Dear Therapist:

I am 17 years old and in 12th grade, I have a friend that I have known since 2nd or 3rd grade and we're very close. But overtime I realized that I don't enjoy her presence as much and she is extremely clingy. She always sees everything negatively and overthinks everything, which makes it difficult to talk and confide in her. She constantly asks to sleepover and come hangout. Luckily, I have a job that ends late at night and have an excuse to say no. But when she does come to hangout, she ends up spending hours and hours at my house and I find it absolutely excruciating. I would like to end the friendship, but I feel overly guilty because I am basically her only friend. I would appreciate your advice in this matter. Thank you.



You are clearly asking this question because you’re a caring, empathetic person. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be feeling so conflicted. You obviously care about your friend (you said that the two of you are still very close), but you are thinking about your own needs as well. Of course, you should do things for yourself—and spending time with this friend is no longer enjoyable.

I can identify a few options, but I am not really the person who should be answering your question. You may be the person who has the most information necessary in order to answer this question. However, it can be very difficult to view a situation objectively when you are so deeply involved. There are others in your life, however, who have far more information that I do, together with whom you can identify an appropriate approach.

Your parents and teachers may be the people in the best position to help you with this decision. They are likely involved in the sense that they know you and your friend, understand your relationship, and have a sense as to the needs of you both. Yet they can likely be more objective because they are not as emotionally involved. In addition, they may have experience with these types of issues. Although their primary focus may be your wellbeing, they will also be cognizant of your friend’s needs.

The two most obvious choices are to be brutally honest with your friend (thus taking the chance that she will be deeply hurt) or accepting the situation (ignoring your own needs). Neither choice seems like a very good one. These two options, however, exist on opposite ends of a spectrum—basically all-or-nothing. There are many other options along the spectrum.

When faced with something troublesome, it can be easy to view it as black-and-white. You say that you would like to end the relationship. I’m not sure if this is because she spends “hours and hours” with you, or if you no longer want to spend any time with her. Would you feel differently if she spent less time with you less often? Would you be okay with another type of arrangement?

One possible option would be to be honest with her about not wanting to spend as much time with her, but stressing the fact that this is because you want to limit time spent with each friend (or on each activity). Another option would be to gradually reduce the amount of time spent with her so that she gets the sense that the two of you simply continued drifting apart. Yet another possibility is to invite another friend when she comes over to reduce her ability to bond exclusively with you.

There are many such options. Since I don’t know this girl, her issues, her needs, or the nature of your relationship, I cannot tell you which route to take. An adult who is familiar with the both of you would likely be in a better position to help you come to a mutually beneficial decision.

-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

  Woodmere, NY

  adjunct professor at Touro College

  Graduate School of Social Work

  author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 516-218-4200


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