MONEY

Friends without money

Do recessions ruin friendships? That’s the premise of an interesting, if rather depressing, post by Emily Bazelon on the XX Blog. Class differences can wreak havoc on relationships even in good times, she notes, in all sorts of subtle and not-so subtle ways: Inviting someone to dinner at a fancy restaurant can be tricky if you don’t know whether he or she can afford it. (You may recall the movie Friends With Money, starring Jennifer Aniston as the friend without.)

“We often sidestep relationships in which spending habits don’t match up exactly,” Bazelon writes, “to spare ourselves feelings of inadequacy or insensitivity, those awkward breaches that make intimacy feel like work.”

But recession — and its concomitant layoffs, pay freezes and general economic disquietude — can upset even these carefully-calibrated relationships. When one friend loses a job, she notes, “the sudden uneven footing isn’t easy to negotiate.” Quoting from numerous — sometimes sad, sometimes bitter — emails she got on the subject from her readers, Bazelon sketches out the “collateral damage” the recession has inflicted upon relationships.

One reader moved into her parents’ house to help them pay the mortgage after her dad’s salary was cut; her friends back where she used to live blame her for the new distance (literally) in their relationships. Another reader lamented the loss of “the accidental friendships of proximity” she’d had at her former job, which she lost in the spring.

Of course, such friends are practically the dictionary definition of “fair-weather friends.” Unfortunately, as I think Bazelon’s article makes pretty clear, virtually everyone has casual friends who fit into that category; it’s just that in good times we have the luxury of pretending that they’re something more.

Even worse, Bazelon notes. the hard times are straining even the closest of friendships: It’s hard to find things to talk about when one person’s life is a mess and the other’s is going swimmingly.

If all this has made you feel broke and lonely, I’d recommend you not read this blog post about a study finding that those with the most friends at school ended up making the most money as adults, with each “extra friend” adding an extra 2% in salary.

Has the recession put a strain on your friendships?

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