If You Want to Lose a Friend, Lend Them Money

A cautionary tale of friendships in a material world

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

I have been quite unlucky with my friends recently.

I used to have a lot of friends. I have always been surrounded by people and I had no problems connecting with them. But childhood best friends drifted away. The mainly situational friendships related to my jobs slowly died off when the situation changed. Mummy-friendships were limited to conversations about my kids, usually happened on the playground where I stopped going as soon as I could.

When my life started to take a downward turn it started to be more difficult to connect with people — as I didn’t really feel like letting anyone on in my relationship, the abuse, the revenge porn or the PTSD that followed. It was isolating in itself. When 2 years ago — partly because of my revenge porn case — I started freelancing, the much-craved human connection was reduced to a couple of very close friends who I trusted enough not to judge me and whom I didn’t need to fill in on the details for they lived it with me.

The first blow came from a close friend of three years who ghosted me overnight. She stood by me when I was struggling with my abusive ex. She was there for me when I was healing from the trauma. She was an integral part of my life — without a fault. Until she decided to check out, and one week we were talking every day and met three times — and the next she stopped returning my calls or respond to my messages. I never learnt what her reasons were, she just went off the radar, leaving me confused and hurt.

Another blow came when a friend of 10 years started to ignore me and slowly faded from my life. She did not ghost me, she just takes weeks to reply to my messages or ask me about my life.

Other people who I considered close wandered off and left me on read more times than I could count. I didn’t get closure, because there was nothing to close. I didn’t get replies, except that I expect too much from people and I shouldn’t be so clingy. Another lesson to learn.

When I started to write it was a nice side-effect that I connected with other writers and because we had the same problems, same frustrations it was easy to get close to each other — despite the time zone difference and the physical distance.

I made friends and they became important to me. They kept me going. They uplifted me. They rooted for me. And I did the same.

I have always heard that you should never mix money and friendship, as money can ruin it in a split second. I understood why and I took mental notes, but I also thought that it depends on the friendship and mainly on the two people — so it is not a no-go, but a path where you need to tread with caution.

A couple of months ago a very close friend reached out to me if I could help her out financially, as she was in a terrible situation and to say that she was living day after day would be an understatement.

See, I’m a single mum of three kids from Eastern-Europe who works her ass off to provide for her kids, to juggle with multiple income streams — to make ends meet and to provide a life worth living. I am not wealthy, but I am doing well for myself.

I could afford to help my friend out, so I transferred her the money she asked for and we agreed that she would pay me back in 3 months. I told her that if she needs more time, she should just tell me, I’ll understand.

In a short while, when her situation started to look even worse, she asked me for another sum — which I agreed to. So, the same scenario, I transferred the money and we agreed on a deadline. I told her, it’s fine to take her time.

Two months ago, she told me she would be off from social media as it is distracting her from her work — I completely understood, it can be a huge distraction. This way our daily chats were not happening, but I understood that she needed a distraction-free time on her own, so I tried to give it to her.

She disappeared completely, but I tried to be understanding and I never hassled her. In fairness, I didn’t care about the money, I just missed her company.

A month ago, I reached out to her and asked how she was doing. I wrote that I was worried about her. She replied I shouldn’t worry about my money, she will pay it back.

I was shocked. I really cared about her, not the money, but for some reason, she took it that I was asking about her paying me back. I wasn’t. It hurt me, but I let it go.

Fast forward to last week. I sent her another email. I deliberately waited a month — listening to advice from other friends, that I should let her be, she will be in touch when she sorts out her situation. I asked how she was. No reply.

I started to worry, so I thought I would reach out to her on Facebook — to see if she is okay, or if she was online at all. I couldn’t find her on Facebook. It happens that someone suspends her account to minimise distraction and temptation, so I let it go.

But then, for some reason, I checked it from my other Facebook profile — and she was there — alive and kicking. She unfriended that profile, but she was still on Facebook.

It didn’t take long to put two and two together. She blocked my account. I was trying to come up with a scenario that would explain her behaviour, but I couldn’t find anything reasonable. She could have accidentally blocked me — but then she wouldn’t have unfriended my other account accidentally too.

I sent her a rather upset email, asking for an explanation for blocking me when all I ever did was supporting her — and she replied that she would pay me back and she now understood why I was “supporting” her.

I was hurt and confused. It just didn’t make any sense. We were friends. I cared about her. I lent her the money because she needed it and I could afford it. I never expected anything in return. She didn’t help me with anything, we were not in business together. The only thing that linked us that we were both writers — in different areas, different publications, different topics.

I’d like to believe that there is an explanation, but I doubt she would ever give me one.

To be honest, I don’t care about the money, even if it was a relatively high amount ($1.500) — but I feel stupid that I am losing a friendship over my past kindness and caring. Even if she never pays me back, I will be fine. But I don’t think I will ever understand why she had to abandon me in the rudest way possible. It’s just heartless.

There is a saying:

“If you want to lose a friend, lend them money.”

I did exactly this, and this is exactly what happened. I hope you can learn from my lesson, so you don’t have to experience it — because it’s devastating.

How can you avoid losing friendships over money in a material world that revolves around money and superficial connections?

If you can support someone without wanting them to pay back, do that

If you are in a position to help someone out in needs, please do it. I have experienced poverty as a child and a teenager and I know what it means to be stressing about rent and the bills.
If you can afford it, help people out without lending them money. The giving money as an act of caring won’t be tainted by the looming deadline of having to pay it back. The shame of not being able to pay it back will never stand between you and your friend.

Support your friends in other ways than loaning them money

There are other material and non-material ways to support someone. It is great if you can contribute to their work on Patreon, or if you contribute to their crowd-funding or if you buy them a virtual coffee if they have a ko-fi account.

If they have anything to sell — books, ebooks, courses, artefacts — buy from them and support their career and craft.

If you live close to them, invite them over for dinner, volunteer to babysit their kids not to have to pay an expensive babysitter or send them packages with things you think they might need.

Don’t ever lend more than you are willing to lose

If you decided that you lend them money because you have done everything else humanly possible or there is no other way to help them out — lend them only to the extent that you can afford and you are willing to lose.

If you consider your loan as only a bonus when you get it back and you don’t need it for your livelihood, then you will be happy when they pay you back. Don’t ever lend anyone money — not even to closest friends — that jeopardises your livelihood, your rent, your bills. Not even in a short time frame.

I’m not saying that all of your friends will ghost you, I’m saying anything can happen and life can get in the way. Lend money only if you can afford it.

Don’t have survivor’s guilt

It is possible to have some kind of a survivor’s guilt for making more money than your peers. You might think that you don’t deserve to be better off than them because you see how much they are working — and while they fail, you succeed.

Your life and your journey are different. It is possible to earn the same amount of money and use it completely differently. I, for one, have a very good sense about my money. I have zero debt. I am living a minimalist lifestyle. I can save money even if it means that I don’t get a lot of things for myself. I can brew my own coffee at home so I don’t need to spend it on Starbucks. I meal prep. I bulk shop. I am saving on silly things and to be able to spend on travels and experiences. But there are people who are just extremely bad with money. The reasons for this are indifferent, but this difference in mentality and base situation can explain a lot.

You don’t need to feel bad just because you are better off with your money. It might be situational. It might be temporary. Hell, it might be just pure luck — it’s not your fault that you are okay.

Don’t blame yourself for their behaviour

If you happen to face a situation that is similar to mine, please don’t blame yourself. Caring about others and being kind — even to a fault — is not a character flaw. You did nothing wrong.

Their behaviour and actions are entirely their choices. It has nothing to do with you.

Even if you hassled them to get your money back, even if you sent them inquiring text messages every week after the deadline — this was your money and you didn’t gift it to them, you lent it to them. The initial scenario was that they would pay you back. You had every right to ask them about it. (Although I never once did this, I could understand if someone did.)

Not paying you back is already shitty enough. But ghosting you is even shittier. Shifting the blame as if you were doing something heinous is the shittiest of all.

Let it go — if you can

If you desperately need that money back — because you lent more than you should have or your life situation changed — you can choose to chase them or even take them to court.

Otherwise, the best you can do for yourself is to count your losses and move on. Both the money and friendship. Write it off, and let it go.

The terrible part of this — at least it is for me — that I have to count this friendship as a loss. The money is a secondary question. I can always earn some more money, take some extra projects, work a couple of extra miles or write a few dozen articles more. But I can’t get a friendship back that was lost this way.

Kindness is not a weakness. And I would do it again. And I won’t stop helping out my friends — hoping they will stay my friends even if I lend them money.

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Check out my book on Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B088GJFM1B. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

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