S/he is your BFF but just doesn’t know where to draw the line. S/he is clingy, sulks if you don’t give him/her time, turns up at the most inopportune times — perhaps when you are with your boyfriend or girlfriend, with an important client or when you just want some ‘solo’ time — and sticks to you like you two are Siamese twins. And, even when you explain that there are times you need space even from a BFF, the person just refuses to understand.
Well, a lot of us have gone through this, haven’t we? Anita D’Souza, a Mumbai-based marketing executive, exasperatedly laments, “My office mates call Carol, my BFF, my shadow and that’s because wherever I go, she follows whether she’s welcome or not. The problem is that we work together and yes, she is my 3 a.m. friend and I confide in her and everything, but at times, it gets too much.”
Eighteen-year-old collegiate Vivek Shah too shares, “My best buddy gets extremely obnoxious if I sit with my other friends. He throws a tantrum, and even at times, loudly spills all the personal things I’ve shared with him about the others. It’s embarrassing. We’ve been friends for years and I understand the emotional baggage he’s carrying but this is ridiculous. I don’t know what to do...”
So, how do you handle a clingy friend? You don’t want to break the friendship — there have been good times galore — but at times, it can get ‘toxic’ too. What do you do then?
Mumbai-based psychologist Dr Utsav Shankar avers, “If a friendship is causing you embarrassment, pain or problems, then it can be termed as ‘toxic’. Most of the time, it stems from the fact that the ‘clingy’ friend is over possessive or unsure about him/herself. ‘Clingy’ friendship can be confusing and hard to deal with because though it irritates you and may even cause you some embarrassment, you still value the relationship despite the hurt it causes.”
How do you gauge if the ‘clingy’ friendship is worth continuing or not? Dr Utsav continues, “Well, for one, list out all the pros and cons of the friendship and then check out if the bad outbalances the good. Don’t continue the friendship just because you feel guilty or pressurised to stay in the relationship. And if you do want to continue the friendship, sit with your friend and tell him/her straight what is bothering you about them. Be emphatic. I suggest if the friendship is hurting you but you still want to continue with it, take a break from the friendship. Don’t let your friend put you on a guilt trip or pressurise you, you are entitled to some ‘me’ time, go ahead and take it.”
So, can you save the friendship as well as yourself from the friendship? Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Anjali Solanki says, “It’s hard to give up on a friendship even if it becomes a problem. But the solution for this is to tell your friend right from the beginning that their behaviour is becoming an embarrassment or an irritant. Tell your friend you care about them and the reason, they are your BFF is because s/he is special and there’s no need to be insecure about anything or anyone. Having said that, also speak firmly that you need space and the friendship will thrive better if there is breathing space between you two.”
However, there will be times when the friend will simply refuse to listen to you. They cannot fathom that their behaviour is wrong. These are tricky situations. It’s your call then — to continue or not to, and/or drive sense into your friend in a manner that s/he understands.
Just remember, the relationship is important, but not more than your sanity.