Relationship Connection: My friend attracts needy people

Stock image, St. George News

Question

My best friend seems to have a knack for attracting super needy people in her life. She is so kind and thoughtful and just can’t seem to set boundaries.

One friend in particular has been making her life extremely hard for the past five years. It’s almost as if she needs my friend at her side every second, and, if she’s not there, she flips out. Although she can at moments be a very good, kind, thoughtful friend, she is extremely manipulative.

My friend bends over backwards to give this girl what she wants 95 percent of the time, but it’s never enough. And, when things don’t go her way, this girl becomes upset, inconsolable and often threatens suicide.

My friend is about to get engaged and, of course, this girl isn’t happy about it. I know my friend just wants to step back from a relationship that is sucking all of the joy out of this time in her life, but at the same time is honestly afraid this girl might commit suicide.

What does one do in this situation? She’s tried to get the girl to go to counseling but she refuses. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I just hate to stand by and watch all the pain and stress this girl puts my friend through.

Answer

Threatening suicide is a serious thing that should be taken seriously. This doesn’t mean that your friend needs to turn into a therapist and resolve this other lady’s mental health problems. It means that your friend has a responsibility to reach out for help from this lady’s family, friends and, if necessary, even emergency medical personnel.

If she’s actually suicidal, the support will be exactly what she needs to get the help she clearly needs. On the other hand, if it’s a cry for help, the unwanted attention she’ll get from her threats will, hopefully, address the deeper reason she’s making these kinds of threats.

When suicidal threats are thrown out as a way to keep someone close in a relationship, the relationship crosses into a new dimension that cannot be ignored.

It’s the ultimate manipulation and control to say to someone, “if you don’t give me what I want, I’ll kill myself.” Most people will feel paralyzed by this and give in. This is not a friendship. It’s taking someone emotionally hostage.

She needs to be reassured that whatever this lady does in response to her needing space is not her fault. Even though she could have done things differently earlier in the relationship to prevent this level of entitlement, she has permission to change the nature of the relationship.

No amount of explaining her reasons to this other lady will make a difference. She needs to decide how and if this other lady will fit into her life, and then stick to her decision.

Your friend will need help and support to break off this relationship. Counseling is a great idea, but recognize that having the ongoing support from friends is really helpful. Your friend has faulty beliefs about her role in relationships. Unless she challenges those beliefs and develops healthier ways to relate to others, this will be a recurring theme with her husband, her future children and other people in her life. She is not a powerless victim of this other woman’s neediness.

I recommend she do some reading on this topic. There are excellent resources that can help her learn how to set healthy boundaries with others. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Pungent Boundaries by Nancy Landrum
  • Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
  • I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better by Gary and Joy Lundberg
  • Boundaries Videos website | Free videos on how to set healthy boundaries

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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2 Comments

  • ladybugavenger January 6, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Another co dependent relationship….tell your friend she needs the 12 step program to break free cuz you can’t help her.

  • .... January 7, 2016 at 12:58 am

    Needy people ? not good for her. mesaman is on that list

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