My "friends" take advantage of me!

Dear Ms. Demeanor:

I have a close friend who is a good person. I get along well with her. But when she likes something -- books, videos, CDs -- that I have, she will just borrow it from me even though she can afford to buy her own. I don't mind lending, but the problem is, she does not know when to return the items. It usually takes several months to a year before she returns it. Am I making a big deal about a little thing? Should I tell her how I feel?



Dear nhebet:

Sounds as if your friend is taking advantage of you. And as Eleanor Roosevelt said, nobody can take advantage of you without your permission.

When she tries to borrow things from you, you have two options: Say, "Sorry, that's already promised, so you'll have to get in line." (You can have promised it to yourself, to remain safely in your own home.) Or say, "I'm glad to lend it to you. Let's decide exactly when you'll return it so I don't lose track of it as I've done with some of the other things I've lent you." Since you aren't accusing her of anything, she can't get angry.

If push comes to shove and she confronts you, tell the truth in your own terms. In other words, tell her how frustrated you are when she takes your things and doesn't return them. Again, by telling her how YOU feel, there's no way she can argue. If you said, "You really make a pest of yourself," she could argue and would no doubt become defensive, which doesn't help any friendship.

Meanwhile, do some thinking about why you let this person take advantage of you this much. You can gently stop the pattern if you understand why you let it happen. You don't have to be mean to be tough.

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