“Sure, you can stay with us”
I knew I’d regret saying this but didn’t want to think things would go south. And, they did over 10 slow and agonizing months.
During the summer of 2011, I allowed a good friend to stay with us along with her 2 year old. Right there, I know you’re saying, “that’s where you went wrong” – I know. My friends and family members warned me about allowing her to stay with us but I went ahead against my better judgement. Little did I know they were right.
When I said yes, I did so knowing that my “friend” had no job, no degree and little in the way of recent work experience as she’d been out of work for 2 going on 3 years. Her husband also seemed allergic to keeping a job even while they had a toddler to feed. My hope was that she’d be able to get on her feet and then decide what she wanted to do with her marriage and career as both seemed to go off the rails from time to time. If you’ve been married for any length of time, then you know there are days that you hate your spouse, this couple was no different. So there’s no judgement there. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t judge harshly her decision not to return to work after the baby. This is even after being evicted twice because her husband would spend the rent money on other things. This led to 2 evictions, the first right after their now toddler was born. The second, just over a year later.[Aside: This is the exact reason why I started this website. I need to know that should my husband cut up, mess around and spend the money that keeps the roof over my head that I can hold things down until he comes to his senses. Or that I have the financial wherewithal to walk away for my sanity because being homeless and living on the charitable gestures of others isn't cute.]
After the 2nd eviction, she landed on my doorstep, toddler in tow promising to be out in 5 days. Well, that turned into 10 months.
Looking back, I can honestly say this is something I’d never, ever in life do again because I realize that even when people may be on hard times, it’s easy to take the hands that feed you for granted. And, I am liable to choke you these hands should I feel disrespected. Which I experienced – several times – so this meant holding my tongue on several occasions when I wrestled with asking her to get the hell outta my house.
In hindsight, while my husband and I struggled with other issues, her presence surely didn’t help. I knew this to be true once she actually left, since our home “lifted”the day she left. She took with her the air of negativity that seemed to keep her down.
Why did I allow her to stay so long?
I’d hoped that she’d feel the “burn” of bad decisions as it related to money and learn from me how to manage money and make better decisions about her life. It didn’t matter to me whether she stayed with or divorced her husband. But it mattered to me that she be able to stand on her own 2 feet regardless of whether or not he spent the rent money on boos and video games. To say that I was truly invested in her success was an understatement. That said, my husband had written her off years prior since he’d went through great lengths to get her information about a fast track Bachelor’s program which she quickly brushed off. But he wanted me to see things for myself so he allowed her to stay knowing that she wouldn’t take the initiative to make a better life for herself. He was right.
I really wanted to believe that she just needed someone to believe in her but sadly, she didn’t believe in herself. I would often come home to my house looking like a pig sty on several occasions and then having to clean up after them while griping about the skyrocketing electric and gas bill. My electric bill at it’s highest was around $275 and once she left, the bill came in at $37.
I was pissed. Then I’d get asked to be a chauffeur to the local supermarket that was less than a mile away after driving an hour home from work. She does not have a car, nor does she have a drivers license. Everyday I grew increasingly resentful about my decision to let her stay. But I also wrestled with asking her to leave with a 2 year old knowing that her next option would be a shelter since she’d been through a few stints with her other family members. I had no idea what to do because I didn’t want to feel responsible should something happen to her or her child if I’d asked her to leave. But those resentful feelings slowly started to simmer and I prayed constantly for relief!
My list of issues:
- She only wanted to wash her own dishes even after being home all day
- Often kept dirty diapers in her room or in our kitchen which would leave my home with a nasty stench! If you know me then my house ALWAYS smells good thanks to Luna Bleu or Bathed and Infused. So this pissed me off to high heaven!
- Everyday the TV would be on from morning through the evening with minimal breaks which meant my electric bill was sky high
- Tepid searches for a job would yielded good results with 2 job offers that she declined. Color me pissed both times.
- There was a stint where her husband would spend the night which I quickly put a stop to because my house isn’t the inn at Bethlehem. It started again when he quit his job. Call me cold but if he wanted a place to sleep then finding and keeping a job and getting a place of their own should have been at the top of his list.
After several months of helping her with a resume, she got apart time job through one of my local connections. She started and began to feel comfy with herself and the fact that she was beginning to make some money. This was good news! I’d then ask about a date for move out because I’d been sending her several apartment listings, job postings and information about government programs that would help pay the rent given that her husband was not working.
I’d get several dates and timelines but none of them ever came to pass because I knew deep down she didn’t want to leave. She’d relay concerns around returning to live with her husband as he was in another city renting a room and they had ongoing marital issues. So yes, this meant the entire time she stayed with us, he was living in another city apart from her and their child. He’d come over and visit and I’d liken it to a visiting day at the jailhouse because he’d visit for a few hours and then leave, returning to his private life without them.
This got old really fast. Not only to my husband and I, but to our family and friends. Most notably, my husband’s fraternity brother asked me out to dinner after venting to him one evening so we went out to talk about the situation. Now, before you get ideas, I am great friends with his wife and she knew about our dinner plans. We trust each other like that and she is one of few that I do share marital issues with so her husband volunteered to give me some insight on what was going on So there was no ill intent behind the dinner date, just him wanting to give his insights into what he saw going on as he is a few years older than us. Now that we have all of that cleared up for my nosy readers!
He relayed to me his thoughts and perspective on the situation which included the opinion that he did not feel she would leave until forced to do so. I resisted, stating that if I were to ask her to leave, then she’d be angry with me and never speak to me again. He then dared me to ask her to leave to prove his point about her using me for a place to live.
I said, “bet”. We made a deal that I’d ask her to leave.
We agreed on a date of June 1 and I crafted an email asking her to leave by that date. I went home and explained to her further my rationale and she was understandably upset but I needed relief from this situation because I could not longer be responsible for the actions of adults who made the decision to be financially irresponsible. SCREW THAT. I had to put my marriage first and this meant possibly sacrificing a 13 year friendship.
But I backtracked, giving her more time after fielding cries about not being able to find a place in time. I then put my case manager hat on and told her to get the paperwork in for a government program within 1 week of the day I sent that email. I sent the email May 15th. She was to get the paperwork in by May 22-24 with the understanding that I’d be flexible with the date for leaving since the program would take around 30-60 days. May 30th came and I asked about her progress with the application to the program and it was met with the fact that she really hadn’t even began to get things together. When I asked when she’d be getting certain documents, sheepishly she tells me IN TWO WEEKS she’d be able to make the trip to another state to get those documents.
I’m not sure what came over me next but I just blurted out that I couldn’t do this anymore. The words kept coming out and I just kept saying over and over and that I couldn’t do this anymore and she needed to be out by the weekend. I’m not sure if I was angry or frustrated. A combination of the two is probably a good start. I couldn’t take it anymore and she had to go! I didn’t want to come home to toys all over my house anymore! I don’t have kids! I didn’t want to come home to my kitchen being a mess or smelling dirty diapers throughout the house. I also didn’t want to deal with the risks of having a toddler in the house with an 80lb Malamute who was seriously possessive about her daddy, water and stuffed animals. You see how this could possibly end badly?
I just for once wanted to come home to a quiet and clean house! Even though I have a maid service clean every 2 weeks (whatever), the place would be dirty within 2-3 days. And, that was the last straw. I need to come home and wake up in the morning to a clean house!
She eventually left the following weekend and I haven’t heard from her since then with the exception of refusing to pick up clothes and toys she left behind. Needless to say, we are no longer friends and hubby’s fraternity brother won the bet.
At first, I was sad that he was right. However, he challenged me to do the right thing for our marriage and for my sanity. He also reassured me that allowing her to stay wasn’t friendship but encouraging bad behavior by being a crutch. We clinical folks like to call that enabling. I had to learn how to separate and prioritize the competing relationships in my own house. In the end, my marriage had to come first even if it meant forcing her to do the same regardless of whatever path she took with her husband.
I really should have said no, but I’ve learned to say no and mean it. Would I do it again? Nope. That’s huge for me to say because it is at the core of who I am to help people during their darkest hour. But I also realize that I tend to put the needs of others before my own. And, it is a path I don’t plan to take in this life ever again.