Dear Wendy: How To Handle An Overly Dependent BFF

I am a freshman in college and am loving it. I had no trouble making the transition and while I miss my family, I’ve found it relatively easy to settle into my new situation. Before moving in, I had to say goodbye to my best friend, which was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. For years we have shared everything. We agree on almost everything and love each other’s company. I really do not believe I will ever meet anyone who I could love and rely on as much as I do with her. The problem is that she doesn’t like her college. She’s been talking of transferring to my school and has been making repeated visits to see me. I love getting to see her, but like I said before, we shared everything. It almost got irritating (to me–I’ve never seen any indication that she felt this way). I would make a friend and then they would become her friend too. I would find something I had an interest in and she would adopt the hobby too. I was starting to feel like I wasn’t my own person. For the past few years I’ve actually enjoyed being her second half, but now that I’m in college I’ve been enjoying my independence. The bottom line is that I don’t want her here. More importantly though, I don’t want to hurt her feelings, especially since, like I said, I don’t ever anticipate caring about someone as much as I care about her. What should I do? Is there anything to be done? — Miss Independent

As you’re finding out, college is a wonderful time to enjoy your independence and broaden your horizons with new experiences, friends and influences. Too bad your best friend hasn’t figured that out. I don’t doubt the love and affection you feel for your BFF, but the relationship as you describe it sounds like classic co-dependence. While you’ve had no trouble making the transition to your new life without her, she seems unable to function without “sharing everything” with you. It’s not her college she doesn’t like — it’s being without you that’s making her so unhappy. Unless you want to be as miserable as she’s been, you’ve got to let her know how you feel about her transferring to your school before it’s too late.

I know you don’t want to hurt your best friend, and I admire the care you have for her feelings, but you’re not doing her any favors by keeping quiet. She has as much to gain in being apart from you and having her own independent experience as you do — she just hasn’t realized it as quickly as you have. It’s time to have a real heart-to-heart with her and let her know that as much as you value her friendship and as important as her role is in your life, you know in your heart you both need time and space to grow as individuals. If the bond of your friendship is as strong as you say it is, creating your own identities and experiences will only enhance each other’s lives. Let her know that you believe in the strength of her character to have a wonderful college experience without you by her side every step of the way. She needs to learn to function happily on her own and this her chance. More important, the survival of your friendship is dependent on the distance between you now. If she transfers to your school and mooches off your experience, you’ll only resent her stealing your independence. It won’t take long for that resentment to grow into ugly bitterness, creating a big ol’ wedge between the two of you.

Of course, you can’t force your friend not to transfer to your school, but you can let her know in no uncertain terms that you wouldn’t be happy if she came. It will probably hurt her feelings to hear such honesty and she may even resent you for it for a while. But she’ll be in a lot more hurt if you don’t tell her what’s on your mind and she transfers to your school and doesn’t understand why you don’t want to spend every waking second with her. You’ve just entered a time of great transition and you’re going to find that many of your friendships and relationships will be tested in different ways. These challenges might strengthen some of your bonds and weaken others, but if you stay true to your needs and treat the people in your life with respect — understanding that you’re evolving at different paces — you’ll be a stronger person for it. It sounds like you’re already on a great track.

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