Ask Amy: Friendship is no “give” and all “take”

Dear Amy: My husband and I stumbled into an awesome friendship last year around the holidays, when we met “Chelsea.” (We are all middle-aged.)

As the friendship progressed we traded gifts or small favors.

Then we came to learn that Chelsea is still living at home with her aging parents, and while she works full time, she is always broke.

She asked to send her Amazon packages to our home (claiming she lives in a high traffic area and doesn’t want them stolen), but we were uncomfortable after she did this more than once.

We believe it’s largely due to trying to hide her purchases from her parents, as she obviously has out-of-control spending that led to her living with them in the first place.

Recently her mother became ill, resulting in a lengthy hospital stay. Chelsea missed work.

We were kind enough to wire funds to her for extra food or incidentals but then I saw her posting on Facebook about how broke she is and how she never gets the help she needs when she asks for it.

She said she can’t catch a break.

We’ve also been made to feel bad when we couldn’t contribute more to her “sick parents fund.”

I feel like I can’t post any positive things we do without her being upset and expressing her need for more.

Why is it up to her friends to bail her out? Weren’t we kind enough?

— Feeling Unappreciated in Ohio

Dear Unappreciated: Some of “Chelsea’s” behaviors are typical of people running scams. Classic “tells” are befriending someone very quickly, establishing a transactional relationship, asking for favors and then cash — and increasing the pressure. (You should not have wired her money for food. If you believed she needed food, you could have given her groceries.)

I’m not saying that she is deliberately running a scam, but the effect is the same: You give, she takes, she asks for more and then she piles on the pressure.

I suggest that you cut ties with her, in-person and online. She’ll have to find another mark.

Dear Amy: I am a single man and live near my parents and siblings.

We’re pretty close, except that we have very different beliefs and styles.

In our family, there is a constant stream of birthdays, holidays, family celebrations, etc.

My parents also have a lake house they purchased a decade ago, and they constantly invite me to stay there over weekends – even though I remind them each time that I work weekends.

In spring/summer, it seems like there are one or two family events per week, and I get burned out.

I wish I could attend one per month.

If I say I don’t want to come to an event, they get very upset and repeatedly ask me to show up. It’s always a battle.

I’m 37, but feel 17.

How can I get out of these constant family events without moving to another part of the country?

Is lying acceptable in this case? I could tell them I have to work.

— Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: It sounds as if lying might not be effective, given that you tell your folks that you have to work on weekends, and they either don’t believe you, forget, or simply want to make sure that you feel included on every invitation.

People have different social attitudes and aptitudes. You have the right to conduct your social life the way you want to.

You should tell your family members, “I appreciate how close we are, but I get overwhelmed by the number of family get-togethers. When I say ‘no’ to an invitation, please don’t take it personally, and please don’t pressure me about it. I simply get burned out. I really need you to respect this.”

If you continue to feel crowded, badgered, pressured, or battling with family members, then employ a firmer, “Remember? No means no.”

You’re an adult. If moving away from family is necessary for your own sense of autonomy and independence, then you should consider it.

Dear Amy: In your response to “Nervous” you pointed out how many of your questions concern people inviting themselves to vacation at others’ homes.

When a friend of ours, a Florida resident, became tired of the almost constant visitors during the winter season, she ultimately came up with this response: “I would love to see you! Let me know when you get settled in your hotel, give me a call, and we can meet up.”

— Faithful Reader

Dear Reader: Boundaries are often born of desperation.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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