female friendship

Friendship and Money: Minimizing Losses

Given the uncertainties of the global economy and the high rates of unemployment, money seems to be on everyone’s minds these days. This is the second part of a two-part interview on Friendship and Money with MSN Money columnist Emma Johnson. Part I of this interview can be found here: She’s Fired, You’re Not.

How do economic inequities between friends affect relationships?

In a perfect world, money wouldn’t affect friendships. But there are a few things going on here. For one, in our culture we measure success in terms of professional accomplishments and money, and we often judge ourselves by these sticks. So when one friend gets ahead financially, another might start feeling left behind and less successful all around.

The other thing that happens is that money often has a big impact on our lifestyles. When one friend starts making big bucks, she might move to a tonier zip code, start worrying about private schools for their kids, and spend weekends researching a second home to buy. This is her new life. The friend from way-back-when can’t identify with these new concerns, and vice versa. These are not trivial differences and can create big rifts in how people relate.

There are practical considerations, too, depending on the relationship. If a pair of friends is in the habit of spending money together – be it dinners out, shopping or vacationing – that can all come to a grinding halt once one party can no longer afford it. Worse, the unemployed woman may feel the need to now live beyond her means just to keep that much-needed friendship alive.

Should women talk openly with each other about their financial woes or those of their partners? Why?

I believe we all need someone to talk to about the important things in our lives. We’ve been raised to believe that talking about money is impolite, but it is such an important part of our lives – and often our worries – that the practice of bottling up all our money woes might just be at the root our country’s lousy financial habits.

Blabbing about the nitty-gritty of your income, credit card statements, taxes and inheritances is probably not a great idea most of the time, but there are no holds barred when you have a really truly great friend who will not judge you, will give you some tough love when needed and, most importantly, listen. On the other hand, if you’re tickled because your husband got a raise, your great aunt died and left you a chunk of change and you found a wad of cash in your attic, remember: no one likes a braggart.

Are there circumstances when you should lend a girlfriend money to keep her afloat? What are the perils? What safeguards would help preserve the friendship?

Lending money to a friend or relative is always a tough situation, and can be a real stressor in the relationship. Whenever you get together, the money will be on everyone’s mind, but no one will talk about it. And there is no better way to create resentment than to have an unpaid debt between parties.

If you do decide to lend money, write up a contract signed by both friends, and have it include terms of the loan, repayment dates, interest, etc. But lending money should be a business decision, not an emotional one, and that is tricky between friends. Ask yourself:

  • What is this person’s financial history?
  • What is the likelihood they will be gainfully employed soon?
  • Is the loan for a true emergency or basic living expenses, or something frivolous?
  • And perhaps most important, Will this loan put my own finances in peril?

In an article I wrote for Psychology Today about friendship and money, I profiled a woman who made all her own money and had a very modest existence, one she shared with a girlfriend who later came into a significant inheritance. The newly rich friend felt guilty about it and insisted on treating her friend to meals out, vacations and trips to the mall – which the working woman resented very much. They were able to talk it though, but that financial inequality proved to be a big deal.

Emma Johnson is a New York journalist who writes about business, finance and money topics for publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and Psychology Today. Her series on MSN Money, “Jump Start Your Life,” explores money topics for people in their 20s and 30s.

For Better or For Worse: Weddings and Friendship - Part II

Marriage is a milestone that often alters a couple’s relationship with each other, as well as with those around them. For the new bride, it can herald profound changes in her relationships with girlfriends.

In a recent post (February 9, 2008), I interviewed wedding expert Sharon Naylor about the challenges that planning “the big day” poses to the bride’s friendships. In this follow-up, I asked Sharon about the impact of marriage on female friendships.

How does the transition from being single to being married affect a woman’s relationships with single friends?

It changes the dynamics of the relationship a LOT. Depending on how frustrated the single friend is with her dating life, and how envious she is of your good fortune in finding true love, it can be a very trying time for her…and thus for your friendship.

If you’re the first friend of hers to get married, that can be traumatic because the issue of marriage is now Out There, bringing pressure to her life. And if many of your friends have gotten married, she may REALLY be feeling pressured because you’re another in a long list of her former single friends to ‘win the prize’ while she is still waiting for hers.

What can the new bride do to minimize tension?

The solution here is to nurture or create a dimension in this friendship that is not about dating or relationships at all. And this is a tough task, because some brides find that the only thing they had in common with some friends is the topic of dating, the drive to couple up.

It might be that these friends went out to clubs or had 99% of their conversations revolve around bad blind dates and online dating profiles, breakups and breakdowns. Some female friendships are bonded by the drama of dating life. And when you exit dating life, there’s a big void in the friendship. Yes, you’ve been out of dating world for the entire time you’ve been with your fiancé, but this sad single friend hasn’t heard the door slam closed until your engagement. Not that she was hoping you’d break up. It just wasn’t completely official yet. And she may feel abandoned in her singleness.

What responses might you anticipate from the girlfriend(s) you leave behind? How might she be feeling?

“You’re not going to want to go out anymore,” worries the single friend, who also might be slapping on a big, fake smile when you talk about your fiancé’s romantic birthday plans for you, or what you’re doing on Valentine’s Day. If this friend has been overly dependent on you, if you were the only egg in her basket, your marriage is bad, bad news for her.

Your friend is now alone in her quest, with no true allies, and may feel like she’s slipped to the bottom of the totem pole. And you might find that you no longer enjoy her sad-sack company, her complaints, her refusal to raise the bar and pursue men who are better for her. You might not want to entertain her pity parties anymore. So the friendship…like any relationship that has no common bonds…can fade away.

How can you minimize the inherent risks to the friendship?

If you do wish to nurture the friendship, start by subtly creating new shared interests, such as asking your friend to sign up for an aromatherapy class, or get a museum membership so that you can go to exhibits and lectures, or sign on for dance classes at the gym you both go to. Exchange novels you’ve both loved and talk about them over coffee. Add new facets to the friendship so that it can survive your change in status. Such variety and shared interests are healthy for any relationship, especially female friendships.

With new dimensions, you might not mind your friend’s occasional dating dramas so much…they could make you feel grateful for your new husband as well as give you a satisfying feeling of being a supportive friend. You’ve just transformed that into a smaller percentage of your relationship.

Can matchmaking efforts help keep a female friendship intact?

One mistake newlyweds make is wanting to set single friends up with all of their friends. Sure, the intentions are good, wanting your friend to be as happy as you are, but unless the friend is truly enthusiastic about your help, you might put too much pressure on her to endure the company of a guy friend who’s not right for her, and you two as a couple could get embroiled in their relationship issues.

It’s far better to invite your friend to events where she might meet someone. That’s where your newlywed life could be of great benefit to her. You’re not pushing, choosing, dodging news of a breakup, keeping secret the fact that the guy you introduced to her is also seeing three other girls, etc.

Why is it important to focus on friendships after your wedding day?

Having many healthy female friendships with positive women who inspire you and add many gifts to your life makes you a better spouse with a full life of your own. Your man is not the only egg in your basket, so to speak. You’re not overly dependent on him. Your circle of friends is a strength in your life, and studies show that having a great sense of community is good for your health, keeps stress down, strengthens your heart, and has many other perks.

Any other comments you would like to make about female friendships after marriage, Sharon?

The sad reality is that sometimes they don’t survive because you no longer have anything in common. Or, a bridesmaid acted so jealous and rude at your wedding that you never want to speak with her again. It was the last straw. Or you just drift from single friends, or some friends voluntarily get absorbed into their new husbands’ worlds and abandon their own friends as the incarnation of their New Life.

Friendships have a life cycle, and they do depend on mutual commitment and shared evolution to survive as long as they’re meant to---for as long as they’re healthy for both parties. A wedding, being such a huge life transition, naturally tests all manner of female friendships, with some friendships getting stronger and some falling away.

When I got married in April, my closest friends from college were my bridesmaids. They all traveled from distant states to be there, and our friendships were strengthened partly because we stayed so close through phone and e-mail conversations for years…we saw each other perhaps once a year due to our busy lives, but the connections we’ve always had were strong.

Being together, walking through my neighborhood as cherry blossom petals came raining down on us, then sharing the wedding day and seeing our husbands bond like brothers has reignited our need to see each other more. We’re all turning 40 this year, so we’re meeting at a resort town halfway between our home states, staying in a haunted bed-and-breakfast, shopping, going to wineries, and having a fabulous couples’ getaway to mark the big 4-0. Fortunately, my friends’ tenure as bridesmaids, even from a distance, further solidified our bond, and now we’re adding more dimension to our friendship by making it a priority to plan more face-time.

Sharon Naylor is the author of over 35 wedding books, including The Bride’s Survival Guide, and has been featured on Good Morning America, Lifetime, ABC News, The Morning Show With Mike & Juliet, and in InStyle Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, Modern Bride, Southern Bride and many additional magazines. She is the iVillage Weddings expert and Planning in Peace blogger, as well as a top columnist for Bridal Guide.


Reader Q & A: By love possessed



Dear Irene,

I have a friend who is a few years younger than me. I love her to death but she is causing me to feel bad about not being with her 24/7. She and I used to have the best time together; we laughed and watched movies and all sorts of stuff together. She had a really tough year, with her first two boyfriends being big jerks to her.


I want to be there for her, but now, a year later, she is not talking to anybody but me, not even her family. On top of that she is locked in her room and not making eye contact with anyone. She cancels plans with other friends just in case I want to hang out with her and when I say I can't or I'm not up to it, she gets mad at me and usually doesn't speak to me for days.


I am applying to colleges and she is insisting that I go to an in-state college so in two years, when she gets out of school, we can have an apartment together. When I tell her I want to live in a dorm, she says she doesn't want me to. I am thinking of going to college four states away and I don't know how to tell her because of the argument I know will follow.


She tells me that she doesn't want to be my friend for not sleeping over at her house every weekend. If I want to hang out with my other friends, she tries to get me to cancel my plans. I know I have to stick up for myself more, but I care a lot about her and I am not sure how to find a happy middle to me being a rug she walks all over. Do you have any advice?






Dear Stephanie,

This relationship doesn't sound healthy for you or your friend. I presume that she is still a teenager, who has become overly attached, possessive, and dependent on you---maybe because you are a few years older. She is demanding exclusivity in your relationship because she doesn't seem to feel comfortable alone or with other friends.


If she really is as emotionally volatile and is "locked in her room," as you describe, she may need professional help. You should speak to someone in her family, in confidence, and admit that this problem is more than you can handle at this stage in your life. It seems like it is.


Although you may not be aware of it, you have been encouraging her dependency by acquiescing to her unreasonable demands. You need to gradually begin to create more distance between you and your friend, and to set some limits. Moreover, you need to examine your own motives for allowing this to happen. It sounds like this relationship is dominating your life when you should have other interests and involvements. You certainly shouldn't let this friendship dictate your college plans. It wouldn't be good for either of you.


I know this situation is tricky and I wish you luck and grace in resolving it.

My best,


Girlfriends with pink slips


The support of female friends can help a woman get over the traumatic emotional and financial losses associated with being fired or let go. What can friends do?

Read my latest post on The Huffington Post.


Reader Q & A: No way out?



Dear Irene:

My "best" friend and I have been friends since last year. Sometimes I feel like I love her; other times, she’s my worst enemy. She comes from a controlling and abusive family and I was always there for her to get through it.

I just turned 18, and I realize more and more that she’s doing the same things to me that her mom did to her. I’ve watched her lie and manipulate older men and she’s only 17. She brought me into these situations to help her be more convincing. It made me feel guilty but I couldn’t do anything about it. I’ve lost almost all of my old friends because of her telling me they talk bad about me behind my back. She’s changed me into becoming more promiscuous and she gets me to meet new guys to "make me feel more confident." She says I can’t do it on my own because I’m too shy. Then she finds something bad about them to make me from stop talking to them if I start spending more time with one of them and not her.

She even said something about my parents not caring about me. She "jokingly" calls me stupid and puts me down. Other times, she tries to make me feel better about myself. She found me a job with her but if I do something wrong, she makes me feel like a bad friend because she throws it in my face about how she got me the job and all the other great things she’s done for me.

I wish I had an escape but I’m still in high school and I happen to live a street away from her and she knows almost everything about me, even that I may have an STD because of a guy she hooked me up with.



Dear Heather:

As a woman and as a mom, my heart goes out to you because it sounds like you are in a particularly painful situation for someone your age. Even if you desperately want to, it’s hard to escape from a girlfriend who lives near you, goes to school with you, has some of the same friends as you, and works with you.

It’s great that you have insight and recognize that this relationship is toxic. Your friend has you hooked on the excitement she provides but the costs are too great. She undermines your self-confidence---and tries to manipulate and control you.

You were brave to tell me about your worries and that you want to make positive changes. Although it will be difficult, you need to find a way to back off from this friendship. If you don't feel comfortable talking to one of your parents, I suggest that you talk to another trusted adult, perhaps a counselor at your high school, who can provide support to help you find a way to end this risky relationship. Also, make an appointment with a physician so you can reassure yourself about your health and can cross an STD off your worry list.


My best,


Lean on me: But enough is enough



Dear Irene,

I have a friend who was always interesting to talk to because we had interests in common. I always wondered how she could manage so many activities in addition to her work.

Unfortunately, some time ago, she developed a serious illness for which she is now being treated. She has been attempting to regain her formerly busy lifestyle. While helping her at her home, I got to know her better and see how her personality may have even contributed to her becoming ill. She puts herself under needless stress. Hers was a dysfunctional lifestyle that emphasized overachieving and helping everyone -- even if they didn't ask for it.

Maybe I should have backed off because I sensed that I was being leaned on out of proportion to the situation. To those family or relatives who could help, she barely delegates anything, and excuses others who say they are too busy. However, the people she is leaning on are not related to her and are just as busy with obligations, if not more.  

I stopped contacting her about two weeks ago and feel guilty because I know that coping with her health problem is not a picnic. It is somewhat flattering to be leaned on. However, I am happy having this "vacation" as I feel trapped when I think about contacting her again. I rarely have given her advice and rarely have stated my opinions about what she has been doing in her life. I am afraid that if I go back to contacting her, I may finally tell her my opinions and then I'll be sorry. Thanks for any suggestions about how I can handle this situation.  



Dear Trapped,

Whenever a friend has a serious illness, it also takes a toll on her female friends. The people around her may feel a range of emotions including guilt, anger, sadness, and fear. You haven’t told me the nature of your friend’s illness but it sounds like your friend is a classic portrait of a “woman who does too much.” She liked to have friends lean on her and now expects the same from her friends. Not too unreasonable an expectation, I think, if she can have it her way.

You felt you desperately needed a vacation because your relationship with her had crossed the line and was toxic. You were complicit in allowing her to lean on you excessively, without letting her know when it was getting to be too much for you. Instead, you simply escaped.

If you want to have a more comfortable and mutually satisfying relationship with your friend, you need to be candid and set some realistic boundaries regarding where your helpfulness starts and stops, and what you are willing to do for her and what you are not. She may need and ask for more help now than before, so it can get a little tricky.

Whether, or how, her personality may have contributed to her illness is somewhat speculative and probably irrelevant because you aren’t going to change her. Realistically, you can only work on yourself by recognizing that relationships don’t have to be “all or none.” You don’t have to acquiesce to all her needs. If you decide to resume your relationship with your friend, you need to work at shaping it so that it is more reciprocal.

My best,




A friendship too broken to fix?



Dear Irene,

Nicole and I met soon after each of us moved to a new town and we hit it off immediately. We were both adrenaline junkies, partners in crime who enjoyed outdoor activities. Sometimes we thought of each other as twin sisters or maybe more, like teenage brothers. I'm a lesbian and Nicole is bisexual and we dated briefly. Nicole wasn't that interested and I decided to end it when she started avoiding me although I would have preferred otherwise.


We remained friends. Unfortunately, I noticed a cruel side to her personality after we stopped dating. She started to make condescending and dismissive remarks if I wanted to "talk" about what was bothering me about us. She even threatened that she would walk away from me if I brought up certain subjects.


If she met a new friend, Nicole would ask that I sit in the back of her car so her new friend could sit in the passenger seat. She'd call me to cry about her boyfriend who dumped her and she'd pick up girls in front of me while at clubs. She even started getting frisky with one, literally in front of me.


She knew I was sore and sensitive. I confronted her about her behavior and her response was that since I'm her friend and not an ex (we were never in a long-term relationship), there was nothing wrong with what she said or did. She seems to have conveniently ignored that I still had romantic feelings for her.


I requested a "break" for a couple months and then we started up our friendship again. She seemed really happy to see me and I was glad to see her. But I had unresolved anger and became passive aggressive at times. She requested a break. Several months passed. We tried to be friends again but now she's in a relationship a new boyfriend.


She wants all of us to hang out together since weekend trips and campouts are better suited to groups. I'm just trying to come to grips with my jilted ego over this guy who's taking away time I could be spending with her. When I expressed my discomfort, we went on a trip for several days without him but she was angry at me that her boyfriend wasn't with her. On our last night, she more or less gave me a threat/ultimatum that going forward, she's won't leave her boyfriend behind. I had to remind her that she chose to do the trip with me.


I'm tired of her hostility. I'm tired of how I'm feeling. I'll miss parts of her but can walk away but I'd rather salvage this relationship if possible. Is this too broken? Should I get a clue and move on? Please help. This is really about friendship with a misbegotten romance that may have complicated the issue.



Dear Lacey:

It’s exceedingly difficult, usually impossible, to downgrade a romance to a platonic friendship AFTER SOMEONE HAS BEEN DUMPED. There is just too much residual hurt and anger. Nicole has made it clear that she no longer has any romantic interest in you. She's avoided you and dismissed you, yet you keep coming back for further insults and assaults to your ego.


You need to simply let go of her and look elsewhere for someone with whom you can to share your time, energy, and desires. For whatever reasons, she's just not that into you!


I’m not sure whether her hostility and ambivalence is only directed at you or to other "friends" as well---but that is her problem. Don't allow it to be yours any longer. You will feel much more in control emotionally if you make a clean break from this destructive relationship.


It's hard to understand your ambivalence as well. Yes, your friendship is too broken to fix and you need to figure out why you would ever want to salvage it, given that has been so unsatisfying on so many levels.

My best wishes,


Reader Q & A: Escape from a toxic mentor



Dear Irene,


Never thought I'd write but... years ago, when I started my current career, I was befriended by an older woman. She and I bonded and have become very, very close over the years. In the past few years, though, I've started to think of her as "toxic" - she's very negative about others, events, the profession, etc. and when she talks, it's like that old fairytale about the frogs and snails falling from her mouth. In one joint venture, she created problems that have taken about a year to clean up.


I've been pulling back: not sending as many e-mails, not calling, not spending time with her at meetings, etc. I don't want to hurt her, but I don't want my reputation to be hurt nor can I take the constant negativity. Any advice?

Signed, Amy


Dear Amy:


It sounds like as your own career has blossomed, you may have grown apart from—or simply outgrown your friend—who you once saw as a wise mentor. During this period of time, she may have also changed. It sounds like she is more jaded and negative about her work than she was when the two of you first met.


It’s great that you are aware of the growing schism between you and that you have instinctively done the right thing by pulling back from the relationship. You are also wise to be cautious about not alienating her since she is part of your professional circle.  


My advice would be to try to establish better boundaries between the personal and professional relationship. Do acknowledge her and say hello at meetings but don’t get into extended discussions. Send her work-related questions or information if you need to, but don’t send her personal emails or plan after-work dinners.


Unless she is clueless, she will probably recognize that you are pulling back. If she asks you why or confronts you, come up with an excuse that allows her to save face. Remember that she helped you become the person/professional you are today. You might say that you’re working on a relationship, working on a book, or realizing your own need for more down time.


Taking the time to write this note suggests that you are sensitive to your mentor’s feelings, as you should be. Because of that, I’m confident that you won’t do anything to provoke a backlash or damage your own professional reputation. If “frogs and snails” are spewing from your mentor’s mouth,” it’s likely that others will recognize her toxicity and won’t question your motives for backing off. They may be thinking, “Why didn’t she do it sooner?”


I think you are doing all the right things and hope your escape goes smoothly.

My best,


Wisdom from Whitney: Rx for being a less needy friend


I recently received this post from a reader named Whitney that I thought was worth sharing. Whitney was fortunate to have a good friend---who gave her honest feedback about her neediness--- without making Whitney feel totally hurt or bent out of shape. Whitney also seems to have a fair degree of insight into her own behavior. As a result of the two factors, she’s found a way to reduce her neediness, which will hopefully work for her and make her a better friend. Thanks for sharing your story, Whitney!


Dear Irene:

Wow. This blog has definitely helped me realize what a needy person I am. I just wish I knew why. I've experienced my fair share of friends who required more than the usual amount of validation, or coddling. or praise, but tonight I was told that I am too dependent on people as well. Not just all people, but one person in particular. My good friend told me this tonight, and I admit that it is hard to hear. Especially since I can't stand that kind of behavior.


But even more than that, it is hard to hear because I have a great fear of losing people close to me. This fear isn't typically that unreasonable, but I believe since I've lost a few close friends recently to death and other complications life brings, I'm more sensitive to the notion of losing friends. Somehow I've allowed myself to believe that I need to spend much more time than necessary with this person, and that's not fair for anyone.


I realize now that I'm always complaining or have something physically or emotionally wrong with me, and those things are draining to hear or see all the time. It's good to be able to talk to friends about what's going on in your life, but to an extent. To all you out there struggling with finding your own independence like I am, I suggest talking to a counselor once a week like I'm going to start doing. I've decided that I'm going to write everything going on in my life down so that I can keep my friends in the loop to an extent, but all the especially deep and emotional trials I'm going through at the time will be told to a counselor first so I can learn better how to cope on my own.


It's always good to have a strong support system of friends, sharing EQUALLY in all of life's ups and downs. However, it's also good to have that unbiased opinion from a professional and NEVER good to lay out all your problems to ONE friend. That's too much for anyone person, and they have their own lives to deal with. What a night this has been! I'm so glad my friend was able to tell me about my neediness so I can start to remedy it. Thanks, friend ;)



Reader Q &A: Should breaking up be a blame game?



Dear Irene:


When you break up with a female friend, is it really necessary to "give advice" about what they should do in the future, or is it better to focus on the problems within the relationship you were personally involved with?


I just got dumped by a friend who went on to say some very hurtful things under the guise of giving advice and saying she still cared about me, even if she didn't want to be friends anymore. It just felt like having salt rubbed into the wound -- she insulted my parents, my family, me, and cast doubt on my other relationships (none of which I'd been having trouble with), all while supposedly trying to help me be a better friend. I know she was just trying to give me a good explanation, but was it really necessary?


I've always tried to focus just on why it wasn't working for me when I end a friendship, not try to give advice on how they should behave with other friends; it just seems like it's enough to leave it implied. I also do a bit of the "It's not you, it's me" approach if I really care about the person but just can't handle them anymore, since I don't believe in putting all the blame on the other person when breaking up even if I feel that way --it just seems too hurtful/unfair. Is this correct, or is it okay to come out and say that it was all the other person's fault?


And when you break up with a friend, do you also unfriend them on Facebook/MySpace? What am I supposed to think if she tells me she has no desire to have me in her life, then doesn't unfriend me on Facebook?





Dear Anonymous,


Just as knowing what to say at a time of loss (e.g. a death) is always awkward, there is no commonly accepted protocol for breaking off a female friendship. That said, my thinking is that if an individual decides to unilaterally end a relationship, leaving no room for discussion, she should take responsibility for her decision and do whatever she can to allow the other person to feel unscathed.


Although your friend rationalized her bluntness by saying she was trying to help you become a better friend, her explanation doesn’t quite cut it for me.


  • She was insensitive about how you might be feeling. Being dumped without warning leaves any woman reeling, so her approach and timing was off if she really wanted to “help” you become a better friend.
  • Disparaging your parents and family should have been off bounds; Her relationship was with you, not them.
  • It is arrogant and unfair for her to blame the relationship’s demise entirely on you. She failed to recognize that all relationships are defined by two parties, not one. While your ex-friend may not have been able to sustain her relationship with you, other friends don’t seem to have the same problem with you. Did she even consider that it might be her and not you?
  • It sounds like she lashed out at you in anger. I’m not sure why. And because of the way she handled it, it has made it extraordinarily difficult for you to ever consider reconciling your relationship.


Since the ball is entirely in her court, I would consider the friendship over unless she comes back with a very good apology and you want to accept it. And if I were you, I would want to be sure to establish a comfortable distance from the woman who just dumped me. I wouldn’t want to know what she was doing and wouldn’t want her to know about me and my relationships. I understand your pain but I think you just need to move on. Taking control and defriending her might help.


Warm wishes,


Syndicate content