Straight Talk Advice

Aug 06, 2013

Draining friend wants to drain pocketbook next

Dear Straight Talk: I work full time and live on my own while attending community college. A close friend is constantly leaning on me for emotional support around guys, school, body image, etc. I like her, but she is often depressed and can be exhausting. She's collecting unemployment, which isn't much, and now she wants to borrow money. While I make more than she, I don't feel I can help her financially. How do I say no and still keep her as a friend? —Salinas, Calif.

Carlos 18, Fairfax, Va. Ask me a question

I doubt she will be offended if you tell her that paying for school and yourself doesn't allow you to support her. Be very clear, though, or she will relapse into asking again. Friends give a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear, but once you mix in money, the friendship is at risk.

Treyvon 19, Yorba Linda, Calif. Ask me a question

I have undying sympathy for people who cannot afford basic human rights such as food, school, shelter and medicine. Luxury items are another matter. If she's really in danger of being cast onto the street, by all means help her out. Otherwise, politely tell her no, and help her apply for jobs.

Ochatre 23, Kampala, Uganda Ask me a question

While full-time at university, I got work at one of the best companies in Uganda — for good pay. It was very stressful and I sacrificed every minute of fun and socializing. Lots of friends showed up, many because of my money. I was the generous type, always responding to “loan” requests and other financial assistance. This usually left me disappointed since most weren't able to pay me back and those who could usually ended our relationship instead. I finally learned to be assertive. I would assess the individual's ability to pay me back and either say 'no' or prepare a lending agreement, not lending above a certain amount. Having money shouldn't be a source of frustration and loss of friends! Gently explain this to her. Anyone aware of the value of money will understand.

Katelyn 18, Azusa, Calif. Ask me a question

She depends on you emotionally, and now wants to depend on you financially? Draw the line and gently/firmly say 'no'. Don't be surprised if she distances herself.

Chris 25, Washington, D.C. Ask me a question

To friends who remember their debts I rarely have issues lending money. But if they don't reconcile it interferes with our relationship. It's okay to say 'no' and point her toward a job.

Ryann 16, Tustin, Calif. Ask me a question

Honest communication is the best solution. She could be unaware of her dependency. Address this in a caring manner and hopefully she will make positive changes. If she doesn't, distance yourself.

Brie 22, San Francisco Ask me a question

Generally, if someone wants a job bad enough they get one. Confess to feeling exhausted — and explain that you're speaking frankly because she is a close friend. If she realizes she's being an emotional vampire and changes, she's a good friend. Friendships must be two-way streets, otherwise they are exhausting and won't last.

Dear Salinas: Friends don't let friends take advantage of them — but they do help each other out. Your situation requires discernment. If your friend is lacking in basic needs (not luxury items), is trying hard to get work, and has no relatives who will help, saying no would be extremely callous and I hope (for her sake) that it would end the friendship. On the other hand, you give the impression she is milking unemployment while you sacrifice with hard work. For this scenario, the panel gives many good ideas for how to say no respectfully. (If she gets upset over that, let's hope it ends the friendship for your sake.) If things aren't this cut and dry, a modest one-time loan with a strict repayment deadline might help her till she gets work.

Editor's Note: This is a good time to talk about what it means to be co-dependent. Originally co-dependency was used to describe relationships where one partner was a drug, alcohol or other addict and the other partner (the co-dependent) wouldn't put his or her foot down regarding the addiction and did all the work to keep the relationship functioning or at least appearing that way.

Now the term is applied to any one-sided relationship where one person is mostly using and out of control and the other person is mostly giving and going along. In these relationships, it's tricky assigning blame because the co-dependent person is giving and going along of their own free will. Low self-esteem is the real culprit. Co-dependents think they need to give like this in order to be valuable and that nobody else would possibly love them. Or they grew up with an addictive or "user" parent. They often get a reward out of the situation by getting to be the partner who is in control, more together, or more respectable.

Brie (above) is correct when she says, "Friendships must be two-way streets, otherwise they are exhausting and won't last." I will add that if they do last, they're extremely unhealthy. To anyone who suspects they may be a co-dependent partner, seeing a good counselor can speed up your recovery process by decades. —Lauren

Straight Talk TNT.ORG is a nonprofit that tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice.Thanks to donations like yours, our acclaimed column benefits over 1 million people a week.

Click here to join our effort with a contribution!

  1. By Alice Amspoker, age , from Santa Barbara on 08/09/2013

    I am not a teen, but I enjoyed reading this week’s column.  I will share my own experience.  A long time ago, someone wise told me that, when faced with this situation, she always said, “I don’t want to lend you money, because your friendship is too important to me, and I wouldn’t want to take a chance that if you can’t repay me, it will damage our relationship.  I will not lend you money.  But if you really need money, I will give you money.”  And give her what you can afford to give her.  Several times friends have asked me to lend them money, and I have responded this way.  Only once did the friend agree to let me give her the money.  I did, she was able to pay her rent, she was extremely grateful, she wrote me a thank you note, and she reciprocated by helping me out in other ways.  Our friendship was not compromised by an unpaid debt.  This approach has worked well for me, and I don’t think anyone was ever offended by my response. 

    Reply to this comment

  2. By Tom, age , from Carmichael, CA on 08/09/2013

    I lost my girlfriend this way.  I loaned her money because she said she desperately needed it.  However, I lost both my girlfriend and my money because of it.  She never paid me back and has a new boyfriend and won’t even speak to me or look me in the face when I pass by her at school.  I heard through a mutual acquaintance that it’s because she couldn’t pay me back and was too ashamed and embarrassed to be around me because of it.  That’s what I get for trying to help somebody out when she practically begged me to loan her the money!  I will never do it again!


    Reply to this comment

  3. By Anonymous, age , from California, USA on 08/12/2013

    I’d suggest that as an alternative to giving money, you might purchase a bag of groceries for your friend instead. Assuming the young lady is in need, this would be a kind gesture, but would not place her in debt to you.

    Reply to this comment

  4. By Linda, age 28, from USA on 07/18/2018

    It’s so hard to refuse. My friend also borrows money from me, it’s about $172, and I have not received it for 2 years.
    You need to save money for yourself for a wind day. Most of my answer is I don’t have money :p

    Reply to this comment

Comment Form

Straight Talk Advice readers are known for their frank and constructive posts that lead to insightful conversations that help many people! Please keep these guidelines in mind when posting:

  • Be constructive: Needlessly cruel or obscene comments will probably be removed. Be conscious of this so your point can be heard.
  • Be relevant: Spam or senseless character attacks irrelevant to the discussion will also probably be removed.

Happy posting!

Straight Talk Advice Recommends