Dear E. Jean: My friend had a bad breakup last year and needed a place to stay, so I took her in, loaned her money, brought her on trips, and counseled her for many hours on the phone. I’ve tried to get her back on her feet, but she sticks to me like a leech! She calls with all her problems and gets very emotional if I don’t return the call. I’m a woman with a busy career, a marriage, a family, and lots of friends, and she’s becoming really annoying. What should I do? —Unwilling Best Friend Miss
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Unwilling, My Custard: Next time she calls, say: “I’m dying to talk to you! How about lunch on the 23rd?” “But, but, but that’s four weeks away!” she’ll reply. “I know! I’m half dead,” you’ll say. “My schedule’s nuts—I won’t be able to breathe in the next few weeks. If you call and I don’t call back, it’s not that I don’t want to talk. I’d love to talk; that’s why I wanted to set a long, cozy lunch.” Every time she calls after that, say, “Darling, don’t have a moment, see you on the 23rd!” Then, when you meet for lunch, be happy to see her, praise her for making decisions on her own, encourage her to continue doing so, and schedule the next lunch six weeks hence. This time, take no calls between lunches. By the end of the year, you’ll have weaned her, and the friendship will softly recede into a quieter kind of goodwill.
This letter is from the Ask E. Jean Archive, 1993-2017. Send questions to E. Jean at E.Jean@AskEJean.com.