How does money affect our friendships?
Being Wise… taking in the wisdom across generations
by Christine, age 37
hand and hand. Anger. Fear. Shame. Not a whole bunch of F-U-N going on
in most of those feelings, but unfortunately it’s what many women
experience with money. Upper, middle or whatever class it doesn’t
matter… as our current Wall Street crisis spells out, we are a people
with a frigged up relationship with money.What has always driven me crazy since I was old enough to own more than
a pink plastic piggy bank, is that we as women don’t talk about our
money with our friends… not really, not honestly and not personally. We
don’t talk about how much money we make or express our personal fears
about not making enough or losing it all. But, we do love to make
conjectures about how much someone is making based on her current
handbag. And, who hasn’t been jealous, judged another woman for how she
chose to spend her $, or wished to be as lucky as our friend with more
As a girl from the South Side of Chicago I never imagined that one of
my closest, dearest, friends – soul sister really – would be a former
debutant, whose great-grandparents had butlers, and who had something
that I never even thought of getting… an inheritance! I believe in my
heart that one of the reasons we are so close is that we are brutally
honest about money – what we make, what we fear, and how differently we
were brought up. I can remember the actual day that her and I broke the
ice and spoke the formerly unspeakable – our salaries. Since then I
have learned from her, found compassion for myself and others because
of her, and seen that all people, no matter how much money they have,
struggle with their relationship with money… and in the end are just
From that moment on, we have been there for each other in all of our
life and financial ups and downs. When she divorced… when I left my
corporate six-figure job to work for myself… paying for private school…
everything! Being able to share my own financial journey with her has
made all the difference, not only in our friendship, but in my life.
I really believe, that if we do not fully share our relationship with
money and our financial life with our soul sisters, then we miss out on
a connection that can be so much deeper and more fulfilling. It doesn’t
mean we need to swap bank statements each month… it means that we share
our lives fully, and that includes money, the numbers and the emotions.
money. When someone tells you that we are killing the earth, you take
it seriously. But when someone tells you that our economy is the worst
it has been since the Great Depression, you go ballistic. Do you see
any thing wrong with that? Money controls everything we do and it’s
hard not to let that effect your friendships.People who are very happy, confident, and poor can usually handle
having rich friends. But if you are rich, it’s always best not to brag
all the time about how expensive everything is that you own. It makes
people feel left out and you shouldn’t feel the need to say things like
Sometimes at school, girls will just start shouting about how expensive
their boots are and how when they graduate from MIDDLE SCHOOL their
parents are going to take them on a tour around the world. They will
also use terms like how their family is a so-called “functioning
family”. Does that mean that people with divorced parents aren’t
functioning? Or does that just mean that your really, super rich your
family is functioning? Meanwhile, there is a girl in the room who has
parents who fight so violently that they throw hot irons at each other.
A good rule to have in general: If you are second guessing yourself on
something you are going to say, think for 10 seconds before you say it.
Most people are sensitive and want to be treated equal and they may
feel left out for other reasons but their financial class shouldn’t be
one of them.
Christin, age 25, says:
When I came back from China, from sleeping on boards, eating rice and
bok choy for months on end, I came back straight into over consuming
capitalist holiday mania. I cried the first Starbucks I drank because
it was the same price as three healthy meals and a bed in the East. I
thought I would never, never readjust into the American way of life. My
first night home I stayed at a friend’s – who had kindly cooked fresh
pot pie, put out fresh fruit, had milk by the gallon. And all I could
say was ‘I cannot believe how much food you have’. I was awe struck by
the granite counter tops, the 45 million inch TV. I loathed the leather
couches and was rendered immobile by the iPhones. I was also creating a
rift in our connection that would take some time to heal (and
eventually did after my culture shock wore off).
When my internal judge, jury and executioner get together at the local
pub (my brain) down a few beers and complain about the financial status
of others – it directly affects my friendships. I judge how other
people make their money, spend their money, even save their money and
it comes out in snide sideways comments that taint the possibility of
deeper connection. I burden the friendship with unspoken ‘should’s’.
You should donate! Buy fresh produce! You shouldn’t money on TiVo!
Should Should Should. It’s a lot of pressure for my people and a TON of
pressure for myself. No one can live up to these standards, not even
the one imposing them.
The truth is, i think there is a part of me that secretly wants those
things. Designer clothes and new cars. But when I remember that I have
everything I need, that by world standards I am exceedingly wealthy,
and that I am living the dream my ancestors hoped for, it doesn’t
matter what my friends have or what they buy. And when I have my
girlfriends chatting and laughing around our Venti Soy Chai Latte’s,
and we can feel the heartbeat of our friendship, I am also less
inclined to cry over expensive coffee.
more than finances. Growing up, my family had been friends with people
who were ambitious, wealthy and seeking to become more wealthy.
Friendship was seen, by some, as a tool to improve their status. It was
painful. I always felt strange judgments based on things that really
had nothing to do with me like where people in my family went to
college or boarding school or if I was wearing the right clothes or
whether my Dad was doing well. I always felt that I wasn’t important
enough. It was tough. And I think as a result, I developed an unhealthy
relationship with the concepts of friendship and trust and power.As an adult, I have been a waitress and the wife of a very successful
financial person. And when I had a very expensive, large diamond on my
people treated me differently, including some of those people I grew up
with, and I have to admit I liked it and it made me uncomfortable.
Fast-forward past divorce and well into my adult life, money and
friendship continue to come up as issues. Some of my best friends are
Tibetean refugees as well as some of those people I grew up with. So I
have to say that
ultimately, the values of the person, rather than how much they are worth
monetarily, guide me on who I am friends with.
Money is one of those complicated requirements of life, and each of us has a relationship with the commodity. For some people, money defines the person by the cars that are driven, the clothes that are worn, the homes in which people live. For others, it is nothing more than an element that allows people to live.
In my teen years, my best friend was the wealthiest girl in school. Coming from a typical middle class family, I inherently knew that her belongings were significantly more chic than mine. Her parents drove Cadillacs; mine drove Chevys. But our friendship was based on who we were not what we had. Today, she is still one of my closest friends. She continues to have more money than me and probably always will. Her clothes and her lifestyle continue to rank a Ten in fashionable circles. But when we spend time together, none of that matters. We’re still two girlfriends who enjoy hanging out and laughing together in the same crazy way we did way back when.
In my opinion, it really has everything to do with one’s attitude toward money. If someone is trying to prove that they’ve “made it,” money becomes a factor in choosing friends. If someone has a comfortable relationship with what they have, then they are free to enjoy friendships regardless of class distinction.