Friend Has Overstayed Her Welcome

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Recently, my husband and I had to go out of town for a funeral. A friend of mine (let’s call her Inga) was scheduled to work, so I left her my car. My son called me late at night our first night away, and told me Inge hadn’t come home in my car yet. After 3 hours of trying to contact her, I finally got through. The car had run out of gas, and she was lost. After about 15 minutes of trying to get a straight answer of where she might be, she finally tells me the police were there with her. I had her put the officer on the phone and found out she’d gone 40 miles in the opposite direction to get home, had run out of gas and put oil in my car (thinking that was the problem), and my car was sitting in the middle of the road with a dead battery and no lights at night! The officer agreed to bring her home, and I would send my son the next day to retrieve my car.
When my son went to see if he could fix my car, he found she’d put oil in the power steering pump! He spent $40 of his own money to fix the car and get it home. Inga texted me the following day, apologizing, and saying she’d pay for any damages.

A week later, my son needed that money for gas to go to work. I asked Inga if she had the $40 for him, since he had to use his own money to fix my car. She gave me the $40, saying ‘don’t worry about repaying me!’

To this date, she still does nothing to help out. She gripes about any shift I’ve given her to work at the hotel, even though I am the one that has to get up at 5:30am on my day off to drive her there and pick her up. She doesn’t offer to pay for ANYTHING. She’ll only eat dinner if I fix her plate for her. She doesn’t clean up after herself. All she does is sit on the couch, playing on her phone- CONSTANTLY!

I feel bad for her in a way, because there is definitely something not right with her, mentally. Even the simplest, written instructions, she cannot comprehend. When you try to explain something to her, she cuts you off with, “Ok, ok…I’ve got it” and continues to do things wrong, immediately. At first, I thought it was because of the years of abuse that made her the way she is. I’m thinking now, though, that maybe this is just normal for her. She strikes me as being possibly borderline autistic or something. The officer the night she’d gotten lost even asked me, ‘Ma’amm, is this typical behavior for her?’because of how she was acting. She gets frustrated and easily comes undone over any small thing.

Our problem is that we need her to become independent and work towards getting on her feet, of which she seems to have no intent. We don’t want to put her out in the cold, nor do we want to be mean and hurt her feelings. Not-so-subtle hints do not work…she simply doesn’t get it. Any flat out request is either deflected by her trying to change the subject, or (if monetary) she tells us we don’t have to worry about paying her back..like it’s a loan! (And that’s if she even thinks she should give us anything at all.)

I’m planning on taking her to the housing authority and food stamp office on my next day off. Other than that, how would we approach the subject of her getting out on her own, with tough love but without being hurtful? We’re between a rock and a hard place, here!

(By the way, she’s not a young girl..she is 53 years old!)

A: Your friend is lucky indeed to have as supportive and caring a friend as you are. But at this point, you are feeling taken advantage of. At 53, she isn’t going to be the one to step up and initiate change. You are going to have to either draw some clear boundaries and give her a deadline for leaving your home or you need to get busy and find her the services she needs.

There are generic social services that can help your friend. Housing services and food stamps are a good first step. It may also be that she qualifies for other supports. If you think that she has below average intelligence or has a brain injury, for example, you could see if she qualifies for disability services.

Your friend has somehow survived without you for years. Think about how she has managed. Has she gone from one good-hearted person like yourself to another? Or has she found ways to fend for herself when no one was willing to let her become dependent? If the latter is the case, then “tough love” may be the answer. If, however, she has usually ended up homeless and destitute, then the loving thing to do is to help her connect with social services.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Jan 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Friend Has Overstayed Her Welcome. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/01/07/friend-has-overstayed-her-welcome/