• Resolving Problems

Friends who mean well but get on your nerves

Published: June 1, 2015 | By | 13 Replies Continue Reading
A widow is made to feel uncomfortable—although her friends mean well.


Hi Irene,

I have been a widow for 15 years and am now 77 years old. I live alone but have two grown children who keep in close touch with my needs. My problem is a Christian couple that is insistent on helping me to the point of buying food, clothes and forcing plans on me for things I DO NOT NEED OR WANT.

I need and want to make decisions for myself and don’t want to feel controlled and treated like a child. They mean well, but it makes me feel uncomfortable. Any suggestions?

Signed, Beatrice


Hi Beatrice,

These people may be kind and mean well but their actions seem to be so intrusive (and insensitive) that they’re “killing you with kindness.”

You have no recourse but to be honest and communicate how you feel. Ask one or both of them over for coffee and tell them you appreciate their caring and concern—and that you value their friendship as neighbors/friends or whatever. But then tell them explicitly that you do not need gifts of food or clothes, and that getting such things from them makes you feel uncomfortable.

In terms of making plans for you, tell them you value your independence and for as long as you are still able, you want to make plans for yourself. Then set some boundaries in terms of the type of contact you would like to maintain with them:

  • Do you want to be the initiator?
  • Do you want to see them on a regular schedule?

Figure out terms that make sense for you and let them know.

If you don’t express how you feel, this couple may assume you appreciate their gestures. Having a conversation like this can feel awkward but it will save you the angst of repeatedly feeling uncomfortable with these friends.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (13)

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  1. Taylor says:

    If everything else fails, stop answering their calls and do not open your door when you’re not expecting anyone. If they get the chance to ask you why you don’t answer phone calls, you can tell them you don’t answer calls when you’re busy or taking a rest. If they ask anything about no one answering your door, tell them you don’t open the door unless you’re expecting a visitor. While some people are genuinely generous and nice, some can be very devious. My ex friend for example, like sharing her cooked food to certain people as an “investment”(her own term), because she will be needing their help very soon. I’m talking about a very devout Christian. I know I should at least be nice and pleasant despite our differences, for I’ll never know when I’ll be needing their help. However, I decided to dump these people because 1. they annoy me 2. they have no respect for what I want for my decisions. When the time comes that I’ll be needing help, and they are still willing to do so despite me being very distant to them, thank you. However, I definitely won’t be expecting that, nor will I ask for it. I’m not even sure if I will accept their help by that time, because I know I will not be deserving of any. At least not from them.

  2. Cp says:

    Arrange for one or both of your children to be there the next time they come over, have them arrive just after your Christian neighbours arrive. Just because they are ‘Christian’ doesn’t mean they have good intentions in the long term. Sorry but what you have said sound really creepy to me and make my own alarm bells clang loudly. If having your family there when you ask them to please back off you are not five inches from the grave and if you were your family would be there for you. Talk with your own pastor and ask if there are any shut ins who have no close family to whom you might redirect this couple if you truly feel they have good intent.

    • Lottie says:

      Exactly CP. That is why I asked if they knew Beatrice has children.Wearing the cloak of Christian does not mean they.Lottie

  3. lottie says:

    Hello Beatrice,

    Having reread your post I am wondering if the Christian Couple know if you have children who do keep in touch?

  4. Laura says:

    I would be careful not to alienate them because one day you might really need their help. They sound like nice people with their heart in the right place.

    • Maddie says:

      I disagree.

      • Laura says:

        Yes Maddie, we know you disagree from your post below. Isn’t this a bit redundant?

        Having had an aging octogenarian parent, I appreciate the value of neighbors, annoying or not. They can be a godsend. Fortunately Beatrice is self sufficient, but anyone can have an accident or emergency and neighbors are very important in these situations. So, don’t burn your bridges Beatrice. You may need them down the road!

  5. Lottie says:

    Hello Beatrice,

    Just a thought. Why not do something for them. Make a cottage pie or apple pie or rice pudding or strawberry trifle and TAKE it round to them saying you thought you would return their kindness.I would make sure they have visitors when I went with my goods!!!! Be so charming making sure there is no sarcasm just straight forward generosity.You could say that you have so much or everything that you thought they would fancy a treat for a change and that you have noticed how they are always so busy.Judge, from their reactions. You are not being nasty just sweet natured and lovely.Then mention that your children are the most attentive anyone could wish for. Wish them a lovely day then say you must dash you are going to the garden centre or whatever. Be very lady like and charming, and do not invite them round and do not go in their home either. They will get the message.Actually you can make me a trifle if you like. Good luck Lottie

  6. bronwyn says:

    I liked Amy’s response. This is a couple who apparently have a need to give, but they’re giving to someone who doesn’t really need it. It helps redirect their urges of generosity. There truly are people out there who need things and don’t have anyone looking out for them.

    Because of the mention of them being Christians, I wonder if they feel they are fulfilling their obligations to be, “good” Christians. For example, there are those who practice tithing, giving 10% of their income to the church and there is scriptural support for this. For those who take the BIBLE literally, this may seem like an obligation as opposed to a choice. I am wondering if this forced generosity may come from a similar practice required by their church.

    At any rate, I’m sure even their church would feel giving to someone who does not feel in need to be misguided.

    I think either of the approaches recommended by Irene and Amy are tactful enough and would hope they get the point across. And it probably will be necessary to give parameters on what kind of contact you wish to continue having with them, assuming there is some.

    Although this is not your obligation, if you do know of someone who might be more in need of this couple’s generosity, perhaps you could point them in that person’s direction. If you know the person(s) well enough, you might ask them how they’d feel about a bit of assistance, so that this doesn’t turn into another killing with kindness situation. Again, I don’t mean to imply that this is your responsibility, but it might provide the added benefit of removing an awkward situation from your life.

  7. Amy F says:

    “I appreciate your help, however, I can buy groceries on my own. Thank you for thinking about me, I’m sure there are others who are more needy and will appreciate your kindness and generosity. Lately I’ve been way overbooked with activities. I need to step back and _______(whatever you want the parameters to be).”l

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