Everywhere you go, your friend wants to go. Every friend group you’re in, she wants to join. Every hobby you pick up, she wants to try. You’re the victim of a clingy friend! What should you do?
Many women struggle with clingy friends because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. We aren’t sure where the boundary line lies between selfless love and healthy relationships. So we let needy people into our lives, and sometimes unconsciously enable their insecurities by refusing to set a boundary.
But there is a way to love a clingy friend as God defines love. Love is not being a doormat, nor does it involve abandoning people who need spiritual growth. True love is a balance of both truth and selflessness—just as we see exemplified in Jesus! If you’re dealing with a clingy friend, here are four things to do.
1. Identify an Unhealthy Friendship
A few weeks ago we talked about unhealthy friendships and how to identify them. If you’re in a relationship like this, take time to read that post and assess the friendship. Is this relationship a two-way street or are you the only one pouring out time and energy with nothing in return? Do you get time to yourself or with other, more spiritually mature friends? If not, you’re headed for burnout. Don’t let guilt keep you in an unhealthy friendship. You are not meant to be your friend’s savior; Jesus is.
2. Refuse to Take on Insecurities
One of the hardest things for me to navigate in clingy relationships is taking on others’ insecurities. Perhaps you struggle with this, too. We don’t want our friends to feel bad, but when every conversation revolves around that person’s insecurity, most dialogues end up in an endless cycle of comfort and “encouragement” that never results in change.
Don’t get trapped in this cycle. Listen lovingly, but speak the truth. If she continues to revisit the same topics again and again—turning every conversation back to herself, an insecurity or that breakup she can’t get over from two years ago—preach the truth of God’s sufficiency to her! Only Christ can free her from insecurity. You can’t, so don’t take it on.
3. Set Boundaries
One of the hardest parts of dealing with a clingy friend is setting boundaries. Just as you have to draw a line in your conversations, you have to draw a line on your time. If a particular friend invites herself into every occasion you set up, or gives you a guilt trip when she wasn’t invited, it’s time to help her understand that healthy relationships involve an ever-widening circle of acquaintances. You don’t have to feel guilty for having other friends—and you should encourage her to do the same!
Some clingy friends are fine with other people being there, but are the first to come and last to leave. If you’re in the throes of work and school, this may cause a big problem for your grades and work ethic. Communicate to her that you need to get to bed, or leave early, in order to honor your boss, professors or stage of life.
4. Encourage Her Walk With God
Finally, encourage this friend’s walk with the Lord. Clingy people are simply revealing a spiritual condition: a need for affirmation and relationship. Because they don’t have a deep walk with the Lord, they seek those things from other people. When humans fail them, they get lonely, angry and depressed. Because they set people up as pseudo-saviors, they are crushed when those people can’t fill that role—even though they were never meant to!
So encourage your friend to know the Lord deeply. Show her how to study her Bible. Point her to resources she can use to know God better. Be honest with her about what you see in her behavior and heart. If she is teachable and a true friend, she will listen! And as she seeks the Lord, she will grow in confidence, finding freedom from human dependency as she learns to depend on God.