It can feel overwhelming when you have a clingy friend, but you can do something about it. In fact, your friendship will be better for it, too.
Just like boyfriends or girlfriends, platonic friends can also be clingy. A clingy friend can put a lot of pressure and stress on your friendship. It can exhaust you mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
Yes, we should always be there for our friends, but when you have a clingy friend, those lines get blurred. No one can be someone’s everything. Your clingy friend cannot expect you to fill every void or fulfill every need. The same way you can’t expect a romantic partner to be everything you need.
When this does happen and a clingy friend gets out of hand, it can be daunting. You don’t want to hurt their feelings or let them down, but you need to put your own mental health and wellness first.
What is a clingy friend?
A clingy friend can range from someone who overtexts to someone that manipulates and gaslights you. It can be a friend that guilts you into spending time with them or even tries to sabotage your happiness so you can be miserable together.
A clingy friend is someone that may expect you to answer every text and phone call immediately. They may get jealous if you go out without them or don’t include them in plans.
This person is often very self-conscious and needs a lot of reassurance. Even if they behave like they are confident, it may be an act. Of course, a clingy friend isn’t always malicious or purposeful with their poor behavior. They could be lonely or depressed and in need of human connection and attention.
However, it is not your job to be this person’s rock. You can be there for them as you would any other friend. But, when you have a clingy friend, not only is the relationship often one-sided and unbalanced, but it is also wildly unhealthy and dysfunctional.
What to do about a clingy friend
I have seen and experienced all sorts of clingy friends. They are all hard to deal with. This person is your friend, after all. You know they are a good person and you may like having them around, but too much of anyone can become a hardship.
How do you let them down easy without hurting their feelings? How can you get a clingy friend to pull back without rejecting them?
This is a very delicate situation. When you aren’t sure why your clingy friend is so needy, you may feel the need to tiptoe around the topic. You may even be prone to fibbing about your plans to avoid them. Not only does this add to any guilt they may be putting on you, but it doesn’t help the overall situation.
Dealing with a clingy friend requires open communication, patience, and some blunt honesty. And if that isn’t quite specific enough, try these methods to help you deal with a clingy friend.
#1 Don’t ghost or avoid them. This seems like the easy thing to do when you have a clingy friend. You hope if you stop answering their texts and start canceling plans, they’ll figure it out. The thing is, that is super disrespectful and not something any decent friend would do.
Clingy or not, this person is your friend. If you avoid them or ghost them, you are only ensuring that they remain needy and clingy and struggle to find confidence.
#2 Don’t gossip about them. It can be easy to get annoyed when you have a clingy friend. You feel guilty and overwhelmed. You want to vent, but if you share your feelings in the moment, it can lead to gossip that can get back to them and make things worse.
Instead of talking to others about your clingy friend, talk to them.
#3 Talk to them about their life. When you hang out or talk, what do you talk about? Do you talk about random things? Do you talk about your life? Are they intrigued by everything you do like they’re living vicariously through you?
Talk to them about what is going on with them. Ask about their life. Maybe they are clingy because of their fear of rejection or a lack of attention at home. You never know what’s going on with a clingy friend.
#4 Are they adding to your life? It can suck to end a friendship, especially when you feel like they need you, but you must put your happiness first. If this friend isn’t adding to your life regardless of their clinginess, it may be time to rethink the friendship.
Is this someone you want to sort things out with or distance yourself from?
#5 When was the last time you enjoyed your time together? Maybe your clingy friend is a bother when you’re at work or with your significant other, but when you’re with them, do you have a good time? Is there still a healthy foundation for your friendship?
If so, you can get back to that in time. If not, you may want to think about whether this friendship is worth it. If hanging out with your clingy friend feels one-sided or like they are guilting or manipulating you, it has crossed a line.
#6 Don’t give in to the guilt. Learn to say no when needed. If you are with your family or other friends, you don’t need to leave to give your clingy friend your undivided attention. When you are with them, you can focus on them, but don’t let them control your thoughts or behavior when they’re not around. A decent friend will want you to have a full and well-rounded life, not one that revolves around them.
#7 Let them know how you feel. Talk to your clingy friend about how their behavior is making you feel. Don’t accuse them of anything. Instead, use I-messages.
Say something like, “I feel guilty when you text me all day and I don’t have the time to respond,” or “I feel worried when you seem to need me all the time, is something going on?” Don’t make them feel bad for their behavior, just help them be aware of it and how it makes you feel.
Let them know you’re there for them if they need to talk about something. But you have other friends and obligations that also need your attention.
#8 Ask them if there is something they need to talk about. Once you let them know how you feel about their behavior, ask them about why they think they are being such a clingy friend. You may not be a therapist, but you might be able to help your friend work through whatever is causing their behavior.
#9 Set boundaries. Make it clear to your clingy friend that you want to remain friends and be in their life. They should understand that you have other people in your life that also need your time and attention. Make plans and stick to them, but you don’t have to text at all hours.
#10 Check in. Make sure you are checking in and being there for your friend as you would with anyone else. See how things are going for them. Are they making other friends or dating? Are they working on their confidence or enjoying their time alone?
Figuring out how to deal with a clingy friend can be hard to balance. You want to be there for them but also need your space. The good thing is, you can have both if you use these tips.