Stupid is a stupid does.
October 8, 2012 8:27 AM   Subscribe

This is a long and stupid question about an old friendship and its affect on my family. Very, very special snowflake.

This will be long, I'll try to keep it as short as possible.

I have a male friend, R. He is married to T. R and I have been freinds since about third grade. He's an excellent guy who has a pretty crappy family, and he's always taken a lot of responsibility for all of them. His mother raises his niece. He comes from nothing but is really a genius, and is currently a chemical engineer making a fine living---nothing like it could be if they could move, but that's another issue for another time. T comes from a very privileged family, and while she is super sweet, she's also very very spoiled. I have always worked in non-profit, and I helped her get a job in the community in about 2007 or so. She has a masters in policy evaluation or something.

Myself and another mutual friend set them up our freshman year of college, which was fall 1998. They've been together ever since. About 6 years ago, they started trying to have a baby, and have been unsuccessful. This has really led to a LOT of issues between them and their friends. I recognize this is difficult, and accept that much if this is my own doing and responsibility.

My son was born in December of 2010. T offered to do the baby shower (we didn't really WANT her to, but how do you say no?) She invited another friend K, who is flaky beyond belief but super, super sweet. T had about 2 months of notice before the shower, but waited until about 1 month before to start making plans. This is all very stupid to me, because I don't really care about baby showers---it's significant because my Fiancee's family is from far away.

Anyway, she waited until about 2 weeks before the event to mail the invites, and then didn't put postage on them. Most people wound up getting the formal invites about 6 days before the party. The only way we found out they HADN'T gotten them was when her friends started calling to ask where they were. No big deal though, we had a fine crowd. This is where it gets dumb.

T doesn't get along with a LOT of girls, and we're not friends with most of her circle. As a result, several of the invited girls are somewhat persona-non-grata to her, and she was pretty shitty to them at the party. Also, flaky K showed up almost an hour late because her dog got out. Whatever. T made a big, ugly stink at the shower in front of everyone, really calling K awful names---significant because K is her best friend. Additionally, about 5 days before the shower, K calls us and tells us after buying everything else for the shower that T stuck her with (saying she couldn't afford), she can't afford the cake, can I buy it for myself? So I buy the cake, whatever. This is only significant because 5 days later, R and T left for a Disney cruise for 2 weeks. (Irritating, but I have no claim to their money, so w/e.)

So...backing up about a week. T and I got into a pretty nasty FB argument. I made a comment saying something like "When someone wants to get a dog, everyone says 'go to the shelter and pick one out', why don't people say the same thing to people who start talkin about having babies?" The comment wasn't TO anyone, nor did it come as a result of any conversation, it's just something I feel strongly about. (adoption, that is.)

So, she really attacked me in thread, and basically said something about how some people could have accidents and get children (referring to me, we're not married) and other people shouldn't be forced to accept the castoffs, and some crap about biological imperative, you get the idea. It devolved (I didn't appreciate our son being called an accident, and I feel that if the only reason you'd consider adoption is because you can't have your own, then you shouldn't adopt). I felt bad the next morning, and I sent her an FB message basically apologizing, but saying that I felt like she did say it to be hurtful but that I understood her viewpoint. Well, in my haste, I posted to her wall and not via private message. We then went out of town for the day. When I got home, she had sent me a message saying I was an awful person and she didn't want to be my friend. I responded with a simple "ok." This all went down about 2 days before the shower, and she was apoplectic that I had the audacity to show up at the shower and made no bones about saying so.

So...we went about 19 months without talking to each other. I tried to stay in touch with R, but he said (and I think this is OK) that his allegiance had to be with her, even though he believed she was in the wrong.

So a couple months ago, I sent them each an apology email, basically saying I didn't intend to cut them out of my son's life, but I didn't know how I had expected it to go down otherwise. We all talked, they admitted lots of fault (as did I), and we agreed to move forward. Since then, things have been better. I dunno if really better, or if everyone's just trying harder. I still think she whines A LOT, and I know she still thinks I'm a jerk but she recognizes that I'm just brutally honest.

So now we're to the actual, current issue:
Before this ALL started, my mother was trying to sell a rental property she owns. It wasn't in great shape, but was OK. She held on to it too long though, and the bubble popped, and she wasn't getting any takers. One guy offered her like 40% of asking price, cash the next day, and she almost took it. I told her not to. Today my mother is 69 years old, fwiw.

About this time R, had been laid off, and was starting a construction company with his brother. He made an arrangement with my mom, where for 6 months he would assume all the bills, fix up the house, buy it from her, and flip it. Well, 6 months passed and they basically hadn't done anything, so they extended it, and then they extended it again. The most recent "year long" agreement expires either in November or December. The terms state that after the window expires, if he doesn't buy the house, he loses anything he's put into it. (He got another full time job about 8 weeks after getting laid off.)

Part of the stupidness here is that my mom is sort of hesitant to share with me the agreement because it doesn't really favor her very well. Regardless, the whole thing has put her in a rough spot financially.

I stopped by the house about a month ago, and the house is in worse shape now than it was. They've done some degree of demo in EVERY SINGLE ROOM, there is currently no electricity on the second floor (house was completely rewired 10 years ago) and no working bathroom, all doors are removed, etc. They've done some work, but finished nothing. Someone has also been partying in the house, we believe it's the brother.

So...about a year ago, R and T bought a second house and moved into it, intending to rent their original house. She rented it to an employee for the cost of utilities, and he never paid them anything and now he's run away after stealing a bunch of money. They're out maybe a thousand bucks in money owed for utilities. They're also paying a second mortgage that they can't really afford, blah blah blah.

I just found out about 2 weeks ago that he's 3 months behind paying my mom, something like $600-800. This is significant because my mom has NO MONEY, and has already stated that when this house sells, she will retire. He does not know that I know he's behind. He does know that I know the agreement expires in a month or two.

When I mentioned to him that I'd really appreciate them moving forward ASAP because my mom is looking forward to retiring, his response was "But I thought she really liked her job?" My mom works counter in a grocery store. Really?

Last week, he ate lunch with my fiancee on Wednesday, and told her (among other things) that the reason he's behind paying my mom is because dude was behind paying him, which I get totally. Then Thursday I found out that Sunday (yesterday) he was leaving for Boston for 10 days for work. I asked him if T was going, and she's flying up separately on Wednesday, then staying the week, and flying back with him when he comes home. (Apparently the flight is being paid for partially with credit-card miles.)

Again, I am frustrated, because one doesn't take a week jaunt to Boston for free, and I feel like he has an obligation to my mom who is in a seriously bad spot right now. She says that when this extension is over, it's over and there won't be another. The house is NOT sellable right now. Most likely, I will get a Lowes card in her name, buy whatever it needs, and do it myself. That doesn't bother me, BUT I know that if R and T lose the money they have in the house, they'll be freaked out. (The reason they haven't worked on it is because they started getting contracts to do flooring in subdivisions, and their margins are tiny and the timelines are slim. Fine, but not my problem.)


So, after all this, here's the question: What do I do? My mom turns 70 in a couple months, is of completely sound mind but she is extremely timid. He is seemingly willfully oblivious what her situation is (granted, she lives in a huge home she was bequeathed, but she has no liquid cash and can't even pay the gas bill normally). Do I push it with him? Do I wait for it to unfold? Do I just say that it really feels like we're getting treated poorly? (There was another incident this weekend where they made plans with us then broke them then made it so visiting friends weren't able to see us, all within the same day.) Do I let it go? It's not costing ME money, but it's affecting my mom. What would you do?
posted by TomMelee to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, you included a lot of detail in this question. The whole thing with the shower and the Facebook fights and the past is irrelevant, IMO; I'm not really sure why you included it. In the present, these people are screwing over your mother in an agreement that she's not really into the first place, but I assume took part in because you said so? Time to buck up and start protecting her. Cut your "friends" off from this deal ASAP. Sounds like they might even be relieved to be free of the albatross of the house.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:36 AM on October 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't think these people are your friends, or your mom's friends, anymore. Friendship involves a degree of responsibility to the relationship and the other person that I'm not seeing here.

You need to break this non-friendship-friendship off, lawyer up, and figure out what it would cost to put the house back into sellable condition from some third-party contractor, and act on that information.
posted by mhoye at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

So, after all this, here's the question: What do I do?

Your first step should be to try to set aside your long, long history with these people, and try to determine what actual problem you are trying to solve.
posted by Perplexity at 8:38 AM on October 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

Agreeing that you included a lot of detail. Presumably you edited out some personal feelings toward the end, but it's incredibly obvious still that you can't stand T at least and some of that bleeds onto R.

As for what you should do: don't run roughshod all over your mother just because she seems timid to you. What presents as timidity could easily be strong principles about how she treats other people/friends, regardless of how they treat her - you going tough on her behalf could be more upsetting than the current situation, since it would be about the same as if she'd betrayed her own principles (except you're there to blame for it.) She's your mother and obviously you know her better than I do, but I've seen this particularly with older people a few times. Have some honest conversations with her.

But seriously:

I recognize this is difficult, and accept that much if this is my own doing and responsibility.

You don't like T but have let this drama unfold this far because you feel guilty about setting the two of them up and bringing her into your friend R's life? Leave the past in the past, maybe see a therapist to work through that separately, and help your mom deal with a delinquent construction company in the present. And you could probably stop forcing yourself to hang out with a couple that must stress you out tremendously.
posted by pahalial at 8:44 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The very first thing I would do is put these people at the top of the " People I used to know " list. Stress of this nature does not come from actual friends. Save yourself the trauma and drama and just unplug this sideshow. It will enhance your ability to enjoy your own life. No need to have a confrontation, just disengage, and resume enjoying your own life.
posted by scottymac at 8:45 AM on October 8, 2012

Okay, you need to help your mom get out of this agreement with your ex-friend.

Perhaps you, she and he can sit down and write out an agreement that lets him walk away with no rights to anything, and she can put it on the market and sell it for whatever it will bear. (It's possible that the demo might be a blessing in disguise, as a speculator might pick it up.)

Your mom may also want to sell the house that was bequeathed to her so she can move into a small apartment that would be appropriate for her life as a retiree. Perhaps something in an over 55 community with lots of activities and things like rides to the grocery store.

If you think that T has damaged the property, then get your mom to bring suit, perhaps in small claims court (if the damages are under your state's minimum).

It doesn't sound like T has a pot to piss in, and if I could afford to at all, I'd just be happy to get out of this terrible, terrible agreement without any hassle.

Your friendship is ruined, there's no going back. It's sad, but that's how it shakes out. You can be civil, but you'll never be in a place where T will be your buddy.

It's okay. That's how it works sometimes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:47 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

She says that when this extension is over, it's over and there won't be another. The house is NOT sellable right now. Most likely, I will get a Lowes card in her name, buy whatever it needs, and do it myself.

That's very likely what's going to happen. Clarify that contingency plan, because it looks like you'll need it.

That doesn't bother me, BUT I know that if R and T lose the money they have in the house, they'll be freaked out. (The reason they haven't worked on it is because they started getting contracts to do flooring in subdivisions, and their margins are tiny and the timelines are slim.

Your, er... friends? ... have chosen this. They're not powerlessly being swept into a bad situation. They're choosing it. They're grown ups. You can't keep making plans as if you were responsible for them.
posted by jon1270 at 8:49 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

You can work on helping your mom with her situation if she wants it, but it sounds like you're kind of inserting yourself into it without her asking you to because you perceive her as being victimized. That's understandable and I think if you come at it from "I'd really like to help you with this, here is what I know about the situation - do you want me to help?" - that's fine, but beyond that, you are probably taking this too far.

Most of everything else I have only 2 things to say about:
1. I agree that you should stop considering R&T friends and start trying to *quietly* expunge them from your life. Nothing good will come of your further contact with them.

2. As a person who has struggled with infertility but not for nearly as long as your friends have, I found what you said to T incredibly hurtful and clueless - comparing having a biological child to picking up a dog at the pound - really now!? (The fact that you are clueless is the only thing that keeps you from being a complete asshole in this) Until you have walked a mile in someone else's shoes, do not presume to know what you would do in their situation when it comes to infertility. Because you know what? You cannot understand what it's like unless you have experienced it, so you're probably completely wrong.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:52 AM on October 8, 2012 [26 favorites]

Cut and dried: lawyer up, and get your mom taken care of. These people are not your friends. R apparently lets T run the show, and she is very selfish. It's sad that R has let her ruin your friendship with him, but at this point it is ruining your mom's whole life.

Take care of your mother. She needs you to look after her interests and protect her from these people.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:53 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are 2 parts of this, but if your mother agrees:

• 1) Get a copy of the agreement, 2) take pictures of the place (as is, right now, evidence of partying) and 3) go to a lawyer and ask to review what parts are legal/obligated to do and recommendations as to how to get out of it. as quickly as possible. Follow whatever it is they recommend (even if it cost $500 or $1000, it may be better to pay it just to get out of this) - then sell the place and use that money your mother. Business is not emotional and there should not be your mother's feelings, their feelings, interpretations etc. -What does the agreement say, how can you move onwards, and behave ethically.

• You don't respect them/they don't respect you. Reading this is a giant, giant dramafest. Why do you possibly want any of this in your life? They were friends/fun in the past -you are going a different direction. Part of a friendship, too, is 1) how do you treat one another and 2) do you respect one another? I don't see treating one another well or respecting one another in your post and I have no doubt if they wrote their perspective, it would be the same. This has already spiraled out of control and will only get worse. Do you feel good interacting with them? Respect them? Solve the house problem first with a lawyer, then drop them.
posted by Wolfster at 8:57 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

The first thing you should do it recognize that your mom doesn't deserve this shit. Go and photograph the damages. Then let them know that mom is retiring and the place is going to be sold. They need to pay the back rent or the lawyers handling the real estate transaction will file suit on your mom's behalf.

The drama is all yours and is irrelevant to the question. Your question is: Mom has a bad renter who has caused damages and has not paid rent. Mom needs to get paid her rent money and sell that property. How should we proceed?

Usually, when you make freeloaders pay up they remove themselves from your life. This is an awesome outcome which you should do NOTHING to prevent.
posted by 26.2 at 9:06 AM on October 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

To my mind, the main question is whether R is simply ignorant of the financial distress this is causing your mother, or does not care. (R seems like the only person you can trust to possibly be concerned about this - I can't imagine T as understanding the significance of financial issues if she has been spoiled her whole life.)

You should sit down with R and explain in gentle but strong terms the financial impact this has had on your mother - how she is currently low on money, the place has been left worse than it was found thanks to R's brother's partying, and how it is now unsellable.

Once R is aware of this situation, how he responds should inform your next step. If it turns out he was simply unaware of your mother's timeline for selling the house, as well as her financial situation, he will take steps to indemnify you. If he simply doesn't care, he undoubtedly won't say it, but it will become apparent through his behavior (he will makes excuses about his own financial issues, and when you point out that his vacations are undoubtedly fairly expensive, he will bluster). If that happens this is a strictly adversarial situation... which is not good, but it at least simplifies the situation somewhat since at that point your goal is simply to inflict financial and legal pain on him and his family until you squeezed as much money as you can to compensate your mother. (Ie, lawyer up.)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:11 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree that these people are not really your friends. You should help your mother navigate getting out of the agreement with R, most likely with help of a lawyer.

Then, has your mother considered a reverse mortgage? This would allow her to have some cash available and still live in her house. Again, talk with a lawyer or financial planner about this, but it seems like a great fit for her since she owns the house outright.
posted by agentmitten at 9:34 AM on October 8, 2012

It seems really simple. He hasn't done what he agreed to do and your mother needs the house back. Explaining her situation to him is optional; do it if it makes you feel better. (Sometimes people will take advantage of you if they think you are wealthy and that their behavior is not having an impact.)

So...backing up about a week. T and I got into a pretty nasty FB argument. I made a comment saying something like "When someone wants to get a dog, everyone says 'go to the shelter and pick one out', why don't people say the same thing to people who start talkin about having babies?" The comment wasn't TO anyone, nor did it come as a result of any conversation, it's just something I feel strongly about. (adoption, that is.)

You know what, people say this all the time. "Why don't you just adopt?" Anyone who's been public about having fertility issues has surely heard this many times. Why do people even believe it is easy to adopt? It's just not. Also, I can forgive T for thinking this comment was directed at her; in her shoes I probably would have felt you were being a little insensitive, at least. I don't think this incident has any real bearing on the current situation, viewed rationally. It is awfully convenient for people to start viewing you as the bad guy when they are planning to screw you over or take advantage. But if this and the baby shower, etc., hadn't come up there would be something else. Still, I wanted to respond because I think this Facebook thing was potentially pretty hurtful to her.
posted by BibiRose at 10:09 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Talk to a lawyer. Be prepared to lose your "friends" over this, because you probably will and because R has told you in no uncertain terms that he prioritizes T over you and your family. Have your mom's back in this, which means convincing her that she must talk to a lawyer and find out her exact legal obligations and position.

I made a comment saying something like "When someone wants to get a dog, everyone says 'go to the shelter and pick one out', why don't people say the same thing to people who start talkin about having babies?" The comment wasn't TO anyone, nor did it come as a result of any conversation, it's just something I feel strongly about. (adoption, that is.)

I'm zealously pro-adoption, but that's just obnoxious fight-bait. Don't do stuff like that unless you want to provoke fights on FB. You can make the "yay adoption!" case without casting aspersions on other ways of creating a family.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:17 AM on October 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Thanks all for your responses. I'll give a little more info and maybe try to respond to folks directly.

I asked a question about my dad a couple years back, and asked it anonymously and then didn't favorite it, so I can't even go back and refer to it now, which sucks. My mom and dad are still together, but my dad's a freeloading sack of doody who claims no financial obligation for anything---and he's not on the deed to their home. My mom had plenty of money, and he's blown it all through deceit and nastiness. The good news is that apparently he'll be out of the picture soon. R knows this as well, and he knows my dad has an income as well, and probably believes (even though I've told him otherwise) that everything there is peachy.

I tried to not let my feelings about T shine through. It's weird because I do actually like her, but I can't help resenting her---that's part of why I know the backstory is at least partially my fault. I'm intensely proud and fierce about my work with families here, and she's always just kinda done it because of the warm and fuzzies, and she's never actually had it in her lap. That's not necessarily her fault (or my place to be irritated), but it permeates.

I included a lot of detail so you can really understand why it's difficult to not just make a "business" decision or approach to this. When I bailed out of a really bad job in Florida a couple years ago, R and T let me live in a house they owned at the time (for about three months), free of anything but utilities, and really saved us there. I feel like I owe them a little bit.

Oh, and I didn't set up the deal between him and my mom or even encourage it.

Ok, individual responses, please bear with me:
ThePinkS..: You're kind of a lone vote in the woods there, but I appreciate the sentiment. This is the direction in which I'm leaning.

mhoye: I'm a construction manager now by trade, although through a non profit. Thanks for the insight on damages.

Perplexity: heh, eponysterical, eh?

pahalial: Yes, you are correct. My mother is warm and sweet in the exact same way I'm direct and honest. She's also completely passive, and has allowed my dad to do this exact same thing to her for the past 20 years, and he's destroyed her probability of a safe retirement and now he's bailing on her, the same thing she did when a crappy contractor left their home without a roof for a year and then did it poorly---she will NOT pursue conflict in any way.

scottymac: You are correct. I guess my brain just wants to believe it's a result of R being oblivious rather than being nasty---and if you knew him, you'd know why I think this.

Ruthless: As soon as my dad leaves (any time now, thankfully) that's my goal---to get her out of there. It was her mothers home though, so...I dunno how well it's going to work.

jon1270: Thank you for saying that about their choices. That's how I feel, I was hoping someone else would see it that way.

Treehorn: Two responses that aren't necessarily on topic. First, I didn't make the comment to her about adoption, I made it to the world. Having spent most of the last 15 years working with unwanted children, I do indeed believe that literally everyone should be adopting. I don't expect everyone to agree, but it's something I've spoken about for at least a decade. Second, my response about "if the only reason..." came as a direct response to her stating something along the lines of "adoption exists for those people who have no other way of having a child" and "someone's unknown child that could have something wrong with them" and all the other tripe people toss up about why foster and adoptee children are "damaged."

MexicanYenta: Normally, you're right about who runs the show. On this though, T is all over R to get out from under the house ASAP---which may also be part of the issue, no dude wants to do something when he's being nagged.

Wolfster: You're totally right, and it's a big part of why I decided to split before. We have no drama with other friends, I think this is just one of those "we've been close for 25 years" things, and I keep feeling like "real friends weather the storm" or something, but I can't find the line.

26.2: I like your style, cool and direct. You're skating dangerously close to a best answer my friend.

wolfdreams: I think you're right. R and T and I have another shared friend B, and he and I have been discussing that obliviousness of R. My excuse here is that since I wasn't involved in the beginning, I feel weird injecting myself now.

agentmitten: yes, she has. I believe there is a smallish lien on the second house (15k or so) where my mom had an equity credit line and my dad got ahold of her checkbook (another issue, another time), but honestly at this point the value is in the lot, not the house. As for her house---I'm trying to convince her to bridge-loan to a newer, smaller place and then sell the beast. It's probably worth a solid $300k easily. If he was paying her, she'd be solvent. Not putting anything away, not able to retire, but solvent. Remember this was supposed to be over almost 2 years ago.

BibiRose: you are correct about that. It was insensitive, and I apologized in the thread and again in email and to her personally. Fwiw, we have two other friends (who are mutual friends) who were completing adoptions at the time, whom I mentioned in the first comment. People who were, fwiw, adopting by choice rather than infertility. But yes, you're right, and I do understand that. It has no bearing on today, it just served to bruise the friendship.

The Master...: Thanks. Thanks for both. I did clarify in like my third comment in the thread that what I intended was that adoption should be part of our national dialogue, not something that's discussed in hush-hush voices NOR should people be like "oh you adopted, you're such a HERO!", that it should just be something people do that it's particularly unique or special or difficult. (I realize it's difficult, I'm saying it shouldn't be.)
posted by TomMelee at 10:25 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Right or wrong, some hurts run too deep for the person in question to be rational. I try like hell to just stay away from some subjects with some people. If you want to remain friends, just don't expect rational, diplomatic conversations about the fertility issue or anything related to it from either of them. Try to let go of your sense of "responsibility" for their relationship. You introduced them, they did the rest. It doesn't matter how they met. Fourteen years together is a choice, not "your fault".

Since you did not set up the deal with your mother and she does not even want to show you the contract, before you worry about R or T or anyone else, get straight with your mother whether she even wants your help. Unless you get her declared legally incompetent, it is her decision. There is only so much you can do practically, legally and ethically to protect her from herself. Some people only change after being sufficiently burned. Given her relationship to your father, you may be doing her no favors to insert yourself into this if she isn't actively seeking your feedback and assistance.

I understand your concern, but this entire thing just reeks of "poor boundaries" as the root problem. You can start modeling better boundaries for everyone involved by getting some yourself.
posted by Michele in California at 10:54 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I included a lot of detail so you can really understand why it's difficult to not just make a "business" decision or approach to this.

I assume you meant to say that it's difficult to treat this as just a business decision. And I totally understand how that's difficult. But that's still what needs to happen here. You're talking about contracts and property, and those are legal matters that must be handled by a lawyer. The best thing for you to do here is to help your mother retain legal counsel so that she can exit this situation with as much of her finances intact as possible.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:03 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

So, it sounds like the situation boils down to: you loathe T, and R isn't keeping his end of a deal he made with your mom. Your follow-up about wanting to give R the benefit of the doubt that he's being "oblivious" rather than "nasty" is telling, as is your point about T "nagging" R to do the things he agreed to do but hasn't--you're doing a bunch of mental gymnastics to try to make T the bad guy and R the victim of circumstance. Your judgment on this matter is very clouded. R is behaving irresponsibly and unfairly; not T. "Oblivious" behavior can be hurtful, destructive, and wrong. You think T is nasty, fine. But R is the one creating the problem here.

R is an adult--a brilliant, well-educated adult who knows what it's like to be financially insecure, by your telling--yet he's shirking his responsibilities with regard to a 70-year-old woman with whom he made a business agreement (a 70-year-old woman who happens to be the mother of his dear friend, you). He should take responsibility for his mistakes and make things right, but he's choosing not to. I suggest you make your decisions in this matter based on his current behavior, rather than your history with him.

I'd do this: confront R once. Say, "As your friend, I'm really surprised and disappointed by how you're handling this situation with my mom. I'm not going to be involved anymore, but I want to let you know that I expect you to make things right in this situation." And then, sit down with your mom and let her know that you won't be directly involved but do want to support her in protecting her interests--maybe she meets with R once, they make a plan with a timeline and milestones for him to meet; or maybe she calls a lawyer immediately; or maybe both. I think there's too much emotional baggage for you to be involved long-term, but I think a one-time conversation with R, and a one-time strategy-session with your mom could be productive.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:17 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

In your followup you make it clear that you are trying so very, very hard not to be the bad guy. This couple has taken advantage of your mother, and even if it wasn't intentional, it's going to cost money, time, and emotional expense to set things right. That several years ago they let you stay in an empty house for a few months is irrelevant. Presumably you thanked them for that already, so it has no bearing here except to add to the interpersonal drama you're holding on to in order to not make the decision you must know on some level needs to be made.

Your mother doesn't have several more decades of earning potential in front of her, and when she entrusted her only asset to your "friend" to fix it up and flip it, he did demo work only, decreased its value even further, and dragged it out so that she's 2 years closer to a retirement she has earned, but now can't afford. And you are putting this "friendship" above your mother's very real, practical needs. If your mother isn't able to advocate for herself, then you need to do it for her. A retired person with no assets trumps a drama-filled "friendship" any day of the week, especially if the retired person is your mother.
posted by headnsouth at 1:05 PM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow, thanks. I appreciate the answers, they're all very well thought out.

Michele in California-wrt boundaries, my family is not warm or close. We're friendly, affable maybe, but not close. At 32 with a 2 year old, I'm really wishing this wasn't the case. Maybe better late than never?

Meg_Murry- Your answer kind of resonates with me. I don't loathe T, I just wish she was...different. As if that's something you can want of a friend, heh? I feel like it's my problem to contend with, not hers. I like your solution to confront R once and be serious with my mom. She tries so hard to not "bother" me because she knows I'm busy, maybe she just needs to understand that it doesn't "bother" me.

headnsouth--thanks. I rarely do a good job explaining myself, but I think you figured me out. I like your answer, I think I'll combine it with a few others and have myself the beginnings of a solution. Thanks for giving me permission to feel the way I do! That's not sarcasm, seriously--thank you.
posted by TomMelee at 2:06 PM on October 8, 2012

I am a little baffled by your reply. Healthy boundaries are not about how warm or close you are. It is about appropriateness and clear demarcations.

But best of luck, however you proceed.
posted by Michele in California at 4:19 PM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

You should really reconsider your behavior towards T if you truly don't loathe her. You can't get hurt by her opinions regarding accidental pregnancies, while insisting that she should welcome your political tirades on the magic of adoption.

You're welcome to wish that her ovaries burn to the same blackened color as her heart. And you're welcome to realize that folks who grow up privileged tend to never quite understand the value of money the way normal folks do, and give her a bit of room.

But right now you're treating her like a leper, while insisting (both to her and yourself apparently) that she's a dear friend. That isn't fair to either of you.

The business deal between R and your mom is between R and your mom. If R is bad at business that is his own fault. Taking terrible business advice from his wife is still *his* fault.

If your mom is bad at making financial decisions and continues to employ a terrible contractor, that is her own fault. Judging by your previous questions regarding your father, it sounds like your mom has a long history of throwing money and time at problems in hopes of not having to deal with them.

And that isn't to say that your friend isn't responsible for the terrible way that he has managed this project. But I believe that fixing this problem isn't the end of your issues with your mother. You will be seeing these problems crop up again and again as long as your mother has the ability to make these decisions.
posted by politikitty at 4:32 PM on October 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you considered sitting down with R and your mother and discussing the situation? An attorney is a good idea but a mediator or other non-adversarial way of solving this would likely be more comfortable for your mother. And cheaper for everyone.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:45 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really like what Meg_Murray said but I would not make any kind of promise not to intervene. Yes the boundaries are somewhat mixed up in this situation, as are the responsibilities-- and the blame, if that's relevant-- but at this point your mother's financial well-being has to take precedence. If you can use any kind of personal leverage to recover this, I say go for it. Now you need to strategize a lot; you can't be muddying the water at the wrong moment, but if you basically tell him there will be no further consequences from you, that's just going to make him feel free to keep abusing the situation. Saying "I'm disappointed" further makes him feel like it's a done deal. Maybe you can find some way to give him room to act better.

The thing with T and adoption-- ugh, I see that you also offered a fauxpology. And saying a remark was not directed at someone when it was made where they could see it, and it has a clear application to them-- well maybe in the moment, you were not thinking of her, but from where she sits it was most certainly directed at her. I agree with politikitty, it will be better for you both if you just own this dislike of her.
posted by BibiRose at 9:05 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Last update in case anyone is still reading.

1. I had lunch with my mom yesterday and basically told her how this has been digging at me, and that I'm happy to be involved at whatever level she wants, and that I will assume the responsibility of fixing the house if R backs out---as long as she provides the cash. This all went well. R apparently already has over $15k in the house, neither of us sees him willingly backing out BUT the house isn't currently lendable and he doesn't have the available equity. That part will be interesting. He DID go last week right before he left and catch up on the money he owed her, so I can't be frustrated about that other than that he hasn't taken it more seriously.

2. As has been a recurring theme with my questions over the last couple years (really since we found out we were pregnant), I am trying to be a warmer, kinder person. Those probably aren't the right words, (I mean I'm a social worker for gosh sakes, I have to be a little bit of both sometimes, right?) but I'm trying to love more and be irritated less, and to just be warmer and gentler all around. My family isn't exactly warm (my parents and aunts and uncles and stuff), my dad is a huge prick, and I assume a lot of responsibilities that aren't mine to assume. I appreciate the "go to therapy" response, and I'll disregard it the same way that 95% of askme askers do---because I don't think it's there. I think I'm just more vocal about the same conflicts that all young dads feel, trying to walk the line between being morally upright, strong, vulnerable, and giving to our families. So...I recognize that T hasn't really done anything to me that should make me resent her, and in fact I DON'T, I actually enjoy being around her, I simply can't relate to her life or the things she has to deal with. I need to do a better job of recognizing and accepting that her life is hers, her conflicts are hers, her strengths and weaknesses are all hers, and I am certainly no beacon of light.

While I have no idea what's going to happen with this house situation, my perpetual high expectations of the few close friends I have is an apparent and unacceptably recurring issue for me. I will, such as it is, be nicer.
posted by TomMelee at 4:41 PM on October 10, 2012

« Older I don't know what to be when I grow up... for the...   |   ...well, I kinda have a bit of everything, doc. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.