Dear Wendy: “My Friends Don’t Respect My Financial Limitations”

I recently married and bought a home. During this same time, I was laid off from my job and my husband’s income decreased drastically. We ended up moving in with my in-laws while we used all of our money to fix up the house. All of my girlfriends were in my wedding. I embraced their financial limitations, and made the most of it. If a girl couldn’t afford her dress, I offered to pay (at the time I was making significantly more than any of them). I looked past the fact no one threw me a bridal shower or bachelorette party. In the end, they only spent around $200 — for their dress. Now I am invited to countless birthday parties, nights out, and social events. I am having to decline most of these “social obligations” to sacrifice for my house. My friends are not taking this kindly; they are rude when I cancel most of the time. I feel that a caring friend would understand my situation and accommodate my friendship needs. As in, rented movies in, cook-outs at home, etc. What do I do if I cannot meet their financial expectations? — Lucky in Love But Not Money

You say in the past, you embraced your friends’ financial limitations, but I have to wonder if that’s completely accurate. You use only your wedding as an example of embracing their limitations — a wedding where they each “only spent around $200 — for their dress.” So, they skipped on throwing you a bridal shower or bachelorette party, but did they all skip buying you a gift, too? Or paying for potential travel costs? Or losing wages for time taken off work? And if you were really “embracing” their limitations, why not skip having bridesmaid altogether, or let them choose their own dresses — perhaps all in a similar color. After all, $200 for a dress they’ll never wear again is hardly what I’d call being thrifty when you’re talking about people who are financially limited.

But this is more than just keeping a tally of how much your friends spent for your wedding or how much you embraced their budgetary restrictions during that event. This is about respect, embracing the different paths you’ve taken, and taking equal responsibility in nurturing the friendship — regardless of your budget. One reason your friends may be acting rude to you is that you aren’t showing the respect to them that you think you are. I’d probably be pretty rude to you, too, if you constantly canceled on plans with me. It’s one thing if you can’t afford to do the stuff I’m inviting you to do, but if you know you can’t afford it, don’t accept the invitation in the first place. Say: “Oh, thank you so much for the invitation. I wish I could go, but as you know, I’m not working right now and every penny we’re making is going toward our house. I can’t wait until it’s done and we can have everyone over for dinners and parties. In the meantime, I’d love to see you, so would you be up a picnic in the park soon?”

And, look, just because you don’t have money to spend, doesn’t mean you can just forget a friend’s birthday or happy event. A home-baked cake, a hand-made card, an offer to babysit so friends who are parents can enjoy a night out don’t cost much at all (if anything), but it shows you care. It sounds like you’re expecting your friends to “accommodate your friendship needs,” but what are you doing to be a friend to them? How are you accommodating their needs? What are you doing to nurture the friendship? As I’ve said a million times, you have to be a friend to have friends.

My boyfriend has two very close friends — lets call them Chuck and Larry — who each have a girlfriend/wife and we’re all very friendly when we hang out. Last summer, I became really close with Chuck and his wife and invited them up to my families’ summer cabin in upstate NY. We had such a great time that I invited them up again this year. I did not invite Larry and his girlfriend, because the cabin is quite small and everyone wouldn’t fit, and while I have a personal friendship with Chuck’s wife, Larry’s girlfriend and I aren’t particularly close.

After finding out that Chuck and his wife were invited, Larry became quite mean to my boyfriend, saying nasty things on Facebook and leaving bullying messages on his phone. We’re in our mid-twenties and he is behaving like a 12-year old! Naturally, my boyfriend is upset (they’ve all been friends since childhood!) and I’m upset that his so called “friend” is behaving the way he is. I might have made a mistake by not inviting the third couple, but I think that personally attacking my boyfriend is wrong. It’s my families’ house — I did the inviting, not him. If he should be mad at anyone, I would think it would be me!

Anyways, I guess my question is, how do I handle seeing this “friend” again? I should also say that this isn’t the first time Larry has walked all over my boyfriend (sometimes I think he’s too nice to his friends!). I’m so angry that I want to call Larry and tell him to stop acting like a jerk, but I know that this is an issue that is between my boyfriend and his friend and I probably shouldn’t get involved. What do you think? — Friendly Fire

Larry sounds like a pretty big jerk, and if I were you, I just wouldn’t hang out with him anymore. Why do you have to? He’s your boyfriend’s friend, not yours. Hanging out as couples is nice, but only if you actually like the other couple — like you do Chuck and his wife. If you don’t, then there’s no reason the two guys can’t just spend time together without you. And there’s certainly no reason for you to apologize or otherwise try to smooth things over with Larry. You didn’t do anything wrong here. Unless you were in his face singing, “Ha ha! My family has a summer cabin and you aren’t invited!”, you don’t have anything to apologize about.

This is an issue between your boyfriend and his friend. It really doesn’t concern you. Let the two of them work it out. It sounds like your boyfriend could maybe use some experience standing up to friends like Larry anyway, so let him figure it out. Tell him you’re done doing couples or group activities with him. If there’s a party or wedding or other event where you have to see Larry, just smile and be cordial. But, usually, in big groups like that there wouldn’t be any need for you to spend alone time with him. So, forget him. Let him make a fool of himself, and let your boyfriend (hopefully) come around to seeing what a tool Larry is.

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