What to do When Friends Wear Out Their Welcome

Dear Relationshipper,

Is there a law saying that we have to accept rude treatment from friends just because they've been in our lives for 10 years?  My "best friend" is really testing me and I've just about reached the point of cutting off any contact with her.  We met when we worked in the same office and we hit it off because we were both in our 20's, single, fairly equal in education and income.  We had similar likes in music, movies, food and even our opinions on serious topics didn't differ much.

Life is very different now.  I'm planning to be married the end of this year and I have a career in my chosen field.  She has had probably 50 jobs over the past decade, is a serial dater, lives from paycheck to paycheck, and quite seriously - she's become a leech.  My fiancĂ© is an understanding guy and has not asked me to cut ties with her, but has mentioned that he doesn't see what keeps her in my good graces.  She borrows clothes and doesn't return them till I demand it because she ignores hints and reminders.  She borrows money and has never paid me back.  I'm embarrassed to say how much she owes me.  I have consciously decided that I will not introduce her to anyone, male or female, because of her past behavior with people.  There is so much more that she's done but in the interest of keeping this to a reasonable length, I'll let you use your imagination.

This all started about 3-4 years ago and has gotten worse.  I think one reason I allow it is because I keep thinking how easily fate could have flipped the situation and made me the one with that lifestyle, and I'm so grateful for what I have.  But whatever, I know I'm being weak.  I know I should lower the boom.  I know I owe it to my fiancĂ© and myself to change things.  I just don't know exactly how.

Can you help me?

Pulling my hair out!

Dear Pulling,

I think we’ve all dealt with this situation at one point or another in our lives.  We can have a friend for 1, 2, 5, 10 or even 20 years, and then they suddenly begin to drive us nuts!

They say, “change is good”, but sometimes change doesn’t enhance our existing relationships.  It’s sad but true, that many of our friendships will become too strained to continue.  I think we often look toward friendships to be our “easy” relationships.

Let me explain.  Our relationships with our family members are often tense – we didn’t choose those relationships, and the people in our families aren’t there because we have things in common – and we don’t necessarily naturally get along with them.  They were assigned to us somehow, before we were even born.  We do get to choose our romantic relationships – which is great!  But, we generally put a huge deal of pressure on these relationships.  Our mates have to be perfect because so much is riding on things working out – because of our innate, instinctual need to find an ideal parent for our child.

But our friends…oh, our friends!  These are the people we choose because they’re funny, fun, and love to listen to us complain – and vice versa.  A lot of times we expect the main role of our friends to be for fun only.  And, it often is.  But, of course, nothing in life is pure fun.  Differences arise, resentments surface, and before you know it, the two of you are at each others throats.

I recommend patching up friendships whenever possible.  However, sometimes they reach the point of no return.  Your situation sounds as if it has, or is on its way.  I think one should always be sensitive and empathetic to the needs of their friends – which I see you are, to some extent.  But, you must also be sensitive and empathetic to yourself as well.  This friend has become more of a burden than a blessing.  She is clearly ignoring your pleas for her to be a respectful, caring person in your life.

So how should you change things?  It will take a long of willpower, and even more compassion.  When she asks for money, decline.  When she asks to borrow things, decline.  When she asks to hang out, sometimes you’re going to need to decline.  She isn’t going to like it – but people who are of the “leech” type, for lack of a better word – have an uncanny knack of getting back on their feet to find someone else to use in no time at all.

This is not to say you need to cut her out of your life entirely – you just need to cut her down.  By that, of course, I mean cut down her ability to keep taking from you, without giving back.  If we allow people to continue taking, taking, and taking from us, we naturally become resentful.  You have to regain the balance, or else you will become flooded with negative emotions – which won’t do either of you any good.

Do what you would suggest your own sister do in the same situation.  Sometimes we allow other people to abuse us in ways that we would criticize others for tolerating.  Try and look at her behavior objectively, and change your reactions accordingly.

Best of luck!

More questions?  Email them to: lisa@relationshipper.com


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