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A complicated relationship: Would you consider it a friendship?

September 18, 2013 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading
A reader describes a complicated relationship and asks what to do about it.

QUESTION

Hi,

I recently moved back to the area where this guy lives with whom I’ve had an on and off again friendship (not a romantic relationship). He has made it very clear he wanted a relationship with me, and I made sure on many occasions it wasn’t going to happen.

When I was making good money and he was doing me favors around my property, it was clearly financial on my part, and physical help on his part. He continues to be BROKE and I pay for groceries, while he does nothing. What do I do? I have told him time and again if he wants to eat he needs to pitch in but it goes nowhere. The worst part is I am recently disabled and rely on him for dog walks and trips to the store.

Signed, Risa

ANSWER

Hi Risa,

This complicated relationship doesn’t sound like a friendship, per se.

In the past, the two of you worked out an arrangement that was mutually convenient: You paid your “friend” to help you with chores you needed done and he did them. (Complicating matters, however, you had to keep his romantic advances at bay.)

But now, circumstances have changed. This guy no longer helps you and you have less income than you had in the past. So why should you feel responsible for buying his groceries? It has to be frustrating to be in the position of nagging someone to look for work, and to feel as if the person is just as happy freeloading off of you.

If you have recently become disabled, you probably feel vulnerable and need more support than you did in the past. But it’s important that you clarify in your own mind whether or not this is truly a mutually supportive relationship; whether it is one you want to maintain; and, if so, on what terms and at what cost.

You may be better off hiring someone else to help you walk your dog and to take you shopping–someone who comes with less baggage. If you were to do that, would there still be a basis for a friendship between you and this guy?

I assume that you have not taken him in your home and you should be very cautious about doing that. Although it might be tempting to have extra help around, it sounds like the emotional and financial toll of doing so wouldn’t be worthwhile.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Category: Needy friends, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

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  1. But It’s Complicated | anonymous real thoughts | October 22, 2013
  1. Aline says:

    Sounds like a stalker waiting to happen in my opinion. I wouldn’t put up with constantly having to turn down someone’s advances. It’s not a friendship. Friends feel comfortable with each other. It sounds like it’s more a relationship of convenience for you both. You need his help, you pay him, and he needs the money and wants your company. It’s better to pay someone to take care of your household needs than to invite complications into your life. You can’t mix business with friends as I have learned the hard way. Save yourself the trouble.

  2. Lauren says:

    Hi Risa,
    I am so sorry to hear about your problems. This “friend” whom you speak of seems to dine quite frequently at your house, and he seems to be trying to make headway to start living in your home. Be careful.

    I know that a number of cities and communities have visiting nurses and visiting Red Cross homemakers. Also, perhaps there may be other organizations, like Meals on Wheels, and churches and places of worship that you can contact and receive their on-going, regular, professional help. Some of these organizations are volunteer oriented, and others may charge you for their services. It would be worth calling some of these and that would show your “friend” that you are not so alone, and that other people are looking out for you and visiting you regularly. Also, some of these organizations may know of volunteer dog walkers who would walk the dog for you.

    I think that all of this would show your “friend” that he can’t take advantage of you in any way. I hope that some of these suggestions will help you. All the best to you, Lauren.

  3. Amy says:

    Are you and this guy roommates? I’m a bit confused about the grocery thing.

    As to whether it not you and this guy are friends, it sounds like before, you had a mutually agreed upon arrangement that worked for both of you, but now that circumstances have changed, you haven’t redefined the relationship. It boils down to boundaries and communication.
    When there’s an imbalance in finances between friends, things can be awkward when there aren’t clear boundaries, which I think is why Irene suggested hiring someone or offering him the amount of money you would pay someone else rather than an ambiguous quid pro quo. The second component, communication can at first be uncomfortable if backtracking to establish boundaries, but all relationships benefit from healthy, open communication. “Hey Joe, you know my finances have changed since I’ve been on disability. I can pay you $25 a week to walk Rover, which is what I’d pay a dog walker. I won’t be able to help you out with groceries or money in other ways, so you’ll have to budget for the change. If I have other odd jobs I can offer them to you at what I’d pay someone else, or I can just hire someone else if that’s more comfortable.”
    I have a great friend A who allowed her friend B to stay with her rent free. A is an amazing person, and generous, but she avoids conflict. A few months later, A was no longer speaking to B, because B didn’t help out or contribute. In my opinion, A was as responsible as B for the situation, because A said, “you can live here until you get on your feet.”without specifying any parameters. Yes, be should have offered assistance, but in the absence of the offer, A dropped hints, rather than have a discussion, then got resentful, but never said anything. B isn’t a mind reader, and A didn’t give her a chance to step up to the plate, because she didn’t even tell B there was a plate, or where it was. A changed her expectations without telling B. Of course, B could have been more attuned, but A can only be responsible for her actions and communication, not B’s. They were such good friends, I hope they’re able to get back together.
    I hope things work out with your friend.

    • Brownyn says:

      I appreciated how Amy held both parties equally responsible in the situation involving A & B, especially the part about stepping up to the plate.

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