The biggest way we show our friends that we care is by being there for them in a crisis. To make yourself available for someone in their time of need is important. But we can’t always be a shoulder to cry on. After all, we have our own lives, jobs, and families to look after as well. Is what they’re asking of you too much? When you find yourself with someone who is overly needy, it’s tough to come up with a solution. You don’t want to hurt their feelings, but you need them to understand they can’t depend on you for everything. So what can you do?
Let them know you care. This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s effective. Tell that person how much they mean to you and how you hate to see them upset. Be sure to remind them of all you’ve done for them in the past (even name specific incidences), so that they know you’ve really been a true friend. This way, you’ll have solid evidence that you’re supportive and truly care about their well-being. This is important for the next steps.
Recognize when it’s too much. Sometimes, even after you communicate clearly about what you can and can’t offer that person, there’s no change. Or, it changes for the worst, they are angry at you and break off the relationship. Recognize that you are helping them by being direct. If you aren’t, you become an enabler. Andrea Bonior, an adjunct psychology professor at Georgetown University and author of “The Friendship Fix” encourages you to ask, “Are you helping the person sort of get on the path toward change, or are you just beating your head against a brick wall because they’re not doing anything about it?…at that point, it’s just a matter of being honest and setting boundaries.” You may not get positive feedback, but know that you have to do this for your (and even their) own good.
Set boundaries. If you are always trying to make that person feel better, you may start to feel isolated. Maybe you’re neglecting friends or your partner because you’re giving too much time to this one person. Before long, you will start to resent your friend. Figure out how much time you can actually give them and communicate that. Be honest and say that you simply can’t offer as much as they require. Suggest alternatives. If necessary, help them clarify what they need. Let them know you believe in them and have faith that they will work things out.
– Barbara Bent