- For Love & Money is Insider’s bi-weekly column that answers your questions about relationships and money.
- This week, a reader asks what to do to stop her husband from giving money to his parents.
- Our columnist says it’s ultimately the husband’s call — it’s his parents — but boundaries can help.
- A question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this google form.
Dear for love and money,
My husband’s parents have always struggled with money, and when they do, they come to him asking for a loan, some of which is paid back and some of which is not. My husband feels indebted to them because they paid for all his stuff growing up. I think they signed up for it when they became parents. I can’t help but hold a grudge that they’re taking his hard-earned money without a second thought.
A reluctant donor
Dear Reluctant Donor,
Relationships between in-laws often feel like something that just happened for we. It’s a relationship we technically entered into when we chose to marry our spouses, but it’s still happened by chance. Add partners who would really appreciate it if we could love their parents with the same enthusiasm as them, and things can get complicated. I think there are several reasons for this.
First, there’s the insecurity that goes with both parties worrying that the other doesn’t like them. Meeting the parents is an infamous milestone in the relationship for this reason, if only because those first impressions tend to shape the rest of your relationship. Then there is the matter of mutual but oppositional right: I gave this child everything from the day he was born, I will love him even if/when you throw in the towel. He’s my child.
And on the other side: I met this person and I chose to share my whole life with her, and she loves me so much that she chose me too. You may be their past, but I am their future.
I mention all of this because when I read your letter, I got the impression that the resentment you feel is less about money and more about your relationship with your in-laws, which is full of irritation and judgment. .
In-law relationships aren’t easy, but in the end, that’s your husband’s call
I get it – personally, having a great relationship with my in-laws was not the piece of the puzzle that easily fell into place that we were hoping for. For all the reasons I’ve already listed, plus a barely-drank marriage and a surprise pregnancy, my relationship with my in-laws required me to squeeze in to fit while they moved around to do some up, but now they’re really second parents everyone hopes their in-laws will be, and from what they’re telling me, I’m really a girl to them too.
For you, snuggling up to fit in with your in-laws will mean letting go of your judgment of their financial competence as well as your grudge against them because what you feel is that they are taking advantage of their son. . Different families have different values, and it sounds like your husband’s family values of caring for each other, while your family may have valued self-reliance and not asking for things that might require another person’s sacrifice. . These two values are admirable, but they are not compatible, this is where your conflict comes in.
Unfortunately, the worst thing you can do is turn it into a scenario where your husband has to choose between the parents who want him to keep lending them money or the spouse who wants him to stop. Your husband is his own person and sharing his hard earned money with his parents is his calling to do.
Encourage your husband to set boundaries
Now you said, “my husband feels indebted”, implying that maybe you don’t think he really wants to give the money to his parents, he just feels he owes them. If this is the case, you can suggest that your husband set limits. You might suggest that he put a payment plan in place in the loan to make sure they actually pay it back, or he might put a cap on the dollar amount he’s willing to lend them.
This suggestion shouldn’t be that you tell your husband how to interact with his parents, but that you empower him to realize that it’s okay to say “no” sometimes. The difference between the two lies in how you phrase the message. A review will go something like, “You gave them more money? Wow, they’re really stepping on you, aren’t they?” While an encouragement will be more like this: “You’re such a good son taking care of your parents like that, but I hope you know that if you don’t want to keep lending them money, nobody won’t judge you for it. Boundaries are both acceptable and healthy.”
And that, my friend, is all you can do. Meanwhile, that grudge you’re holding serves no purpose outside of creating another family pressure your husband has to deal with, giving your in-laws a dirty look or a passive-aggressive remark to dissect on the way. back home, and eat you from the inside.
I understand that letting go of a grudge is easier said than done, but in my experience, it’s about choosing a new perspective on an old situation. Right now you see this dynamic as authoritative parents taking their son’s hard-earned money through a manipulation technique as old as their relationship with him, but I encourage you to turn the tale around and look at it instead as parents who practice loyalty, generosity, and unconditional family support, and they taught their son to do the same – a lesson that not only shaped the character of the man you fell in love with, but you also benefit every day.
Rooting for you two,
For love and money