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Dear Flora: Setting Healthy Boundaries

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  • Tip Bones

Dear Flora,

An older woman who is friends with my grandmother recently asked me if I would adopt her dog. I agreed, initially overjoyed to have a new four-legged friend to hang out with my older dog, who very much wanted a brother. Now however, this woman just wont stop calling me. I have tried to be understanding: she did just have to give away her best friend to keep her home (he was barking and she lives in an apartment), but I cannot be taking calls from this woman every day. It’s uncomfortable and we were casual acquaintances at best before I took in her dog. How do I set some boundaries?

- Shared Custody Woes

Dear SCW,

How wonderful that you found another lifelong companion, and gave this pup another chance at a forever home. The experience of rescuing from a friend (or acquaintance, in this case) can be extremely rewarding, but not if the last owner can't let go. It's good of you to try and understand her position: I know that giving up my furry friend would be heartbreaking, necessary or not. Yet, you're absolutely right that you need some boundaries.

Put simply, this friend of your grandmother's is not understanding your position as you're trying to understand hers. It's time for a very frank discussion about how you both feel this arrangement is working. When you talk, acknowledge her suffering while offering your perspective. A good way to begin might be something like "I know you miss your dog terribly, and I'm glad that you care about his well being. I'm just not sure that I can give you the level of involvement that I know you miss." Think about what you would be willing to do FOR her: could you call her instead? If you feel comfortable, try offering a phone call check in once a week.

Good luck!

Dear Flora,

My friends and I are all in our early 20s, towards the end of college. For the most part, people have learned to be independent. One of my friends, however, seems to get herself into financial messes every other month, and keeps asking to be bailed out of trouble. I’ve lent her money in the past, but at this point I don’t think it is responsible to keep helping her. I don’t want to keep lending her money forever, but I also don’t want to lose her as a friend. What should I do?

- Friendly Finance

Dear FF,

Good on you for helping out a friend in need! But you're right, it's tricky to tell a friend that enough is enough. It's also hard to have a friend that seems to be taking advantage of your good nature and open wallet. Time for some boundaries.

The good news is that you can do this gently. A good tactic is to use "I feel" statements, so that it doesn't feel like an attack on your friend. "I feel as though I lend you money pretty frequently, and I'm glad I could help you. I'm not in a position to lend money as frequently as I do. Is there some other way I can help you?" Finishing it with a question validates your friend, but disallows further cash advances.

Good luck!

Thank you for all of your wonderful questions this week! Don't forget to submit more questions through our Google link. See you all in two weeks!


*Questions may have been edited for clarity.

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