How to deal with this needy friend..
September 5, 2013 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I don't mind making new friends, but it's when they have to contact me every day is where I cross the line. How can I handle this situation delicately?

I met her at the skydiving place I go to every weekend. She had done a tandem but her and a bunch of other jumpers were talking so I joined in. She asked where I was from and turns out she was about only 20 minutes away. She asks to add me on Facebook so I let harm to it. She told me she was going to be taking the student solo course in a few weeks.
Well she adds me to Facebook and then asks for my number so we can do lunch. I think nothing of it. We do lunch on a week day and have fun. She tells me she is a hospice nurse and she moved here from 2 hours away in the beginning of the year.

The next weekend, she is at the dropzone again. She made another tandem jump and was waiting for me to jump so she could watch me and my instructor. Then when we got back, she wanted to listen in on what my instructor had to say to was just kind of weird. I dunno. But after that, we were all sitting around. Usually tandem people leave after they are done, but she continued to stay as everyone else, even the regular jumpers were leaving.
We drink beer at the end of the day (it's a skydiving thing) and she wasn't drinking, but she was just listening to everyone talk and just sitting there. My friend I haven't seen in awhile arrived and him and I usually talk about personal things together, but whenever him and I tried to separate from the group, she came and followed us! Then a bunch of people left, but I couldn't leave because I had just drank two beers and didn't trust myself to drive. She said she would stay too!

It was just 4 of us then, my friend, another jumper,her and I. Then another guy came to work on one of the planes and my friend had to go help him. So the other jumper, her and I went out to the parking lot. I acted like I was going to leave but since she was talking to the other jumper, I quickly hugged her and told her I was going to use the restroom back where we came from. She said she was going to be following me...I dunno what she meant. Back to the bathroom? But she stayed and didn't come back, so I suppose she meant the road since we live close to each other.

Every single day since then she has texted me! If it's jump related she texts me, or if it's a jump day she will text today is a jump day and I'll be heading out soon, but she texts me and says "50 bucks says you will jump today. It is beautiful out!" Since she isn't a student yet, she can't jump on Tuesdays or Thursdays, so no use for her to come and just watch. That would be extra creepy to me..but here's the thing. THIS WEEKEND SHE IS JUST COMING TO HANG OUT ALL DAY AGAIN. Ugh. Like just sitting there and not talking but just watching. She even told me she declined going to an amusement park with a friend this weekend because she just wants to come and watch!

I know this is going to make me sound horrible, but I think she is needy because she has had a death in her life recently. I have no idea who it was because she mentioned it quickly and changed the subject. I just cannot take the text messages every day and her hanging around. I can't imagine how horribly annoyed I'm going to be when she is a student and will get to hang out every Tuesday and Thursday too. Though most students don't come back after 1 or 2 jumps, so it's the norm, but she has assured me she is going to keep doing it, but then again, who knows. She has only done two tandems and going out there alone takes a special kind of person. Not a lot of people keep it up.

I've thought about just ignoring her text messages when she sends them, but then she will send me another one...and if I don't answer that, a few hours will pass and she will send me another text! It's getting to be too much for me.

Also, our age difference freaks me out a bit. I don't know why she would want to hang around a 24 year old. She is 40 years old! I don't want to cause drama because I am part of the skydiving club, but I'm almost at my wits end with her. I wish she would get attached to someone else there, but she seems to like to follow me around the most.

I want advice on how to handle this situation delicately. I know I shouldn't have given her my Facebook or my number or even had lunch with her. I didn't know it would be amounting to this! Lesson learned, but I'd like to know how to deal with this and not be given the "it's your fault!" thing I got from reddit. Thanks in advance.
posted by Autumn89 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "Hi, I'm extremely busy these days, so I think it's best if we just hang once in a while for a little bit at the dropzone."

Then when you're at the skydiving club, be a little blunt. "Hi, my friend and I have some personal stuff to catch up on. Great seeing you! Hope you had fun jumping!"
posted by xingcat at 12:21 PM on September 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

I quickly hugged her

Do not hug people you don't want to be friends with.

Do not respond to her text messages. Or, if you prefer, maybe one at the end of the day saying "oh hi! crazy busy day over here" and leave it at that. And then don't respond the next day.

Practice being friendly without being her friend. Smile at her. Say hello. Be cordial and polite when she talks to you. But do not engage. If she wants to hang out or chat, leave and go somewhere else.

Unless she's really, really clueless she'll eventually get the hint and back off. But right now it sounds like you're sending out "ok let's be friends" signals. If you don't want to be friends, stop doing that.
posted by phunniemee at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would ignore the texts and in person say what xingcat wrote.

I mean she sounds a little needy and sad but that's for her to take care of.
posted by sweetkid at 12:26 PM on September 5, 2013

Best answer: This sounds like a personal space problem to me. Most people develop a sense of personal space (both physically and emotionally, or in regard to relationships) during their adolescence, as "fitting in" and understanding how others see you becomes more important. They begin to pick up on the cues that indicate things like, "I want to talk to this person over there, and you aren't invited to that conversation," or, "We've already talked recently so I'm now paying attention to someone else." She's not picking up on these things - she's in your space in every way possible - and you want that to change.

So how do you change that? I think the most humane but helpful thing to do for her is treat her like you would anyone who doesn't understand personal space. If you know she is going to follow you from one conversation to another more personal conversation, you can say something to the affect of, "Hey X, I'm going to go have a personal conversation with Y for a moment. Don't worry, I'll say goodbye to you before I leave." You've defined what will happen - you are leaving for a personal conversation and when you will talk to her again - when you leave. If she insists on following, you have to be firm/straightforward with a "Actually, it really is personal - can you let us have a moment to talk by ourselves?" If she wants to hang out with you consistently, you can say something like, "I enjoy spending time with you but I also need time for myself and my other friends - thank you for understanding."

She isn't a bad person - she just doesn't understand the cues you have given her. Everything so far has been situational/non-verbal. It's time to move to simple, verbal cues that will help her figure it out.
posted by _DB_ at 12:28 PM on September 5, 2013 [23 favorites]

If you want sincere advice, you shouldn't put restrictions around it ("I don't want to hear such and such... ")

Write her an email. Tell her what kind of relationship, if any, you are looking for. Email her, don't attempt to verbalize.

Be kind - the death in her family has likely forced her to fill her days and a painful void. When people and animals are hurting, they display unique behavior.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:58 PM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Don't respond to the text messsages: ignore them. And if she sends another one, ignore that too. Ignore, ignore, ignore. There is absolutely no requirement in this world that says 'You Must Immediately Respond' to any & everyone who calls, texts, emails, snailmails, or knocks on your door. Ignoring the vast majority of her texts (and responding only if & when it is convienent for you) is not rude, but sending repetitive clingy texts to other people is.

When you want to leave, do so; don't tell her where you're going, don't offer her a ride or agree if she asks for one --- just walk to your car, get in and leave. You owe her no explanation as to where you'll be or when you'll be there.

Okay, I get it: she's lonely. But that doesn't mean you are required to be her crutch, or to submerge your life in hers. The phrase to remember is, "I'm sorry, but that won't be possible" or even more bluntly "No." You owe her no explanations whatsoever as to why you can't/won't give her a ride or hang out with her or anything else: you are allowed to tell people No, they may not intrude in your life.

Delete her from your facebook page; and next time, don't be so quick to give a stranger so much contact info --- your phone number, fb page, address(!!!), what days you're at the dropzone, etc. Get to know someone more before you give them so much info.
posted by easily confused at 2:08 PM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: when i've had people want to chat or text frequently i just tell them i'm really not into texting, chat, etc much. that effectively nipped in the bud one person who was basically contacting me whenever she needed something. next time she sends you a text just respond, "hey, i'm really not into texting i'll see you around" or something like that. you do have to tell them this. ignoring repeated texts is kinda rude and some really don't get the hint anyway. i also learned that in my experience people who ask to add you on facebook after just meeting have a tendency to post like a jillion times a day on fb. next time someone ask me that i'll just tell them i really don't like to add people until i've gotten to know them a bit, which is true.
posted by wildflower at 2:12 PM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

The above advice is good, but also maybe try not to take this so personally. It sounds like yes, she is a little clueless when it comes to boundaries, but the skydiving club doesn't belong to you. Sounds like she needs something to fill her days, and she is getting into skydiving. So don't begrudge her hanging out at the club, or wanting to watch other jumps, even if most people don't do that. Just find a way to gently shut her down when she is overstepping into your personal space/time, but remember she has as much right to be at the club as you.
posted by catatethebird at 2:29 PM on September 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

I don't know why she would want to hang around a 24 year old. She is 40 years old!

I don't know, maybe she's a person? She's lost someone recently. Put things in perspective here. You're being very OTT. She wants to be friends with you. Or she wants to be around the skydiving. It's not really a big deal. If you really are 24 years old, this is not really OMGuguyz territory.

Nor is how you deal with this if you don't want to talk to her - don't talk to her.
posted by heyjude at 2:50 PM on September 5, 2013 [13 favorites]

She's acting clingy because you've started acting like a friend without actually wanting to be a friend. Nothing she's doing is really out of place for a new friendship. Some people are genuinely clingy or creepy, but ninety percent of the time, we use those words to mean "I don't want to feel like a bad guy by making it obvious I don't like you".
posted by politikitty at 2:54 PM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I wanted to clarify I have no problem with her being at the club. It's the fact that she has to follow me around all day! There are other people there she could and should talk to if she wants to get into skydiving. I'm just a newbie student with 35 jumps. I've introduced her to many people and she is polite and friendly, but always comes back to me.

Like I said, I learned my lesson. Next time someone wants to get so much information about me (FB, phone number) then I'm just going to have to tell them I don't want to give that info ot just now until I know them better!
posted by Autumn89 at 3:40 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The thing is, you didn't do anything wrong. You weren't wrong to give her facebook access, or your phone number, or even have lunch with her or hug her, because that is what friendly people do - it doesn't mean you're besties. Now if you knew that she would become your definition of stalker-y, then that's another thing, but in this case, your actions would be entirely appropriate for someone who was just becoming your definition of a casual friend.

The thing is, she is becoming her definition of a casual, perhaps more than casual, friend, and you don't care for it. So I think you just need to set different types of boundaries on all fronts that she has approached you.

Texting: you don't have to respond to texts. No matter how many people send you. If you ask me for $500 dollars 500 times, it's not going to increase the chances of me giving it to you, if I don't want to. But you are free to ask. Respond when you want, and if that is never, then don't respond. If she asks about it, just let her know that texting isn't you thing.

When you just want to go and watch and not have her crowd you for a significant period of time: When she comes up, smile, and then go back to looking at what you were looking at. If she starts to talk, answer her first question or statement, but on the follow up, be honest. That you don't know how to say this is a way that doesn't sound rude, but one of the things you like to do is just sit quietly and watch, rather than have conversations. And then just shrug and say it isn't personal. You're setting the boundary.

For wanting to spend time with others, or not have her be a part of conversations that specifically involve you and another person, like your jump instructor - do what _DB_ suggested above.

This isn't so much about her 'getting a clue' but you accepting that you're just going to be setting some boundaries' for a while, regardless of how much she can read your social cues. This awkward interaction thing just happens to people at some point. It sucks, but you can do it.
posted by anitanita at 3:46 PM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: And I should also add every time it's a skydiving day, she texts and asks what time I'm going to be arriving there! The first time was fine and I told her the time, but then when it became every time it was a jump day it got old and I ignored the text. Went to the dz and she was already there and followed me around the whole time.

I've told a close family member about the first time we did lunch and she says there might be something wrong with a 40 year old woman who wants to hang out with a 24 year old and I thought they were being ridiculous and told them to stop worrying but now I'm starting to have that gut feeling too. Always trust your gut, right?

Thanks for all the advice guys. Ignore, ignore, be civil and polite, and make boundaries!
posted by Autumn89 at 3:50 PM on September 5, 2013

Autumn, having read a few of your posts, I've got to say I think there's some projection going on here. It seems that this type of situation happens quite frequently in your life, and the common part of the pattern is your behaviour (giving people positive signals, becoming annoyed when they assume that you like them), not the behaviour of this new friend. Being disingenuous by pretending to like someone and then getting snarky when they reciprocate is hurtful. If you don't want to be friends with this lady, don't be, but don't make out that she's being unreasonable for taking your dishonest signals at face value. That's not cool.
posted by matthew.alexander at 3:56 PM on September 5, 2013 [20 favorites]

I would think a "death in her life" is not unusual for a hospice nurse. Are you getting to know this person at all? Or has she just listened to conversations?

People who move to a new place need friends. You were very friendly so she probably thought you were fine with it.

Just slack off on the texting and things should evolve to a more comfortable place.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:12 PM on September 5, 2013

is it possible that she has a crush on you and thinks that you guys are going to start dating? or have in fact already started dating?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:19 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

really random thought: i wonder if she lost a daughter. i may be totally off-base with that idea but i agree it is strange for a 40 y.o. to want to spend so much time with a 24 y.o. or, you just have a very attractive personality.
posted by wildflower at 6:05 PM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've told a close family member about the first time we did lunch and she says there might be something wrong with a 40 year old woman who wants to hang out with a 24 year old

This is just silly, and a bit immature, to be honest.

I'm 40 and am not usually interested in hanging out with 24-year-olds because we don't have enough in common for me to enjoy their company (and vice versa, I'd assume). Doesn't mean I'd never pursue a friendship with someone 16 years younger (or older) than me.

It's not middle school, where we only hang out with people in the same year group. She doesn't have to have something 'wrong' with her, or be sexually interested in you, to try and make friends across an age gap.
posted by Salamander at 6:14 PM on September 5, 2013 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I've thought about just ignoring her text messages when she sends them, but then she will send me another one...and if I don't answer that, a few hours will pass and she will send me another text! It's getting to be too much for me.

She will stop texting her if you don't text her back. The increased texting is a manifestation of an 'extinction burst': "An extinction burst will often occur when the extinction procedure has just begun. This usually consists of a sudden and temporary increase in the response's frequency, followed by the eventual decline and extinction of the behavior targeted for elimination."

She is also realising that you do occasionally answer and so she thinks, 'If I keep texting Autumn89 she will eventually reply'.

So moral: Do not reply to her texts! It's kinder to be consistent, even if you feel bad about ignoring her. You're giving her intermittent rewards so she thinks that if she texts constantly she will sooner or later get a reply.

(Source: A similar experience with another girl - very sweet, entirely clueless about personal space and lonely because of varied family issues - when I myself was 24.)

she says there might be something wrong with a 40 year old woman who wants to hang out with a 24 year old

This is not true.
posted by Ziggy500 at 1:16 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You know, I have thought about the whole crush thing. She sent me a text the other day when I responded hours later, and said "you are too cute!" and I just ignored that one. The first time we went out to lunch, she came up and hugged me. But I think her personality is just very bubbly because she is always smiling. I'm going to rule out the whole having a crush on me and wanting to date me.

As far as the death goes, she told me she was married at one point, very young,got divorced and moved back from Florida to here, and she has never had children and doesn't see herself having them ever, so I think we can rule out the daughter part. Also, she said she hasn't told her parents about the skydiving. So maybe friend death or other part of the family death.

And for the person who said this seems like something like this happens a lot in my life...I've changed a lot from those experiences. I even dated the same guy again recently, and handled his negativity in a mature and different way. I'm a very independent person now and don't like to be smothered by anyone. I like my alone time and my skydiving days with my friends. I don't cry when confronted with something horrible or think the world is over. I was simply asking for advice on how to handle this delicately.She's going through a rough time and trying to escape every day life, by skydiving, like all of us there are and I don't want to make her situation any more painful. Like I said, if I'm going to be seeing her a lot (whether I like it or not, she has every right to be at that dropzone like everyone else does) I wanted to know how to handle the situation. I've never had a friend
who was needy before. It's a new experience for me. But then again, maybe telling people this, people will twist around my words on me. I know who I am better then all of you and the situation is just too much for me. Even the guys at the dropzone think it is very odd she wants to hang out all the time because she has only done 2 tandems and hasn't even done a solo jump, so this all just isn't "in my head" type of thing. Maybe she won't even like it. Only 3 students in the last 3 months have stayed with the program. We see people come take the class, make 2-3 jumps and then never come back. That might be the case with her.

I will be blocking her number and if she continues to message me, I'll tell her I'm not too big on texting, which is partly true unless its my significant other. She has already texted me today asking me what time I am going to be at the dropzone tomorrow. I won't be answering.
posted by Autumn89 at 10:41 AM on September 6, 2013

You say that there are other people that she could - and actually would get a lot out of -- be talking to. Why don't you make a point of introducing her to some of those people? Right now, you are the only person she can share skydiving stuff with. Help her change that by increasing her skydiving circle.
posted by Librarygeek at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2013

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