Soon after, we met up at an event, and the group dynamic was off. Becky went to the restroom a concerning number of times throughout the night considering she claimed to be well and was not drinking. She denied doing anything, but she did admit that things with her and her husband were extremely tense because she had lied to him and he had caught her breaking her sobriety a couple of times. She mentioned that the word divorce had come up. When we tried to talk more about her responsibility for the problem, she shut down. While Laura and I headed off to bed, Becky stayed up into the wee hours of the morning doing God knows what. She spent the next morning in bed and could hardly get up to see the two of us off. We left disheartened and with me wishing I hadn’t gone at all. Laura tried talking to her about it once more a couple of days later, but she was brushed off again.
Becky promised to pay me back in two weeks, but it has been a month and two weeks now and I have still not been paid back, despite my telling her I need the money for renovations and an upcoming vacation (truth). She even asked Laura for money recently, and I told Laura it probably wasn’t a good idea. I am upset with Becky. I think her husband doesn’t even know I lent them money. I think she could have paid me back by now but hasn’t because she is wrapped up in a substance web: either directly owes for it, is borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, or just uses whatever funds she can get to acquire more. At the same time, that money will not make or break me, and our friendship is worth more than $100.
I should be a good friend to her in these bad times and not just the good times, right? But how? Laura wants us to do more to help, but if Becky can’t get sober for her kids and to save her marriage, then what can we possibly say or do to make her see the light? We discussed talking to her husband about it… but then thought that it wasn’t our place, she would be furious, and it might hurt instead of help. Besides, he lives with her and has caught her twice. Surely he has a good idea. With her living farther away and our not communicating as much as we used to, we really don’t know what all is going on anyway.
Last week I decided to not ask her about the loan anymore (not that I ever badgered her about it) and haven’t said anything since. She hasn’t reached out yet either. I don’t know where to go from here. Right now I am just floating and waiting. — WWWD – What Would Wendy Do?
Well, actually, without going into too much detail, I have been in a very similar scenario, so I can tell you what I would do in a literal sense and not just hypothetically. After about a year of trying to be a “good friend in the bad times” and seeing no success or improvement with my friend, and experiencing stress with the effort I was making, I backed way off and set boundaries for myself. I communicate much less frequently now, I have released myself of responsibility, and I have released my friend of responsibility — in my own head, not directly with her — of being the friend I want her to be. Friendships change, ours has changed. It doesn’t change the history we share or that I still care for her and want the best for her. But… at this time, I have done all that I care to do for her, and I am putting my own wellbeing before hers (as I would want her to do for herself), and that means creating solid boundaries and acknowledging (to myself) that she cannot be the friend I want and I am likely not the friend she wants (which is someone who looks the other way from her substance abuse, doesn’t ask too many personal questions, and basically acts like everything is honky dory when I know it isn’t).
There are lots of details I’m leaving out for obvious reasons, but the point is: I made more than enough effort to assuage myself of any guilt that I might otherwise have felt about not being a friend “through the bad times.” I was a really, really good friend. If I had to do it again, I actually would have stopped making an effort to be such a good friend earlier than I did. It had zero positive effect on her, and it had a negative effect on me (making me tired, angry, and resentful at the amount of time and energy I was sacrificing, which wasn’t fair to her, really).
My advice to you: Let your friend know you love her, that you are concerned for her, and that if at some point she needs help getting help, to let you know. This is not the same as promising “to do anything for her.” It’s not the same as promising to “always be there for her.” I would not make those promises as they can be misinterpreted and used later to manipulate you. Tell her you love her and then move on. If she decides she wants to get help and she’s burned other bridges, at least there will still be a bridge to you because you will not have burned out on her yet. But you will burn out if you keep trying to help someone who doesn’t want help and isn’t ready for it. You will burn out. I know from personal experience. And if being a good friend is your goal, burning out on the friendship isn’t going to get you there. Setting some boundaries early on that preserve your energy and good will toward your friend is the better path. That’s what I would do.
P.S. You’re not getting that $100 back, so consider it a gift to your friend and move on. And in the future, don’t loan money that you can’t afford to never see again.
My parents are divorced, but they are both heavily into my life. I have a good relationship with both of them, but I come from a much smaller family than does Rob – so family gatherings aren’t really our thing. I choose to go to Rob’s family parties because I know it makes him happy. But his family members have been non-stop bugging me for two years now as to why my parents don’t show up.
My dad has a family of his own and lives about 45 minutes away, so it’s understandable as to why he doesn’t come to get-togethers. But everyone in Rob’s family has a fascination about why my mother never comes. They are a little too bubbly and nosy in my opinion, which frustrates me because you’d think that, after two years of my mom’s not joining them, they’d get the hint. I understand the importance of family, but they go a little too far with making me feel like my parents aren’t good enough because they’re not having potato salad at a community center. The fact is, my mom is simply not a very sociable person and she likes to do her own thing. I’m thinking about telling Rob’s family that she doesn’t like being around a lot of people. I just don’t know if that sounds rude.
It’s getting to the point where even Rob is getting annoyed with his nosy family members. What do you think I should do? — Perplexed Pisces
I’ll never understand when people ask some version of the question: “Hey, so-and-so is being really rude to me and I want them to stop, but I don’t want to be rude by asking them to. What should I do?” The answer is simple: Either continue putting up with their rudeness, or bite the fucking bullet and take the risk of offending them by setting some boundaries. I vote for setting some boundaries. It is almost always the path of least resistance.
Here’s how you can set boundaries with Rob’s family and hopefully end their nonstop intrusiveness with limited risk of offense: The next time his family extends an invitation to your family for some get-together, say: “I am so appreciative of how much effort you’ve extended to include my family in your get-togethers, and I know my parents are touched by your effort, too, but it is unlikely they will actually take you up on the invitations any time soon. As you know, my dad lives farther away and has his own family that he’s busy with. And while my mom loves Rob and is so happy we’re together, she is not a social person, she feels uncomfortable in groups of people, and, coming from a small family, she’d not accustomed to large family get-togethers. It’s out of her comfort zone, and I don’t want to press her to step out of it if she’d not ready to. Thank you for being understanding about that.”
What I would NOT do is apologize. Women do too much apologizing, and there’s nothing for you to apologize for. Leave it as a thank you for their effort. And if it’s really important to Rob’s family that they get to know your parents for some reason, think about how and whether you can facilitate that on a smaller level that is more comfortable for your mother and maybe more convenient for your busy family-man dad. What about a dinner at your home for just the parents that isn’t centered around a special occasion and doesn’t include extended family? Or, what if some time around Mother’s Day, you and Rob take just your mothers out for a lunch or dinner. (Run the idea by your own mom first to see if that’s something she would even be interested in and comfortable with.) If your mother has certain limitations socially, try to work around them while also doing your best to honor Rob’s family’s interest in getting to know your parents.
In the end, I wouldn’t worry about this too much. It’s not even typical for parents of two people who are dating to, like, hang out and spend special occasions together all the time. It’s not even typical of parents of two people who are married to do this. Rob’s parents have a perspective that holidays are meant to be spent in large groups and they might feel sorry for your mother that she doesn’t have anyone to spend them with, especially since you are now spending every holiday with them apparently. (Which, you know, maybe you don’t have to always do? Maybe spend a Thanksgiving with your mom sometimes instead of always with Rob’s family just because “it makes him happy”?) Once you explain that large family gatherings have never been part of your upbringing and culture and that they don’t appeal to your mother, hopefully they’ll drop it.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.