We all have them - high maintenance friends. Drama queens always in the throws of some kind of trauma that draw you in so you become involved, giving them help and support.
You will always help people out if you can, that's the sort of person you are.
But they will always let you. They don't feel bad if you go the extra mile for them, change plans for them, take, fetch and carry for them. They take advantage of your kind nature.
But have you noticed how exhausted, drained and stressed you feel after being in their company?
Why is that, and what can you do to protect yourself?
The thing about being a people pleaser is you are drawn helping people. It makes you feel useful, valued. But that can work against you because some people know you will always be there for them, giving and giving and expecting nothing in return and they make use of this.
Conversations are a 2 way street, with both parties talking, sharing and supporting each other. With high maintenance friends it's all about them - their life, relationships, problems and successes. You are a spectator on their life as they stand in the spotlight.
They prefer to complain about things than make a change.
For example, they have the ironing pile from hell. Its enormous and taking over the whole house. They complain about it, and how it's making them feel stressed and depressed. You offer suggestions:
'Have you tried just doing 20 mins at a time' you ask. '<sigh> Yes, but, that wouldn't work because...'
'Have you considered paying someone to do it?' you suggest. '<sigh> Yes, but that wouldn't work because...'
'Maybe you could just hang things up straight away...?' '<sigh> Yes, but...'
(Oh, they sigh a lot too!)
You know why?
They don't REALLY want your help, they like the attention they get and they like the sympathy you give, and they don't want to give that up.
After a bad day, are they someone you'd ring for a chat to make you feel better, or would the conversation end up being about them?
If you were poorly and needed someone to go to the chemist/shop, will they put themselves out for you?
Sometimes, high maintenance friends find a way to still be the centre of attention. You have a headache - they have a migraine.
This one speaks for itself. However, it's not just that they want to vent when things go wrong, they want to share their successes - a new boyfriend, a new job, a new car.
You might notice that they blame others for everything - they don't want responsibility. They are happy to complain about how unfair life is, and how they are always totally the innocent party.
Now I'm not saying these are bad people - their desire for attention is part of them, just as your desire to help people is. They may be manipulative, but often they aren't aware of it, it's not deliberate. Probably.
This kind of friend is often good fun, just not the sort to rely on in a crisis.
Once you've identified a high maintenance friend you're half way there. Just recognizing it's an unbalanced friendship with you as the giver and them as the taker can be enough to make an internal shift, and knowing they don't actually want to change means you don't invest the energy into trying to find solutions to their problems.
Using the ironing example from above, after offering advice and receiving a '<sigh> yes, but...' you realise that they don't actually want help. That's fine. Untangle yourself from the situation by saying either:
1. 'Oh that sounds really difficult - what do YOU think you can do?' - which gives the problem back to them. It might help to empower them into looking for their own solutions,
2. 'Oh that sounds really difficult, I don't know what to suggest' - then change the subject. This moves quickly away from the issue before you become bogged down in it.
When you meet someone new, notice how you feel after being around them. If you feel drained, or find yourself trying to solve their problems, be cautious about becoming involved as they may be high maintenance.
However if you feel happy, relaxed and invigorated then you may have found a potential new friend - invite them for coffee!
This is self care. Self care is you recognizing what drains you, and the protecting yourself from it. You don't have to be mean or stop being friends, just take a step back from the drama.
Is it time to Take Control and Say No? Take a look below.
Take Control: Say No!
Stop agreeing to do things you don't want to - enough is enough!
It's time to drop the guilt and take control.
Hi, I’m Jane, and if you’re the one that cares for and supports others, that gives and never takes and are exhausted because you put your own needs last, then you’re in the right place.
It’s great to have you here – I hope you stick around!