Guidance About a Friend- Sorry It's Long!

Updated on March 30, 2011
N.G. asks from Arlington, TX
19 answers

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!

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answers from Dallas on

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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answers from Provo on

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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answers from Dover on

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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answers from New York on

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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answers from Pittsburgh on

I have a friend with a very different lifestyle. She's married (recently), no kids, loaded with money, million dollar home, super-intelligent but a little lacking of common sense.
Who cares? We've been best friends for over 45 years. Some years, we've been closer and some more distant (physically and emotionally) but at the end of the day, she's my BF, hands down.
Our lives are VERY different.
When she complains about something, I just listen, I don't try to solve her problem. After all, everyone over the age of 10 knows that a "job" solves "broke". You don't need to tell her that! She's probably thinking that after grad school, she'll get a job & pay her bills. Let's hope so.

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answers from New York on

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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answers from Williamsport on

You have 2 choices.

1)Accept her how she is. Period. Her being spoiled is her problem and her parent's problem and nothing to do with you. If you love her and find security in the relationship with her and want her in your life, that's it. I have to "turn a blind ear" (close as I could get to the saying) to lots of the crazy "problems" of one of my closest friends, but he's an adult, he's always been dysfunctional and blaming the world for his problems, and he always will be. When I can't deal, I don't talk to him for a while. Similarly, some of my close friends have gone by the wayside over the years when we're just too different.

Option 2) Don't be her friend. Keep at and arms length until it tapers off. Sounds like she is a sad person who benefits from having you in her life, but you are being kind of mean by dissecting all of her flaws to yourself and she would be very hurt and not want to be your friend if she knew how you felt. (I've done it too, not judging, but when you cant' take it anymore, you should cut her loose, not keep 'hating').

If you are honest with her the next time she complains about money, you could say something like, "Don't hate me, but your parents have supported you a long time, you shouldn't complain" and the friendship will naturally break up because honest talks are sometimes hurtful and cause resentment rightfully or not. That way you sort of let her make the call.

Usually I've just stopped contact rather than ignite the conversation that would stop contact, but that's just me. Sometimes it's not worth the stress when you know the person won't change (and they won't-this girl's parents have enabled her to have this fairly irreversible sense of entitlement).

Basically, you're better than her. Ok. More accomplished, not spoiled, more loved ones in your life, more friends, more money, not a virgin etc. Don't lord it over her in your heart.
Accept her or cut her loose.

Also, when I really think about it, I have only cut loose the people who end up being totally mean or disrespectful to me one too many times. Like the ones who over the years, never invite you to glamorous events (even ones they were told to invite you to by the host you find out later) to make sure you don't network and pooh pooh your friends and say horrible things about them, but then when they are homeless and need places to stay, they want to get to know all your now successful friends with nice houses (who weren't cool enough years before...) and they always take take take from people and then end up feeling like people didnt' give them enough, and they never pay back money.....You know. Those types. If she's nice to you, but just a mess in her own life, I'd probably hang in there and try to help if it wasn't futile. Or I'd just accept her.

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answers from Minneapolis on


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answers from La Crosse on

My sister was the same way...and I had to do exactly that..."I told her to stop complaining, told her she was a spolied brat, and told her to grow up." She was mad at me (rightfully so) and it took a few years before she admitted it was exactly what she needed to hear.

Honestly, I think her reaction was amazingly generous because if someone said that to me I am not sure I could ever get over it...but we did, and she is a completely different person.

I think your best bet is to just realize you have grown apart, and try to distance yourself. I was lucky my sister forgave my brutal honesty. She needed a wake-up call, but I almost lost a sister and a good friend over it.

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answers from Chicago on

From what you say I think if you are a good friend and you should not be judgemental but try to see what is making your friend be this way. It sounds like there is so much more to this. She may have Social Anxiety Disorder or Aspergers that has not been diagnosed yet. If she does then she may not be able to handle school and a job. It would be extremely stressful for her to do this without any help. You may be her only true friend. Maybe you could talk to her without being judgemental and let her know you are worried about her. It may help if you could get her to talk to a professional. Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

Wow, that is frustrating. Honestly, you can't do too much in this situation. She's 28 and her parents have and probably will always enable her. She won't get it until they stop. You could have a talk with them, but this is what they chose. I guess when I would talk to her, let her know you do care and love her dearly, but she needs to grow up and start taking responsibility for herself and stop relying on her parents, cut the cord. Just be honest with her and it probably will hurt her in your conversation, but say something when you need too. If she's talking about not having enough allowance, say your a grown woman, your not a child anymore. Get a job. Be point blank with her... Ask her, how many 28 year old still depend on mommy and daddy like you do?

You aren't being judgmental, you care about your friend and you see her life as it is. She is in a dream world, still 13 years old. On one note you must feel good about how your life is, you should be proud. I bet you've already told your kids they are cut off at 18.

Hope she does grow up soon!

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answers from Austin on

I guess this is a wake-up call to all the mothers who "do everything" for their child and refuse to let them grow up...

As for your friend, she is a product of her upbringing. Her parents made her into a perpetual little girl who is dependent on them and who can't think for herself. Sad. It may help you to accept that this behavior is a result of her not knowing any other way to live... Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she doesn't have the confidence to live any other way.

She needs to get a job in order to have some work experience. Whether it's working as a teller at a bank or as a receptionist, she needs that familiarity in order to be employable after graduation. If she says it would be too stressful, tell her that she needs to get practice in being able to multitask demands.

She probably will need help from you to search & apply for jobs and go on interviews. It's pointless to do a resume if she has no previous work experience. It would be better for her to try and get a job now instead if in a few months when colleges and high schools let out for the summer.

Of course, it would be hard to be best friends with someone you don't respect... Right now, she's a moocher on her parents. I think you're feeling like a sister towards her--you love her, but you don't like who she is right now.

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answers from Milwaukee on

Wow Mama!

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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answers from St. Louis on

You will find people are very torn on this subject because some will say you are 'trying to change her' and you should be more accepting and let her live her life. While others will tell you that you are sweet to worry about a friend and how her parents are to blame for her situation.

For people to say that say you shouldn't judge her are crazy. Everyone judges people, whether they say it outloud or keep it to themselves.

This relationship may have run its course as far as being "BFF" but you can still go out with her and see her on occassions. You have very different lives and lifestyles. This is the same reason why many HS sweethearts don't last forever (which I am not suggesting for you- I just mean the statistics show that those relationships don't last very often). Many people change over time and if you aren't focused specifically on each other (as you would be in a marriage) your paths will diverge and it is hard to get back together. It is awesome that you and your hubby have stayed together from HS on- but think back to how different you were when you first met.

If you really want to "help" her here is the advice I would give:
- be absolutely frank with her about your opinion on her lifestyle
- talk to her mom about ways you could both nudge her out of the nest
- involve her in organizations that you and your family are involved in
- look into Aspergers (only because of the social akwardness) and also think about the idea of her questioning her own sexuality. Not that being a virgin at 28 is bad, it is just unusual for someone to abstain for relationships for so long and not have a good reason behind it. Only a suggestion.
- suck it up and back off. She may need to fall flat on her face when her parents $ dries up before she realizes what she has. You may need to just say- "o yea- I know what you mean. When $ is tight it really sucks but I just don't like taking $ that isn't mine to pay for debt."

Good luck! I hope that you both find peace with this relationship!

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answers from Provo on

Oi! That is a tough one! I don't really have any advice other than probably some bad one that could potentially mess things up, but if you say you love her like a sister, you have to treat her like one and slap her with the truth.
I would suggest asking her what she thinks her life would be like if she didn't have such an amazingly nice family. How would she pay for things, does she know the current interest rate of student loans? That once she's done with school she has a 6 months grace period to find a job, then she HAS to start paying it? What is she going to do when she doesn't have her family to pay for things? Is she expecting for them to pay for things from the grave? Does she really need MAC makeup when NYC is just as good? Things like that.

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answers from Dallas on

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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answers from Los Angeles on

If you can deal with this friend watching a movie or play or concert where there is activity and not much conversation, then start making invitations for these type of outings only. During wait times simply redirect conversation from serious topics to more light subjects + talk about dreams. Like if she complains about not getting a big enough allowance talk about what you'd do if you hit the Lotto and didn't need allowance or jobs. Avoid the lecture on investing instead of playing the Lotto. Someone who won't even work won't get the lecture. Some friends you can't confide in because they gossip too much or don't have the same life experiences . If this friend was successful dating but no kids no husband yet I'm guessing you wouldn't talk endlessly about motherhood. Enjoy trip to amusement park or bike riding.... otherwise distance yourself.



answers from Chicago on

I don't really have any advice, sorry. But it sounds like you want to keep the friendship going but there is no base left for it. This is one of those friendships that drifts apart because the people change or become so different as adults they don't have much in common at all. If you like getting together with her, great but this might be one of the friendships that kind of sits on the back burner until needed, more aquaintance than close friend. As for "making her see reason", nothing is going to change unless Mommy and Daddy stop providing for her every want and need. She is an adult but has not really had to take on adult responsibilities based on what you wrote. She is getting about $800 in spending money every month. I wish I could have that much. Sometimes, people see the easy road as the right one and any suggestions are taken as offensive.
I have friends that lived at home until they finished thier degree. Some did not work, committing to school full time and their parents provided everything. One had her mom buy her a brand new car, because she did not "want" to waste her money from her really well paying job on saving for it. But she gets herself everything else she needs and only has one credit card. Another is maxed out and is figuring things out for herself finally at the age of 33.



answers from Columbus on

I do think that as her friend, you should try to help her see that living this lifestyle is going to end up biting her in the butt one day, probably shortly after the money spigot stops pouring out money. Unfortunately, her parents have totally enabled this reliance, and lack of financial responsibility. Until she gets some tough love from her family, chances are that she is going to just go along with it.

I think you should have a frank discussion about this with her, if you can. Say that these things have been concerning you for a long time, and you see them only getting worse. Tell her that you really feel that, as a friend, you need to be straight with her. Then tell her that it's not her parents duty to pay for everything for her, and that it is her duty to provide for herself (in very kind words). Tell her that you'll help her work out a budget, etc. or whatever you can do to assist her (short of loaning $). And then tell her that if she wishes, you will not ever bring up the discussion again, and it will be off-limits.

Also, if you can urge her to volunteer somewhere, like a soup kitchen, so she can get a reality check & get a better idea of how much really does have handed to her, that a lot of people don't ever get. Offer to go with her, or join some other charitable activity with her, to help get her out of her own head.

And sad as it may be, it may be time for this friendship to die a natural death, if you don't have anything in common and you cannot stand to watch her make a shambles of her life financially.

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