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An uncomfortably clingy friend


Jaymd

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Sorry in advance. This is going to be really long.

 

Before I go into my main problem, I wanted to give a some backstory. I'm 29. I had a best friend of ten years (W) who I considered a sister, but we slowly drifted apart about two years ago. We were both artists, but W rarely pushed herself to draw outside her comfort zone, or draw at all, for that matter, so she didn't improve much over the years. It didn't really seem to be an issue early on. She was never as passionate about art as I was. I wanted to pursue art for a living and she wanted to be a veterinarian. But over time, W began making passive aggressive comments when I received attention for my art on social media, saying things like "Really? They like that? Okay..." And I would just shrug it off because she was an opinionated person. Aside from art, I enjoy writing in my free time as well. I began writing a novel in high school. W used to enjoy reading my stories and encouraged me to get published, but then she began attacking my writing alongside my art, too, basically saying she wanted nothing to do with my work until it was published. So I self-published my book privately for her (I wasn't ready to go the official route yet) but she made every excuse in the world for why she couldn't read it, so I asked for my book back after a year.

 

Our friendship really took a tumble once I lost my job and home, and moved to another state with my family. We still communicated over private messages via Twitter every day, but the moment I mentioned anything remotely positive going on in my life, she wouldn't "see" the message or she somehow "missed" it because she was "too busy". However, that wouldn't stop her from responding a day or two later with some random meme or viral video. I have to mention that, at this time, life was going extremely well for W. She became a streamer and began to gain an online following, which she always wanted. I did my best to support her while juggling art commissions every week, but I was also battling depression. I tried to talk to her about it, but I didn't want to burden her with my problems, so I started writing again to cope (by then, I had stopped writing for almost a year). My depression finally became so bad that I completely cut myself off from the internet. That's when our friendship fell apart. I went back to Twitter after a week and apologized, explaining what I was feeling and why I did it, but she never fully forgave me. (Or, at least, she pretended she did) We would only talk about trivial things after that, so when I wanted to talk about something serious, she would go back to ignoring me or responding with cat memes or random nonsense. I finally asked her why she was behaving that way, and she denied that she was even doing it. She said it was me and I was the one being passive aggressive. To wrap things up, I announced I would be returning to my hometown (where she lived) and we ended up spending a very awkward day together after being apart for an entire year. That was the final day I saw her and our decade-long friendship came to an end.

 

Fast forward a year later, and I meet G through an art website I work on. I generally don't have personal relationships with customers, but G stayed in touch with me for a long time and we always had something to talk about. She's a writer as well, so it was fun to discuss a common interest and exchange chapters for feedback. After a while, she eventually asked for my number and we've texted nearly every day since. Well, after a couple of months, I started to see a different side to her. It was when she sent a chapter from her book for me to read one night and I reviewed it for her while tired. I admit, my feedback was a bit short due to how sleepy I was. Although I apologized before passing out in bed, I wanted to give a more detailed review in the morning. However, she became extremely distant for a few days before sending a storm of texts accusing me of not praising her work like she does with mine. She even went so far to say that I was a better writer than her and that she would give up writing forever. It was such a huge reaction that I was confused and honestly hurt. When I responded, I apologized again and tried my best to boost her confidence. Everything seemed to go back to normal quickly after that, but her huge, overblown reactions have happened at least two more times and it's increasingly becoming a bit... much.

 

The reason I brought up W is because I told G about her early in our friendship, why we weren't talking anymore. G has confessed to me that she "used" to be a clingy person, but I feel she still is. It's makes me uncomfortable the way she always talks about praising me and then gets angry that I'm not returning the respect she has for me. I've never had a friend like that. She's pretty much the opposite of W in that she always wants to know what I'm doing. I'm very shy, and I don't like being showered with attention that way. Some attention is nice, but not to that extreme. I told her to stop putting me on a pedestal and complimenting me all the time, and she has calmed down to some extent, but I can tell it bothers her that she can't do it anymore.

 

Her latest storm of texts came just this morning when I asked how her editing was going. She said her next chapter would be ready by noon, and then asked how my night went. I said I went straight to bed because I was tired, and that I would take a nap later in the day because I was still a little sleepy. She proceeded to say she would send her chapter tomorrow. I told her she didn't have to do that because I really want to read it (it was only 11 in the morning, I wasn't going to back to sleep any time soon), but her responses quickly turned into a series of sarcastic remarks and smiling emojis. Before I know it, she's going on about the incident last year when I reviewed her chapter before bed. I thought we moved past that, but I guess not.

 

I finally told her that the whole thing was ridiculous and she blows up over the smallest things, but she tried to justify herself by saying she hasn't had a friend for as long as me (just a little over a year), I'm her only friend, and she scared to lose me. She also says I should show that I care more, but I feel like I'm doing everything I can. I mean, we talk pretty much every single day. I ask about her life and writing every day and I really enjoy reading her work. I tell her all the time. I'm actually a very private person, so talking about my own life or chronic depression isn't easy, but maybe she wants to know even more about me? At least, in past friendships, it didn't feel so overwhelming because I feel like everything I'm doing now is wrong. She brings up W occasionally, knowing we were friends for 10 years. I think on some level, she's jealous of her. We're both almost 30 years old, so it feels strange to me that she behaves this way. I'd like to continue trying with her, since we only stay in touch through texts, but I don't know what else to say that I haven't said already. What can I do?

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Ideally, what would you like to see happen moving forward; what would the perfect friendship between you two look like?

 

I think I'd just like a friend I can comfortably talk to. I don't want to have to remind someone that they're my friend every day or constantly feed them compliments so they know I care about them. I'm always worrying about hurting her feelings and it's really draining.

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You seem to have a hard time letting go of unhealthy friendships, OP. Both of these people exhibited concerning behaviour early on.

 

What's in it for you by staying in such close contact with people who really only use you as a source of attention and validation? Do you feel you have no choice but to fill that void in their lives? Does it fill a void in yours, to some extent?

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I'm not a very emotional person, so I think I feel like it's partly my fault for not giving 100% of myself to someone. I understand that I am in an unhealthy friendship and it's unrealistic to think it's ever going to change.

 

I guess I feel sorry for my new friend, since she's so insecure. I'm not sure if she understands how much strain she's putting on me, or if she just doesn't care. She's my only friend as well, so I think I'm afraid to let her go, too.

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She's my only friend as well, so I think I'm afraid to let her go, too.

 

This is where you could improve your own life. You likely wouldn't feel so uncomfortably enmeshed with this person if you had a bigger social circle. Why don't you have any other friends?

 

My guess is that this specific friend doesn't much care how draining it is on you. She's more focused on getting her own needs me, so yours don't really enter her train of thought. It's a one-sided deal for her. That isn't really what friendship is about.

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I had a friend I had to “break up with” once - not so long ago, either! (2ish years?)

 

It was my impression that this guy was putting too much responsibility on me for his happiness and the pressure for attention I felt made my life seem smaller...but my understanding of friendship is that it should enlarge and broaden your world...

 

My first approach was just to take a few steps back, and just try to change my behavior in order to set some boundaries without having a talk. That strategy failed. Rather than “reflect chill” he tried harder still to get more attention and time from me. Over a period of two or three months his behavior got so needy and obnoxious that I finally ended up just telling him that I didn’t want to be friends anymore.

 

It was so awkward and weird...and he tried for a brief moment to paint me as disloyal, hurtful and ungrateful. But it was relatively easy to write-off and not take it personal because his behavior had become intolerable to me. I’m a man in my 40’s - I’m just not looking for a “BFF,” heh. If I’m gonna text someone every day and be joined at the hip it will be in a relationship.

 

Anyhow...sorry you feel stuck here. I agree with Canuck that broadening your social circle might help whether you try to rejuvenate the friendship or not. If you are being drained by somebody and you can’t make changes to your own behavior that stem that drainage, then there is no shame in cutting ties in my opinion. You could have a talk and try to explain, but if directly sharing your thoughts and feelings doesn’t elicit the desire to change within your friend’s psyche then waiting around and hoping for improvement has an even lower probability of producing the type of friendship you want.

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It's an interesting situation that you describe because this attention-validation loop appears to have come full circle.

 

In the first situation, you asked for attention and validation from W.

 

In the second situation, G asked for attention and validation from you.

 

Both scenarios have resulted in the breakdown of a friendship. I think this is because in both cases, the attention-seeker didn't understand the strain she was putting on the other person.

 

The lesson here is to shift the focus away from attention and validation in your relationships. There's no place for them there.

 

That performer/audience dynamic makes for stressful, unbalanced relationships.

 

Don't be the seeker of attention and validation and don't be the provider of attention and validation. Leave those things out of your relationships completely.

 

If you want strong, meaningful friendships, focus on companionship instead.

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I've always kept small social circles, and that's a problem. When I let W go, I gradually cut ties with my two other friends as well. We all went to high school together, but I realized they were just as toxic as her. I didn't attempt to make new friends after that, but I'll definitely try now.

 

I agree. It's not what friendship is really about. Thank you. I really appreciate your insight.

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Sorry to hear this. Focus on your physical, mental and social health. Make sure you are getting care from doctors and therapists. Avoid unhinged people like G or confiding in random friends like W. Having your own problems then adding unhealthy people to that is a bad idea.

 

They both sound unhinged and you are better off deleting both of them from all your art, social media and messaging apps.

 

Get a good profile up on LinkedIn and whatever other professional sites you work on. Once someone starts acting crazy, cut them off.

I lost my job and home, and moved to another state with my family.

I was also battling depression. My depression finally became so bad that I completely cut myself off from the internet.

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Rather than “reflect chill” he tried harder still to get more attention and time from me.

 

That's where I am right now with G. I first took a more "aggressive" approach months ago and told her to stop, since subtle hints weren't getting through to her. I felt that I got my point across, however, she got in a car accident the same day, so I put my frustration aside to comfort her. But yesterday I had to tell her to stop again and she replied that she was crying the whole time while texting me. When I refused to show her sympathy that time, she became defensive saying she wasn't looking for pity or being like "woe is me", but I feel she wants me to quickly forgive her without ever taking responsibility.

 

I’m just not looking for a “BFF,” heh. If I’m gonna text someone every day and be joined at the hip it will be in a relationship.

 

I often feel the same way with her. I feel like we're "together" somehow. I'm not used to texting one person this much, even if I text them every day. It's an around-the-clock type of thing with her and it's tiring.

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If I'm this drained just reading about this draining, weird friendship style, i can only imagine how it is for yourself.

 

It is too intense for most people to have this much pressure for friendship.

 

I don't think it is fair for friends to insist on reviews of writing, art, to share the same levels of interest in those things.

 

If you want art reviews, join an art club or go to school and get critiqued there.

 

Same thing for writing. Get an editor or join some club that shares your passion.

 

People have friends to have fun, have backyard meals, talk about "stuff."

 

It puts too much pressure on a friend to be handed some non-published novel and to be asked an opinion.

 

What can they even say? Besides the huge time investment to really dig into the words.

 

If they hate it, would you really accept that? If they liked it, is that all you want, validation?

 

And artwork? Do you want a professional-level opinion? Or just "that's pretty."? It is not fair to a friendship to insist on that kind of commitment.

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Thank you to everyone who responded. I sent a message to G this morning. I didn't sugarcoat anything and tried to lay out boundaries, and she took it as a personal attack. Her low blow comment "For you to lash out as you did, it amazes me that you can say you have depression" pretty much did it for me. I'd rather be alone than be disrespected that way. I'm going to take some time to work on my mental health before pursuing another friendship.

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I don't think it is fair for friends to insist on reviews of writing, art, to share the same levels of interest in those things.

 

If you want art reviews, join an art club or go to school and get critiqued there.

 

Same thing for writing. Get an editor or join some club that shares your passion.

 

People have friends to have fun, have backyard meals, talk about "stuff."

 

I absolutely agree with you, but I've since moved away from having friends critique my art. It was a self-esteem issue that I've worked really hard on after breaking things off with W. I don't use social very much anymore either.

 

As for my writing, it was G's idea to give feedback on each other's chapters. It was fun in the beginning, like having our own private book club each week, but she became really obsessive after a couple of months. It suddenly became a chore just to say what she wanted to hear or ask the right questions, which is kind of ridiculous. I had stopped sending her updates on my book for a long time because of it.

 

Early this year, I began polishing my manuscript to actually get published, so I have that to look forward to ^^ I ended my friendship with G this morning.

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I think I'd just like a friend I can comfortably talk to.

 

...and this is not that. So what should this tell you? As with dating, finding healthy relationships means screening OUT people who are bad for us while welcoming people who are good matches. So allow bad matches to pass early. This can either be devastating or practical, depending how resilient we strive to become. It's a decision.

 

I'm not a very emotional person, so I think I feel like it's partly my fault for not giving 100% of myself to someone.

 

Yeah...no. Adults mature out of childhood habits of monopolizing 'besties' as 100% investments after school age. As we grow more solidly into our own personalities, we learn how to respect the limits of others as we honor our own. We pursue any number of acquaintanceships to meet different needs.

 

So a tennis friend may suck at conversation, and a shopping friend may not share our politics or spiritual beliefs, and a friend in whom we confide may never want to attend parties with us. Maturity teaches us to respect the limits of others--AND--to avoid people who are incapable of doing the same.

 

Some acquaintanceships may evolve into more intimate friendships while others will stay at arm's length or phase out. The people who matter enough may cycle back around in months or years when our circumstances can align again.

 

So there's no reason to cater to people who are unhealthy. Expand your reach, make other friends, and you'll learn more confidence in your ability to raise reasonable boundaries that others respect. If anyone is insulted by that, that speaks of them, not you.

 

Chances are that the stuff you won't put up with are the same behaviors that won't be acceptable anyone else either. So it is kind to impose your limits.

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Your friend is jealous, insecure and engages in gaslighting you. Google the word: "Gaslighting." She's turning it around on you, calling you passive aggressive.

 

Don't continue trying with her. Tell her it's time to go your separate ways permanently. If she is relentless, ignore, ghost, block and delete. Be done with her and move on.

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