We’ve all dealt with a high maintenance friend/relationship at one time or another. Whether they require your input on an urgent situation with a new love or simply need to vent, these energy vampires always need you most when you’re busy or have an important project. Even when you warn them about your busy schedule, they often ignore your needs and steamroll over your priorities in order to address their own needs.
A friend who constantly drains you may not be the ideal person you wish to keep in your life, but often the reason most of us end up with a high maintenance friend is because they can be a lot of fun when they aren’t demanding our attention. Addressing the problem is delicate. Since you can’t change another person, it’s wiser to approach the situation by prioritizing the management of your stress that high maintenance relationships create. Below I have listed 5 strategies for successful stress management and boundary setting.
1. Set boundaries since they cannot. It’s important to protect your space, time, and interests. Send a clear message by saying something to the effect of, "You’re my friend and I care about you, but I cannot get together at this time" firmly without excuses. They may not like your response but stand firm.
2. Plan for a little drama when setting boundaries. High maintenance people aren’t told "no" often. When they hear no, they can give you a hearty guilt trip. If this occurs, remind yourself of the time you’ve given them in the past and reassure yourself that their drama does not belong to you. Be prepared to stay firm on the boundary you’ve set.
3. Proactively schedule meetups. If you initiate a get-together, it will ease your high maintenance friend’s anxiety. A motivating force for some high maintenance people is their underlying abandonment issues, often created by their own demands of others. This becomes a vicious cycle; however, if you help alleviate their fear, they often decrease their demands.
4. Care for your own needs. High maintenance people induce high stress levels. If you live with this person, see them often, or work with them, it’s especially important to practice decompressing on a regular basis. Incorporate meditation into your schedule, talk with your support system, and prioritize yourself instead of giving all your energy to the relationship. This helps you decompress and avoid stress-related health issues of your own.
5. Tag team with others affected by the high maintenance friend/ relationship. High maintenance individuals affect many people. Don’t let the burden of this person fall solely on your shoulders. Whether they’re a co-worker, friend, or sibling, share the emotional burden with others they unload on. Much as new parents create a tag team by sharing the care of a newborn, take turns with others affected by this person. Asking others for help will lighten your load and alleviate the stress this person may generate.
Sometimes when we try to be a good friend for someone we care about, we end up enabling someone to rely on us completely. When it comes to high maintenance relationships, you must remember that it’s not your fault they cannot manage or prioritize their problems. When you prioritize your life, you give them permission to seek help from others rather than totally relying on you. A true friend knows their limits and respects the relationship enough to say no.