Maintaining a Friendship With an Overly Dependent Friend

How can I handle an over needy friend? We're both seniors; me more so that her. Both of us in good health. I've been single again for 20 years and have learned to take care of myself. This friend has a lazy retired husband who won't get off the recliner to help her do anything.


Last week it was come help us figure out how to work our DVD player, week before that was borrow my son's pickup to haul something to her booth at an antique shop; week before that same thing; yesterday it was help me flip my mattress. "No hurry", she said, "you can come as late as 9". Now today it's help me put a bookcase together and take to my booth at the antique store.

I'm welling to help anyone, but this is getting to be a little too much. She's as capable of putting a bookshelf together as I am; if not it's time she learned. She's a nice lady with a lazy husband that she needs to get tough with or learn to take care of some things.

How can I distance myself without hurting her feelings? She says he husband drives her crazy. I tell her to go somewhere. Her excuse is "but he wants to go with me". She complains about him constantly, but nothing changes. She just keeps calling me to fix or haul whatever. Thanks.

By Betty

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Hi Betty, that's a difficult one! It sounds to me like the husband is the one in need of help, perhaps he has become depressed since his retirement, a lot of people do, especially men. The thing is somehow you need to explain to your friend that asking you to do all these jobs will not be doing her husband's self esteem any good at all. So what if he doesn't jump up and do what she asks straight away, that is between them as a couple and she is kind of getting you involved, which is always wrong.

So I suggest rather than have a big showdown (who can face those for heaven's sake?) that you try to wean both them off their dependence on you by insisting that he help with the next task, and the next, then the third time just be too busy and politely decline. Hope this helps and don't lose sight of the the fact that you do like her really she is just pushing a friendship too far!

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You have to keep your distance. Sometimes if you are a passive person some friends dominate and dictate to you. I don't like that do you. I think it is a give and take situation. Don't get too close and destroy the friendship.All the luck.

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Tell yourself you will help her with one thing every 2 months. When you hear the one you are willing to do, do it with a good spirit. Make up and practice a list of excuses so you are ready. Ask yourself re each and every request if it's something her husband is able to do, and give an excuse.

But you might mention her husband may need a physical, to lose weight, vitamin d/supplements of some kind. I can't think why he can't do anything.

Does he have a symptom he doesn't want to tell her about? I mean, flipping a mattress can be done by one old person [me], let alone two, unless he's having chest pains or something.Create some anxiety in her re her husband's well being, and she will start fussing over him, he will get some attention, and maybe the load will shift from you to them. It's a them thing.It may be she doesn't know how to establish a different relationship now that he's retired so she's coming at him with lists, which might actually be a call for company. I would always bring the conversation back to a possible solution to getting her husband more involved. She may then get the point that the real issue is them needing some new activities.

She wants your company, she wants somebody's company. Maybe you can go out for lunch twice a month, and make it more formal.Kind of puts up boundaries around the visit.

Does she need to buy a truck? Mention that: her husband might be the one to advise.If she's into antiques, I'm surprised she doesn't have one. But you can take a bookcase in pieces in the car, and put it together at the shop.Maybe he'd like to sell something like old tools at the shop. They could go to garage sales and estate sales together.

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Betty, she does this because you let her. What's wrong with just being honest with her? Tell her you don't mind helping now and again but really aren't comfortable with helping her do all that stuff. Period. Her husband is her problem.

Good luck!


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You never need to give an excuse to say "no". Just reply in a pleasant voice that you're "busy" today. In my world "busy" sometimes includes taking a nap or doing my nails, things that are important to me. Give your friend a little distance and she will have to rely on someone else sometimes.

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If you have caller ID you can just not answer some (or all) of her calls. If you don't have caller ID, when she calls just tell her you have some company, or you're smack in the middle of something, or you're just on your way out, whatever, and that you'll have to call her back some other time. The heck with her husband, that's her problem--you need to be busy and not always available. Good luck.

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Forget the husband. Be honest. Tell her you really don't enjoy doing her chores. She can hire someone to do them and then the two of you can do something fun. When she asks after that say no. If she gets angry then you know what the "friendship" was all about.

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Everything is a choice. Tell her you have given her all the advice you can about her husband, and from now on you do not want to hear her complain about him. She has to choose to DO something, like get tough with him, or she has to be quiet, put up with it, and stop complaining. Some people are just complainers. They don't want to DO anything to change or help themselves, they just want to complain. ( Be careful you don't become one of those people, constantly complaining about this "friend", but not doing anything to improve things.) I can't be around people like that. They are toxic, draining and exhausting, all negative traits.

And this woman doesn't sound like a friend to me. Does she bring any joy or laughter or support to you and your life, or does she just make demands and take and take and take?

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Betty: I have been where you are and in more situations like it than I can count.

When I am now, I just remember that "The only difference between a rut and a grave is the length".

You have perfected this dance you two do, and you benefit from it too or you wouldn't do it for so long.

If being her friend is important, than be a good friend and stop being a work horse.

It's tough to be tough, but it's better to be better.

Good luck!

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I think you are being taken advantage of and you are allowing it. You are being too good a person. She is going beyond what is expected from a friendship. Sorry, but sounds like she's using you as a servant and a free one at that! You need to be less available and she'll get the hint (hopefully!). If she has an able bodied hubby who just wants to be lazy, well that's her problem. She can't take advantage of you because he refuses to do his share. Do you ask her for favors/help? I doubt it. She's treating you unfairly and even if she's a nice person, she's not a good friend. Friends don't take advantage!

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Betty, do you and this friend ever do fun things together? Maybe she wants to see you, but is one of these people who thinks only working things are worth doing. If you actually enjoy this woman's company, minus the chores and the hubby complaints, then plan an outing that doesn't involve work, shopping, lunch, going to a play, going for coffee, etc. Perhaps that might help the problem. And I agree with the others who have advised you to be "busy" next time she calls with a job.

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This woman could be lonely. I would tell her the next time she says her husband is lazy that maybe he needs to see a doctor. He may have a hidden problem that gives him no energy. Also unplug the phone and lock your doors or keep your answering machine on all the time. I think I would just unplug my phone every few days. You could also start volunteering somewhere and not be at home and when you are tell her you are tired and have work to do that you don't get done when you are volunteering.

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It could be time to just walk away from this friend.

The way I see friendship, relationships and jobs is that you should get out of them equally what you put into them. Sometimes you put more into something and get a little less and that's okay, but if the balance is way off then it's time to move on.

Maybe it's time to evaluate how much you put into this friendship and how much of a friend she really is. Would she help you out without hesitation? Does she pick up the bill for lunch once in a while to compensate for all you do? Do you have fun together when you are not helping her?

I have walked away from long term friendships because the person was either always taking, not supportive or it wasn't any fun being friends with them! We do outgrow some friends.

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I had a situation like this once. My "friend" was always asking me to come over and help her pick fruit on Saturdays. I was working full time then and did not want to pick fruit on one of my 2 days off! She thought because she always gave me some of the fruit I picked that I liked this deal. I finally had to tell her that I needed to rest & do fun things on my day off. So be honest and say you like her [if you do] and you'd like to do something fun but the chores are a grind for you.

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Better Living FriendshipAugust 9, 2010
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