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Rich Girl, Poor Girl: Can their friendship survive?

Published: August 31, 2011 | Last Updated: May 14, 2020 By | 8 Replies Continue Reading


Hi Irene,

One winter break I invited a close
friend of mine home from school and was really excited to host her. We were
both ambitious students, and although we had been slightly competitive before
(when we took one class together – probably not the best idea), we managed to
keep rivalry out of our friendship. She was headed for grad school and I was
headed for med school, so I thought we’d have no reason to allow
petty jealousies or competitiveness cloud our friendship. Also, we’d been
roommates for a year and lived together without any problems.

Anyway, when this close friend came home with me, there was immediately a lot
of tension between us. This is awkward but my family is extremely rich, and my
friend is quite poor. This never came up in college because I dressed like
everyone else and never gave a hint that I had money. I didn’t even think my
friend would notice that when she came to visit me, it just wasn’t on my radar
at all.


She became sullen, silent,
unaccountably grumpy, and strangely secretive about her thoughts and feelings.
I began to resent her behavior, and we parted a little coldly when the holiday
ended. Since then we have both tried to re-establish the old camaraderie repeatedly,
but the equation has changed. She began to compete with me more openly, even
going so far as to date a guy who is almost exactly like my boyfriend and, in
all kinds of details big and small, trying to copy the details of my life. It
makes me feel invaded.


She has also stopped confiding in me,
and acts aloof when I try to chat with her. The aloofness is really what gets
me, because I went out of my way to be a good friend to her and I don’t deserve

The bottom line: Can two ambitious women really be friends, true friends? And
my second question, which is going to be super-awkward, is this: Can women of
different social status or socio-economic background sustain a healthy,
non-competitive, equal friendship?

Any thoughts or insight on that would be much appreciated!





Dear Kate,

It sounds like although it was kept
under check at school, there was always some rivalry between you and your
friend. Even though two women may both be ambitious, it doesn’t mean they need
to be in direct competition with each other—this is particularly the case
since you both decided to pursue two completely different career paths.


It sounds like your college friend was
rather shocked to find out about your family’s wealth—and never suspected it
before coming home with you. If she is a competitive person, she may have felt
like you withheld this information from her and moreover, that it gave you an
unfair edge over her.


Even though you may have no problem
being friends with someone of a different background and financial status, the
gap between you seems to have made your friend feel uncomfortable, especially
when she was on your turf. Perhaps, this was just the final blow to a
relationship that was too competitive from the onset.


At this point, I would suggest that you
try to refrain from being angry with her. Her aloofness is probably a result of
her awkwardness and discomfort. Maybe with school ending, your lives have
become too disparate. Or maybe you both need some time apart to be able to
reconnect in the way you once did.


Two ambitious women can, indeed, be
friends if their friendship isn’t dominated by competition with each other, by
one or both parties. Look at Oprah and her friend, Gayle King.

Hope this helps.




Have a friendship problem or dilemma? Ask The Friendship Doctor or visit The Friendship Forums to get opinions from other women.



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Comments (8)

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  1. Padmaja says:

    This is me too. I’ve lost two good friends because they couldn’t handle it after I became an investment banker and started earning well. I had to deal with constant jibes and sneering and they’d always make me feel like the bad guy because I was working for Evil Corporate America. Let’s ignore the fact that I volunteer at a local charity and donate…anyway, it just became too negative after a year and I had to break it off.

    The key in life is to find friends who are happy with themselves, no matter what they have (or don’t have) in life.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I can sympathize with your annoyance and frustration and think you should have a talk with your friend to basically ask her to tone down the money talk because it comes across as judgment of you for not having that same kind of success. Obviously you are happy for her having achieved success as a doctor, but there’s really no reason to be competitive about it.

    At the same time, consider that perhaps your friend talks a lot about her financial wellbeing to mask something else in her life that makes her feel inferior or like a failure, and try to bring come compassion with you when you interact with her.

    But definitely talk to her. Otherwise you’re going to stew for a long time. If you are kind and thoughtful in your approach, and she still reacts badly, that says a lot about her and may call for a reevaluation of the terms on which you are willing to conduct a friendship. If she’s really just oblivious and is receptive to your wake-up call, your frustration is gone and your friendship will be less strained, so either way, you win.

  3. Anonymous says:

    She’s jealous and it’s understandable. If you come from a humble background and you’re suddenly surrounded by another family’s opulence, it’s unsettling.

    You’re not good friends anymore because she thinks you’ve “won” the competition…but she’s still trying to keep in the race. There’s nothing you can do about this so it’s best to be kind to her – but move on.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s your PARENTS money and that’s exactly how you tell it to your friend. Your PARENTS are successful at ____ and have done well for themselves and they can be proud of that success. A parent’s financial success or struggle to make ends meat doesn’t equal a child’s financial success or struggle to make ends meat. I think that’s what you need to explain to your friend and perhaps that’s the reason why you didn’t discuss your parents well-to-do house prior to her visit. You’re not looking to live off your parents and don’t expect others to view you as such. Good for you for paving your own way and working so hard! Don’t let others make you feel bad about that!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I just think that true friendship has no price tags! If your friend brags about being more affluent or makes you feel a lesser person than she is….then maybe she befriended you so that she can outshine you. on the other hand if a poor friend can’t accept you for being richer… then, she is envious of your status. Either way, I wouldn’t call it friendship!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I struggle with this. My best friend of 16 years has finally reached the pinnacle of financial success as a doctor. We both graduated Ivy League (no nasty comments, please), but our families are on different ends of the financial spectrum. I’ve experienced severe depression, and spent most of my 20’s and 30s taking care of sick parents, so my financial options are much more limited as I approach 40.

    I’ve started to resent her constant yammering about the $50k Jaguar she just bought, often repeating the dollar amount in normal conversation, and the slightly condescending tone she takes when I tell her about striving for financial security as a single woman doing something I enjoy. She often tells me that money isn’t the answer, yet she’s not ashamed to tell me how great it is to have control over one’s life when YOU DO have it. I’ve considered telling her that I’m struggling with feeling inadequate and not on the same level as herself and our other seemingly successful peers. I snapped at her recently when she said I should take more risks with my meager 401k portfolio, only to say same breath that she’s taking $200k to invest with a lot of risk. I bluntly said I can’t afford to be that free with my money right now.( She’s a big fan of the book “The Secret,” which I hate because of its “you deserve what you get” undertone. I don’t know, perhaps that’s the mentality she’s taken with me.) I don’t resent her having money; it’s something she’s worked hard for. I resent her suggestion that it’s wrong for me to desire and work for a similar level of comfort — and its important to my independence. I don’t want to be the person asking friends like her for handouts 20 years from now. (My parents had many friends and family do that kind of thing.) I feel guilty for being so ticked about it, but at the same time I wish she’d be more empathetic, too.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I really think it depends on the person and what that person values. I have always gotten along great with people from all walks of life, but I’ve had friends pull away from me because they thought I was either too rich or too poor depending on which end of the spectrum they found themselves in. One friend I had went on and on about how rich her family was but then when I went to her house, it was a double-wide trailer on a lot next to other trailers. And this same friend “dumped” me when I started dating an affluent man, she liked calling my “rich boyfriend”. She was the one that couldn’t handle the thought of me having more than her because the “money show” that she put on was a total fraud. I didn’t care that she lived in a trailer. My grandpa lived in a trailer and DID have lots of money and drove an old car and was highly educated. My grandmother (a high school dropout) lived in a nice brick home but never worked and lived off of food stamps and welfare and drove a brand new car, so I did learn early on that where a person lives doesn’t mean you know how much they are worth monetarily. Lots of so-called “rich” people are in debt up to their eyeballs & some “poor” people are sitting on loads of cash. Appearances can be deceiving.

    I think your friend was caught off guard and may have felt less-than when she saw your parents home. I don’t think it was anything you did. I certainly don’t think it is prudent to go around telling people you are loaded because it really shouldn’t matter and if you guys are naturally competitive with one another like me and my former friend were, she will leave you if she thinks she can’t “beat” you.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I would have gently prepared her for what to expect at your home, especially since she had no clue about your background. It’s a big part of you and I personally would have felt like “Do I really know this person?” after the shock of arriving at Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

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