To Lend or Not To Lend...

Dear Dr. Darcy

I’m writing about an issue I’m having with my best friend. Whenever I try to speak with her about anything serious, she tells me that it’s not a good time to talk – then she never follows through with calling me back.  It’s always this cat and mouse game of me calling her and her telling me that she’ll call me back another time, but then something comes up and she never does.   Anyway, I’m to the point where I’m ready to wash my hands of her.  She’s owed me money for a couple of years now and I need her to start paying me back, but since she’s obviously avoiding me, I’m just ready to walk away from the money and from her.

ANSWER

When a person hears the words, “we need to talk,” they imagine having a discussion that is going to be unpleasant.  As a result, it kicks up the person’s coping mechanisms for dealing with discomfort.  If the person is an avoider, they avoid.   If the person is neurotic, they will likely want to get the conversation over with immediately (if not sooner).

I’m presuming you know your best friend’s coping mechanisms better than most people do.  Knowing that she’s an avoider, why would you make it clear that you want to have a ‘serious’ conversation with her?  I’m not suggesting that you ambush her, but putting her on alert hasn’t garnered her cooperation thus far, so moving forward, you should pick a new tactic of engagement.  But that’s only part of the problem.

The other, perhaps more pressing problem is the issue of lending money.  We’ve all heard stories of relationships that were destroyed by either lending or borrowing money.  The only anecdote to avoiding relationship problems in the face of lending money is this: Never lend money unless you can truly live with the following three conditions:

1.     You can live without the money and its absence in your life will have no effect on your lifestyle.

2.     You have no expectation of ever receiving the money back.  In other words, you ‘gift’ the money to someone, and if they repay you, it’s a bonus, not a stipulation of your generosity.

3.     You will not judge how that money is spent, i.e., you thought it would be used for buying food for your friend’s children and instead your friend went on a vacation to Hawaii.

So there you have it. You can’t make your friend respond to you.  So you have 2 choices.  Either be passive until she reaches out to you or, as you said, wash your hands of her and accept that you may never get your money repaid.  At the very least, you’ve learned an important lesson on lending money.