What to do if you’re spending too much time with a friend

Scientifically reviewed by Viktor Sander B.Sc., B.A.

I had a friend I used to hang out with almost every day. I didn’t mind it at first, but after a while, I started to get more and more annoyed by small things he did. Eventually, we grew apart.

Today, I’ll share all my experiences when it comes to spending too much time with a friend.

  • In step 1, I talk about what’s a reasonable time to spend with a friend.
  • In step 2, I talk about how to be LESS dependent on a friend.
  • In step 3-7, I talk about what to do if YOUR FRIEND is annoying you.
  • In step 8, I talk about what to do if you feel that YOU might be the one who annoys your friend.
  • In step 9, I share how I bring up with a friend that something is bothering me. (It’s hard, but it can be worth it.)

1. Learn how much time is normal to spend with a friend

It’s not bad to spend time together in itself. It’s just that it can increase the risk to get annoyed with someone. The more time you spend together, the more annoyances can grow.

Here are my guidelines for what’s a healthy upper level of time to spend with a good friend.

What’s normal in childhood/teens

Say that you see each other 6 hours per day in school. (If you’re in school for 8 hours, you might be together for 6 of those). Together with that, you see each other 1 hour after school and 2-3 hours on the weekends.

If you’re seeing someone this much, and you still want to spend even more time with them, there is a risk they might feel that you’re too overbearing or needy. In that case, it can be good to take a step back so they get some room to do other stuff in their life.

What’s normal in adulthood

Say that you see each other 4 hours per day at work. On top of that, you see each other half an hour after work or on weekends (taking a coffee, etc).

Or, you don’t meet the person at work. Instead, you meet up once or twice during weeks for a coffee and a chat and then maybe do an activity for 1-2 hours on the weekend.

If you’re seeing your friend for this much time already, asking to see them even more can feel like too much for them. They might feel like they don’t have time for other stuff they want to do. In that case, take a step back and let them initiate next time.

As we grow older, we usually spend less time with friends and get pickier with who we spend our time with. This is normal.

“I’m spending far less than this amount of time together but it still feels like too much!”

Then there might be an imbalance in your friendship:

Someone is taking up more space than the other, someone’s more high energy, someone’s more negative than the other, someone speaks more about themselves or has an annoying habit, etc. More on this in step 4.

Here’s a guide to see if you’re in a one-sided friendship.

“What if I spend more time together than this?”

I have friends who I click so well with that we can spend hours together at the end. These are friends where I have almost no “friction”: There’s nothing in particular that annoys me about them.

If you start getting annoyed about small things with someone, that’s a sign your relationship could improve if you spent a bit less time together. It could also be a sign that you need to talk about those annoyances so that they don’t grow bigger. (I write about HOW to bring up with someone that you want to limit your time in step 10)

2. Find new friends if you only have a few to be with

When I was younger and only had 1 or 2 good friends, I often found that I spent too much time with them. (Simply because I didn’t have many other options.) This was bad because it strained the few friendships I did have. I become too needy and demanding.

What I did was making it my top priority to make more friends. If you have more friends, you don’t need to spend as much time with each one of them.

Actively trying to improve my social skills and build a social circle has been the best choice of my life:

When you have many friends to choose from, you never have to hang out with someone just because they’re your only option.

Expanding your social circle comes down to two things:

  1. Living a more outgoing life. Read my guide here on how to be outgoing.
  2. Improving your social skills. Social skills help you make close friends out of the people you meet. Here’s my social skills training.

EVERYONE can learn to be really good at making friends. Even though I thought that I was born socially inept, I eventually became really good at making friends.

Types of friends you don’t want to spend too much time with

3. Spend only quality time and cut down on other interaction

If you work, go to school, or live with your friend, it’s hard to avoid spending a large amount of time with them.

If you work together or live together, or both, you need to set up boundaries for a healthy relationship. Especially if you find yourself becoming more and more annoyed with this person as time goes on. In this case, you might be a great fit personality-wise, but you are spending way too much time together.

(Personally, I avoid sharing apartments with my best friends because I don’t want to strain those friendships)

Here’s what I’d recommend:

Ask yourself when you DO enjoy spending time with this friend.

Perhaps when you’re around others, or when you do a certain activity? Make sure to spend time during that time, and cut down on interaction during other times whenever possible.

If this doesn’t apply to your situation or doesn’t work, I talk about how to bring up with your friend that you spend too much time together in step 10.

4. Limit all time with friends who annoy you

Do you appreciate your friend, but have small annoyances with their personality or manners?

Perhaps they’re being…

  • Too talkative
  • Negative
  • Self-centered
  • Too different from you in their energy level
  • Needy
  • Too different in interests, beliefs, or world view
  • Expecting more from you than they give
  • (Or something else)

We can call all of those points friction. Differences aren’t necessarily bad – they are what makes it fascinating to meet people. But it can be bad to spend too much time with a friend you don’t really sync with.

If this is the case, you can try limiting time with this friend to just once a month.

That’s usually enough time for me to forget about small annoyances with someone so I can meet them on a fresh page.

Another strategy is to only spend time with this person when others are around. This way you don’t have to give up the friendship, you will still be “protected” by the shelter of others without spending much time together.

The third alternative is to bring up with your friend what annoys you. This is difficult, and personally, I’ve had both good and bad outcomes. I have one friend who’s very attentive. I told him in a sincere, non-confrontational way that I thought his jokes were too vulgar. He picked up on that and stopped immediately.

Another friend talked way too much about herself and wasn’t very interested in others. She wasn’t self-aware enough to see the problem. As a result, I started seeing her less and less and our friendship dissolved. In step 10 I share how to bring up with your friend what annoys you.

5. Have a talk with a friend who picks on you or is toxic

What if your friend is toxic – that is, making you feel bad about yourself by picking on you or making you feel less valuable? Toxic people can still be charismatic and fun to hang out with, but you want to avoid contact with someone who’s making you feel bad about yourself.

I had a friend like this when I was younger. He wasn’t always nice to me, but I was afraid to lose him because I didn’t have many others to hang out with.

I have 3 recommendations:

  1. Try talking with your friend. (Works if your friend is attentive and emotionally mature.) I cover how in step 10.
  2. Try to build new friendships, so that you’re less dependent on that friend. (This did WONDERS for my social life). I talk about this in step 2.
  3. If you’re unsure, read about the signs of a toxic friendship here.

6. Think about if the friendship is mostly good or bad for you

Take a moment and recollect the last time you and your friend hung out. What did you do? In this exercise, it’s important to focus on your feelings, rather than the details. So it’s okay if you can’t remember everything as it happened.

Try and remember how you FELT while you and your friend hung out. Was the feeling positive or negative? How did you feel afterward? Did you spend most of your time together arguing over small things, or did you laugh and feel supported by one another?

If your feelings were overall negative, that’s a sign you spend too much time together, or that you need to end the friendship with that person and find other friends. Your choices here are to try talking with your friend or expand your social circle so you’re less dependant on the friend

7. Put up boundaries if your friend has a big personality

I have some friends who I can only spend a small amount of time with. These friends are wonderful people, but their personalities are so big it’s hard to be around them constantly. This doesn’t mean they are bad people or that our friendship is a failure. This just means I respect my happiness enough to limit time with this person.

Just because your friend has a big personality doesn’t mean you need to stop hanging out with this person entirely. Make the decision to see this friend in small doses.

First, decide what small doses mean to you. What does that look like? Does this mean you see them once a week, or once a month? Only you can answer this question for yourself.

Once you have decided what a small dose means for you and your friend, start putting up healthy boundaries and limit the time you spend with your small dose friend. Here’s how to talk to your friend about it.

8. Bring up your worries if you think you annoy your friend

If you think your friend is annoyed about spending too much time with you, talk to them about it. If this is a good friendship, you should be able to talk openly about this without getting into a fight. Suggest grabbing a coffee and ask this person what’s been on their mind.

I’d also recommend you to ask yourself if you do something that might put your friend off?

Here’s the list from earlier in this guide. Are there any times you can recall…

  • Talking way too much compared with your friend?
  • Having a habit of being negative or cynical?
  • Being self-centered?
  • Way too low or high energy compared to your friend?
  • Needy?
  • Unreasonable or very different in your view of the world?
  • Expecting more from your friend than you give back?

If you have a feeling that you do something that annoys you, ask your friend. Over the years I’ve asked my friends the following question. It’s effective because it “forces“ them to tell you the truth.

“If you had to say SOMETHING that I do that can be annoying, what would that be?”

A variant:

“If you had to say SOMETHING that I could improve socially, what would that be?”

These questions are natural if you talk about social interaction or someone else who annoys you, or you can just bring it up from the blue if you don’t get any other option. A few minutes of awkwardness is OK to save a friendship.

Before you ask it, be prepared to accept the answer. Don’t argue with it, don’t make explanations. Your friend has just given you what they see as the truth, even if it’s super tough to hear at times.

I’ve usually felt low a few days after hearing the “truth” like this from friends, and then I’ve been able to work on it and improve and come out better than ever before. (This helped me save several of my friendships.)

9. Give your friend practical examples to share how you feel

Talking with a friend can be tough. As I’m in my 30s I’m old enough to have had a fair share of tough conversations with friends. Here’s what I’ve learned:

It doesn’t always work to talk. It comes down to how emotionally mature they are. If your friend is rational and emotionally available it’s likely to work. If they’re not, I would still try talking with them but build my social circle so I’m less dependent on them.

Never be confrontational. That just makes them defensive and before you know it you’re the bad person.

Give practical examples and be precise. Don’t say “can you stop being annoying” – how are they supposed to improve from that?

Here’s how I told a friend that I didn’t like the way he joked:

“This is a detail but it’s still something I’ve been thinking about. Last time when you joked, you said [giving example] and I think it was a bit over the top. You probably didn’t even think about it, but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I know that your humor is like that and often it’s hilarious, but sometimes it’s too much.”

Here’s how I would tell a friend that we spend too much time:

“I think I need to just chill out by myself next week because I’m overstimulated and have been way too social lately, maybe we can meet up the week after instead?”

By proposing a time in the future, you show that you DO want to meet up, just not as often.

Here’s how I told another friend that he talked too much about himself.

“I know that you go through a super tough time right now and I really feel for you. But at times it gets too much for me and it feels like we often talk about you but that you aren’t as interested in me or my world.”

You should use your own words so it feels like it comes from YOUR heart.

But the key is to be assertive but still UNDERSTANDING. When you show that you’re understanding, you have a fair chance of helping someone improve.

At this point, you’ve made them aware of the problem. You can give them examples and help them, but the WILL to change has to come from them. If this doesn’t work, you can work on expanding your social circle so that you are less dependent on one or a few friends.

What are you’re issues on this topic? Was there some aspect of spending too much time with a friend that I didn’t address in the guide? Let me know below!

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (12)

12 thoughts on “What to do if you’re spending too much time with a friend”

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  1. Great article, I really enjoyed the read.

    I am in a pickle, and wonder if I can get some help please.

    I am 31 years old, I met the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with 2 months ago, instantly we clicked and I could feel ourselves glow when we are with eachother alone.

    My girlfriend is 19 and has a best friend that I feel spends too much time with her. This I wouldn’t have a problem with in general but I feel like the relationship is overwhelming and too much for my girlfriend.
    My girlfriends best friend has what I call free reins over their relationship, she will pitch up when she wants and stay till who knows when, sometimes spending over 4 entire days a week together consistently at the least. Since I have been in the picture I have noticed a pattern, and it’s not a good pattern.
    When they are together they are both negative and they feed eachothers negativity, I’m ugly, I’m fat, I’m tired, these 3 things will almost definitely come up when we are all together, and they both know how I feel about verbally abusing oneself, it makes my heart sink. I also feel my girlfriend friend controls my girlfriend putting her into positions she doesn’t need to be and putting so much unnecessary pressure on her, for instance, I planned to take my girlfriend out on Saturday the weekend before her birthday, so we made plans, on the Friday night I get a message from my girlfriends friend asking what the plans are as she can’t get hold of my girlfriend because she is sleeping, so I say to her I have planned on taking my lady out for the day so please come over on Sunday, she says ok and then phones my girlfriend a number of times, waking her up , she then says that she is not happy with the plans, and my girlfriend tried to explain that I have planned a day with her, but her friend just got more upset, as soon as my girlfriend gave in her attitude changed at the flick of a wrist she was the best bubbly friend again, (I read her messages, and it was upsetting) meanwhile my girlfriend now has to deal with this at a late hour after getting woken up and then tell me that our plans have to include them later that day but we can spend the morning together. I give in with no fuss as I don’t want to create animosity between anyone.

    So it’s my girlfriends birthday yesterday and all I wanted to do was see her, I’m working an hour away from her house and I was planning on suprizing her for her birthday dinner, I can tell when her friend is with her as she does not undevide her attention and we don’t have much communication, due to this I was not able to get any plans out of her before it was too late to drive there for dinner.

    I spoke to her on the phone last night and said I wanted to be there for her and with her on her birthday but was not able to as I only revived a message @ 7 pm , I am a emotional person and I feel she heard the emotion in my voice through the talk,then she asked if I am ok and I replied I’m a little jealous as I wanted to be there and I miss her as I haven’t seen her since Sunday. An hour after my goodnight message i received a goodnight message with a we need to talk in person added.

    My heart and head is all over the show I’m trying not to think of it and just wait till I see her but I really want this to work, more than anything and I need help or understanding.

    Please let me know what you make of my story

    Regards
    David

    Reply
    • You’re in your 30s and your girlfriend is a teenage girl. Maybe try dating someone closer to your age instead of preying on young women. Being attracted to a younger woman is normal, but having a lot in common with a teenager isn’t a good sign you’re very mature for your age. You’ve been dating for 2 months when you posted this and your post sounds like you’re quite immature. Its her birthday and all you care about is what you want. You even let yourself get jealous and worked up and call her on her birthday to put that on her. I don’t blame her for avoiding you on her birthday. You really sound like you should seek help. Id start by suggesting you can look into emotional immaturity.

      Reply
  2. Well, this is my first time to comment on your email. Seriously, I think that your essays are perfect and I should have read team early. And I benifit from them so much and I determine to make some changes to improve myself and capacity to make acquaintance with others. I and my friend both like playing basketball which means we do have great rapport. But I am still confused about making friends with girls. Maybe I think chatting with them for nothing can be werid. So would please give me some tips? Thank you for your listening.

    Reply
    • Try to see girls as just another one of your friends. How would you approach a guy you wanted to get to know? How would you talk with them? You can pretty much do the exact same thing with a girl. It only gets weird when we start treating girls like some weird alien species, they’re just human like all of us.

      Reply
  3. One thing that I feel helps me be more empathetic to others is having that sudden realization when surrounded by a group of people that each one of us has our own little narrative running in our minds — we are the main characters of our own stories, each of us. What matters to one may not even occur in another’s story. To that end, it’s important to keep perspective and recognize that even though someone may seem invincible, even their narrative has struggles and obstacles that must be overcome. No human story is perfect of course because we are imperfect creatures, and we make mistakes. Recognizing that has really helped me relate to people better, though of course my empathy skills are a definite work-in-progress.

    Reply
  4. I can relate to your first story in many ways even the avoiding part. Friends that always end up talking about themselfes, sometimes I felt like I was just a garbagebin.

    I now find me in a very odd relationship with a coworker I really don´t know what to do about. She only started to work at my place about a year ago. She had a hard time at first, learning everything and I tried to support her (as I do with anyone having a hard time). She did´nt seem to have many friends so a few times we went for a coffe or a afterwork together. We just talked like people do, not knowing each other. Or, rather I did! She immediately confied me a lot of heavy personal stuff I really was´nt ready to hear… In my mind it was/is quite obvious that we don´t have much in common.
    Now she calles me on the phone, text me, talkes to me in terms of “best friend” and I feel like a trapped animal in a cage,. I would say the PAPPORT is invisible! She even make plannes for things we are to do together without asking, being angry when I can´t fullfill her plannes!
    The problem is, like in your story, one really don´t feel so good about yorself not beeing honest telling how you feel about it. Taking the backdoor out instead, not returning calls etc. But how in heavens name do you tell a person that you´re not interested in such a close friendship??

    // Ingrid

    Reply
    • Oh wow, so sorry to hear about that Ingrid. I WISH there was a way to perfectly solve situations like that, but I’m afraid it might be almost impossible to avoid hurting your friend in that situation. I think you have to set some clear limits on what behavior you expect from the other person, it probably won’t be pretty, but hopefully, you will both grow from it in the long run.

      Reply
      • Thanks for your support. It´s so hard to deal with but just knowing someone else also recognize the situation as probematic actually helps.

  5. This makes so much sense. I’ve had the same two kinds of experiences.
    Over time, my friendships with 2 friends deteriorated. The first weakened because I didn’t hv much in common with that friend. The more time spent made me more aware of that gap. The 2nd one because I got fed up of listening to the same kinds of things my friend used to say, though he wasn’t a bad listener either.
    However, I strongly believe in the Biblical idea that meeting a ‘neighbour’ too often can lower your value. Hence, I’m usually careful now to avoid meeting someone excessively; lest I or they lose interest.
    My friendships with two other friends have strengthened over time because I meet regularly, but intermittently, with them. Also, with those, I have more in common, so maybe it’s more about the Rapport again.

    Reply
    • Interesting observation Raphy. Having things in common is an important part of rapport as you seem to have noticed. Personally, I think seeing each other often is great, as long as your rapport is equally great. But when the rapport isn’t as good, you may have a point that it can be wise to not see each other too frequently.

      Reply
  6. Time X Rapport = Friendship. All right, that’s a clear equation.

    So what if one is no longer in school and doesn’t work outside the home or live in a co-op situation to see the same people frequently? How would one make new friends?

    Reply
    • My go-to is joining some sort of club, association, or interest group with at least one weekly meeting (more is better). I’ve seen people’s lives turn around very quickly when they find the right group of people, even for people in your age. Another tip is joining at the leadership level, because most people don’t want the extra responsibility, but you also get a lot more time together.

      Reply

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