• Resolving Problems

When a friend asks for one more chance

August 14, 2013 | By | 11 Replies Continue Reading
It’s hard to know when to stop giving someone one more chance—and even harder to do it.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I have a friend who always needs something and I just can’t take it anymore. She never has money. She is always complaining about not having enough for food for herself and daughter. She can’t seem to stretch her food stamps to last the whole month yet she has bought expensive items she didn’t need right before running out of food.

I have always helped when I could but now I’m done. About a year ago she got evicted and had to move away and live with her mother. My husband and I paid for the train tickets for them to get there and I was so happy to be done with it all. Well now they are back and homeless.

They are living in a campground. Her fiancé has found a place for them to live but there is a limit on how long they can stay in the campground and they need to leave two days before they can move in to the new place. She asked if they could stay here.

My husband told me no absolutely not. He feels we have done enough and she will keep asking if we keep saying yes. I agree but I feel kind of bad because it is only two days but I don’t really want them here either. How do I say no? Do I have to have a reason for why we won’t let them stay? I feel like such a bad person because we do have the room, so I know she won’t understand why not. I just can’t be mean and I’m afraid of being honest about why we won’t help.

Signed, Laura

ANSWER

Hi Laura,

Gosh, you’re in a tough situation. Your friend has placed you in the position of being the one person between her (and her daughter) being sheltered or homeless and is asking for one more chance. You have already rescued her numerous times and no longer want to play that role.

It’s not uncommon to about people who consistently exercise bad judgment and depend on friends or relatives to bail them out and give them one more chance, over and over. Each time it happens, they hope it will be the last and the person in trouble may often make that promise, but the situation (or a similar one) recurs.

Only you can decide whether or not the well of your kindness has finally been exhausted. From what you describe, it isn’t likely this will be the last time your friend will ask. Make no mistake: Your friend is an adult and she isn’t likely to change her ways whether you save her this time or not. Eventually, you will have to say no.

Yet, no matter the specific circumstances, it is extraordinarily difficult to turn someone down when they seem utterly down and out.  (You haven’t mentioned the age of her daughter. If she is very young, you must feel especially terrible or her.)

How do you decide when enough is enough? Here are some questions you need to consider in making a decision:

1) Do you feel like you are being taken advantage of? Is there a solid foundation to the friendship besides you being the “giver” and her the “taker?” Do you want to keep this friendship?

2) Since taking her in will also be an intrusion on your husband, are you willing to upset him? Additionally, could he be trying to support you in easing out of a tough situation?

3) Is there any reason to believe that this would truly be the last time, for you or your friend?

4) Is your friend resourceful enough that she’ll find some way out without you? She has a fiancé and a mother so she has other supports besides you.

5) Is your friend mentally compromised and unable to take care of herself and her daughter? If so, they need more help than you can provide as a friend.

You have the right and responsibility to simply say no if, at this point, it sounds like something you don’t want to do again. Tell her firmly, “I can’t help out this time” without further explanation. One way of helping set limits (for you and for her) would be to refer her to a shelter or other organization with social services that could support in making real changes in her life.

The consequence of saying no and denying her one more chance may very well end this friendship but it sounds like you’ve had enough.

Hope this helps!

Best, Irene


Also on The Friendship Blog: 7 Tips for Saying NO

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Category: Needy friends

Comments (11)

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  1. Marisa says:

    I would not have these people in my home. Do not think they are beyond stealing from you. If the daughter was in danger I would call CPS. This woman is not your friend. She is a parasite and user of both you and the system.

  2. Olivia says:

    Laura, I know I’m late to the comments here, but you are a good friend and a good person. I had a friendship like this once, years ago – your description of your friend and her daughter sound exactly like this former friend of mine! I came to realize that my friend was constantly placing herself in a state of emergency because having people drop everything to help her made her feel loved. Unfortunately, this behavior drove her to sabotage everything good in her life, because she was so addicted to the attention she got from being in “emergency mode.”

    The breaking point for me was when I became pregnant with my first child; that was when I finally realized what a user she was. After years and years of buying her daughter clothes, helping them with rent, resumes, babysitting, favors, calling old boyfriends for her, emotional support, she dropped off the face of the earth right after I gave birth. I didn’t even get an email or a phone call. It was a blessing, because I no longer had the emotional energy to devote to her drama. I found out later that, after she spent years telling everyone who would listen about her struggles as a single mom, she had another baby a month after her daughter turned 18 and moved out.

    The truth is, if you are not enabling this woman, she will find someone else to fill that role in her life. People like this tend to have a lot of former best friends that are now burnt bridges. This is not your responsibility or your fault. You have done all you can, it is time to say no.

    • L.L. says:

      the women you speak of are not your friends and they have no attributes of friends ……… they are users and evil to the core. they saw you as a target and opportunity to steal from. rejoice they are gone.

    • Laura says:

      I’m sorry to hear that you were in the same boat. I’m really happy you were able to cut ties with your “friend”. Although I haven’t yet reached that point, I am happy to say that I haven’t given her anything since she has come back. She is in her new apartment now and we did not host her while she was in between places. I am even happy to report that she didn’t ask why we wouldn’t let her stay. She was able to find an alternative and more importantly her daughter always had a place to stay. I just hope that I can continue saying no if she asks for anything. Money has been real tight for my husband and myself lately and I have not been shy about letting her know. I feel she finally realizes it and hasn’t dropped any hints about things they need. Maybe she has grown? We shall see. Everyones input has really helped me to feel good about my decision to say no to her and I thank you all so much!

  3. Gazebo Gal says:

    Friends Who Deliberately Hurt Us – this has happened to me last year and she was the one who rejected my calls,my emails, and any of the contact I put towards her. Eventually, like the wounded animal, I backed off, licked my hurts, and moved on. Problem is that I keep running into her in my small town and she does act awkward with me and then chats away like there is nothing between us that ever went wrong. The crazy thing is she asked me about 4 yrs ago to be the executor of her estate because she has a lot of pets and we lived so close. She knew I would step up to the plate and do right by the animals so they were not harmed if she & her hubby were to die.

    My old friend & I bumped into each other just a week ago and she pretends like there is nothing wrong. I feel so awkward around her and I don’t want her as a friend anymore as she is so hurtful towards me.

    Do you think I should send her a note and say things are not the same as before so please find another person to settle your estate. I was very hurt by her actions and I really don’t think she cares how she treats others.

    I have prepared a letter but I am still unsure if I should send it?

  4. jacqueline says:

    My question is, why isn’t this woman working? Is there something physically or mentally wrong with her? She bought expensive things before running out of money for food? She needs professional guidance. Someone to teach her how to better manage her money, and learn to rely on herself, instead of others.

    Laura, you are not helping this woman. You are enabling her. You have nothing to feel guilty about. She is not your responsibility.

  5. Laura says:

    Thank you to all for your advice. You have no idea how helpful each and everyone of you were! I thought for sure someone would think I were being selfish for not helping in this particular situation. Just so you all know, my friends daughter is 15 and currently staying with a friend. I don’t feel too bad about them having to camp at the moment because it is summer and the weather has been great. Although camping in the long term is not ideal it is doable at this time. I assure you all of this were the dead of winter, it would be a different story and I wouldn’t leave them in the cold. Thanks again!

  6. GraceW says:

    I think there’s a big difference between asking for “one more chance” and for “one more favor.” One more chance is when the friend makes a mistake, maybe she forgets you scheduled to have lunch together and she does a no-show. Or she forgets your birthday. And she asks for one more chance, to make it up to you. So you reschedule lunch with her even though you’re angry about the no-show, and she’s extra careful to keep her commitment to you this time around. That’s “one more chance.”

    Your friend is asking for “one more favor.” Which means one favor right after the last favor but before the next favor. I stopped doing “favors” for friends after taking care of a friend’s cats for six months in my home. As the deadline for her to retrieve the cats approached, she started asking for “just one more favor.” An extra week. Another week. Could we find someone else to take the cats? Could we…? After about the third “just one more” request, I lost it.

    I wrote in a response to another post on this forum that if I want to provide charity, I’ll donate time or money to a nonprofit organization. Friendship is about reciprocity for me. Not because I think people who need charity are less friend-worthy but because inequality in relationships that are supposed to be equal causes problems.

    I’ve learned doing favors often causes problems, too. My husband and I don’t even USE the phrase “Could you do me a favor?” anymore. We. don’t. do. favors.

  7. Sparky says:

    Dear Laura,

    There is a huge difference in helping someone vs enabling someone to continue behaviors that are not acceptable for them to take care of themselves.
    My advice is to be honest, but do it caringly, expect possible anger towards you because you will not help her out, but sometimes people make it a living living off of others who are so kind they do not see it as enabling. I agree with your husband, you have done alot and enough and it is up to them now to support themselves, if you give more, you continue to enable them. Like Amy and Susan give her names and numbers of social service agencies that can help them quickly in times of desperate need, food pantries in the area , and then pray if she is your friend she will take your advice and try to make it on their own.

    Sparky

  8. Susan says:

    I had more of what I would call an acquaintance that would call a friend that would ask to borrow money, which I always said I can’t. She also asked to go play bingo, go to other places, or do other activities, but she wouldn’t have enough money to pay her way and I would ask me for money. I would give her a dollar or two, but it started to get old. Now I don’t even go to play bingo, which I like to do, because I don’t want to run into her.

    For your friend, I would look up charitable organizations that could help her out and give her the list.
    If she asks for money and you want to give, give what you can afford, because if she doesn’t pay you back, you won’t be as mad about it to yourself, otherwise don’t give her money you can’t afford and she can’t afford to pay you back. That can bteak up a friendship.
    Good luck!

  9. Amy says:

    Do some research and give her some phone numbers of homeless shelters, the welfare department, and resources for free or sliding scale therapy (which would be free if she’s homeless). Check out the Salvation Army, the blue pages on your phone book, or your county welfare agency. Also look up section-8 housing. Then, get her the number for consumer credit counseling, they’ll have resources for financial mgmt even if she doesn’t have credit card debt.
    The best thing you can can do for your friends is direct her toward agencies and services to help her. It sounds like simply helping her would be doing her a disservice when she has larger problems than temporary housing,
    I’m sure you can find a compassionate way to give her this information while setting boundaries. Even if you do allow her to stay for two days, you can say it’s the last time since helping her is interfering with your marriage.
    You know the old saying about teaching a person to fish rather than simply giving fish? You don’t have the ability to help her with all she needs, but you can steer her toward professionals who can without judgment or animus.
    Good luck.

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