Problem: I recently had a bad experience with a friend. This relationship started off as a work relationship but did turn into a friendship. I was being paid for my organizational/personal assistant position. It really worked out well, as this individual needed the help and I’m good at what I do. Well, I finished up her work and we periodically got together for lunch, and when she needed help I still did my part as a part of the job.

She recently lost her husband and I helped her out with that. She does not have children and I guess I am about an age to be her child so there was a special bond as well. It seems that we crossed the line as far as when she could call on me as a friend and when it was work. I really love this lady but I am beginning to feel taken advantage of.

She seemed rather dependent on my help, and the bottom line is that I am a pretty helpful person. I would guess she began to call on me when it was an inappropriate time for me, and I was doing things like lifting furniture. I began to feel that this was too much, but I did not want to offend a good friend. I should have said no, but I did not have the heart to do it. I ended up hurting my back and I feel angry at her for her asking me to do things that I should not have done. Part of the problem was my fault, but I did not want to ruin our friendship. I am not sure what to do, but we do need some boundaries.

Discussion: When saying yes begins to hurt either emotionally/mentally or physically—it is time to learn to say no. It seems like you have a working relationship and a friendship; that is not the problem, it is the unclear boundary that is the problem.

The situation you described is based on expectations and unclear boundaries. I find that people often agree to do things when they do not want to because they want to be liked and that kind of mentality becomes problematic when you over do helping someone. Only you can figure out whether you are saying yes when you really mean it or you are not being honest with yourself and with your friend. If she is a friend it seems like a conversation about this issue would help. If she is a friend she will still be a friend in the future. If you do not say anything it could be that anger and resentment could become a problem, and you both may end up not being friends. A key here is to get very clear about what you want to say, and be honest in kindness and compassion.

To submit problems, contact Juanita Sanchez, psychotherapist, by email at jsanchez1448@sbcglobal.net or through High Plains Journal.

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