Hello everybody, welcome to episode 80 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. How’s everyone doing today? Well, I hope. We’re going to be looking at another question about friendship and tough love today and what to do when “alterations” we’ll call them might need to be made. But what happens when that friend depends on us financially while they’re in a dark place? Let’s find out today and hear what’s on this listener’s mind…
QUESTION: “My friend has been going through a difficult time for about 8 months now. She made a great decision in leaving a relationship she should’ve never been in, but since then, she’s turned to drinking and excessive spending. She never had much money to begin with, and I’ve been helping her out financially during these tough times. I don’t mind helping her and we’re close enough that I know she’s not taking advantage of me. But her lifestyle is not changing and I need to take a stand because I know I can only help support her for so long. I don’t want to ruin our friendship, but I don’t want her to leech off of me. The other side of me says that as a good friend, I should do everything I can for her in her time of need. Help?”
Helping a Friend in Need
Help is on the way dear, as they say. Yeah, this is a tough predicament to be in, no doubt about it. Thank you for sending this question in, and let’s see what we can do for ya.
Now, I’ll start by saying that I believe you when you say that your friend is not taking advantage of you. I’ll believe you if you say so. I feel some listeners out there might be suspicious of whether it’s true or not, but if you two are as close as you seem to be, while there’s always the chance of being taken advantage of, chances are she’s just having a hard time rebounding and she isn’t aware of how to do that yet or just how much your help is starting to take a toll on you.
Frankly, she’d have no basis on which to know that until you addressed it, which you seem to be getting ready to do. I’m glad the villain card isn’t being thrown around because with what we know so far, there’s no need for it to be.
The last thing you said in your question was what intrigued me most, “As a good friend, I should do everything I can for her in her time of need.”
Let’s break that down a little bit.
Generosity vs. Enabling
I appreciate the determination you have in being a good friend, but her time of need is understandably getting a little long for you. 8 months of destructive behavior and accepting handouts without any effort to change (at least any effort that I know about it) is a lot.
Is your friend entitled to her own feelings and whatever manifestation of coping comes from them? Yes. But what we want to pay attention to is the fact that she’s clearly going down a dark road right now, and it’s gotten to the point where your generosity has turned into enabling.
Don’t feel bad about that; it’s hard to tell when that threshold has been crossed, especially from your position. But I’m telling you that it’s been crossed. So now what?
Which is More Important: Money or A Healthy Bond?
Well now, you look to the other part of that sentence about tough love and doing everything you can for her as a good friend. I think what you’re failing to realize right now is that the “everything” you can do for her goes well beyond the financial support you’re giving.
Maybe it makes you a little uncomfortable to step in personally and explore her problems, but as a good friend, I don’t believe this is out of your boundaries, especially in this particular scenario. So you taking your friendship to the next level means going past financial support and spring-boarding into being both truthful with her and being a partner in helping her improve. She doesn’t need your money as much as she needs a healthy bond like that.
The primary focus right now should helping her get things in order. If her finances are part of the foundation of her struggles, you giving her money turns into you taking her to see a financial planner. It turns into you helping her with a job search. It turns into you helping her sell some of the things she doesn’t need, ya know?
Cutting her off financially does not have to mean you abandon her with her financial struggles, it simply means you alter your approach. And you can do the same thing with her drinking if you think that’s getting out of hand. You don’t necessarily have to take it so far as saying you won’t talk to her until she’s sober, but maybe instead you can take her to AA or go to AA yourself and learn how else you can help her. Maybe you can take the liquor out of her house.
What if Your Friend Reacts Poorly?
The thing is, if your friend reacts poorly to this tough love – and I can understand that being something you have anxiety over – but if she reacts poorly to these new efforts of yours, you’ve done what you can do, and you’ve fulfilled the role you take such pride in having; the role of a good and caring friend.
And should you take my advice, I give you the stamp of approval and permission to not guilt yourself if you ever find yourself wondering whether or not you could’ve done more. If she really is a good friend that’s meant to be in your life, she’ll understand that you tried to look after her AND tried to look after yourself down the road if not immediately.
And looking after yourself is something that has to be done at this point, because this clearly now affecting you and your life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, fulfilling your own needs first helps you fulfill the needs of others to the best of your ability.
Translation: your capability to be the friend you want to be will not last if your own needs aren’t met. Bitterness and resentment will build and it won’t end well. These feelings are likely starting accumulate already in tiny bits if it’s on your mind enough to be submitting this question.
You’re 8 months in. How will you feel on 12 months? Or 18?
Tough Love: Make a Controlled Effort
Your friend is in a tough spot, and you’ve been there for her, but it’s been long enough that it’s time for the approach to change by showing her tough love as well as guidance.
Whether you decide to cut her off financially completely or ween her off as she shows progress in the new tactics you deploy, it’s essential to make a controlled effort while you still have control over your emotions and your friend hopefully still has control of hers.
Asker, thank you again for sending this question in. I hope we were able to help. I hope everyone came out of this one with maybe some ideas as to how we can help our friends in healthy ways even if their behavior is not quite as destructive.
Simply consider how you can both side with them and help them solve some of their bigger struggles in more positive and engaged ways, and you’ll be on the right track.
If you’ve got your own questions you’d like to send into the show, you know we’d love to hear them. You can email us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Email your questions there, we’ll help you out and send you a free book from our collection too if you’d like. We hope to hear from you and we hope you’ll stop in next time for more. Can’t wait till the next episode folks.