High Maintenance Friends and How to Deal With Them

Ever been in a situation like this? It’s 11:30 PM and just as you’re drifting off to a peaceful sleep, your phone rings. You reluctantly pick it up, only to hear the frantic voice of your BFF screaming, “You’ve got to come get me. I had a flat on the freeway, my spare has no air, and I can’t find my Auto Club card!”


This is not the first time you’ve gotten such a call. It’s pretty much a standard occurrence with this person and several others. How many friends do you have who call you with their “emergencies” on a regular basis? Are you embarrassed to reveal the count?

I call these people “high maintenance,” because their lives are always surrounded by one drama or another. They’re also chronic complainers – nothing is ever good enough for them. At a restaurant, the table is in the wrong location, the waiter is rude, or the food is cold. You know the type.

Basically, they’re negative and problematic, and they suck your energy. They take more than they give, and sometimes you wonder how you got “stuck” with them… and worse, why you still keep them around.

Of course, if they’re your relatives, you don’t have much choice. Although you can limit your visits. However, if you have tendencies toward care-giving and co-dependency, there’s some payoff to keeping high maintenance people in your life. You like to solve problems, put out fires, or offer a comforting shoulder. It makes you feel special, needed, loved.

Yet, if you look at the exchange, you’re giving much more than you’re getting back, and eventually you’ll become resentful, not to mention drained of energy. So what’s the solution? Do you just dump your high maintenance friends? If you’re not ready to move on, then here are some tips on how to deal with them:

1. Accept them as they are. They will probably never change, so don’t even go there. As long as they’re getting their needs met, they will keep on being the way they are.

2. Be clear about what you want out of the relationship so you can preserve your self-respect, your time, and your energy. Be honest with yourself about why you choose to stay friends with them.

3. Learn to say “NO” when it’s just not possible for you to come to their rescue.

4. Get clear about what you think they want from you and what you’re willing to give to them. Know when to draw the line.

5. Be honest with them when they’re way out of control. After all, you really have little to lose if they dump you.

6. Put your foot down if they attempt to drag you down to their level. For example, if you’re at the theater and your friend starts complaining about your seats and includes you in the tirade, firmly say that you have no problem with the seats.

7. Consider progressively reducing the time you spend with them. Your needs must come first, and if you burn out, you’ll have nothing to give to anyone.

8. Don’t automatically agree with them or placate them when they go off on a rant. Do your best to reason with them telling them the truth as you see it.

Realize that as you begin to let go of energy-draining, high-maintenance friends, you’ll have more energy for yourself, and you’ll open the door to attract more quality people into your life. You deserve to have satisfying, supportive, loving relationships with people as great as you are.

Thanks to Musings of a Thoughtful Conservative for including this post in A Waukesha Carnival, and to This Full House for featuring this post in the Carnival of Family Life.

NEWSFLASH: I’ve added another chapter to my life by joining C.A.S.T. Recovery, a Los Angeles based outpatient drug rehab program which specializes in designing highly individualized recovery plans with appropriate professionals to support a client’s health, accountability, and success.

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