Home Money My friend “exploited” me for £400. Can I save our relationship? Money psychotherapist VICKY REYNAL responds

My friend “exploited” me for £400. Can I save our relationship? Money psychotherapist VICKY REYNAL responds

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A friend who asks for help with money and then brags about a new purchase could be a sign of
  • Do you have any questions for Vicky? Email vicky.reynal@dailymail.co.uk

I need your help. My friend K has recently been telling our group of friends how bad his financial situation has become. He talked about overdue bills, not having enough money to go on vacation anywhere this year, and her fear of losing his job.

My heart was with him. He said that he was going to forgo his appointments with the physical therapist, who I know have helped him cope with chronic back pain. I had a great year at work so I decided to lend him £400 so he could continue with his physio for a few more weeks while he found some way to improve his financial situation.

A few days later K posted a photo of himself on social media with a new grill costing over a thousand pounds that I was keen to buy for my family this year.

A friend who asks for help with money and then flaunts a new purchase could be a sign of “brokefishing,” writes Vicky Reynal

I haven’t confronted K yet because I’m not sure how to approach the situation without causing a rift.

Is there a way to save our friendship or should I accept that K is not the friend I thought he was?

Monthney psychotherapist Vicky Reynal responds: I suspect you feel a mix of shock, anger, sadness, and a sense of betrayal.

What K has done can be described as “bankrupt fishing.” In previous generations, people would have described themselves to friends and family as people in financial need who then took wonderful, long holidays abroad.

However, today we realize that we have been “exploited” when people boast that their latest purchase just asked us to cover half the bill because they couldn’t afford it.

Part of you may wonder: why? There is no simple answer.

It could be that K is in a precarious financial situation because of how impulsive he is with money (so his purchase of a barbecue once he had his £400 was another irresistible purchase he couldn’t help but make).

Or it could be that, on some deeper level, you go through life feeling like “the world owes you a debt.” Sometimes past experiences make us feel this way: a parent leaving the family, or a divorce, or even parents who struggled with mental health issues and were unavailable, can make us feel “let down” in life.

We might feel that others have been luckier and therefore unconsciously seek justice. We might feel a certain sense of triumph in receiving money, because on some level we feel as if we have restored justice and fairness.

But there are also other possible explanations. One is related to how you and K behave in relationships. Does K tend to become the “needy” one, orchestrating all kinds of situations that need “rescue”? And you became “hooked” on this narrative because you have been unconsciously assigned the role of savior?

Do you often take on the role of savior in relationships and always put the needs of others before your own?

That might also explain why you’ve fallen into the trap of trying to be the friend who fixes things for K instead of holding back to show him some empathy and emotional (rather than financial) support.

It could also be about your particular friendship: Is K envious of how much more you have? Maybe you have more money, but it could also be other things, like he might envy you having a better job or relationship.

Do you feel guilty about how much more than K you have? All of these feelings could, behind the scenes, drive his decision to lend money to appease his envy, or address his guilt and his willingness to take it and then “misuse” it.

Whether the friendship can be saved will depend on your ability to forgive K, as well as the boundaries you set in the future so that this does not happen again.

It will probably also depend on K’s response when you bring it up: can he acknowledge it and apologize? Or will he get defensive and make excuses? You can’t control how he will respond, but you can think about how to bring it up.

In these particular situations, ‘first-person statements’ are quite effective (more so than accusations that will simply put your friend on the defensive).

“I felt betrayed when I saw your photo with a new console after you had borrowed money from me because money was so tight.”

How can you prevent this from happening again? Suppressing any hint of empathy with friends in the future might not be the best approach.

However, if you are about to lend someone money, I always suggest that you think long and hard before making a decision. Why am I forced to give? Have they asked before? What is going on in the friendship that might be prompting this request?

Finally, remember that lending money can have a big impact on any relationship, especially if the terms are unclear. Was the money you lent K for the physiotherapist? You said that? Or was it your vague hope?

Vicky’s book: Money on your mind: the psychology behind your financial habits is available now from Bonnier Books, £16.99.

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