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Background

I have a friend whom I have been very close with for a long time. A few years ago, when we were in high school, he came out to me and told me that he did not want to tell his parents, as they are very homophobic and would hurt him or kick him out of the house. Obviously I promised not to tell his parents or anyone else, and we continued our friendship as normal.

Currently we are both in college. He went out-of-state to get away from his family and live freely, i.e. not have to worry about hiding his orientation. He came back this summer to visit me and his other friends.

The problem

He has been wanting to come over constantly, basically every day, to get away from his family. He does not want to spend time with them - they have said hurtful things to him in the past and made fun of the way he dresses and acts, and he has implied that he has struggled with self-harm because of the way they treat him. Because of all this I was obviously okay at first with him coming over more often than usual, and it was totally fine for a while. He would come over two or three times a week and we would just hang out and spend time together. No problems at all.

However, I am an introvert and I now have a full-time job, and he now wants to spend almost all of my available time together, starting the minute I get home from work. He wants to know when I get home and then immediately comes over then, and stays almost until I go to bed. He also wants to hang out on the weekends. When I say I have other plans or just want a day to myself, he makes me feel bad about it and reminds me of his home situation, and says that none of his other friends are responding.

It has gotten to the point where constantly being around him, talking to him and supporting him is draining me emotionally. When we are hanging out he constantly complains about his family and does not really ask me about my problems (and I have problems of my own). It doesn't feel like a mutual friendship anymore and I'm getting tired of it. I feel like his therapist and his getting-away-from-family hideout, not his friend.

Question

How can I tell him that enough is enough and ask for a break? Obviously I don't want to make his family situation worse or drive him to self-harm, but I cannot take this anymore. I'm exhausted and it's starting to affect my relationships with other people. Does anyone have any advice to deal with this situation as delicately as possible? I really don't want to lose the friendship, I just want him to let me have some time to myself when I need it and not make me feel bad about it.

  • Hi there, welcome to IPS. I've made a small edit to your question (the bold part), as it would have made it opinion based. Feel free to modify if you think you can improve the question too. – OldPadawan Jun 30 at 4:39
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    Depending on how you're living (room, appartement, house, etc.), would it be possible for him to come over and busy himself, without having you entertain him? – Niko1978 Jul 1 at 8:46
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Simple answer: Just tell him.

Of course, that is much easier to say than do. But speaking from experience, people that are so caught up in their own emotions and issues just cannot and will not be able to see past their immediate bubble until someone calls them out on it. I was one of those people! I had a bad home environment and I constantly unloaded on my best friend; I escaped to her house every day after school, or forced her (read: guilted her) to come to mine so I wouldn't be alone. She absorbed all of my negativity and I didn't think twice about it because as far as I saw it, my problems were worse than hers, and since I never allowed her a chance to share then in my head she didn't have any problems. I always felt better after hanging out with her, but I never realized how much I was hurting her. I was constantly venting my frustrations on her so while our hang-outs were therapeutic for me, they were mentally and emotionally draining for her.

One day she just sat me down and told me. She said our relationship felt toxic and although she loved me, she just couldn't do it anymore. I lashed out at first (being so caught up in yourself makes it hard to see the situation from someone else's perspective). But eventually I came around and tried to balance out the relationship. It was too late (I had done too much damage by then) but after losing that important relationship, I learned to make better ones in the future.

There is a risk that your friend will lash out, like I did, and make you feel guilty for feeling the way you feel. But just tell him you're not cutting him off or pushing him away. You can try saying

Hey, I just need a day or two to recharge my battery so I can be a better friend to you. I'm not shutting you out, but just like you need a break from your family, I need a break from everyone after working all day. This doesn't mean I don't love you or care about you. I just need some me-time to unwind. How about we move our meetings to [whatever time period you're comfortable with].

You can also suggest some other things he can do to get out of the house (go to the library, take a walk in the park, join a sports club) and maybe meet new people.

At the rate you're going, you're bound to burn out. It's a toxic relationship. You're not helping him by constantly allowing him to run away from his problems instead of facing them, and you're hurting yourself by constantly absorbing his negativity.

I hope everything works out for the both of you! Just remember to make some time for yourself. You gotta recharge your battery~

  • This is an excellent answer, thank you. I think you are right, and I just need to tell him this is a toxic relationship that can't continue. Thank you for the advice! – Sciborg Jul 3 at 0:54
  • @Sciborg I'm really glad I could help!! Good luck! – SQLBunny Jul 3 at 1:38
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Background

I had a similar experience - a school friend, who I respected, but did not find it easy to get along with, obviously found his home life with his parents restrictive and difficult. He had no specific problem but with hindsight, he was very likely on the autism spectrum but undiagnosed (this was the late 1980s). He was very sociable, but he did not pick up on social cues and irritated everybody he met. Most other people were not kind to him; I struggled but did my best. I believe his parents, possibly due to a lack of understanding of their son, stifled his efforts to be sociable, and this led to him not wanting to go home. After we left school and were both working, he would often ask me for a ride home. During the ride he would find a way to persuade me, or manoeuvre events so that he could visit my home. Once there, he just would not leave, and when it got late and I suggested he go home he would say that his parents would have locked the door by now and he had nowhere to stay. I never allowed him to stay, but I found out that he did the same with a couple of other people too and they caved in once or twice.

What worked, and what didn't

I might have fallen for his tactics of allowing him to come to my home a couple of times, but I never allowed him to stay (which I know is not the same problem you have, but this was his "endgame" - your friend's endgame is just to stay until it's late). The other friends who allowed him to found themselves avoiding him completely in the future because they did not know how to state their limits. I learned quickly that saying a straight "no" was accepted by him, and not giving him any angle to debate me on the subject meant I didn't have to argue further or feel guilted into giving in.

"Dropping hints" doesn't work if someone has an "endgame" - they will just ignore the hints or talk their way around them, eg:

-"It's probably time to get some dinner, do you want to go home"
- "That's okay, I ate lunch late, I'm not hungry".

Giving a reason or an excuse why you have to say no will give them fuel to argue or offer alternatives, eg:

-"Listen, I have some chores to do."
-"That's okay, I'll just watch your TV quietly, I won't get in your way".


You need to be direct. Personally, I wouldn't ask for "a break" from the routine you have found yourself in. That implies that (a) he could make some changes to make it impact less on you, and (b) it will resume again one the "break" is over.

Recognise the "stages" of what happens. Perhaps it starts with a text message or a phone call asking if he can come over? Just say at this first stage:

Sorry, it isn't convenient tonight.

Don't give a reason like "..because I'm busy". Remember you are entitled to some privacy, and even if he asks why you are not obliged to give a reason.

Also, don't worry about the next night just yet. If you are right about his reasons for coming over - avoiding his parents - his first concern will be what to do instead. He may have to go home and finally face his parents, which may lead to a resolution. He may instead find somebody else to latch onto, which could go towards resolving your issue.

It is sad when you have a "toxic" friend but you can also see their good side and the pain that has led them to be as they are. Remember though that there are lots of sources of help and support for all kinds of problems that he may have. Using you in a way that has impacted on your mental wellbeing is not good and has only led to him not getting the proper support he needs and you being in need of support yourself.

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