N.G. asks from Arlington, TX on March 30, 2011
Guidance About a Friend- Sorry It's Long!
Moms, you guys always offer lots of perspectives that helps me reach personal decisions, and I thank each one of you for that! Here is a doozy that keeps bothering me and I think I know what I need to do but maybe you can offer tidbits of how to handle this. Sorry, it’s long!
My best friend of nearly fifteen years (we are 28 now) and I are very different, in every way, which has always been endearing but in our adult lives, not so much. I've always been very strong and independent and self-sufficient. I moved out of my parents' house at age 18, married my high school sweetheart. While we were in college we got married and became pregnant with our first child. I entered a lucrative oil & gas career and have found myself to be successful in that, and my husband continues to pursue his engineering degree. We had a 2nd daughter three years after our first. My husband and I have been on our own, paying our own way since we were 18.
My best friend is the exact opposite. She has not had a boyfriend since sophomore year of high school, she has switched college majors three times so it has taken her until just last year to get her bachelor's degree, which I was more than proud of her for achieving. Now, she is working through grad school, working on a masters in psychology. She has never had a job (read: never, not one). Her Mom pays ALL of her bills including tuition, apartment rent, car, car insurance, cell phone, groceries, and on top of that gives her a monthly allowance. Her parents are not wealthy by any means, her Mom stays at home and her Dad is an engineer. They live in a modest home, drive modest cars. She is an only child. She is not actively involed in any extra-curriculars, does not attend church or clubs or sororities or anything like that.
My friend recently called me to complain that the allowance her parents give her isn't enough (which is about $200/week, in addition to the bills) and she's stressing about money. After asking some questions she reveals to me that she has maxed out her $5,000 credit card (shopping- going to salons, buying ‘designer’ cosmetics, etc) and has to struggle to pay the $190 monthly minimum payment. Then, she tells me that she applied for a student loan of $8,000. When I asked her why, she said she would use it to buy extra things that her parents don’t provide or to pay on her credit card.
I have had lengthy conversations with her about her choices and her lifestyle, mostly because I’m confused by it. I don’t think I would feel fulfilled in a life where everything is provided for me, no questions asked, because I would have no motivation. I have suggested to her that she get a part-time job but she says that grad-school is too stressful, she can’t work. I have asked her what she plans to do after college, and she doesn’t know or has no plans, she says she will just ‘see what happens’.
My dilemma is this: I have a really hard time relating with this girl. I love her to the end of the world and back, we have been friends for a long time and she loves me unconditionally. However, I can’t talk to her about money issues because she doesn’t get it. I can’t talk to her about responsibility because she doesn’t get it. I can’t talk to her about love and/or marriage and/or sex because she doesn’t get it (she’s also a virgin). I can’t talk to her about kids, about career, about my life, because she doesn’t know what it’s like to self-suffice. In addition, she definitely can’t confide in me because all of her problems seem petty to me. I know that’s judgmental but it’s just how it is. Her ‘worst day’ is when her Mom has forgotten to send her allowance on time.
When we get together with friends (we have mutual friends), she is socially awkward. She does not engage people in conversation, she is ‘inside her own head’ a lot. People who don’t know her will literally call me after meeting her and say “What’s wrong with your friend?”. Rude, I know, but it’s true.
I have sought guidance on this situation because I am torn. I know that I am judgmental towards her. I don’t think it’s my fault because the situation is what it is, but I am judgmental. I think she should get a damn job and stop being a spoiled brat! On the other hand, I love this girl like a sister.
Having said all of that, how do I a) accept my friend the way she ultimately decides to be; and/or b) help my friend see reason and see why her lifestyle is not really acceptable (as horrible as I know that sounds); and c) make a solid decision as to what role she plays in my life so that I don’t continue to make her feel judged because she’s not living up to expectations that I have for her.
I just need some guidance as to how to handle this relationship, and also, I kind of need some validation from other Moms who might understand my frustration!
S.B. answers from Dallas on March 30, 2011
Well first off, her parents sure have done her a disservice. You don't learn a thing when things are just handed to you. As she has proven. This is something that her and her parents have to deal with. It is beyond your control. What is she going to do if all of the sudden her parents stopped paying for everything or they are no longer here? She will be totally lost. But it's no ones fault but her parents. But here's the thing, she's an adult now, so it's time for her to "grow up". But again, it's not up to you to force her. As long as her parents continue to pay for everything, she will not change. You would be fighting a losing battle. I would just continue to be her friend but just know that because of all this, there are certain areas that are off limits. You can't expect her to understand what you are dealing with as you can't figure hers out. She is obviously not at the same level as you are. Stop trying to make sense out of nonsense. Just be a friend. Understand that she has limitations socially as well. You can't expect people to be anything less or more than what they are. She is a product of her parents making rightly or wrongly, that's who she is. To be her friend is to accept her for herself. It's frustrating I know. Good luck!
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L.M. answers from Dover on March 30, 2011
If all my bills were paid by my parents and they gave me $200 a week to live on, I would say THANK YOU for allowing me to live debt free...might even save some of that $200. I am surprised that her parents haven't tired of this situation by now but they aren't doing her any favors...what happens if her father passes? She'll be in for a rude awakening.
Since you are such a good friend, can you have a serious sit down conversation with her. Explain responsibility, income, bills, etc. Ask her what she would do if her parents weren't able to continue to provide for her. She probably doesn't get it because she has never HAD to get it. As a lifelong friend, I think you should have this talk with her. After the talk, get it or not, you have done what a friend should do. Then, LET IT GO.
Accept her for who she is, if she doesn't change...accept that she probably never will. You'll probably begin to communicate with her less and less over time.
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K.D. answers from Provo on March 30, 2011
You love her like a sister. That's a great way to view your relationship to her. I don't approve of my sisters' choices sometimes. Some I think are outright insane. Sometime I call them on their behavior, but only when I think it will be heard. Other than that I try to focus on the good qualities of my sisters and congratulate them on what they are working hard to achieve.
I agree that your friend needs to grow up, but that isn't going to happen while mom and dad hold the purse strings. My guess is that mom has only one child, so only one chance to get things right. Cutting off the money stream would go a long way to help your friend learn what real life and real problems are. You can't change that. Perhaps even your friend couldn't change that. What you can do is respect your friend for the things that are going right in her life. She is in grad school so engage with her on what she is studying.
You asked how to help her see why her lifestyle is unacceptable. My suggestion is that you find a way to get her involved in service projects. Perhaps (since you have kids) you could talk her into signing up to be a big sister or mentor. Convince her that would be a good way for you two to relate and then be involved with her and her "little sister" with you and your kids. Her life is unfulfilling because she does not have to reach beyond herself or give of herself. Learning to serve others is a great path to feeling fulfilled in your life. And is she is serving those who are underpriveledged, then she may see how easy her life is.
As for how to decide what role she plays in your life -- you said before that she was like a sister. So let her be an adopted sister and drop your expectations for her. You can keep them as hopes, but you already know enough about her behavior and character to know what she is capable of. Feel happy with her for the good things she is doing and leave the judging of her to others.
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M.V. answers from New York on March 30, 2011
It seems pretty simple - you grew up, and she didn't. Things change, relationships change - I think it's just part of life. If you can't relate to her, what foundation is there to uphold the friendship? It sounds like the friendship has run its course. If you are determined to keep it, I think you should just accept that you won't ever change her and it's really not your job to try to do so. If it were me, I think I would just move on.
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E.K. answers from Minneapolis on March 30, 2011
I am on board with two outta three
A.) Being judgmental is your problem to deal with
C.) You need to find a way to get over this and if you value the friendship you will find a way to retain it in some form or another.
But I politely disagree with:
B.) There is no need to "help [your] friend see reason and see why her lifestyle is not really acceptable". She is harming no one but herself and very likely knows it (on some level). She is simply annoying you -- Not harming you nor denigrating your choices.
Honesty and kindness might work. Tell her honestly but kindly that you have very different perspectvies on some topics like finances, etc. and so for the sanity of you both, could we just call those topics "off-limits"? Also let her know that you feel she doesn't value your interests and goals and that you would love it if she could express more sincere excitement about your career, kids, etc.
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K.F. answers from New York on March 30, 2011
I think you are probably on the right track with your friend because you do talk to her about the decisions she makes. You probably won't be able to get her to see reason becuase really that would and should be up to her parents. They have handicapped her in the real world. It will be up to them to begin to make her pay for her own life and living. Try having conversations with her about what she plans to do when her parents aren't around any longer to care for her? Encourage her to get a job or let her know the immense pleasure of handling your own finances. Even when things aren't the way you want them to be, I get a certain satisfaction of taking care of myself. That is something your friend hasn't had the pleasure of doing. At 28 I just had my first child.
It's time for your friend to grow up and you are a great friend for helping her get to that process. It is a process. You know what method or means works for your friend. So do everything you can and help her grow and develop into a mature adult and stop being childish and financially ignorant. Love your friend into maturity.
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C.S. answers from Milwaukee on March 30, 2011
You have a doozy for sure. One thing off the top of my head-do you think it's possible that your friend has some type of learning disorder or ADD-my point to that is maybe that is partly why she can't stay focused on one thing, (college), is in her own head a lot, seems scattered and is bad with money. This along with parents who are enablers on steroids have got her where she is today. My point is if there is a medical component maybe meds would help-but I know that is a delicate situaiton I'm sure.
Given you have to deal with what you know right now I think you need to decide what YOU can deal with. I know you love her dearly, but people do grow in different paths sometimes-some are friends forever some are for a certain period of time in your life and that's ok too. Sounds like you know you can't change her--my guess is helping her see the 'light' would be futile-she has to want to change.
Ask yourself what you can live with-if it is accepting her for who she is-then you gotta suck it up and continue as is-maybe try to tactfully thrown in some 'have you ever thought of getting a job' type things here and there...OR, break ties-probably not immediately, but over time start pulling back.
And kudo's to you-you and your husband sound really pulled together for 28. I'm 39 and wish I'd had your wisdom then!
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J.D. answers from Dallas on March 30, 2011
OK... first of all, she's your friend not your responsibility. She is not asking you for money. She is venting. It's immature and not who you are, but it's how she has proceeded in her life. You just love her for her or you don't.
You might suggest she read the book Confessions of a Shopaholic and you might read it as well. I think it is something she can relate to and it might give her a heads up on her situation.
Make the decisions that are best for you and your sanity. Good luck!
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