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Me (M,18) and my best friend (F,18) have become friends with Amy (F,17). We do not really like other people, but Amy was recently distanced from her usual group of friends, so we decided to adopt her. Amy is not mentally stable and has dealt with anorexia and depression. It is going better with her now, but she is now going too far into our personal zone:

  • Amy shares extremely private information with her parents about us.
  • Amy constantly asks about personal stuff that we don't want to talk about.
  • Amy cancels her already well-planned birthday party to try to invite us to her birthday party, despite that we have said multiple times that we don't go to birthdays because of religious reasons.
  • Waiting upwards of 2.5 hours to bike home with us for only 7 minutes.
  • Getting angry when me and my best friend hang out without her.

She has said that me and my best friend are her only real friends, and that she would still have depression and suicidal tendencies, if we weren't there.

TLDR; How do you distance yourself from a emotionally unstable person that has become too attached, without hurting her?

Amy reacts to normal social interactions as if they are extremely weird and awkward. She can talk hours about how someone looked at her funny, while in reality it was just someone that wasn't even looking at her.

So what do we want? We would like to distance ourselves from Amy, to the point were we don't really hang out, but still talk when we bump into each other (We go to the same school, and see each other at least 4 times a week). We're seeking advice how to do this without hurting Amy and while being extra careful because of her mental state and history of being pushed away.

  • Do you know if she has any other friendly (even a little) social contact except you two ? – Taknok Apr 9 '18 at 19:59
  • Yes, she is hanging out with a few other people at our school. However these are not really close friends. I think she would survive without us, but we are just trying not to hurt her. – Sir_Morfield Apr 9 '18 at 20:02
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    Hi Sir_Morfield, I wanted to drop a couple of links here to previous questions: blocking a suicidal friend, what to do if someone you know is depressed or suicidal. They're not exactly the same, but maybe some of the advice in the answers could be helpful if the situation gets more serious. – Em C Apr 9 '18 at 20:37
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    What kind of distance are you trying to achieve? Ending the friendship entirely? Or just to the point where you don't really hang out, but still talk when you run across each other? How quick do you want this process to be, how honest do you want to be with her? Are you open to confronting her on the matter and severing all ties, or would this be a no-go? Are there any cultural practices we need to take into account on the matter (e.g. are you expected to give Amy more leeway because of her mental problems? Is directness appreciated?) – Tinkeringbell Apr 9 '18 at 20:42
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It seems to me that Amy doesn't have proper boundaries. There are two options: set the boundaries firmly and retreat as she respects them, or start small and increase them in response to issues.

In this case, since she apparently has issues with boundaries, I'd start with firm boundaries and relax them. Steadily increasing them can be seen as a sign on inconsistency or flexibility on your part and may lead to her believing that they won't always be that strict.

Once you have decided on what to do, it's time to do it. Ensure that you and your friend are exactly on the same page and then have the discussion with Amy.

"Amy, it appears that we're at different places in our relationship. We understand that you need closeness; we aren't in a position to provide all of the closeness that you want. When you wait for us for a long time - think how that would look if a guy did that for you. What would you think of him? And if a boyfriend got mad at you for going somewhere without you once, what would you think of that? Now... what's the difference? Can you see how that makes us uncomfortable?"

Now, if she replies that she'd like that and that it shows how committed someone is, you've got a whole different problem. I suspect that most people would find that behavior creepy and off-putting; use that to help her understand the boundaries you expect. You want to make this point: you want to remain friends but you need to be able to choose to spend time with her, not have her pursuing you.

There needs to be consequences for violating those boundaries. "Amy, we've talked about waiting for us by the bikes. This makes me really uncomfortable, knowing that you've been here for a couple hours, waiting for me. I'm not joining you and I'm not inviting you to join me this time." "We've explained that we can't be at the birthday party. I'm sorry you cancelled yours; we've explained that we can't make it and this was your decision" "I understand you're upset that we didn't include you when we hung out; that was a decision we made. If you are going to be upset, I'm going to re-engage when things calm down". It's only when this behavior stops achieving its intended result that it will stand a chance of changing.

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I see two ways :

Stop seeing her

It's quite a brutal way. You make yourself clear by explaining to her that you want space and cut bridges for an undetermined/short/long time. She will probably find other people. Her previous group of friends probably did this method. By telling her that she needs to let more space to her friends, she will (maybe) put herself into question regard to her behavior. You also can add that she needs to make other friends.

If you are a "empathic" (more than others) person it may be difficult for you, but at least the result is quite assured.

Help her to be less dependent

This is more complicated in my opinion and it takes time and energy.

You can try to hang out, do sports, play games with her other friends and her, you may find interesting people too. With more people around, she will depend less on you. Plus in a group not always the same person could tell her that sharing all information with her parents is annoying or about another topic you pointed out. This will share the "mean guy" role. She will also see that not only one or two people find this annoying, and she will/may take the remarks more seriously.


For me the second approach is better in regard to who I am, and if nothing changes in a month I would use the 1st way. I also think, in any means, it's no use to lie to her. Lying will only make things harder when she finds out the truth.

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You can try messaging her, saying

Sorry Amy, but unfortunately, I am not able to give you the help that I think you really need. I also feel that you would really benefit from (more) therapy. I am really concerned about your mental health and want to see you feeling better soon.

and follow up with

Good luck with everything; I truly hope that things improve on your end, and that you become more stable.

and end with

Let's touch base in the near future.

This has the effect of you wishing her well, but also not completely closing the door on your friendship with her.

It also sends a clear message that you are looking to distance yourself from her. If she becomes demanding about your being too busy, reiterate that you wish her the best, and that you hope to see her improve her health, and that you plan to reconnect in the future. This way, she is reminded that you only have the best intentions and aren't trying to harm her in any way.

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