04/17/2014 03:00 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2014

How to Peel Off a Clingy Friend

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By Barbara Greenberg for

Friendship can be a tricky business. Sometimes, it's smooth sailing and other times, the water can be really rough -- especially when that friend runs a tight ship and wants you to be her one and only first mate. At first, this partnership may seem fun and exhilarating because of all the time and attention she gives you, but that can quickly fade when the friendship starts to become all-consuming, overwhelming and an additional stress factor in your life.

It's not always easy to identify which friends will become clingy -- sometimes low-maintenance friends go through rough patches and need more TLC -- but there are certain friends who will just continually suck the life out of you. Before jumping headfirst into a friendship that may end up being demanding and zapping your energy, scope out the situation.

5 Ways to Identify a 'Clinger':

1. She contacts you several times per day, often at the most inopportune times.

2. She automatically assumes that she's going to be included in all of your plans.

3. She tries be like you and may even start to mimic your style. Hello Single White Female (remember that flick?)!

4. She gets agitated if you don't respond to her quickly and frequently.

5. She becomes possessive and acts like she owns you. Yikes!

If you checked off a few of these items while thinking of someone specific, then it's safe to say that you've got a clingy friend on your hands.

How to Deal With a Suffocating Friendship

I suggest you take the following four steps (in this exact order):

1. Ask yourself if this is a temporary situation. If you have a friend who only gets clingy when she's really stressed then you may want to stick with this friend. Keep in mind that we all become needy at times.

2. If you've determined that a friend is consistently clingy, then you may be able to change the nature of the relationship by becoming less available and less responsive. The hope is that the friend will get the message.

3. While you're being less generous with your time, you may also want to consider keeping your plans to yourself. The clingy friend has poor boundaries. She doesn't know that she shouldn't presume that she's a part of everything you do.

4. In an effort to help both yourself and your friend, you can introduce her to others so she has an opportunity to spread her wings and make new friends.

If all of the above efforts fail, then you have no choice but to be direct and straightforward. Kindly explain to the clinger that at this point in your life, you just don't have the time and energy for such an intense connection. Life can be exhausting as it is, so don't feel guilty about removing this friend from your life. It's important for you to preserve your precious energy and lift the weight of the friendship off your shoulders.

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