Emotional Hostages: When Your “Bus Stop” Friends Only Need You During A Crisis

Emotional Hostages

Are you able to make healthy friendships? Or succumb to emotional hostages?
Friendships are supposed to be two-way streets. In other words, there should be a sense of mutuality and reciprocity but in some cases, it can become skewed where one party becomes dependent upon the other, and the other oftentimes unconsciously takes on the role of the burdened friend who feels they must be at the other’s beck and call.

In therapy, I often see this with clients who have a nurturing nature yet lack the ability to draw healthy boundaries with these friends who take them emotionally hostage.  

Emotional hostage

Being taken “emotionally hostage” refers to a situation or relationship where the friend feels he/she must answer every call or text, thus getting sucked into a friend’s drama of depression, suicide, or anxiety.  While the helping friend may want to help periodically, what sets them apart as emotional hostages is the belief they must be there at all times.  They think if they fail to be the emotional anchor for their bff in crisis, the friend’s situation could escalate to the point of suicide.  Yet staying trapped in this kind of relationship creates friction, tension, and resentment as the dynamic fosters co-dependency.

Read 8 Signs Of A Toxic Friendship

What’s equally troubling is these relationships can become one-dimensional over a period of time where the nurturing friend can not turn to the other friend to talk about their own issues.  My clients will confide when they have regular life struggles and reach out, the other buddy rarely has the time to connect with them or may consistently flake on their scheduled times to meet or chat.

It is a laborious process to untangle yourself from these relationships but unless you want to be someone’s pseudo-therapist, you’ll want to address it directly with the friend so they’re aware of the uncomfortable position you’re in.  

“Bus stop” friends

Your bff may feel betrayed if you no longer can be the sole person they depend on in their time of need but I reassure my clients that it’s not their role or responsibility to be someone’s emotional savior.  
Another way I’ve described these needy friends is to refer to them as “bus stop friends”.  

In essence, they will only stop to chat or hang with you when they have significant issues in their life.  When life is moving swimmingly on their part, you may want to spend time with them only to see the metaphorical friendship bus pass you by time and time again. 

As you grow older, the less friends you have but have the real ones.
Emotional Hostages: When Your "Bus Stop" Friends Only Need You During A Crisis

Once again, true friendships are built on interdependence. It’s not one way but a relationship where both can rely on each other as needed. Healthy friends also do not exploit or manipulate others into always caring for their emotional needs.  If you find yourself on either side of this dynamic of either being exploited or insisting certain friends meet all your emotional needs, it may be a good time to seek professional help. 

Please share this article with anyone who you may think will find it valuable and helpful.


Written by: Sam Louie 
Originally appeared on: Samlouiemft.com
Republished with permission
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Emotional Hostages: When Your "Bus Stop" Friends Only Need You During A Crisis
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Sam Louie

Sam Louie is a psychotherapist and relationship coach in Seattle and Bellevue. He holds a Master's of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family psychotherapy.View Author posts