Toxic Friendships: What Should I Do About My Friend That's an "Energy Vampire?" by Dr. Bethany Cook Clinical Psychologist
Q: I have a friend who drains all my energy. Yes, I’d call her an energy vampire because I always feel exhausted after we’re together. She’s always talking about problems – either her own or other people’s. What can I do to help her but also let her know this is too much for me?
A. Sometimes friends are going through a difficult time and can forget to engage in the “give and take” that's needed for a balanced friendship and other times it's just that person’s way of interacting and relating. Regardless of the causation, you need to think about and implement some healthy boundaries for yourself (and the friendship) so neither of you feel hurt, taken advantage of or drained.
If this was happening to me and a friend of mine this is what I would do. First, I want to check in with them face to face, let them know I love and care for them and ask them how they are doing. I would talk about specific incidences where I felt “unseen or dismissed” and how that left me feeling drained because the imbalance I was feeling in the relationship.
After hearing this person out I may suggest some boundaries for moving forward with regards to X behaviors such as:
- "Before you start talking about X, T or Q would you mind checking in with me to see if I am mentally able to listen at that time and if not I will let you know when I can listen?”
- “I know you love our morning chats but I need to pause those for a few weeks. It's hard for me to get to the office and be [present[ after hearing you share about X, T or Q. I will totally call you on my way home from work and we can chat then, OK?”
- “I know you’re going through some stuff right now that’s hard but I am not equipped emotionally or mentally to offer the support I think you need. I’d be happy to look for a therapist with you? Find a good one and who is in your network?”
At the end of the day if you don’t want to completely end the friendship you need to start laying down some kind and firm boundaries. If your friend objects and gets mad at you, there isn’t anything you can do at this point. Sacrificing your mental health for someone else isn’t helping anyone in the long run. Teaching others that they are still lovable even when someone sets a boundary is important.
This won’t be easy but it may actually get your friend the help they need and bring the two of you closer.
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