When An MLM Friend Ruins Your Friendship

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
When Your MLM Friend Ruins Your Friendship: Woman posing for camera
Rachel Garlinghouse/Instagram

I check my DMs only to find yet another message from a fellow mom whom I’ve seen a handful of times at kid events. The message starts with, “Hello there, friend!” and continues with, “I remember that you told me you are a type 1 diabetic.” She proceeds with a too-good-to-be-true offer. She can help me get to a place of optimal health in which I no longer have diabetes! Can she bring some samples by my house later today? Newsflash: unless she’s selling me a brand-new pancreas and installing it for me, I’m not interested.

I sigh and roll my eyes, because in recent years, her offer to heal my chronic illness is incredibly predictable. I’ve been added to Facebook groups and online parties without my consent. Nearly every time, it’s a woman who, without any sort of medical degree, has the magical answer to my health woes. Many of them are ruining their relationships with women like me, and they’re going to have a really hard time coming back from this when they quit their MLM, like most of them eventually do.

It’s not that I’m against women doing their thang. I’m not. If a woman finds herself with a company and enjoys wild success, providing her with some financial freedom, new friendships, and focused purpose, good for her. Seriously. I’m happy for her. However, I don’t want to be her co-pilot or guinea pig, nor am I interested in joining her squad by becoming an ambassador. I’m perfectly content leaving my health choices between me and my doctors.

Recently I read a mom’s post in a social media group. She confessed that she was beyond mortified. She got caught up in an MLM, lured by the promise of making thousands of dollars a month. She was one who sent DMs to every friend (and their mom) that she could, sweetly telling them about the amazing products she was selling and all the miraculous things they could do. This mom thought that just maybe she could financially provide for her baby from the comfort of her own home, avoiding pricey childcare.

She admitted to the group that her decision was a huge mistake. She lost many friends when she needed them the most. She reduced herself to taking advantage of their previously solid bonds in an attempt to make a buck. She posed the question, Can I mend these friendships?

Many women chimed in. Some were MLM saleswomen themselves, assuring the poster that she was totally fine. One even replied that maybe that wasn’t the right MLM to join, but the MLM she works for is amazing. Maybe the poster should come be on her team, joining her amazing team? (Insert eye roll.) Even in a thread about the damaging effects of marketing MLM products to friends, someone had to chime in with a sales pitch to a struggling woman.

Where does it end? Is it possible to be in an MLM and not prey upon friendships? I hate feeling like women I know and love are skimming my posts, looking for an opportunity to capitalize on any health hardships I have. It makes it very hard to be honest and to know whom I can trust. It’s one of the ultimate betrayals to try to turn my pain into their profit. I’m also angry that some customers who may not know any better are taking medical advice from an acquaintance instead of seeing a legitimate medical professional. That’s downright scary.

Not only do I have an autoimmune disease, but I’m also parenting four kids, two of whom have special needs. I’ve had a few so-called friends slide into my DMs and text messages to offer to help. Apparently, essential oils, gummy vitamins, and shakes can cure ADHD, learning disabilities, food allergies, and sensory processing disorder. Who knew? I’ve learned to reply, “No, thanks,” but some didn’t get the hint. Instead, they stepped up their persistence.

I’ve had some send me articles, published by their MLM company, riddled with “facts” on the many ways their products can cure everything from cancer to depression. Others have promised me that if I just try their products for thirty days, I’ll be a brand new woman. Each of these claims only drives me farther away from not only the products, but the friend trying to push them.

I don’t have the time, energy, or spare cash to throw at pseudo-science products. If a friend naively joined an MLM with the high hopes of becoming a billionaire, okay. If she came to me, sincerely apologizing for taking advantage of our friendship, I would totally forgive her and move on. There are times in all of our lives where we feel desperate, and an MLM might look like shiny opportunity that can redeem us. Unfortunately, too many women aren’t following suit of the poster in the social media group who is genuinely attempting to make amends.

For those women who fail to see the damage they do to their friends when they relentlessly hit us up for money, they’re missing out on some amazing friendships. It’s sad, but it’s their loss. Because the rest of us are just trying to keep our shit together every day while making sure we commiserate with our true friends who are doing the same.

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