The Friendship Doctor

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Money, Trust, and Friendship

Should I try to contact her and pretend like nothing happened?

QUESTION 

Hi Irene, 

I am so grateful I found your blog. I met my best friend Karin four years ago when we both entered the university. We became so close that most people were jealous of our friendship. My family loved her and her family loved me. We always had arguments but found ways to remain friends.

This year, in January, I told her I was buying an expensive item I had always wanted. Since I had saved for this item, it wasn't going to be a problem for me. She then said she needed one, too, and that she would pay me back. I used my money to buy the item for both of us and when it was delivered, I told her to pick it up and let me have the money but she never did. 

Anytime I called her, I asked her to come for the item and pay me. She always said she would but never did.

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I never wanted money to destroy our friendship but she stopped picking up my calls. When I used a different number, she picked up. I sent her lots of text messages asking if I had done anything wrong, if so I was sorry, and that I never wanted our friendship to break up over money. She never responded.

Months ago, she finally picked up my call when I used a different number again. All she could say was that my calls annoyed her and that the money wasn't the problem. She said she told someone to bring me the money long ago. I was so hurt when she said that my calls annoyed her that I told her I wouldn't be bothering her anymore with my calls. 

After hearing what she said to me, I decided to give the item to my mum as a Mother's Day gift but I was very hurt that I had to sacrifice about three months of my salary for the payment of the item (which I hadn't budgeted). About two days after this incident, she sent someone to my office to bring the money but I declined in taking it because I had already given the item to my mum. She called back complaining that after disturbing her about the money, I now wouldn't take it.

This was the last time we spoke to each other, about three months ago. I decided not to stay in touch and keep my distance. She hasn't contacted me as well. Irene, I really love and care for my Bestie like the sister I never had. It has taken me a long time to get over this issue. I don't bear a grudge against her. Irene, do you think I should contact her and go back to how were used to be? Please do advise me. 

Signed, Still Upset

 

ANSWER 

Dear Still Upset, 

Even in very close friendships, it's normal to have misunderstandings. Often, these relationships are made stronger when people work through the difficulties together. In the past, it seems like you and your friend found ways to do that, for the most part. 

In this situation, your trust was breached---and that is harder to overcome. You laid out a significant amount of money because you believed your friend would reimburse you. You took her at her word. 

On top of that disappointment, she didn't respond to multiple calls and texts from you trying to find out what was going on. She may have been impulsive about asking you to buy it for her or she may have been short on cash. Either one of these possibilities doesn't excuse her refusing to respond or give you an explanation and apology.

These insults, coupled with her telling you that your calls were annoying, suggest that this is not the kind of friendship you want to pursue any further. This incident goes beyond money, per se, and would make it hard to trust this person again. You can't count on her.  

This has to be a tremendous disappointment but you cannot allow yourself to pretend it didn't happen. Since this friendship is so important to you, you might try once more to see if she is able to give you a reasonable explanation. Perhaps, she was trying to accumulate the money, which she didn't have when she impulsively asked you to make the purchase, and was embarrassed to admit that to you. You could try sending her one email to see if she wants to talk it through. if she doesn't respond, you should back off and not get involved with her again. 

Sure hope this is helpful. 

My best, Irene

 

Some prior blog posts on The Friendship Blog about friendship and money: 

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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