Taking advantage of another

QUESTION: Masters, I have a friend who I agreed to let stay with me for 3 or 4 months while she was going through a tough family situation and trying to figure out the next direction in life/work. It has been a little over a year and she has not made any progress in getting steady work and moving out on her own. I value her friendship, but I feel like I have been more than understanding. Since she moved in my energy is always drained, I get angry, and I just feel numb, unhappy, and distracted from my work. I have encouraged her to pursue leads to no avail, told her of my unhappiness, and hinted that I want to move. Why do I feel this way? Why will she not move out and how do I get her to move out without damaging the friendship? ~Jenny, USA

ANSWER: Just what does a friendship mean to you? Does it mean that you have to do whatever your “friend” wants you to do, regardless of how it is affecting your life, so that you can still count her among your friends? To be successful, a relationship must go both ways. You get something for whatever you contribute. You share thoughts, ideas, ambitions. You get so close that you don’t even have to tell the other person what you are thinking because they are so tuned into you  they even know what you are thinking. That is a true friendship.

Your friend had family problems because she only cares about herself. She does not want to have to take responsibility for her life—no job, no answering to anyone but herself. She is letting you take care of her, even down to the fact that she steals energy from you like a vampire, and the result is that you are always tired and irritable when she is around. If you want to return to your regular sense of self you have got to pull the plug on her.

Stop letting her take advantage of you. Anything you do to get her to change the way she is operating will have an effect upon your friendship because her definition of friendship is synonymous with slavery. It is all right to spend your existence as the servant of another if you are getting reimbursed, but what are you getting here? Use the principle of “tough love” and toss her out. You will be helping her to see it is time to grow up and be an adult.

Value yourself as much as you think you are valuing this friendship. Start taking care of yourself; honor yourself for the fantastic person you are. Don’t give up your power to determine your lifestyle to someone who should be a guest but has become a parasite. It is time to fumigate.