Dear Madame Zolonga: Ending Friends Who Benefit?

Posted by Planet Waves


A “good-hearted” Taurus asks Madame Zolonga how to negotiate a delicate situation with a hard-luck friend and former business partner: money that is not always used as the giver thinks it ought to be. Madame explains how the terms of their friendship shifted when the relationship ceased to be between equals, and offers some questions to chew on while Saturn finishes up in Scorpio.

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Read more in Solstice Fire and the Art of Service, by Eric Francis.


Dear Madame,

I have a friend who’s been through hard times lately, and by that I mean not the usual set-back. In the past few months I’ve done several kindnesses for her, including giving her money for groceries and rent, to help her get back on her feet.

I’m a good-hearted Taurus who can’t stand to see someone without even the smallest security, so I was shocked to find out recently that she’s been giving some of these funds to others, like her former boyfriend who I consider a total sponge. I know Taureans are supposed to be finishing some partnership lessons this summer with Saturn in Scorpio finally leaving their partnership house — and this person used to be a business partner. Is it time for me to cut her off?
— Confused Cow

Dear Co-Co,

I wouldn’t want your good-heartedness besmirched. So let’s see what we can do.

First, it would help to identify the true nature of this relationship. Once a person plays a particular role in our lives, it’s difficult to relinquish that image or recast the actor. In other words, once our brains cast the role, we get comfortable with that image and begin to stereotype our expectations of its performance. So what do you expect from this person, your friend?

You say this person used to be a business partner. In astrological terms, a business partnership is a 1st/7th house position as equals. As a 1st/7th house relationship, any money that’s shared between two people of comparable status or power hopefully would be managed on terms agreeable to both parties.

Today, however, you are no longer equals if you are no longer business partners. It’s clear, also, you two are on considerably unequal footing in finances. Knowing that, and knowing you are no longer equal investors in a project, you can’t continue to expect your friend to play the role of the co-equal ‘partner’. This is the role you’re used to her playing. But is this the role you unconsciously still want and expect her to fulfill, socially and emotionally? Think hard about that one.

Because she can’t. Right now, at least, your friend can’t be the 7th house person. Instead of being an equal, she’s fallen into hard times where she lacks the means to choose her role and her place in life. And you play the part of charitable benefactor.

Suddenly you’re the boss, the parent, the loan officer. As such, you expect to have more say in what she does with her money. This is true even if it doesn’t accord with your desired and self-comforting image of “good-hearted” buddy. In fact, you DO expect to name the terms. And because the relationship is now unequal, you also expect her to agree to the terms.

This is hard on friendship. In fact, there’s no friendship between you two right now. True friendship is an open-ended and self-selecting relationship between two people who view one another as equals. Your old bonds of friendship ended as soon as she fell on hard times and you took up the job of The Bank. It’s true even if you feel sorry for her and (rightfully) know she can’t get back up without a hand.

If you continue to hand over money or other support, you need to recognize this and stop insisting she behave like a venture partner in your latest project. She needs help, and if you want to help, do so. If you don’t like the terms under which she currently uses your generosity, then change them.

But don’t expect her to accept them when you make your offer. She, too, remembers you as a partner and may be unaware of her own conflicting expectations about roles in the relationship, assuming you are both still friendly equals. Thus, she uses money as she sees fit, like an adult who’s used to managing her own decisions. Even if it means some of the money goes to an unworthy ex-boyfriend.

Perhaps it’s time to practice that ancient form of charity where the ‘right hand knows not what the left hand does’. The original context of this wisdom is that we give not to be recognized for the gift or charity. We give discreetly and modestly so that our hands, in ignorance of the other’s actions, cannot conference about the matter, and so come together in self-congratulatory appraising applause for our good-heartedness.

Generously yours,

Madame Z

5 thoughts on “Dear Madame Zolonga: Ending Friends Who Benefit?

  1. Len WallickLen Wallick

    Madame Z: i am compelled to express my deep appreciation for this piece. It is thoughtful, compassionate, practical and grounded. Your response to the question is direct and does not recast the query or avoid the difficult issues. Your application of the astrology is insightful and instructive. i’m in awe. i am humbled. And once again, you have taught me something. Thank you so very much.

  2. Bette

    I too greatly appreciate this post – it’s a subject which too frequently lurks under the surface in frienships sometimes, & has probably caused far more alienation/hard feelings thus than it would have, had it been clearly brought to light & spoken of.

    I have at one time or another been in both positions, & neither was comfortable. I was often reminded of my dad’s advice “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Worst of all is being in the position of greatly needing help, & finding (later) that some very onerous strings were attached.

    Yes, if a friend were in need, & I had resources with which to assist, I still would – but I would prefer a clear discussion of terms/expectations (if any). Ditto if circumstances were reversed.

    Thank-you Madame Z, for evoking some reflection.

  3. Pisces SunPisces Sun

    Thank you so much for this insightful post. A gift without expressed terms by default comes without conditions. Your discussion about expectations on the part of both parties and the respective roles that each had played are so true. Thank you for reminding us of the role we play when we give, it should be unconditionally and if not, then consider how we give it and why we do so. Thank you.

    1. Amanda PainterAmanda Painter

      “A gift without expressed terms by default comes without conditions.” Exactly my thought, Pisces Sun. A loan for a specific purpose is one thing. But a gift? That’s when I tend to think you need to be ready to release attachment to how it gets used. And if that’s impossible, then it’s time to re-think giving and one’s reasons for doing so.

      I especially appreciated the contextual insight about how a 1st house/7th house relationship can shift in a non-romantic relationship when one person’s role changes. Very useful to see these ideas in action!

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