If you find that you are functioning too often as a “we”, create a verbal separation by talking about what you may be doing this weekend and ask what he/she has planned. Continue doing this instead of talking about what “we’ll” be doing, creating a distance and confirming for your friend that you don't see him/her as part of all your social plans.
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    Become busy at work or within your personal life. Without sounding rude, let your friend know you have a busy week at work or numerous appointments in the coming weeks. Your friend will have to find something else to do or someone else to hang out with if you are tied up.
    • Make genuine appointments and get items checked off your list. Don’t lie –– actually get those pesky appointments done. Not only will you help your friend find a little more independence, you’ll get some nagging appointments off your list.
    • Don't completely dodge your friend, but certainly don’t make yourself available. Take your friend’s calls, but cut down on phone time. Be polite and friendly – never be rude or curt in order to get your point across. However, make it clear that you need to get things done, and sometimes, just don't answer the call but let it go through to voicemail.
    • Consider taking only a few days to a week off from the relationship. Don’t go cold turkey and suddenly have no time for your friend for an entire month or longer. Plan a vacation with your family; it's the ultimate good excuse!
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    Make specific plans with your friend on a sporadic basis. If your friend is used to a revolving schedule, meaning that you're together nearly every day without making actual plans, talk to your friend about planning an evening together.
    • Let your friend know that your schedule has ramped up but that you would love to have lunch or dinner with him or her on Saturday night, for instance. Be clear that the date you have chosen is the only time you can meet and make sure he/she can meet you at that time and day.
    • Always make every date with your friend. Don't wimp out and cancel, reschedule and then forget, for example. Unless you'd prefer to completely lose the friendship (which actually may be your plan), stick to your plans and don’t jerk your friend around.
    • Find new activities to try with your friend. If your relationship centered on clubbing or seeing movies, mix up your typical meetings and instead go ice skating or go for a hike. If you move away from your friendship comfort zone, perhaps your friend can find new-found independence as well.
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    Learn to say no. No is a powerful word but sometimes it's hard to say, especially when it comes to a friendship. However, a friend who is not able to understand why you're not willing to do something or to spend every minute of your spare time with them is not a true friend. An emotionally draining friendship is not a rewarding experience. Hence, saying no to give yourself more space and to do the things you need to do without your friend hanging about is an essential part of weaning your friend off needing you so much.
    • Don't jump when your friend says "crisis" (when you know it's not). For some people, this is an easy way to prevent others from pulling away. You need to communicate with your friend that his or her inability to make plans, be more organized or work things out in advance is not a reason to turn their issues into an emergency requiring you to respond by dropping everything. Not reacting is sometimes the greatest kindness.
    • If you have a hard time saying no to needy people, or attract them too often when check whether you have codependency issues, where you need to be needed, otherwise you believe you are not good enough or worthy enough to have friends.
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    Determine if this is a friendship worth saving. Are you spending too much time trying to help your friend through life or come away from every encounter feeling exhausted and/or depressed? If this relationship has become toxic it may be time to cut ties. Consider your answers to the following:
    • Do you feel dragged down and depressed by this friend? If it’s constant doom and gloom emitting from this person, it may be time to suggest professional assistance. Your friend may be subconsciously using you as his or her therapist when instead he or she should be seeking true, professional help.
    • Is this a one-sided relationship? After a conversation with this friend do you feel as if you're simply there to listen –– he or she gets out whatever is on his or her mind and then hangs up the phone or leaves the conversation? If the relationship seems to be only about your friend’s issues and problems, it has become completely one-sided and most likely is not a true friendship.
    • Does your friend seem to never be happy or satisfied? Does your friend seek your counsel or advice but never seems to be able to achieve peace or resolve a conflict? Or does it appear that your friend thrives on stress and complaining about issues he/she never makes a move to resolve?
    • Does your friend make time for you when you are going through hard times or lend a shoulder to lean on?
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    Take it slow. Gradually put your plans in motion and hopefully, you'll be able to 'distance' yourself from your overly needy friend. Who knows, perhaps in the process, the friend may learn to stand up on his/her own two feet and lead a life with confidence. Whenever you feel overwhelmed though, recall the times he/she has been there for you. You're helping him/her as much as you're helping yourself. It is, after all, for the better. And in case you come up empty when recalling the times your friend has been there for you, well, that settles it, doesn't it? It proves that your friendship is but one-sided, giving you all the 'Go' sign you need to resolve this issue.


  • Understand that your friend’s dependence has nothing to do with you and that this is something your friend must work out on his or her own.
  • Consider introducing your friend to other people who may have something in common with your buddy. Doing so may take some of the emphasis off you and allow your friend to expand his or her horizons.
  • Demonstrate independent characteristics and/or actions when around your friend –– hopefully he or she will catch on and pick up on what you are doing.


  • If you love your friend, avoid being overly blunt or curt with regard to your feelings. Your friend may not realize he or she is being too clingy so tread softly when trying to loosen his or her grip.

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