my two cents

‘I Got Into a Big Fight With a Friend About Money. Can We Recover?’

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One of my closest friends and I recently got into a huge fight. We were sharing a Lyft home from a party, which is something we do pretty often because she lives close to me. But she tends to “forget” to pay me back. I brought this up during the ride, and she said that it didn’t seem necessary because I always take a Lyft home whether or not I share it with her, whereas she would have taken the subway otherwise. She told me that she couldn’t afford to take Lyfts home, and that I shouldn’t expect her to.

This turned into a much bigger fight (we’d both been drinking) and both of us probably said things that we shouldn’t have. She told me I was entitled and spoiled, and that I shouldn’t expect that everyone’s parents could help them out the way that mine do. Obviously, I was really hurt by this. My parents aren’t super wealthy, but they’ve supported me moving to NYC after college — they paid the security deposit and my portion of the first month’s rent on the apartment I share with a roommate, and acted as guarantors. (Yes, I recognize that this is a big privilege, and I’m very grateful. Their help also enables me to do things like take a Lyft home late at night, which they encourage me to do.) I work for a nonprofit, so I don’t make a ton of money, and they encourage me to reach out if I’m having trouble with bills, which I have done a few times.

My friend, who I met in college, has student loans (I don’t) and didn’t have help from her parents when she moved here. However, she does have a good job in finance and it doesn’t seem like she’s really struggling. I told her that I felt like she was taking advantage of me and judging me unfairly. I may have accused her of being jealous, which was probably unfair of me.

I woke up the day after our fight feeling awful (and hung-over). We haven’t spoken since.

People say that college friendships sometimes go through a tough transition in the real world, but I really value this one. I also take her criticisms seriously and don’t want to be an entitled brat. What do I say to her? Can we recover?

I’m sorry that this fight was so painful, but in a way, it’s good that it happened. It sounds like you care a lot about this friendship, and in order to preserve it, you both have to reckon with the tension sprouting from the gap between your financial circumstances. Sometimes, a relationship needs a rupture to survive. Ideally, you can come back together with a new understanding of each other — and a new appreciation, too.

“To me, it’s good news that you’re sharing your honest resentments with each other,” says Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist based in Los Angeles. “You may not have communicated perfectly, but you did communicate, and that sets a basis for being able to talk these things out.”

It also sounds like your friend brought up some weighty topics that are very much worth your examination. Privilege is thorny. Most people who have it would rather not think too hard about it and tend to limit their social circles to other people in a similar boat. That way, no one has to feel guilty or weird about their good fortune, and you can all afford to do the same things without worrying about who can pay. The problem with this approach, in case it’s not obvious, is that it narrows your life experiences — what a homogenous, boring way to exist! It also contributes to the growing stratification of wealth in our society. Privilege needs to be acknowledged and shared.

That said, your friend might be making some unfair judgments based on her own financial anxieties. She might be jealous of you, too, but with good reason. (I would be, too.) Or maybe she just wants to mooch off your Lyft rides. Either way, you’ve both made assumptions about each other that bear exploring.

I also want to point out that you’re in a tricky stage of life. My early-to-mid-20s were some of the most awkward, difficult years I can remember. I struggled to understand who I was without the linear, progressive steps that school had provided. I also saw how money affected my identity (and my friendships) in ways that it never had when we all lived in the same crappy dorms, ate meals at the dining hall, and drank cheap beer on weekends. I became much more aware of my own socioeconomic status relative to that of my friends, and how it separated us. Suddenly, some of my friends were buying $400 suits for their fancy jobs and drinking $20 martinis with their co-workers, while others had to move back in with their parents because they couldn’t afford rent. It was a destabilizing period, and I think that’s fairly universal.

In her book Quarterlife, psychotherapist Satya Doyle Byock describes how many young adults struggle to reconcile their need for both stability and meaning. As Byock defines it, “stability” encompasses the stuff that people associate with functioning in the “real” world — a decent job, paying your bills, doing your laundry, and taking care of your health. But without “meaning” — a strong sense of what you value and a connection to it in your day-to-day life — that stability feels flat. Everyone deserves both, but it’s normal to grapple with an imbalance between the two, especially since one often comes at the expense of the other. It’s also normal to feel like your peers have figured out this balance much more than you have.

I think Byock’s thesis provides some useful context for your fight. It sounds like your parents have provided you with financial support (“stability”) so that you have more freedom to pursue what’s meaningful to you. This is, indeed, an enviable position! And one that I wish everyone could have. Your friend, on the other hand, seems to be in a situation where she needs to prioritize stability (a good job that pays her bills), potentially at the cost of meaning for now. That’s not inherently bad or wrong. But it is different from where you find yourself. And if you want to repair this relationship, you need to be sensitive to that disparity.

Your first step is to reach out to your friend and apologize sincerely for how the fight went down. (You admitted as much in your letter, so I’m assuming that your regret is genuine.) Next, when you’re ready, ask if she’d be open to talking more about some of the things she brought up. Explain that you took her words seriously, and you want to understand more. “There’s no right or wrong here, but rather, what can you learn?” says Clayman. “A fight about money can be very intense, but the healthiest way to look at it is to ask, ‘What’s the lesson here, not just about money, but also about boundaries and interpersonal communication?’”

When you speak to your friend, focus on listening. Taking the high road means leaving your defenses at the door. I’m not saying that you should be a pushover who pays for your friend’s Lyfts in perpetuity (in fact, the Lyft payment question doesn’t seem that important in the grand scheme of things). Instead, try asking questions like, “What are some ways that you feel that I misunderstand you?” Or, “How can I be more sensitive to the challenges that you’re dealing with in your life right now?” Or, “Tell me what you wish I had done differently.”

When she responds, try to simply echo back what she says, and then invite her to continue: “You wish that I had done X. Is that right? Is there more?” This is a technique called Imago therapy, typically used with couples or people in close relationships. Repeating your friend’s statements might feel odd at first, but it signals your curiosity and willingness to listen, and helps your ability to absorb her words. (In my experience, it is also an incredibly powerful way to diffuse ill will and reconnect with someone after a fight.)

Once your friend has had a chance to explain her perspective, she’ll probably be a lot more open to hearing yours. You may need some time to consider what she has said before you’re ready to share your side, or not. Either way, it’s important that you express your concerns about her assumptions. You’ll need to put this in your own words, but you could start with something along the lines of, “I worry that you’ve judged me because my parents have helped me out, and that doesn’t sit right with me.”

Ultimately, you’re working toward a couple of objectives. The first and most obvious is that you want to mend fences after a drunken fight. The second is to accept that you can’t always control how other people react to you, or how they’ll receive your generosity. So you have to get a handle on your boundaries. If you want your friend to share your Lyft home and you’re happy to pay for it, say so; if she expects you (or your parents) to pay and that feels wrong to you, don’t invite her.

And finally, I think it’s important to get more comfortable having conversations about financial differences. It takes practice, but becoming more aware of how your background has shaped your worldview (and how other people’s have shaped theirs) builds self-awareness. It helps people open up to you. And it makes your relationships richer, more interesting, and more resilient.

The Cut’s financial advice columnist Charlotte Cowles answers readers’ personal questions about personal finance. Email your money conundrums to

‘I Got Into a Fight With a Friend About Money. What Now?’