Sick of Having To Constantly Bail Out My Friend

Friends shouldn't enable friends to live irresponsibly.

Posted Jan 26, 2012

A point can come in a friendship when you're not only doing a disservice to yourself but also to the other person.

QUESTION 

Hi Irene,

I am a 21-year-old female, full-time college student. I have had a very good friend since all the way back to pre-school. These past few years, I have been really questioning our friendship. My friend is also 21 and recently had her third child in the last three years. She never had a very stable home life so when she met the first guy who paid attention to her, she grabbed on to him with all her might.

I love her kids very much but these past few years I have been having a hard time watching her make the decisions she does. She is in debt because her boyfriend wanted stuff but didn't want to work for it, so she got a whole bunch of credit cards and maxed them out. She is on full government assistance and does nothing. She calls me constantly asking for money for formula and diapers (which I can't say no to because it is for the kids). Recently, she enrolled back into college and told me she took out around $4,000 dollars extra in loans for only 6 credits (She says she wants a laptop, internet, and a new T.V.).

I feel as though she leans so heavy on me because I am her only true friend. Everyone else she has uses her for the little money she has. I honestly feel like I have lost my friend. She puts her boyfriend before her children for everything. My mother and I have bought all her kids their clothes, toys, and even groceries because she doesn't have enough food for the month. 

I feel selfish, but I am getting so tired of our friendship. At 21, the biggest problem in my life should be finals. I feel like I shouldn't have to worry if they have enough food or if I need to spend my last bit of money on a winter coat for one of her kids because they don't have one. Her boyfriend lives with her and doesn't work (there is nothing wrong with him physically). He does drugs in the house with the children there, and she allows it and makes excuses for him. 

It has come to the point that when I think of my friend, nothing but a bitter feeling comes up. I don't want to give up our friendship, but I would really appreciate some advice on how to handle this. I am tired of the drama she brings to me and I am at my wit's end.

Signed, Lilly

ANSWER

Dear Lilly,

If you are asking permission to let go of this friendship, you have it from me. I strongly suggest that you say "no" the next time your friend asks you for money---whether it is for her, her boyfriend or her kids. Explain that you are just starting out in life and need to take care of yourself. That isn't selfish. It is realistic. You are not wealthy, don't have an established career, and shouldn't be placed in the awkward position of consistently being asked to bail out another adult at the end of the month.You need to complete your education and become financially independent, and this friendship threatens both those goals

Aside from your long history as friends, the relationship seems completely unsatisfying and one-sided. You deserve to have friends who are more nurturing and giving to you. It also sounds like you question your friend's values, rightly so, which are quite discrepant from your own. 

While I understand your concern for your friend's children, I think you are enabling her (and her boyfriend). Friends shouldn't enable friends to live irresponsibly. I would suggest that you speak to your friend and explain this to her. Tell her that it pains you to see her neglecting her children, exposing them to drugs in the household, and you're no longer willing to subsidize this lifestyle. It may be just the kick in the pants your friend needs to make changes in her own life. 

If you feel the children are at risk because of neglect, you need to speak to a professional, perhaps a counselor at your college, to see how to handle this and whether it should be reported to a child welfare agency. 

I realize this is a very difficult situation for you. Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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