Dear Emma,

What would you do? I have a dear friend, in crisis. I told her that she could call me anytime she needed to talk or to cry on my shoulder. The problem is that she has loads of free time whereas I have a husband, four children, a full-time job and I care for my elderly parents. She texts me all times of day in desperation sometimes asking me to call her immediately. When I do call her, she keeps me on the phone for hours in deep despair, discouraged, hurt and crying. I can’t keep this up. How do I limit her phone time with me and still let her know that I am here for her? 

– Running On Empty

Dear Running,

Whatever were you thinking?? Wonder Woman hadn’t hit the screen yet when you made that offer. With a husband, four children, full-time work and elderly parents to take care of, all I can think was that you were looking for a vacation – like a short stay in a hospital when you collapse.

There is a reason your friend has lots of time – she’s not taking care of anyone else or even herself. It sounds like her problem is ongoing. She may have burned out her other friends. Don’t delude yourself that you are there for her. You can’t be – not in the way she wants you to be – and you aren’t taking care of yourself either.

Sometimes people can’t set limits because they get their own needs met vicariously. CoDA (Codependents Anonymous) is a great resource. There are meetings all over, and if there are none near you, there are also online meetings.  If you think you don’t have the time to check it out, know that you will have much more time when you are not being drawn into other people’s dramas. And yes, you will still be a worthwhile person, and a better friend for having clear limits.

– Emma