Friendship and Money: What Happens When Your Friends Are Wealthier?
Most of us can relate to that episode of Friends in which Ross, Chandler, and Monica order super expensive food at a restaurant and Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey get the cheapest things on the menu because they don’t have any money. Everyone got pretty offended with each other when Ross wanted to split the bill equally.
Navigating friendship and money can be difficult.
I guess it all depends on you and the friend in question. I have a number of friends who are fabulously successful in life. Although it plays a role in our relationship, the impact has been relatively minor.
My parents were hard workers, but we were quite poor when I was a little girl. And I don’t mean “rich poor” – I mean that one year we didn’t have the money to buy my brother a winter coat, so he did without.
AND MY MOTHER HAD TWO DRESSES FOR CHURCH. SHE WORE ONE EVERY OTHER WEEK. FOR YEARS.
When I turned 13, my mom got a job with the post office, and her income more than doubled overnight. Our lives changed instantly.
Mom’s job, along with a scholarship, allowed me to attend a small, elite, private college. It was here that I met my first debutante. I don’t think she knew anything about growing your own food or not having a winter coat.
I was the first person in my family to receive a college degree. I’m thankful for my upbringing and for the education that my parents provided for me. It means I relate well to people of means (courtesy of the debutantes at my college), as well as to those who come from humble backgrounds like I do.
I have a number of friends who are quite wealthy, and it doesn’t seem to matter. Maybe it’s just because we’ve been friends for a long time – I’m not sure.
But one key is that I’m not jealous of them. Friendship and money don’t have to conflict with one another, even if your incomes are vastly different.
I have a wonderful life, and I’m am able to afford necessities – and quite a few extras. I am grateful and truly content. After coming through a financially devastating divorce about five years ago, I’m just happy to have a home to live in. It’s also helpful to remember that people with a lot of money have all sorts of difficulty and trouble in their life, as well.
MONEY DOESN’T MEAN THINGS ARE GOING TO BE PERFECT.
My friends don’t hold up their wealth above me, or place a greater importance on themselves in our relationship. In return, I admire the ingenuity and hard work that has brought success their way.
So maybe mutual and deep respect for each other is the real key.
If you are in a relationship with someone who treats you differently because you don’t make as much money as they do, it’s time to tell them to hit the road.
How does such a friendship work in practical terms? Well, I can’t afford many of the things that they can. That means that when we go out to eat, they pay more than their fair share. I don’t think they feel sorry for me – they just understand my financial reality and pick up the tab.
Still, I always make it a point to treat them at least occasionally. They don’t owe me anything, and I want to pay when I am able. They are also open to staying in and cooking at home, which is a much more affordable option.
Friendship and Money Don’t Have to Come into Conflict
The income difference with some of these friends means that sometimes for my birthday I get a Brighton necklace or a Kate Spade purse (it still makes me nervous to use it!), and they get a card or maybe something I have made.
If my friends weren’t so amazing, this might bother one of us. But we just choose to not allow these types of things affect us.
I can’t imagine allowing the presence or absence of a gift to affect my relationship with someone whom I consider to be a dear friend.
Whether you are the one with more resources or fewer, you can be in a relationship with people who are in a very different place financially. It will take respect, a lack of jealousy, a refusal to take advantage of anyone, and perhaps some open communication about the differences, but it can be done!