Advice Column-Stuck with Clingy

Hi Hailey.

For a long time, I’ve had a certain friend who bothered me. When I was little, I would dislike her but continue to hang out with her because she lived close to me. She was on my bus every day and impossible to avoid. As I grew older, I learned the “clinginess” I hated was actually due to a kind of social processing disorder. As I got older, I hung out with her less and less. She starting clinging onto a new friend. But that friend moved schools, and now I’m stuck with clingy. Wherever I go, she goes, and due to her disorder she lacks complete social awareness. Her hanging around is a constant irritator for me, and some of my friends don’t want to hang around me because they know she will be there. One of my friends, though, likes clingy, and that has also irritated me.

I’m not sure what to do. Should I continue letting her hang around me and annoy me year after year? I feel awful asking her nicely to hang out with other people because of her disorder. Any advice would be great.

Sincerely,

Stuck with clingy

 

Dear Stuck,

I do not recommend you continue as things are. You have your own needs, and it’s ok to recognize when a relationship is causing you unnecessary distress.

While it feels easier in the short term to just internally be frustrated and avoid that conversation, long term it’s causing you more issues. It sounds like her constant presence in your life is exhausting, aggravating, stressful, and draining. This is affecting your other relationships, and causing you a large amount of negative stress. Overall, it’s just not healthy for you.

Honestly, you simply need to bite the bullet and have a difficult conversation with your friend.

Here is an example you can choose to use, model your conversation after, (or completely ignore, your choice!) “I care about you, but I need a little bit of space. I enjoy spending time with you, but I also need time for myself and other friendships.” Be as specific as necessary. Set boundaries as far as what you expect from her if you feel it is needed.

This conversation might not go well. Be prepared for that, but don’t let it discourage you from starting the discussion.

You mentioned that you have a friend who likes her. That would soften the blow a little to send her in their direction so that you can have time with other friends. An example of this could be, “So-and-so really enjoys your company, when you and I aren’t hanging out that could be someone that you could spend some time with”. If you meant “likes” as in a romantic way and you aren’t comfortable with sending her in their direction, then don’t feel obligated to.

Another option (in addition to the difficult conversation), would be to join a club together. It’s a great way to meet friends with similar interests to help spread her net a little wider. It could be a gentle addition to the tough conversation you have ahead of you.

I would also encourage that you refer your friend to seek counseling. While the clinginess you describe is associated with a disorder, it doesn’t mean that she can’t change and improve on her social awareness. Many people seek counseling to help with coping with disorders and the behaviors that go along with them. I definitely recognize that this one might be a tough one to bring up in a conversation. If you know someone who went to a specific professional and had a good experience, or if you met with one yourself, these could be some organic lead ins to bring this up to your friend.

If none of these work further down the road on getting you the time you need apart, be prepared to end the friendship if necessary. It is essential that you take care of yourself and your own mental health, as harsh as that sounds. However, do all you can to maintain/salvage the relationship, and if you are concerned that your friend is going to do something drastic (suicide, any type of self-harm, harming anyone else, etc.) as a result of this, contact an adult that you trust IMMEDIATELY.

This isn’t going to be easy, but in the long run it will much healthier. And who knows, your friend could possibly meet someone that is comfortable with the level of interaction and time spent together that she needs.

I wish you luck!

Hailey

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