Being too generous can damage your relationships. here's why (2023)

When my younger sister was in college, she needed help paying the down payment on a new car. I wrote him a check—coincidentally, his birthday was coming up—and sent it to him on a card, with the understanding that when he was creditworthy, he would pay me back.

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Nearly a decade later, that part of my chest is still empty; in fact, it's permanently closed, as the one time I suggested she might pay me, it triggered a battle so ugly that my father had to step in to break up a fight between his adult daughters.

There is no place where financial generosity shines brighter than with the people we love. While giving can be good, it can also create discomfort if we are repeatedly on edge or, conversely, if the gifts friends give us are the kind we cannot match.

Elizabeth Gilbert, international bestselling authorEat Pray Love,He wroteabout her own tendency to be not just generous, but overly generous. She calls the phenomenon "over-giving." In other words, you're inclined to give as much as you're capable of giving, regardless of what the recipients are comfortable receiving. Indeed, after her book made her very wealthy, Gilbert writes, "I was an enabler of dreams, a remover of obstacles, a changer of lives."

Psychotherapist and executive coach Jonathan Alpert says givers and givers go hand in hand. “Overgivers use gifts as a way to gain and keep friends because they believe they have to be very generous to be loved,” he says. It becomes problematic, he continues, when the giver is constantly putting others ahead of himself, like the woman in your bookwho skipped a family funeral to go to work, afraid of disappointing her boss. People-pleasers are afraid of disappointing others to the point of neglecting their own needs.

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Being too generous can damage your relationships. here's why (1)

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Sound familiar? If you are generous or know someone who is, read on to find out how to get out of an awkward situation or stop creating one.

If you are an over-giver

Saturday night cocktails here, Sunday brunch there; Of course, you are happy to cover it. But when history repeats itself and you end up footing the bill every time you see a particular friend, or worse yet, lending large amounts of money to friends and family, things can quickly go downhill, even if your intentions started. good.


Who gives excessively and why?

More commonly, people who give too much suffer from low self-esteem, explains Alpert. “They think they have to rely on giving to be seen in a positive light,” he explains, and they fit the classic people-pleasing profile. "Typically, it's people who feel they have nothing to offer a friend other than their wallet."


how can it hurt

Unpaid debts or injustices (such as paying the dinner bill five times in a row) can strain your friendships. A study profiled inThe Economistfound that, surprisingly, people really don'tasoverly generous people In fact, they dislike extreme altruism as well as selfishness. Why? Simply put, their constant giving makes them look, or just feel, bad. So even when supergivers try to connect with others by giving gifts, they are likely to generate feelings of guilt rather than gratitude.


Also, as Alpert points out, there's a difference between giving because you want to and giving because you feel like you have to. The former can give you satisfaction, but the latter can easily lead to resentment—that feeling you get when you covered up brunch because your friend "couldn't afford it," only to see vacation photos filling your Facebook feed days later. how could i paythat, but notThat's it?

What can you do

It all comes down to examining your motives: why are you giving so much? What do you hope to win? Or, Alpert puts it another way: are you giving to preserve your friendships? If so, you might want to reevaluate. Chances are, the people in your life love you just as much as they do without the lavish gifts.


On the other hand, maybe you have a dynamic with a certain friend that tends to encourage you to pay the check: "If someone is charging you too much, stop," says Ryan Morgan, a loan officer at Mortgage Corp East. "It's not their fault, it's yours for the donation."

In other words, if you're constantly trying to rescue a friend in need and you realize the arrangement is no longer sustainable, be kind but honest: explain that you appreciate their friendship but just can't keep it up anymore. . "You don't have to give them a list of reasons either," advises Thomas P. Farley (aka "Mister Manners"), an author and manners expert based in New York City. "Just keep it simple."


If you know someone who gives excessively

I have a friend I'll call Rachel who loves giving her friends gifts: big, lavish gifts, like a $100 gift card to the spa for her half birthday, or a beautiful box of handmade soaps, just because you met her. for brunch. While all of our friends and I love receiving what she gives us, at some point it gets weird. It starts to feel lopsided and there are only so many thank you notes one person can write.


Why Over-Gifting Happens

In her essay, Gilbert describes her generosity as a way of being "cherished, feted, praised and loved unconditionally for the rest of time". That's the reason why she mostly devoted herself to the causes near and dear rather than faceless. “I could see (and feel!) the gratitude so personally; it was a drug-like pleasure,” she writes. She confesses that his generosity made her feel like she was "balancing the apparent imbalance of my own crazy success, an imbalance that made me deeply uncomfortable." Giving benefited her friends, but it also benefited her.


how can it hurt

And what's the problem, exactly? Farley recognizes how difficult it is to deal with the situation if you are adored. “It can make you feel like a secretive friend,” he admits. In Rachel's case, my friends and I don't know why we're getting all these things and can't afford (and don't necessarily feel the need) to reciprocate. But should we?


“The recipient may feel indebted or inferior,” says Morgan. “And the person giving it can hold it over the other person's head. If I go to you and ask for money, it might help me, but it might also make me feel irresponsible, reckless, or inferior because I had to ask for it." Money isn't the only issue: For a friend who constantly pays the bill or If you feel like you owe them friendship in exchange for their gifts, that's a problem.

What can you do

Here's a question: are you encouraging those who give excessively? Are you putting yourself in situations where it's easier for her to see you than not? For example, you might feel the need to cover the dinner bill if you're splitting. "If you're someone who does this," Farley says, "it means you're not having fun or you probably can't afford to go out right now, then you shouldn't."


If you haven't encouraged their generosity and aren't open to receiving it, Farley advises sitting down with the friend or family member in question privately and approaching the conversation with gratitude. Often, he says, the giver has no idea how offensive their social mistakes have been, and being called to their attention can come as a shock.

"You could say something like, 'I really appreciate your kind gestures, thank you, but I can no longer accept your gifts,'" Farley suggests. It's simple, straight to the point, and you can avoid hurt feelings.


Like anything else: if it bothers you, it's up to you to change it.

Are you an excessive giver? When generosity is bad for your friendships| learn

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