I Had To Break Up With An Emotionally Needy Friend

by Kathy Black
Originally Published: 
Two female friends sitting and arguing
Scary Mommy and AntonioGuillem/Getty

“I’m with a friend,” I typed into my phone after getting five texts from another friend who was having a “lonely, rough night.” She knew I was going out, she also knew I’d had a rough week and needed to see my best friend who I hadn’t seen in six months.

The next morning, she called me at seven o’clock in the morning even though she knew I was sleeping at my boyfriend’s house. A few days before, we’d had dinner together and she didn’t ask about me or my life once. Instead, she hogged the whole conversation talking about herself and her “horrible situations around kids and money.”

She talked about being completely broke but was carrying a brand-new expensive handbag and had to reschedule the time of our get-together to get fake lashes and her nails done.

“I don’t even have enough money to buy a new dryer,” she told me. But, after I asked her why she spent the money on a bag instead, she started ugly-crying at the table saying she just couldn’t get out of her “situation.”

After that, I shut my mouth. It was clear she didn’t want to know what I thought. She wanted me to sympathize with her self-induced situation.

I was exhausted and wanted out of there before dinner even arrived.

There was a part of me that felt like a shitty friend for being critical, but I’d had enough. I’d shuffled things around with my kids that night because “she needed me.” Yet a few months prior when she knew I was going through something kind of rough, she never reached out to me at all.


As I sat across from her and listened, I realized something: Shame on me for letting it go on this long. I didn’t have to hold her (or myself) to a certain standard. I didn’t have to reschedule my life to come to her rescue. I didn’t have to answer my phone when she called or text her back. And the pangs of feeling like a bad friend because I wanted to be anywhere than sitting with her, reminded me I could let her go.

Our friendship wasn’t serving me any longer, but I’d tried to hold on to it. I figured she needed me since her other friends had dropped her and her ex-boyfriends had blocked her from their phone.

She was in need of something I couldn’t give, and I knew it. But kicking someone while they’re down makes me feel physically sick with guilt. So, instead of doing that, I let the resentment build and my anger percolate until I was about to go ape-shit on her when she called in the middle of a morning that she knew was my only kid-free morning with my lover.

I took a hard look at the situation and realized I literally could not hear about the same problems I’d been hearing about for the past five years of our relationship.

She’d need me, then I’d be there. I’d need her, and if she had time or wasn’t dating a new dude, she’d make some time. Even then, it was hard for me to get a word in because needy friends can be dicks like that. I kept telling myself I was the strong one in the relationship. Again, shame on me.

It’s one thing to need a friend– we’ve all been there. Also, we’ve all been on the other end when we are so glad our friend came to us in a time of need.

But it’s quite another thing to be an emotional hog who leaves everyone in their wake feeling exhausted and like they have been hit by a truck.

You can need a friend and not take advantage of them. It’s okay to have boundaries and voice them, hoping things would change. I’d done this with her at least twice. She was always responsive, apologizing and saying it wouldn’t happen again. Except then it always did.

And here we were: she thought I was at her beck and call, and I was so pissed off I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to be pissed at her anymore.

Most people aren’t going to change to fit into a box we need them to. The only solution I was left with was to break up with her. I got over feeling like it was a dick move and realized it was the nice thing to do — for her and for me.

You can love someone and tell them goodbye for your own mental health. Telling a friend (or anyone) you need space, or to say goodbye forever, is your right. It really is okay.

You don’t need to have a shouting match and push them into a dump truck full of cow shit, trample all over them, and talk about it with all your mutual friends. You can let them go with compassion and kindness. And no, you don’t have to give an explanation if you think you will be spinning your wheels.

I had to tell my long-time friend I needed to break up with her, and it sucked. She was hurt and told me she would try harder. I couldn’t do it. I’d been sucked dry and had nothing left to give her.

I wished her well and moved on.

This is not about being a self-centered jerk and dumping someone as soon as they make a mistake. It’s about taking care of you. It’s about setting a hard boundary because your soft boundaries have been violated too many times. It’s about letting go of any guilt you feel knowing you will be a better friend to others, a better family member, a better employee because you aren’t saving so much mental energy for a friend who couldn’t care less about taking up so much of you.

In the end, I’d like to think I did her a favor. She’d been saying I was the only friend who stuck by her, and for a while I prided myself in that. But it also made me feel locked in. Perhaps when the dust settles after losing the “one friend who hasn’t left,” she will realize she has some work to do and that she’s the driving force that has pushed everyone away. By holding onto our friendship, I kept her believing everyone else was at fault.

I don’t want that on me. And I can’t lie, it feels glorious not to tense up every time my phone rings because I’m hoping it’s not her. I truly believe I’m more of a friend for walking away than I ever would have been for staying.

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