Originally Published: February 7, 2017 5:55 a.m.
Dear Annie: I’m writing to you regarding one of my best friends, “Melanie.” Melanie and I are both in our late 20s. We met in college and bonded over our senses of humor and our preference for staying in and watching a movie over going out to frat parties. She’s been there for me during some hard times. She’s one person I can rely on to always answer my calls and be there for me, and I appreciate her.
But she seems unable or unwilling to get out of the rut she’s been in for the past few years, and it’s become increasingly frustrating to listen to her complaining about the same things every day. She took a retail job out of college, just to make ends meet until she could find something in her field. Five years later and she’s still there, and in the meantime, I’ve had to hear about it pretty much every day.
I’ve tried to help her look for jobs and sent her lots of links to job postings, but I’m pretty sure she hasn’t actually applied to any of them. She always has a list of reasons — e.g., “I’m not really qualified for that,” “I don’t have time to apply for jobs,” “I need to update my resume.” She tends to play the victim in a lot of areas of her life.
And that’s part of why I’m scared to confront her. I want to tell her that she’s been talking about these same problems for years and it’s time to change, but I know she’d be offended.
Lately, I find myself screening her phone calls because when I get home from a long day of work, I just don’t want to hear the negativity. I feel bad for avoiding her. I want to be a good friend. What should I do? — Emotionally Exhausted
Dear Emotionally: It’s frustrating to watch a friend languishing in a rut that she could easily climb out of. But if you tried to yank her out of it, she’d only pull you down into the wallowing hole with her, and that would be a toxic place to be. So keep a healthy distance between you and that aspect of her, not just for your sake but also for hers; by listening to her venting about the same problems every day, you’re actually enabling her not to change.
So draw the line. Tell her your New Year’s resolution is to not dwell on negatives. Whenever she starts up the “woe is me” routine, tell her that you’re happy to discuss solutions but if she just wants to talk about the same problems again, you’re not able to listen. Eventually — let’s hope — she’ll get out of that rut all on her own. That will give her the self-confidence to keep the momentum going.
Dear Annie: Your answer to “Worried About Mom,” who is looking out for his or her elderly mother and trying to protect her finances, perpetuates a misunderstanding about power of attorney. Someone’s having power of attorney does not allow him or her to take control of the other person’s checking account as you said. Power of attorney allows someone to do things for the other person — “for” being the operative word there; it can’t be against the person’s will. In this case, “Worried About Mom’s” power of attorney cannot stop his or her mother from giving money to the ne’er-do-well sister. Having the mother found incompetent and obtaining a legal guardianship would be the only thing that could do that. — Heard It All Before in Lafayette, Ind.
Dear Heard: Thank you for your insight. I encourage anyone in such a situation to consult an attorney for proper legal advice.
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