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Dealing with Needy Friends

09/17/2012

My boyfriend is a nice guy. He’s sweet and he will bend over backwards for you if you just ask him. Unfortunately for him, he somehow manages to attrack friends who take advantage of him. They aren’t bad people necessarily, but they tend to ask a lot more of my boyfriend than they do anyone else.

The main problem I see in this is that my boyfriend has trouble with boundaries. He does anything his parents ask and asks for nothing in return. In the past year alone he has helped one friend move twice, and now this same friend is asking for my boyfriend to bring him a tie for his first week of work, because a tie is part of the workforce dress code. I am having issues with this, because my boyfriend has already decided that he isn’t going to help this friend move anymore, and as little as this single thing is, it is not respecting the boundary that my boyfriend is trying to erect.

The thing you need to know with boundaries is that you are the one who needs to maintain them. There are things you are willing to do with your friends, and there are things you are not willing to do with them. Those are your decisions, and it is completely okay for you to enforce them. It just means that you have to get used to saying the big “NO.”

Now, don’t be afraid to say no! A needy friend will try to get you to change your answer by arguing. “Why can’t you give me a tie? You have one, don’t you?” to which you should say, “Yes, I have one. Why don’t you?” If they try to turn it on you, then you can turn it back on them. Just… try to turn it back with something they can’t argue about. A big fat “I don’t want to” is usually hard to argue with.

But why should you erect such boundaries? Well, you don’t want to be used. If you keep giving all the time, eventually you run out of things to give away. It works with possessions, with time, with energy, and with spirit. This friend of my boyfriend is a bottomless pit of need. He can’t keep a job or an apartment, he has bad luck on romance, and he doesn’t have a car. He also refuses to go to school, have a good long insightful look into why he can’t keep a job, and he keeps losing his apartments because he loses his jobs. He isn’t a bad person, but there are a lot of things he can do to make his life a lot better that he just doesn’t do. it isn’t my boyfriend’s job to do it for him.

What boundaries should you keep erected? Sometimes a friend truly needs help. The problem is, with needy people you give an inch and they take a mile. They may not even realize they’re doing it. It may not be their intent. At first, do not do anything on the list of things you will not do for that person and stick to your guns. Eventually, once they realize that you won’t do those things for them anymore, if they truly need something, then you may give it to them. By then they will recognize it as the kindness it is meant to be and not their right as they want it to be.

For example, another friend of my boyfriend’s (this one a girl with a whole boatload of other issues) always expected my boyfriend to buy her food if they went out to eat. They were taking some dance classes together, and because she had a long day she was hungry. But when she expected my boyfriend to pay, my boyfriend didn’t stick to his guns and he told her she had a limit of $5. The next week, because she’d had a particularly rough week, my boyfriend paid for her again. Because he didn’t hold with his resolve, she kept expecting him to pay for her meals. I’m his girlfriend, not her, and I don’t usually ask him to pay for me!

Now, this plan is hard. It needs to be held to all the time. Each friend may need a different boundary set – this one in terms of paying for meals, that one in terms of rides, and that other guy in terms of personal space – but each boundary with each person needs to be maintained every time until the unwanted behaviors stop. Explaining your reasoning to the person may help make this a much less painful process, but in the end you are the one with the power to control your life. It isn’t mean, even though it may feel mean.

So how do you say no if you aren’t comfortable saying it in so many words? You don’t. You give options. For example, if someone wants you to drive them somewhere you can say, “Well, you can pay me for the gas and I’ll drive you or you can take the bus. Which will you prefer?” If you give them the option you want them to take and one that is worse, they’ll probably choose the one you want them to take. It’s how my dad got me to do my chores. “You can clean your bathroom or you can mow the lawn and wash my car. What’ll it be?” Of course I chose to clean my bathroom.

If the person insists on them needing something that you aren’t willing to give and threaten your friendship because of it, then it may be time to realize that this friend is toxic to you, and aren’t worth the time and effort to keep them as your friend. If you don’t get anything from them – and I don’t mean monitarily, I mean emotionally since friendship is a two-way street – then it may be time to end it with them. You don’t need someone poisoning your emotional wellbeeing. You’ll probably find that your whole outlook will improve with them out of your life.

These are just some ideas on how to deal with a person who insists on taking without giving back. Each person needs to take steps according to their own personality. As a very direct person who has no fear of telling my friends to bugger off when they’r bugging me, I only understand the stress this situation is causing you. I wish strength upon you to deal with the poeple who need to understand what you are willing to give them, and I hope they start giving you the respect you deserve.

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3 Comments
  1. Hayley Ewert permalink

    This is a pretty good article. I enjoyed it! I think many people nowadays have trouble saying “no”, but I feel it’s important to not only say “no” and mean it, but also being willing to accept a “no” from someone else.

    • I totally agree! I know that sometimes I don’t know when my behavior goes a little awry and I don’t realize it I need someone to say (No, Theresa, you’re being ridiculous! Knock it off!)

  2. Totally Awesome my Bestie, I Love you how also mentioned how to handle the feelings the person being “needed” might feel at implementing the Boundaries. If those are not handled then the walls will not hold.

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