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'I'm the 'rich friend'. I'm sick of picking up the tab for my poor friends.'

As told to Ann DeGrey

I was lucky enough to grow up in a wealthy family and I’m aware of how privileged I am; I was accustomed to a certain lifestyle from a very young age. My parents made sure I had the best education, plenty of overseas travel and I’ve been able to enjoy luxuries many can only dream of. 

However, my life took a significant turn when I married into even greater wealth. My husband Rob's successful business ventures was far greater than anything my father managed to achieve and when I married him, I became part of a very exclusive group.  

But I have always maintained close friendships with my university friends, who, unlike me, did not come from money. Staying friends with Sarah, Emily, and Jess has always been important to me. We’ve shared many laughs and shed many tears together. Although the financial disparity between us has become increasingly awkward as we get further into our 40s.

Sarah, for instance, works hard as a high school teacher. She’s now a single mum and her salary barely covers her rent. She's always struggling to pay her bills and she always lets me know when she’s "stone cold broke." I've lost count of the number of times she’s asked me for a hand out.

Watch: Friendship. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Whenever we go out for lunch, there's an unspoken expectation that I'll pick up the tab. My friends never say it outright, but they always look very relieved when I insist on paying. Recently, Sarah made it clear she needed help with her rent, and I ended up giving her a substantial loan. She promised to pay me back, but I’m not sure she rver will. 

Emily is another story. She's also a single mother struggling to make ends meet. She often jokes about my designer clothes and luxury handbags, saying she could never imagine spending that much on a single item. Whenever I talk about my investments in shares and property, she seems lost and quickly changes the subject. It's clear she doesn’t understand, nor does she want to. Last month she phoned to ask me if I could help her buy a new laptop as her daughter needed one for school and she couldn't afford it. Of course, I agreed. I care deeply for Emily and her child. But being asked for money by my friends is really becoming a pattern.  

Then there's Jess, who works in retail. She’s always been passionate about fashion and loves to give me a hard time about my designer clothes. "I can only afford Kmart, Dotti, and Shein…and look at you in your Chanel!" she said recently. She always says this with a laugh but it's sometimes with a hint of envy or resentment. She's the one who most openly expresses her frustration about the financial gap between us. She’ll say things like, "Must be nice to just buy whatever you want," not realising how those comments sting. 

It's not that I don't want to help my friends; I love them dearly. But the constant requests for loans, the expectation to pay for everything, and the jabs about my wealth are starting to wear very thin. I feel like I can't talk about my life without seeming out of touch or a snob. 

I realise that my world is alien to my oldest friends. I wish there was a way to bridge this gap without feeling like I’m being taken advantage of or making them uncomfortable.

My husband has always been supportive of my friendships. He appreciates how down-to-earth Sarah, Emily, and Jess are. He tells me he finds their company refreshing compared to the often superficial circles we move in. He enjoys the fact that they treat him like a regular guy, not just as my wealthy husband. Whenever we host dinner parties or casual get-togethers, Rob tells me it’s my friends that bring the genuine laughter and easy conversation into our home.

And yet these friendships are making me feel frustrated. They enjoy the perks of my wealth, but constantly make me feel bad. The other day, I mentioned to Sarah that I’d done some grocery shopping at Aldi. Well, she nearly choked on her coffee. "You? Shopping at Aldi? I thought you only shopped at those fancy organic stores!" she laughed. 

I'll continue to keep looking for common ground. I want to believe that the bond with my friends is strong enough to withstand these differences. I hope that one day, my old friends will see past the designer labels and the expensive holidays I enjoy, and remember the girl they met at university who values their friendship above all else.

Feature Image: Canva.

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