Don’t be high-maintenance or tolerate those who are

She’s the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.

High-maintenance people wear me out. I’ve decided that I’m not going to be a spectator or victim of their behavior. Join me in resisting demanding, overly needy, selfish people. Don’t feel obligated to tolerate their behavior or cater to their whims.

Here are some characteristics of high-maintenance people (HMP) that should cause your crap-detector to peak.

  • Excessive and insatiable emotional needs. We all have legitimate emotional needs (attention, encouragement, comfort, respect, etc.) and relationships are deepened when these needs are mutually acknowledged and met. But some people are excessive in their neediness and are never satisfied. Their neediness is like a relational black hole that sucks all the light and energy out of relationships. And there’s seldom any reciprocity; they take but do not give.
  • Extremely picky and hard to please. It takes them two hours to make it through the cafeteria line because they are micro-processing all the options. Their indecision adversely affects those around them.
  • Negative. Instead of owning a pleasant, positive outlook on life, HMPs often reside on the dark side; their default setting is pessimism.
  • Unhappy and hard to please. HMPs are rarely satisfied; there’s always a controversy brewing and something to be upset at. They nurse a low-grade fever of discontent.
  • Melodramatic. We nickname them drama queens (or kings) because they are attracted to drama and if they can’t find any, they create it. They are uncomfortable with peace and calm; they gravitate to, or create, storms.
  • Unorganized. Often, they live disordered lives and expect us to compensate. They expect their lack of planning to be our emergency.
  • Hold grudges and keep picking the scab off old wounds. HMPs have difficulty in letting things go; they coddle hurt feelings and offenses; they would rather keep old wounds and misunderstanding alive than simply forgive.
  • Self-centered and self-absorbed. With apologies to Copernicus, they think they are the center of the galaxy. They act as if the world revolves around them.
  • Lack of self-awareness. All these characteristics are exacerbated by the fact that HMPs are clueless about their annoying behaviors. They either don’t own a mirror or never take the time to look at themselves.

Now, put down your digital device, go look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “Am I high-maintenance?” Or better still, ask those who know you best, “Am I high-maintenance?” If you are, stop it.

Secondly, identify people in your life who are high-maintenance and decide how you’re going to deal with them. Tough-love may be the answer. For sure, as long as you allow them to be high-maintenance, they will be.

Occasionally, everyone benefits from a well-thought-out, intentional thump on the nose.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

20 Replies to “Don’t be high-maintenance or tolerate those who are”

  1. This essay is spot on! It is loving to help others, but not enable them. If someone always has a problem, but no resolution and fails to see how they, too, contributed to the situation–BEWARE!

    1. Marcy, thanks for commenting. You’re right; sometimes we love others best when we confront unnecessary behavior.

  2. This could be your best essay ever! Classic quote: “They nurse a low-grade fever of discontent.” Thank you for the neckup checkup.

  3. I am right with you on this, Don. Especially as I get older. One complicating factor I have noticed, at least in the church world, is that some of these HMP’s find solace in compassionate people, i.e. Christians, and seem to expect an abundance of time meeting their perceived needs. Any setting of boundaries often results in disappointment and sometimes even a questioning of one’s “Christ-like-ness”. I am in awe of you pastors who have to figure a way to balance compassion with indulgence with sometimes hundreds and even thousands of people. Thanks for reminding me of a proper perspective concerning this matter.

    1. Paul, thanks for sharing keen insight. You’re right, sometimes we think that being “Christ-like” requires us being overly indulgent. Not so. I value our friendship.

  4. To me high maintenance people seem to be insecure and narcissistic to the extreme.
    I also find them to lack class, especially when they open their mouth and show how really uneducated they are.

  5. The only ones that supposed, by nature, to be high maintenance are kids as they depend on you the parent. But adults when they are high maintenance they are nothing but immature and narcissistic. In fact they behave more like spoiled children rather than adults.

    There is a huge difference between how they see themselves (royalty) and what they really are (no class and vulgar)

    1. Pat, I agree with you. We should all mature out of being self-indulgent and high-maintenance. Thanks for writing. Don

  6. People who don’t realize they are ‘high maintenance’ are sometimes autistic. People who have bad stories often are abused and have a form of PTSD. This essay suggests that they are responsible for their condition. I can tell you, they are not. One may not wish to spend time with them or even to help them, but the attitude in this article could produce insanity. No one wants to be a negative intentionally. We’d all like positive attention.

    1. Carol, I do not consider anyone who has special needs as inordinately high maintenance. I’m referring to people who are self-reverential, self-absorbed, and drama-prone. That’s a big difference. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      1. I hope you realize that it is not clear that ‘damaged’ people are not included. There are many handicaps that are not visible. And the lack of education has nothing to do with high maintenance. There is no charity that I can see in any of these answers. Don’t you know that no one wants to be rejected, so they would not intentionally do anything to drive people away? If they knew, they wouldn’t do it in the first place. Sometimes, people say something similar about me. I have worked since the age of 13 to try to follow Jesus, learn to be like Him, love others (which many say I do, and that I have a big heart), and I know people misinterpret my reasons for acting in ways they think are peculiar. Saying they are needy really tells it all. How can a person ‘stop needing’ love they never got an don’t know how to earn and keep?

        1. Carol, thanks for writing.
          My definition of a high-maintenance person is one who intentionally, inordinately, and unnecessarily seeks and demands attention, usually in a drama-filled manner. I am not referring to those with special needs, or those who struggle with illness. Nor am I disbarring of meeting people’s normal, basic needs. I hope this helps. Don

        2. Carol, I don’t know who you are, but thank you for commenting what you did. I come from a background of abuse, neglect, and loneliness and now as an adult, I’m high maintenance. I struggle with it and beat myself up for it on a very regular basis. In fact, I found this article because I was feeling extremely selfish for wanting/needed attention and went looking for something to read that could help me ask for attention on a way that didn’t make me feel that way.
          I just recently learned that I’m high maintenance in my late 20’s and I have NO IDEA how to handle it. I don’t clearly know what my needs actually ARE and I often feel hurt simply by body language or tone of voice (that comes from the abuse and having to be very tuned into my stepdad to know when he was going to hit me). I don’t mean to burden people, I don’t mean to be excessively needy, and it’s people like Don that lump everyone into the same category before understanding the whole situation that make people like me feel like we’re broken. Hell, I probably AM broken, but I’d give anything to be fixed.

          Carol, if you get notified of this comment, please reach out. I don’t care who looks me up because that’s what the block button is for so I’ve left my full name for this comment and I live in Spokane Washington. Should be easy enough to find me on Facebook, but I could really use some help.

          1. Alisha, thanks for responding. I am truly saddened by your struggles. I hope you can find relief. My response to you is the same I wrote to Carol. My post addressed people who are intentionally high-maintenance; they know exactly what they are doing and could control their behavior. We all have unproductive behaviors-I struggle with impatience-but we can be aware of them and try to mitigate them.

  7. Late to this but wondering, Don, how do you deal with a HMP especially if you’re with them almost daily? Emotionally they are so draining. I want to love them well but be firm. How exactly do I do that?

    1. Vicki, you ask a good question. You must set boundaries and kindly enforce them. HMP will continue to be so as long as you let them. It’s requires a balance between firmness and kindness. Thanks for responding to the post.

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