to let down a friend who won't stop offering help I have not asked for?

(75 Posts)
Blossomgirl Wed 24-Apr-13 22:10:27

I was due to work with a friend in September for a couple of days at a conference she is help organise, but told her no this week because she won't stop offering help that I have not asked for.

Came to a head yesterday when I told her that her last offer of 'help' had gone to far. What she did, knowing I am on a low income, was to send me a link to Oxfam dresses because she knew I do not have a dress for the conference dinner. I was gob smacked. I never ever asked her for help in getting a dress, it was completely uninvited.

This isnt the only incident but the one that bucked me into standing up and saying 'no more help unless I ask, please'

Since then I have been told that she offered me the work because she thought I would find the money helpful. I'm confident that I did the right thing in asking her to be a mate and be there ONLY if I ask for help

TBH I have a sick husband and 2DS's and it's my energy that keeps us on an even keel, me who has to be resourceful all the time and it wears away at my self-esteem so when I got the oxfam email I hit a downer and got proper introspective about how shit I must look to the world, and how hard getting by is etc. It took me a while to work out that I wanted the uninvited help to stop. I told her in a down-to-earth way.

Thing is this friend is also getting married in 3 1/2 weeks. I tried to keep my feelings to myself but she kept asking me if I had had her email and what did I think. Oh dear

I feel torn between my needs and hers.

She sent me a text earlier after turning away at the shops after I said Hi saying how hurt she is. She has taken massive offence. She says she cannot believe that I misunderstood her, and is very hurt at my lack of trust in her good intentions. She says she was only being a good friend and that I have let her down.

AIBU to stay firm to my instinct and say no to working for her knowing the stress it must be adding to her?

greenformica Fri 26-Apr-13 22:07:58

I think you are being over sensitive. I think your friend is just trying to be helpful and cares for you.

quesadilla Fri 26-Apr-13 22:00:34

The thing is it can be very hard to know what people's sensitive spots are. I personally wouldn't be insulted at all by someone pointing me toward charity shop dresses ( though I can understand how you could be), but if I were single and a friend repeatedly tried to matchmake or send links to dating websites as LemonPeculiar mentioned I would be seething.

I think it's always worth offering unsolicited help of this kind once to gauge the reaction: a person who is in sincere need of help and not sensitive about it is likely to be eternally grateful.

By the same token though its incumbent on you as a friend to learn to read the signs a bit. If someone politely declines the help the first time then - assuming you are not talking about something really serious like DV/serious marital trouble/mental illness - you need to back off if the signs say not to go there. People who keep on after being politely told their help isn't wanted usually are doing it for reasons to do with their own psychology and ultimately are being selfish.

I have a friend who I know is skint who I invited to an activity for toddlers as our dcs are roughly the same age and she said she couldn't afford it. I offered to pay, she politely but firmly declined. I won't ask again: she knows the offer is there but I am not going to hammer it home again and again.

Inevtitably sometimes we misread the signs and offend: that's when you need to sit down and thrash it out, but if you have been told once you've been told. Your friend was no doubt well-intentioned but she has done this before and not learned the lessons. If you care about her, tell her in no uncertain terms that you value her but she needs to learn a few boundaries.

GrendelsMum Fri 26-Apr-13 21:30:05

I got half my wedding outfit from Oxfam vintage. I'm well classy, me. <irrelevant>

BackforGood Fri 26-Apr-13 20:26:49

Thanks for the link InTheFrame
Massively expensive prices for a charity shop though ! shock
Not sure how that affects the OP's thinking about it though grin

IntheFrame Fri 26-Apr-13 18:43:06

oxfam link here

Genius idea

scarletforya Fri 26-Apr-13 17:54:09

She sent me a text earlier after turning away at the shops after I said Hi saying how hurt she is. She has taken massive offence. She says she cannot believe that I misunderstood her, and is very hurt at my lack of trust in her good intentions. She says she was only being a good friend and that I have let her down.

Oh please, the martyr act. Poooooor mee. Melodramatic shite.

She tried to patronise you, you called her on it and now she is playing the dying swan to try to cover it up. She'll be telling everyone next what an ungrateful nutter you are. It's all about her eh!

MeNeedShoes Fri 26-Apr-13 17:25:43

Where is the link?

I love charity shops and can certainly afford Boden, etc. I just get more joy from a bargain.
I wouldn't be upset at all, but I expect that is because I'm not hard up. I'd probably feel very differently if I were.

Ragwort Fri 26-Apr-13 16:51:56

I read it totally differently Balloon - I was sent the link to the Oxfam Vintage shop, thought it was excellent. I bet its had a lot more traffic anyway after this thread grin.

The comment about the scarecrow amused me - this really happened to me, I am a Cub Leader and the Cubs bought old clothes to make 'Guys' for Bonfire Night, some of the clothes were so nice that other Cubs took them home for themselves grin.

Sorry, off topic now !

BalloonSlayer Fri 26-Apr-13 13:57:17

The link was rude and insensitive.

When you called her on it, she should have apologised.

By acting the injured party she has been even more rude and offensive.

" she cannot believe that I misunderstood her, and is very hurt at my lack of trust in her good intentions" Well I cannot believe that she can't imagine how sending someone a link to a Charity Shop site, unsolicited, is totally weird and rude.

It's the sort of thing Margaret Thatcher would have done. Can you imagine her voice: "Thar's some vereh vereh naice gowns here, my dear, that even someone on your budget should be able to afford."

(This reminds me a bit of the episode of the Good Life when Margo condescendingly gives Barbara one of her (hideous) dresses out of "charity." Then is furious to discover that they wanted it for the scarecrow.)

RawShark Fri 26-Apr-13 13:48:02

lemon I missed the bit where the friend blanked her. That is decidedly off I think

IntheFrame Fri 26-Apr-13 13:46:28

adeucalione - Sorry. Wasn't having a go at you, I love peoplethat give me stuff! The "tat" comment was just why people may not be happy to get an unsolicited bag!

However if you know her so well/see her frequently, I'm surprised you didn't mention you had a bag of (quality) stuff? How can you know if she would be mortally offended by the idea of second hand clothes if you don't ask?

Generally I would ask out of concern that other people might not have the time to look through it and dispose of the unwanted stuff or might have just brought a load of clothes ad not have the room.
Don't charity shop the next lot though...I'll have them they sound fab!

Mumsyblouse Fri 26-Apr-13 13:19:08

I read this as even worse than the OP suggested, that the OP's friend was worried she wouldn't turn up looking 'right' and so was micro-managing.

Of course, if the OP and her had had a chat along the lines of I haven't got a dress, how about Oxfam they have some amazing vintage stuff there, I'll send you the link, all fine.

But, it does sound like your friend is trying to manage the event and how you appear rather than out of genuine altruism.

And yes, it is about the power differential, I had this recently with a funeral, I was very tempted to step in and 'help' someone with an outfit as I knew they had no suitable clothes, but I also realised to do so (when they didn't ask for that help, which they could have done if they wanted it) was really patronising, I had to tell myself to butt out- they turned up looking a bit scruffy but it was no big deal, and the OP's friend should also leave well alone, especially if she knows the OP is having a hard time and might be sensitive to this.

adeucalione Fri 26-Apr-13 13:14:16

intheframe - that's a bit harsh. She is a good friend who I see several times a week, and the stuff I gave her was good quality (Boden, Jack Wills, Hollister - excellent condition, coats, jackets etc). The friend I usually pass it on to is loaded - hence travelling the world for twelve months - and is always delighted, so I am certainly not passing on tat to people who couldn't afford to buy new. I said 'I've had a sort out of DS's wardrobe and wondered if any of this is any good, if it isn't just pass it on or bin it'. It's the charity shop next time, lesson learned.

IntheFrame Fri 26-Apr-13 12:59:35

I think it's not so much what the friend actually did but the why she feels the need to do it.
I have a similar friend is who is a bit of a control freak. She isn't happy unless she had suggested and organised everything. It's got to the point now where even if I arrange something simple, getting the children round for a play after school she'll continually ask "are you sure you don't mind" as if it's her that asked me to have them.
I did snap the other "yes it's fine because I suggested it".

adeucalione literally every item of my son's clothing has been handed down from two women in the village. I would be checking other peoples motives though if someone just gave me stuff without asking first. Even if it's the assumption that you have the time to deal with other peoples tat.

adeucalione Fri 26-Apr-13 10:05:05

Well OP does say 'she knew I didn't have a dress for the conference dinner' so presumably some sort of discussion must have taken place, but I concede that OP hadn't asked for any help in finding one.

I just think it sounds a bit 'chip on shoulder' because, in my case, my friend had attached a whole range of motives to my actions yet hadn't once considered the obvious one - I had a bag of stuff that was too good for the bin and needed someone with a 12yo son, without giving any thought whatsoever to their family finances.

But you do make a strong argument lemon so message received, fair enough.

LemonPeculiarJones Fri 26-Apr-13 09:54:16

I think your recent experience is different adeu. It's understandable you are connecting your feelings in this case but the OP says:

This isnt the only incident but the one that bucked me into standing up and saying 'no more help unless I ask, please'

This is a running theme for her in the friendship. Nowhere in any of her posts does she says that she and her friend discussed her needing a dress and being skint and wondering where to buy it.

If they had had that conversation this thread wouldn't exist!

It is hard to give sometimes - if two people in similar financial situations help each other out from time to time then it's a neutral thing. But a wealthier person giving unsolicited stuff to a poorer friend - unfortunately there is a power dynamic there. You didn't mean to upset your friend adeu and I would have been hurt too at your friend's reaction. I suppose the truth is that there is always a risk of offending friends by unsolicited giving. Unfortunately.

I think your wish to help your friend was kind and a neutral act for you, you only wished to help, you didn't want to lord it over your friend. Unfortunately she has let you know that for her, receiving is not neutral or positive. That's not your fault and now you know. Hopefully next time you see her she will have softened and acknowledge that you only meant to be nice.

But with the OP's friend: in a way it's a little like one friend, who's happily married, sending emails to a single friend about dating sites and spontaneously offering up advice about how to get a relationship. If it was part of an ongoing exchange initiated by the single friend, then fine; but if the single friend had never asked - smug and somewhat insulting.

Does sound like OP's friend has continually offered up suggestions in a vaguely insulting way though.

adeucalione Fri 26-Apr-13 09:38:22

I do know that my position on this is coloured hugely by my own recent experience, mentioned earlier. I just don't think that you can look at this action and know what OP's friend was thinking. Maybe she sends that link to everyone who does casual work for her. Maybe she shops there herself. IMO people are too quick to think that they know what other people are thinking, and assume the worst.

adeucalione Fri 26-Apr-13 09:35:35

Hmm I suppose we do need to know if there was any context to the Oxfam link.

If there had been some discussion about OP needing a dress for the event, and not wanting to spend much on something that might be worn once, then I can see why her friend might have sent a 'they have great dresses here' link and certainly not have meant that as a criticism of OP's money management skills or ability to source a dress herself.

FWIW all DD's friends scoured the charity shops for prom dresses as vintage is much cooler than high street, so I just don't see the Oxfam suggestion as an implied criticism really.

LemonPeculiarJones Fri 26-Apr-13 09:31:45

I am very pro-helping. But you have to be sensitive about it.

LemonPeculiarJones Fri 26-Apr-13 09:31:08

adeu it's always better to be a friend who cares, naturally.

But the OP's friend was inappropriate and it seems to be a running theme in their friendship.

adeucalione Fri 26-Apr-13 09:28:23

So is it better to be a friend who listens to a moan and then forgets about it, than to be a friend who listens to a moan and cares enough to want to help?

I think OP's friend has been insensitive to send a link to a charity shop if there was no contextualising discussion beforehand, but I'm impressed that she cares enough to do so given that she has her own imminent wedding to think about, and I would have rebuffed her unwanted helpfulness in a kinder way.

LemonPeculiarJones Fri 26-Apr-13 09:27:36

*skin = skint, obv!

LemonPeculiarJones Fri 26-Apr-13 09:27:03

Hmm maybe a little RawShark. But the friend wasn't hurt by the OP changing her mind really, she was upset OP raised her voice about the 'help'.

It's so patronising to address one's perception of another's need in that way. I get what the OP is saying about her friend thoughtlessly assuming that she wouldn't have thought of checking out Oxfam and was failing at managing her money.

I do think its controlling, really. I think sometimes people who constantly offer 'help' in this way are imposing on their friends. And to tell her she only offered her the work because she's skins - that is very undermining.

There are lovely ways to help out friends in need, and we should all try to help our friends, i completely agree with that - but OP's friend is getting it very wrong.

RawShark Fri 26-Apr-13 09:15:45

lemon I think controlling is a bit harsh! In no way has the friend tried to modify op's behaviour.and she has been honest in saying she is hurt by op's change of mind on helping at the conference - think op acknowledges she hasn't really explained her reasons yet.

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