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KNOWITALL's avatar

How do you deal with family or friends in constant need?

Asked by KNOWITALL (24560points) 1 month ago

Where is the line between helping occasionally and enabling, or getting taken advantage of?

I admit I’m a sucker for a sad story but I have firm boundaries like no one moves into our home, or no cash given but I will pay a bill directly or buy product. My mother is far nicer than me and let’s people stay over in her basement, take showers and do laundry.

But sometimes I feel repeated help is hurting the person because they ‘depend’ on me instead of hustling. Where is that line for you? Why do I sometimes feel taken advantage of instead of being grateful I can help?

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13 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

For example my neighbor was asking me to take her kids to school on my way to work. This started being every other day for months until I told her I was done. Her and her husband are two full grown adults capable of getting kids to school or the bus stop.

A coworker did the same thing, asked for a ride until he bought a new car and four months later I had to cut him off, then he bought a new car.

gorillapaws's avatar

This is a great question. I wish I had a good answer for you, as I struggle with this sometimes myself. My instinct is to say that a hard rule isn’t possible and that the answer will always be situational, but I’m eager to hear what others have to say. Maybe there are some good rules that work for all situations. Your suggestions for not giving cash and refusing to allow people to live with you seem like a reasonable foundation.

Jeruba's avatar

I have to say first that your mother is not necessarily nicer. She may be more susceptible, but being able to say no absolutely does not make you a villain.

You are right that there has to be a line and that letting people take advantage of you is both bad for you and bad for them. Sometimes it’s just hard, though, to let people experience the consequences of their own choices. We have to be tough enough not to help them out of aversion to feeling that we can’t stand to watch them crash and burn and that we are bad guys if we do.

In other words, if we help them because we don’t want to feel the pain of watching them take a fall, or because it gives us some kind of one-up position with respect to them, we’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

It helps me to remember that I don’t want to communicate to them the message that they can’t take care of themselves. I don’t want them to internalize the thought “I’m a helpless dependent.”

Taking care of my husband in his illness is part of a vow I took. As for others, they should be trying to achieve independence. There will come a point when I cannot be there for them, and they’d better prepare for it.

I’m still looking for the line.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@gorillapaws I’m glad you get it, makes me feel like an awful person at times. I don’t want to lose my giving spirit to bitterness or resentment over time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s hard! It’s hard to know when you’re helping or enabling.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Jeruba Hugs. Thank you.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Jeruba Oh she’s much nicer haha!
Saying no is hard for me, true.
You sound very kind, I wish you the best. If you find the line, let me know please. Ha!

Mimishu1995's avatar

Oh my… I have had at least one toxic person who leeched on me when I was young. She was mostly in need of money. Her excuse was that she was poor and she really was, so I gave her help for a long time. Apart from making me pay for everything, she sometimes asked for large amount of money to help with emergencies. The thing that finally confirmed she was just in it for the money was when she asked me for some money to pay for her school. It was much more than I could afford, so I arranged a meeting between her and an acquaintance. The acquaintance gladly gave her the money, but forced her to sign a contract that stated that she had to pay back the money when she finally gathered enough. She wasn’t happy about that and she paid back the money really quick. It was then that I realized she didn’t need the money, she wanted to get my money because I certainly wouldn’t tell her to pay back. The money might not even be for school, it could be for some extravagant thing I didn’t know judging my her history of impulsive purchase.

In this kind of situation I believe your best alli is your intuition. If it feels like you are being leeched on, it could be true. If you are unsure, you could do the same thing as me and ask for help from another person. Someone who is truly leeching on you will show their color once they are presented with someone that isn’t you.

Please don’t feel guilty for not helping. Everyone has their limit of what they can help and all a malicious person needs is your guilt.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Mimishu Like a council of friends who helps me decide. Not a bad idea.
The two examples above of mine, neither were poor either! Both seem to be kind people but still took advantage. I guess like you and your friend, sometimes we have to learn the hard way.

gorillapaws's avatar

One thing that’s important to remember is that if bad things happen after you stop helping someone, it’s not your fault. My mom’s friend went through a very hard time, she was helping him, but he ended up committing suicide. She felt guilty, but the truth was that there was nothing she could have done to prevent it. People are responsible for their own choices in the end. It’s a good and noble thing to help others, but we cannot hold ourselves responsible for their actions.

zenvelo's avatar

An important part of boundaries, even if you are helping someone, is to set a limit at the beginning, so when you cut off help you can say, “no, I have done all I can do.”

You can pay a bill, but let them know you cannot afford to pay it next month or any month for the next year or so. or meet them at the grocery store and buy groceries (no booze or sweets or cigarettes), one time but not again.

Setting and maintaining boundaries is hard. But the more you do it, the better you get at it.

jca2's avatar

For me, most people in my family are in better shape financially than I’ll ever be. As for friends, if they ask for a favor and it’s do-able, I’ll do it. For example, if someone at work says they left their wallet at home and they need lunch, I’d offer and then I’d expect that within the next week or so, they’d pay me back or buy my lunch. That doesn’t happen very often but that’s an example. If they didn’t pay me back, that would be the last time I did that. If someone needed a ride, I’d do it if it was something I could swing. If they needed multiple rides on multiple occasions, I’d say no.

I offer to take my friends’ kids out with my daughter, and I pay, and don’t expect repayment because that’s just what we do when we take other kids out – we pay. Then the other moms reciprocate or they may reciprocate by having my daughter sleep over or something – it all works out. Most things I do for people, I do voluntarily (like if coworker left their wallet at home, I’d offer to buy lunch without being asked).

I’ve loaned money to friends, one example is a friend borrowed 20 dollars and I never saw it again. Another friend borrowed 6000 dollars in cash to put down on a new car, and I was nervous because she’s one of my best friends, and I knew if she didn’t pay it back, I’d not only lose 6000 dollars but I’d also lose my best friend, but she paid it back within a few days, as agreed (she was waiting for a loan to be approved by the pension system, and she needed to put it down on the car asap).

I had to think about examples because I don’t get asked for favors a lot. A relative who lives nearby asked me to drive him to pick up his car at the mechanic once, and asked to park his truck in my driveway once, all easy and do-able. Stuff like that is what comes to mind.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

I help out people when I can, if I can and within reason. I even give money to homeless people when I can spare it. A few months back I gave ten bucks to a woman in a parking lot with a baby, and holding a sign that said homeless and hungey. Made me feel like I did right thing. But 6,ooo dollars? Hell to the no. Can’t afford to be that generous. I have a family to see to. And like the Wise Guy said, “Charity begins at home”.

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