I have a friend who is always broke and constantly complains about her financial situation, but doesn’t do anything about it. She has a large family, and she and her husband both work, but they spend their money in all of the wrong places to where they barely have enough food for their kids most days.
She and I have been friends for more than 20 years and so I care deeply about her and her family. I’ve given them money over the years when they’ve been in crisis, but it doesn’t seem to help them at all. I’m the only one she’s told about her financial problems. They live in a big house and always appear to have things in order.
Now, I find myself wanting to avoid her phone calls, not because she’s asking me for money (she actually has never asked me directly for money), but because I can’t take her talking about her stress when there is so much she could do to fix her situation if she and her husband would just get their priorities straight. Any ideas on what I can do with this dilemma?
It sounds like you’ve become a part of her self-deception by giving her money and allowing her to go on and on about her stressors without either of you doing anything differently. You are not responsible for her financial problems, but you are responsible for how you respond to this situation.
First, I wouldn’t offer any more money. Tell her you won’t give her any more money, even though she’s never directly asked for it. In fact, please recognize she doesn’t have to ask for it directly because she already has a tried and true way of getting money from you. All she has to do is let you in on her chaotic financial situation and you step into your role as financial rescuer. It makes you both feel temporarily better until the cycle starts again.
My guess is she keeps you informed about her stress so you’ll do something about it. All you have to do is change your part in your “dance” with her and she will be required to relate to you differently. If she continues to call you with stress and drama relating to money even though she knows you won’t give her money, you have to decide if you want to keep having these conversations with her.
There is no need for you to lecture her, give her counsel, or direct her life. Chances are, you’ve probably already done this over the years in an effort to help her see the error of her ways, but to no avail.
If these conversations continue despite your boundary with money, let her know that you’re not sure what your role is supposed to be in her life. Explain that, as her friend, when her alarms are going off, your alarms go off and you have an instinct to want to help her, but your way of helping has only made things worse. Find out how you can be helpful to her and what she really needs.
Chances are, she has no idea what she really needs. This might begin a new conversation about the situation and possibly open up a chance for her to do something different about her situation.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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