"When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed"
September 3, 2017 8:30 AM   Subscribe

How can I unpack my emotions about a friend's recent decisions?

Relevant Backstory: I am an expat and still subject to immigration laws in my chosen country. Recently an incident occured where a (personally unknown) legislation change was discovered by a former employer. This left me immediately without a job, legally unable to prove my right to work, potentially unable to make a benefit claim, and only able to rectify the situation if I had a spare £400. Which I did not.

One of my very close friends was aware of the situation as it unfolded, aware of my distress, and aware that the entire ordeal had essentially left me destitute and stuck. Able to stay in the country, but unable to support myself, potentially homeless, and without recourse. They spent four hours sitting with me in a cafe while I made calls to the Home Office, and every immigration lawyer in town that even hinted at accepting financial aid. The former employer had also withheld all money that they owed me, and as I have no family, I had no way to find a sudden £400 and end the nightmare.

I was attempting to sell off my sentimental valuables for whatever I could, and trying to find a way of making up the money I needed by any means necessary. It got to the point where I was investigating potential sex work. I discussed the situation at length and confided in my friend. Thankfully after many sleepless nights and much anxiety, I've managed to find a workaround that will enable me to return to work. The issue isn't solved, but it is potentially eased.

The Question: The money I needed was a fair amount. The friend in question mentioned that 'if I had the cash, I'd give it to you', without me asking first, and expressed sadness and helplessness at my situation. I understood and thanked them for showing care and generosity.

Here's the rub: within two weeks after this entire ordeal (and before the situation had been eased) the same friend casually mentioned to me that they'd just purchased two authentic Vivienne Westwood handbags, a new MacBook Air, and a few other pricey purchases. This made me sad, hurt, and angry. Not because they purchased themselves expensive things, but because they could have easily ended a terrible situation in the life of someone they've known for years and state they care about, but didn't. The quip about wishing they could help (when it seems they could) also rings in my ears.

I know it would be inappropriate to confront this friend about how I'm feeling and how they spent their own money. They have no obligation to give or lend what they don't want to. But I'm having trouble speaking to them or enjoying their company feeling the way that I do. We've been through a lot together and if the tables were turned I would've given everything I could to help them.

How can I unpack all of this and move on?
posted by Vrai to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They could have come into the money after. They could have bought the things on credit. Just because they have new things now doesn't mean they had cash available when you needed it.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 8:44 AM on September 3, 2017 [25 favorites]

this must have been horribly traumatic, I'm sorry. And then to find out your friend valued the opportunity to buy handbags over the possibility of helping you out must have been very hurtful.

I will say I think many, many people - most? - are not in the mindset of giving friends money. It's just in a category of things that aren't really on the table for most people.

I say that NOT to blame you at all for feeling hurt, because I am sure I would have felt the same way. But I do think it's entirely possible she was genuinely sympathetic, and when she said "I wish I could help" what she meant was she wished she could magically make the immigration/job situation not have happened, not that she wished she could give you money. [edit - although yeah of course it is possible she put stuff on a credit card, too.]
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:46 AM on September 3, 2017

I would guess that she used credit to buy the expensive purses or that the purses are fakes.

She may have needed the laptop, so it's unfair to count that against her.

If the purses are real and purchased with cash, then I would consider ending the friendship as it seems rather cold hearted for her to lament that she would help, but didn't have the cash, when all along she did have the cash.
posted by parakeetdog at 8:58 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! :
I considered these options previously, so I asked. This was not the case. (They specifically said nothing was purchased on finance.) All purchases were made when the ordeal was still very much active.

I know it's inappropriate to be upset at how someone else spends their own money, regardless of my own circumstances. I still feel upset, and I know I shouldn't. All I want to do is unravel my feelings and move on.

They already owned a functioning Windows laptop, but they didn't like using it and so purchased a MacBook. The purses have been proven to be real. They might be lying about having not purchased anything on credit, but they've generally been vocally against purchasing things on credit in the past.
posted by Vrai at 8:59 AM on September 3, 2017

I still feel upset, and I know I shouldn't. All I want to do is unravel my feelings and move on.

I don't think you can unravel your feelings until you remove the "shouldn't actually feel them" from the equation.

That said, "upset" doesn't really describe an emotion. I would concentrate on trying to name the actual emotion(s) you're feeling, and who/what these specific emotions may be tied to. If I were in your shoes, for example, I would likely feel resentment at my friend for buying expensive consumer goods when I'm in grave need, anger at the current state of politics around immigration, and frustration or possibly even shame at not being in a better state financially.

Two things to note: 1. my (projected) emotions here are not your emotions, and are not intended to suggest how you "should" feel; 2. whatever your actual emotions, they're not "right" or "wrong" -- they're just the fact of what you're feeling in the midst of a very difficult time. I don't blame you at all for feeling hurt and rattled by the situation. It may take some time to work through, but I think you can do it.

This internet stranger is wishing you well!
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 9:08 AM on September 3, 2017 [8 favorites]

This is a tough one. I'll share with you that my husband's and my financial situation kept getting torpedoed in our early marriage until we agreed that we generally don't lend or give money to friends. We then broke the rule a few times but not without a lot of discussion.

I say that to frame my next remarks -- I think the money issue is one thing, and your friend's insensitivity is another. She shouldn't have said she'd lend you the cash if it wasn't true and she could have kept her purchases to herself. There were better ways to handle your feelings and I think you're justified in thinking less of her.

But your comment that you would have given everything you could and (I'm guessing) resent her at that level is a particular view of friendship that not everyone shares. I've taken both approaches in my life and for my own stability I do find it easier to plan my charitable contributions and to just have a blanket no policy -- that way my husband and I aren't having arguments about which family/friend/community member is more deserving, is paying us back, etc. It's a bit colder of an approach but for us it has meant a ton less drama.

Hang in there; I'm so glad the situation improved.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:09 AM on September 3, 2017 [8 favorites]

Lesson no.1 is that the Home Office are a bunch of fucking criminals who prey on vulnerable people. Really sorry that this happened, and I'm glad you were able to resolve it, even partially.

Lesson no.2 is that your friend is not as generous as they pretended to be. Maybe, I guess, they meant it as a generic way of expressing sympathy, and not as an actual regret at their inability to help a dear friend, because they clearly were able to help you but chose not to. Their money & their choice, obviously. Either way, in the circumstances I think you're fully entitled to feel very hurt - not only that they didn't help despite pretending to want to, but also because they went on to tell you about all the money that they'd spent recently, which is really very insensitive, at best. They'd have been better advised to keep quiet in your company about those expensive purchases.

You don't need to confront your friend or dump them or whatever, but you learned something new about them. You can take that into account in whatever future relationship you choose to have with them. I'd probably be backing off at this point, as much on account of the insensitivity as the bags & the laptop.
posted by rd45 at 9:16 AM on September 3, 2017 [18 favorites]

Sorry, should have added:

I considered these options previously, so I asked. This was not the case. [...] The purses have been proven to be real. They might be lying about having not purchased anything on credit, but they've generally been vocally against purchasing things on credit in the past.

This may be a cultural difference, but I would gently observe that in general, knowing this much about your friends' finances and purchases (and more specifically, asking for this sort of information and expecting to be told) is likely to produce more bad feelings than good in the long run. In the end, what your friends do with their money is their business (a business that they may run well or badly, but their business nonetheless). As the saying goes, don't ask the question if you won't like the answer.

Again, I don't blame you at all for feeling stung in this situation. As you work through your feelings, it might also be useful to think of ways you can protect them in the future.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 9:17 AM on September 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

I really don't think it's inappropriate to feel upset, or at to least to read into this and draw certain conclusions.

You know she's the type of person who'll be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a helping hand, and it's good to have someone you know you can go to for that.

On the other hand you also know that her caring only goes so far, and that she's either clueless in the best case or cruel in the worst about the privilege and power that money bestows and that the lack of money robs you of. (I'm curious: did she talk about her purchases outright, not even thinking about the connection to your situation? Did she understand what you were really asking when you followed up?)

Personally, I'd put much less value on her as a friend and either take what she has to give me if I still enjoy her company, or fade out if it feels like there's too much hypocrisy. (And if money turns out still to be an issue for you, I think you should just straight-up ask her to loan it to you and see how she responds. Maybe, just maybe, she really is that clueless and didn't grasp the severity and immediacy of the situation.)
posted by trig at 9:22 AM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's very tempting to judge other people's financial choices from the outside, but I try to remind myself we don't really have all the information. And people are allowed to make their own choices about their money. It may be entirely true that your friend, who gave a great deal of time and moral support to help you through this crisis, really didn't "have the cash" or feel that she could spare it at the time your crisis was most immediate, but that something changed either in her financial situation or in her feelings about it not long after that.

I know it's hard sometimes. I have a friend who I know lives near or even under the poverty line, and yet somehow she is able to eat out and take short overnight trips much more often than I am able to. I've never asked, but my friend has many good friends as well as a mother with greater means than she has, and it's entirely possible that they give her help to take these trips. Or that she prioritizes these things over something else I would think was more important. Or that she's exceptionally good at finding coupons and good deals. Or that she has friends who pass on their rewards from loyalty programs to her. Or that, living so near the poverty line, her disposable income isn't diminished by things like saving for retirement the way ours is.

On the other hand, I have friends who are a couple with a very high income, who travel internationally multiple times per year, and yet never offer to help to my family when we're struggling with cash flow. I don't know why. I certainly would never ask them why, and when I find myself thinking, "Surely people who are going to Greece again could spare a few hundred to help us through this tight spot," I have to remind myself that I am not entitled to anybody else's money, even if it seems to me like they're spending it frivolously while my family pinches pennies.

It was socially inept of your friend to bring the topic up in the first place, since she wasn't able or, perhaps, willing to give or lend you money. It was that moment that created the idea in you that she might have. Try to let that moment go, and be grateful for the help she was able to give you. It sounds like she was really there for you when you needed emotional support, and you might try to focus on that. It's also helpful to me to remind myself that my feelings are just fine--if I feel disappointed because friends don't offer me something, or envy because a friend has something I don't, that's fine, because feelings are feelings. But my judgments about how my friends use their resources are not necessarily fine, and those, I have to be thoughtful about.
posted by Orlop at 9:22 AM on September 3, 2017 [34 favorites]

Would it be helpful to say to your friend, if she mentions another big purchase: "I'm in a difficult financial situation and it would be easier for me to not hear about your luxury purchases." Or even "How you spend your money is your business, but I really believed you when you said you would help me if you could. And now I see that you could have helped me and chose not to while telling me that you would if you could, and I'm having a hard time with that."

I don't know that it's a GOOD idea to say either of those things and it could definitely put a strain on the relationship - but there's already a strain on the relationship, it's just that only you know about it. At any rate you could try writing a letter to your friend (which you won't send, of course) and laying out your feelings there.

I am not really well-off but not struggling. I don't generally offer money to friends partly because it's much easier to just have a blanket "no" policy than to sometimes say yes and sometimes say no, and figure out when it's okay to say which. I'm afraid that if I said yes sometimes I would say it all the time and then I'd be completely broke myself (I have poor boundaries and am not good at managing my money).

There are also many people who are offended by the offer of money and it's hard to know which is which. And there are people who don't pay you back despite promising that they will, which can easily ruin a relationship.

I'm sorry you're having a difficult time and I things get better for you soon.
posted by bunderful at 9:54 AM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

'if I had the cash, I'd give it to you',

It sounds like what they were really saying is "If I had the cash after fulfilling my own needs and desires, I'd give it to you." (Assuming, of course, that these things weren't bought with a credit card, or with gift money from family, etc.)

In other words, I'd take their statement as genuine... but also as a reflection of their priorities, which turned out to be different than what you had originally understood and hoped for. They probably were serious about being willing to help, but evidently not at the expense of buying these items.

Friendships across significant money divides can be kind of weird and can bring up strong feelings in unexpected moments.

I considered these options previously, so I asked. This was not the case. (They specifically said nothing was purchased on finance.) All purchases were made when the ordeal was still very much active.

For what it is worth, because consumer debt is sometimes stigmatized, people will often lie about this kind of thing; also for what it is worth, in a lot of settings it would be unusual and possibly impolite to ask directly about this, just like it is not always ok to ask about someone's salary, family wealth, etc.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:57 AM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

They spent four hours sitting with me in a cafe while I made calls to the Home Office, and every immigration lawyer in town that even hinted at accepting financial aid.

Serious question: how many friends do you have who you know would do this much for you? This is, in itself, a significant kind and supportive gesture.

In the moment of crisis, she may have said something she didn't quite mean. Many people think (rightly or wrongly, but not wildly unreasonably) that giving money to friends does more harm than good. In fact, the way you are now scrutinizing her spending is exactly the way some people who lend to their friends and don't get paid back as quickly as they would like do. It's not great in them, and they are actually entitled to the money.

It sounds to me like you are feeling a lot of anger and frustration at what was a frightening and unjust situation, and it's easier to focus that resentment on your friend than on the impersonal institutions who actually put you in harm's way. But do you want to let the Home Office louse up your friendship, too?

If you insist on your closer friends being willing to be donors as well, that's certainly your right, but I think you're going to end up with a very small pool of closer friends indeed. You feel what you feel, this is true, and you may benefit from taking a break from hanging out with this person til your emotions subside a bit, if you can do that without drama, but I'd try to focus my thoughts on what she actually did do for me, which is offer extensive moral support in a time of crisis. Imagine what it would have been like sitting in that cafe by yourself.
posted by praemunire at 10:10 AM on September 3, 2017 [45 favorites]

You know, I'd say this is a shallow friendship. Your friend knows how to perform friendship better than she know how to follow through on it.

I'd also say there's a cultural divide happening. If you have lived in truly precarious situations, ie normal everyday life that's not in the western world, people tend to realise that an emergency can properly fuck you up for real and long term. People are proactive, in friendship and problem solving generally. On the other hand people who've lived with social security, the safety net, benign government etc - it's not so common that they'll step up to fix other people's problems. They're used to thinking the safety net will kick in.

It's true that people should never lend money unless they're prepared to not get it back. All the same, I can understand the calculation that you've got going on in your head which is your friend had about 2k? going spare and didn't even offer to buy you a bag of groceries! I wouldn't be able to get over that either. That's an air kiss, mwah-mwah, everything's so instagram-perfect friend. It's all about appearance and being seen to be emoting correctly. I suppose you could continue emoting correctly back at her, if you feel like. No point having any sort of confrontation though, you don't have any rights to her help. But yeah, I'd be really narked with this person and not care anymore to put much effort into keeping this friendship going.
posted by glasseyes at 10:13 AM on September 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

You know, I'd say this is a shallow friendship. Your friend knows how to perform friendship better than she know how to follow through on it.

Well, the friend did spend *time* with the OP, which is not for nothing. Someone who is willing to sit with you in a difficult time is not necessarily a shallow friend.

If the friend had not mentioned giving money at all, the OP would probably feel less peeved right now.

OP, I guess I would say you'll know now that the friend 1) is better at acts of service than loaning/giving cash, and 2) your friend sometimes says thoughtless things while also providing you with time and emotional support.

Going forward you'll have a better idea of what your friend can, and cannot, give to the friendship.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:21 AM on September 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

You don't talk to people like this. Nope. This person waved in your face their largess, regardless of how they came by it, if they went sinking into a credit trap, or if they stole the stuff. There is no point taking coffee with smug barbarians like this individual. Find your way to safety, and find a better friend.
posted by Oyéah at 10:26 AM on September 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

Here in the US, I've heard very similar stories from a number of European and Asian friends.

Enough so that I sometimes wonder whether visa materials shouldn't include a warning opposite to the one visitors will see on rearview mirrors: 'friendships will not be as close as they appear'.

I wish it could be the other way around, but I think you'll have to adjust your expectations.
posted by jamjam at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

Well, the friend did spend *time* with the OP, which is not for nothing. Someone who is willing to sit with you in a difficult time is not necessarily a shallow friend.

Rereading the post, it also sounds like the friend continued to provide emotional support through the couple of weeks (?) or more that this awful situation played out. If this person didn't have any money to give, I don't think anyone here would be calling what she did shallow or performative or suggesting she hadn't been very supportive.

if the tables were turned I would've given everything I could to help them.

OP, I'm not saying you're lying or deceiving yourself here, but, before I judged someone on the basis of not being willing to make a significant, gratuitous sacrifice for my benefit, I'd have to have an actual, historical basis of my having done the same thing. It's something that it's a lot easier to think than to do. It's very easy for one's imagination to be generous with other people's money. That's just human nature, and it's well worth correcting for.
posted by praemunire at 10:39 AM on September 3, 2017 [24 favorites]

'[I]f I had the cash, I'd give it to you'

My reading is that this was an encoded way of saying, "I can't help you with money" because to her that was a subtext of her being there and hearing about your troubles. She may have felt a little under pressure to step up with an offer and she wanted to head it off. I don't think that was a really good way to do it, but it's an awkward situation. But she was very dense and insensitive to mention those purchases so soon after. It is always good advice not to count other people's money or resent them for not sharing it with you, but that does not mean her behavior was wonderful in this regard. In your shoes I would understand that people are just kind of nuts when it comes to money, but the relationship would be downgraded a bit in my eyes, at least for now.
posted by BibiRose at 10:56 AM on September 3, 2017 [13 favorites]

My take is a little similar which is that your friend is just being insenitive generally, Regardless of your specific work/laws/country situation, you were in a situation where your cash situation was perilous and she bragged about her purchases. Absent all the other stuff ("If I had it...", your fear and concern, your desperation) this is still an oddly callous thing to talk about.

So to me it's just one of those "OK now I have a new data point about my friend" situation. They are still your friend, they gave freely of their time (and not their money) when you were in a jam. There may be reasons for their money choices, there may not be. But you obviously feel very touchy about the money issues (enough to sort of follow-up and sort of "check her report card" about what she said which seems over the line to my mind, or would be with my friends) and I'd also suggest what praemunire is saying. That sounds like it was very scary and alienating but sometimes our anxious minds pick out things that they feel are "solveable" issues and ignores the big awful ones that we can't do as much about.

So I think your feelings are valid, of course, but that doesn't automatically mean that your friend is a bad person. There are all sorts of reasons that might "explain" why she did what they did and without outright asking her, you won't know. You have to either make your peace with not knowing, or flat out ask. It might help.
posted by jessamyn at 11:38 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

After I came into a little money several years ago, I gave sums to a few friends who seemed to really need it. Things went south with all of them immediately after, leaving me to wonder if gifts of cash to anyone are worth the inevitable dynamic shift. The money definitely helped those people, but was a death knell for our relationships (yes there could have been other reasons, or additional reasons, but I just go with the data I have.)

I have no idea what was going on with your friend, and it is certainly insensitive to talk about large, seemingly-frivolous purchases with someone who is struggling financially. Gifts of money can be a landmine.
posted by 41swans at 11:58 AM on September 3, 2017 [15 favorites]

. . . casually mentioned to me that they'd just purchased two authentic Vivienne Westwood handbags, a new MacBook Air, and a few other pricey purchases.

I agree that your friend could have kept those things to herself, and while it's true that your friend has no obligation to you, I think the key here is that friendship isn't about obligation. She casually mentioned these purchases knowing that you were going through hardship, and I think any reasonable person would be upset about that. No matter what the circumstances are, finding out that someone else's feelings aren't reciprocated just plain sucks. I agree that she has no obligation to help you financially, but casually mentioning her purchases was unconscious and insensitive regardless of her intent.

I think the desire for you to have a realistic perspective on this is admirable. It shows a lot of maturity on your part. However, I agree with the posters above who encourage you to honor your feelings, whatever they are. You need to own all of those feelings to get through it (not saying that you aren't - just that it takes time and processing).

If it were me, it would be much more difficult to unpack this if I was actively in the friendship. You have every right to say to your friend that 1.) you're going through a shit time, and 2.) you need space from everyone and everything right now. You don't have to justify taking a temporary time out from this friendship, if that's what you need to do to process your emotions, and you don't need to .

I'm so sorry this happened to you.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:07 PM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't have first-hand experience like 41swans, but know several people who lent money that never saw it again and also had the friendship end to make it worse. Even one or two experiences like that will leave people feeling burned and unlikely to do the same thing again. I don't know the psychology of why lending money changes the dynamics so much, but I suspect it to be something to do with the old phrase that gratitude to another person is a very hard emotion to sustain.
posted by AuroraSky at 12:10 PM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think your friend acted VERY poorly.

You were "without a job, legally unable to prove my right to work, potentially unable to make a benefit claim, and only able to rectify the situation if you had a spare £400". You could have ended up being homeless! That is more important than designer handbags!

"I don't have 400 pounds, but here's 50 pounds or 100 pounds or 150 pounds" would have been kind.

Or even "if you lose your accommodation, you can crash on my couch."

And telling you about her expensive purchases right after telling you she 'couldn't' help you was
posted by Murderbot at 12:11 PM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Gah, I clicked enter too soon. Sorry! I was going to say... You don't have to justify taking a temporary time out from this friendship, if that's what you need to do to process your emotions.

Having said that, I completely agree with praemunire's response above, in that your judgment is likely clouded by the stress of your situation. If it were me, I'd feel like my very survival was threatened, and I'd perceive a comment like that as cruel and abandonment.

The question becomes, "Is the the friendship worth the emotional labor it will take to get over this?" Only you can answer that.

She did spend four hours in a cafe with you, but, OTOH, didn't have the presence of mind to be sensitive about your financial situation and your feelings. It's a tough one.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:27 PM on September 3, 2017

(Not to discount the friend's willingness to spend time, but it sounds like at least part of that time was spent trying to find a lawyer that the OP could actually afford?)
posted by trig at 12:37 PM on September 3, 2017

To try to address the question of how to unpack your emotions here - I think if it were me, I would try to see it that my friend was trying to express a very appropriate and understandable boundary ('I will not be helping you financially') and didn't have many options for expressing that gracefully, and picked a phrase that was obviously untrue in order to convey it in what would have been a sympathetic way that would make it seem that it wasn't a choice not to help you, but beyond their control. It is obvious that it was a choice not to help you financially, unfortunately, but that just confuses the issue. She was trying to express sympathy, be supportive, and make a boundary clear all while the crisis was unfolding. She had a right to set that boundary, which you know and seem to be fine with, but she (without having the luxury of time to think it over carefully) chose an obvious lie to be the social-lubricant boundary-setting nicety. I think it's the dishonest feeling that would hurt/bother me. There might have been a way for her to have set this boundary in a better way - but that would probably have required her to come up with something non-dishonest as the reason to not give you money, which would have required her to be clear that she was in a position to help but chose not to, which is a bit of a hard thing to say and I can see why a person might not want to say that. Particularly while trying to offer emotional support.

The only thing left after that is how I would feel about someone buying unnecessary luxury goods while I was (avoidably) losing my job over a technicality that could get easily sorted but for £400 that they could clearly afford to spend to help me, if they chose. And I would have to get pretty stern with myself for being upset about that.

It's also possible that she didn't fully understand the ramifications of the issue and what the severity and duration of the potential consequences are. If you've not been an immigrant, it can be hard to sympathise with someone's feelings of insecurity and helplessness in the face of this sort of bureaucracy. Based on your posting history you seem to have had indefinite leave to remain since at least 2011 and you said the issue was a former employer discovering an issue that made you immediately unemployed by your current employer - and I could see someone further removed from the details not seeing it as a crisis on the same level that you are/were, and thinking it was just a matter of getting through to the right person on the phone to clear things up, or hitting up your overdraft/tapping into your savings/speaking to your bank about an emergency loan, or being late on a few bills, or explaining the situation to your landlord and coming to an agreement, or something along those lines, and it would all sort itself out. If that's the case, it would be a bit more understandable that she didn't offer more than emotional support/sympathy (but still frustrating and leaving one feeling less cared about than one had thought one was).
posted by you must supply a verb at 1:30 PM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Ugh what a horrible, stressful situation to be in. I'm glad things are better now.

If you want to find a way to maintain your friendship with this person, who, imo has actually been a good friend, you might think about the fact that your hurt and anger in this situation is not directed at all the people you know who did nothing to help you, but rather at the person who did a fair amount to help you, but not as much as you would have liked.

You mentioned that you have no family, which is really tough in and of itself. I wonder if some of your anger at your friend is misidrected from the fact that you have no family. A lot of us have an idea of family as containing some people (usually our parents) who will do anything they can to help us when we are in trouble. Obviously not everybody's family behaves that way, but if you don't have family it's easy to focus on the ways that other people who might fit that role, don't.
posted by mrmurbles at 2:18 PM on September 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

Perhaps learning the lesson that you should ASK if you need a gift/loan rather than wait and hope to be offered one will help you move on. It's a tough one to learn if you weren't raised that way.
posted by tristeza at 2:55 PM on September 3, 2017 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Coming to this thread late, surprised by the number of people attempting to justify her behavior.

This is not a friend you want. You can be done. That's what those feelings are telling you.

When my friend's car died I gave her $2000 in an envelope that afternoon. That's what money's for. It gave me enormous joy to be able to do it. I was so excited, thinking about the relief she'd feel, and how she wouldn't have to worry anymore. And she was relieved, just as overjoyed as I hoped she would be, and our friendship didn't change a whit.
posted by nohattip at 4:56 PM on September 3, 2017 [9 favorites]

I don't think you're wrong to feel hurt and, to some extent, betrayed by this. You trusted and confided some pretty serious financial and legal problems to this person, and although she was free with her time and emotional support, she made an offer she had no intention of following through with, then blatantly valued objects over your well-being -- that was really callous behavior on her part.

Is your friend from a family/culture that prizes public generosity? That doesn't excuse her behavior, but she may have felt obliged to say something, and viewed it as one of those smooth social lies. She also may have been worried that you were going to ask her for a loan, and felt awkward about refusing, so tried to head it off. Flaunting the handbags and new laptop was still insensitive, though.

So now you know. This person sounds like they are a decent "in-the-moment" friend, but fairly self-centered, but I wouldn't blame you for wanting to pull away. If this is a deep friendship or one you want to maintain, I think it would be worth sending her some form of this question, just so she can understand how her comments hurt you. It might help salvage the friendship, if that's what you want, or at least some degree of closure. I tend to be a "let's talk and clear the air" kind of person, though, so YMMV.
posted by basalganglia at 5:36 PM on September 3, 2017

And yet we've had other questions here when the asker has been the money lender and it has created all sorts of awkwardness, especially when the recipient has been unable to pay it back in a timely manner and the money has torpedoed the friendship anyway.

I'm very hesitant to vilify the friend in this question, I think she may have anticipated issues that loaning money could give and gave her help and support in other ways. There is that saying that AskMe loves to trot out, never lend money unless you're prepared to never see it again. Well, this person decided to follow it and that's ok. Should they have said if they'd had the spare money they would loan it, no, probably not but I agree it was most likely social lubricant.

Everyone is allowed to have their own limits and boundaries of what they are prepared to do to help a friend and it doesn't make them less of a friend that her limits are different to yours. She supported you in the way she was comfortable doing.
posted by Jubey at 7:29 PM on September 3, 2017 [19 favorites]

It will be extremely awkward but if I were you I would bring this up with her and ask her why she didn't help financially when she did have the money. It will be a very difficult converation and may itself cause the friendship to end but i wouldn't be able to move forward without talking about it personally.
posted by hazyjane at 10:49 PM on September 3, 2017

It's hard to answer this without having seen the person's face while all this was going on, without knowing their manner. Some people have a very hard time saying no to requests, whether directly stated or implied. She may have firm ideas about not lending money to friends, but waffles about out of embarrassment when it seems like a friend might need some, and yes, even if you didn't ask her directly. If being vague and resorting to pleasantries when embarrassed or put on the spot is her communication style, she may be assuming you understood her "between the lines" so to speak, meaning that "well I would if I could" really meant "no" and you understood and were fine with it. Thus she sat with you, because she does care. Thus, the lack of embarrassment at displaying her new handbags, macbook, etc etc. She may be quite innocently thinking you and she were on the same page all along.

Alternately, she could really be that clueless and not care and have sat with you for four hours because her house was being cleaned and there was nothing better to do, and you thought there was something more there, and making that mistake is not your fault.

Either way, I do think the only way to clear the matter up is to speak about it directly to one another, without resentment or emotion, just as a matter of clarification. If you think that is not possible with her, then to my mind that's not much of a friendship.
posted by Crystal Fox at 11:13 AM on September 4, 2017

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