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Friend or Freeloader?

Laurie wrote:

The three of us girls have been friends for 40 years.

Though we love Patty, over the past 10 years, we have been there for her in amazing ways which she has neither acknowledged or even seems to appreciate.

When my husband had cancer, was in hospice and subsequently passed away - she was an absent friend. When Lori's mother had open heart surgery and she had to care for her - Patty was an absent friend.

To compound matters Lori and I work full-time for corporations, while Patty has the summer off since she's a teacher. We have never asked anything of our friends, while Patty freely and constantly asks for something.

Today she sent me an email. Am I being a bad friend by being offended by this latest demand? We all have problems and challenges (I've had both breasts removed and have cervical cancer) so it's not as if we have totally charmed lives... What say you?

Dear Laurie

There's actually several possibilities;

1. You've all drifted apart; you think of each other as 'friends' - but that's not really been true for years. You just share some history. Be honest, but gentle. These things happen, it's no-one's fault.

2. Patty - who you say you love - has moved on, and really has no time for you and your problems. Without an open argument, she 'isn't there for you', and simply isn't a friend. Why not drop the pretence and be honest?

3. You and Patty are very different people; you are proudly independenet; when you need help, you drop hints, but 'don't like to bother people'. Patty is a bit rough and ready; she wouldn't see a hint if it broke her nose (but would be mortified that she'd not realised you needed help). As she'd say "If I need help, I'd ask - surely you know I'm always there for you?"

I'm sure there's other possibiliites, too - and it may be a mixture of more than one. There's no law says a friend is for life. It's nice if they can be - but if someone (you or her) chooses not to be a friend, then the contract is broken. Forever.

Friends don't come cheap - and once trust and respect have gone, you'll never get them back. So think before you act; and above all, be honest. At least she deserves that.

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