I have a needy friend that I have been helping out, but I need to draw a line somehow. Complication: we work together. I can’t let my friend and her son literally starve, but I really am pretty broke. I don’t know how to word things / deal with the situation to tell her I can’t give any more, when she inevitably requests more help.
posted by sock puppetron on wheels to Human Relations (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies for the huge textwall below.
I have a friend, Sara, who is also a coworker. Sara is one of my best friends, and I don’t have many. Anyway, lately her financial situation has been even worse than usual, and today I gave her a bag of groceries so she and her son wouldn’t starve, and $10 for gas that she said she would pay me back once we get paid (on the 30th). This is the second time I have given her a bag of food, the first time was maybe 5 months ago.
I feel really sorry for her, and I could spare the cash for a little bit, and the food is mainly stuff I wouldn’t get around to eating, but I’m really afraid she’s going to ask for even more soon. Possibly a lot more. I don’t have a lot to give (I make slightly less than she does and I have been trying to clamp down on my recent bad habit of running up my credit cards. I am not living within my means and I need to tighten my budget, something I am working on and struggling with. I’m not gonna have extra food to give beyond maybe one more bag of groceries. I am having to drastically reduce my food budget to make ends meet. I cannot afford to feed three people.)
And I’m worried. I don’t know how to draw the line. I will feel like a supreme asshole for even drawing a line, and I keep going over and over again in my head how I could word a possible response. And I am afraid any response at all other than giving til I bleed is gonna cause her to be really damned unpleasant to me at work, or at least freeze me out and make things super-awkward.
Possibly relevant details: We work in the same room with four other people, and she’s the chief gossip. There might be a desk shift-around in the future, maybe 4-6 months away, but I’m not sure. I dread being in the same room with her for 40 hours a week if she is pissed off at me.
She is a single mother with zero support from the father. She has one 14 yer old son, and two other sons who are older, but one is kind of a deadbeat (says he will pay her then goes and buys himself a laptop and gives her nothing), and the other is in jail. She lives in my apartment complex. She called me today to beg for food because she had none, and she was desperate for something to feed her son. Her son was over at her sister’s place earlier in the day, and her sister would not even give her son any food to eat, not even a ramen. She told me she is used to “fasting” and has lost like 25 pounds recently :(. This breaks my heart. I give her food for lunch at work sometimes too.
Argh! I can’t fix her financial situation, and I absolutely feel like it’s not my place to offer unsolicited advice. But I am uncomfortable with this and fear being dragged down into the quicksand with her, because I feel pity for her and she is my friend and I would be a supremely Bad Friend if I let her go hungry.
But honestly this feels like a really one-sided friendship. I don’t think I have ever asked her for anything that I can think of, beyond just normal work-related stuff that any coworker should do for another reciprocally. I mean she’s nice to me and supportive when we chat about things, etc. My other friend thinks I am totally being taken advantage of and need to cut her off completely. But he doesn’t even know about this food request today.
Also not sure if this is relevant to the question, but she is very religious and I don’t know what sort of resources she might have at her church. She said she recently left her old church and has just joined a new one, so I don’t know if she has the kind of support network there that can really help her. I haven’t asked about it. I don’t know if she is on food stamps or not, but I’m 99% sure she already is or does not qualify.
So I am asking the hive mind: how do I draw the line and deal with my growing suspicion of being taken advantage of? I mean, I feel like I am a generous person when I have stuff to share, but it kind of feels like she’s this endless pit of need and yet I view with dread any time she asks me for more. I mean, in January I said “sure you can come over and use my computer and internet”, and this turned into like 15 weeks of 3-6 hours on one weeknight a week doing her schoolwork. Way more than I was comfortable with (I cannot relax when I have people over, and it went well past my bedtime more than once). When she originally asked it sounded like she needed to come over only once. But I couldn’t exactly bail on that because she absolutely needed it for her class. How can I say no when she can’t afford gas money to go to the school’s computer lab? I need to set a boundary, but how would you do this?
I feel like it’s gotta be a delicate dance of not pissing her off, yet not letting her (and her poor son) literally starve, yet not going even broke-er myself. I feel like I’ve set the expectation with her that I will do anything for her forever, but this is really unrealistic obviously. I just feel really pinned in an uncomfortable situation.
TL;DR: Needy friend, including food insecurity. I’ve given a lot already, and need to draw a boundary. Help?