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Dear Christine, Confused in Clawson

| May 6, 2018

Dear Christine,

My group of friends is really close. We travel together, go for monthly dinners, do house parties and so much more. We are made up of 4 long time couples and 3 single guys. We are all in pretty similar financial situations except one of us. Over the years, the group has been very generous picking up tabs and making sure he isn’t left out of the fun. For the past couple years though, suddenly our friend is posting things on social media suggesting he has money to blow. He has posted photos of new high end appliances and new furniture for his condo. He has also posted photos from a singles cruise he just took. Yet when it comes time to doing things with the group, he still cries poor. So of course, we’ve all noticed and are talking behind his back about whether we should confront him about all the spending.

Confused in Clawson

 

Dear Confused,
I’m glad you have a good group of friends.  Now you get to show each other how honest you can be.  A couple of thoughts come to mind.  One is where you or whoever is closest to your friend who is new to money, have a face-to-face conversation (NOT text, NOT email or any social media!).  Preface your question by stating that you and the rest of the group are feeling confused, and that to keep the friendships healthy, you all need to be equals with each other.  That’s why each of you paying your own way is important to the group  If one person is favored, there needs to be a real need, or else if appears to be that person using everyone else to pay for his socializing.  That isn’t fair. Talk about how he seems to be spending hard earned money on optional purchases.  If he went out for a fancy dinner or to the theater once, that might not trigger the feeling of the group being used, but going on a cruise is a much bigger expense.  And it’s not up there with food, rent, clothing, car, gas, insurance…  It’s not a necessity.  Explain that you all want him in the group, but you want him to pay his fair share.  It might be easier to do this one-on-one, so he doesn’t feel as pressured as being attacked by the whole group, and it might be easier for him to admit that he has some extra cash that he could choose to spend while going out with the group.  Reassure him that you still want him in the group.

If that doesn’t seem a way for you to be able to go, you could write him an email or a letter.  Something he can read alone, think about, digest and then get back to you.  Let him know the group has been discussing his financial situation behind his back, which won’t feel good.  Let him know that no one wants to be questioning his judgment, but you all want to feel equal and fair in the group.  Ask him to think about it and write an answer back.  Writing could be helpful if you and/or he don’t think on your feet so well.  Having time to read and reread what you write, making sure it comes out clear and clean is important.  When we start talking, sometimes emotions take over and it becomes heated or when the friend feels attacked, he attacks back and the whole thing escalates.  That isn’t going to help.

A 3rd option is to have the group stage an “intervention” where you all meet in a neutral location and you all impress upon him how much you care about him being an equal part of the group and you want to restore that equality if he has come into extra funds.  And you aren’t willing to chip in for his share if he is able to take cruises.

Or, you could simply keep talking behind his back and hope he starts to notice and gets uncomfortable enough to be shamed into paying his share without being confronted.

It’s all your choice.  Anytime you confront someone, there is a risk.  He might misinterpret what you are saying, your tone you are saying it in, that you are speaking to him alone, or that you chose to write him rather than talk to him face-to-face, or that the group is attacking him in an intervention.  If he is defensive, he will probably default to one of these victim stances.  You can’t be responsible for his reaction or response.  You are responsible for your own actions and words, or inactions.  He will react however he reacts.  Don’t rescue him, don’t punish him, don’t box him in, but give him the option of a dialogue of acceptance and equality.
Good luck!
Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888

 

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