- For Love & Money is Insider’s biweekly column that answers your relationship and money questions.
- 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 man’s choice — they’re his parents — but boundaries can help.
- Do you have a question for our columnists? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.
Dear For Love & Money,
My husband’s parents have always struggled with money, and when they do, they come to him and ask for a loan, some of which will be repaid and some will not. My husband is indebted to them because they paid for all his stuff growing up. I think they signed up for this when they became parents. I can’t help but hold a grudge that they take his hard earned money without a second thought.
A reluctant giver
Dear reluctant givers,
In-law relationships often feel like something that happened to us. It’s a relationship that we technically committed to when we decided to marry our spouses, but is still a product of chance. Add partners who would really appreciate it if we could love their parents with the same enthusiasm as they do, and things can get complicated. I think there are a few reasons for that.
First, there’s the insecurity that comes with both parties worrying that the other doesn’t like them. Meeting the parents is an infamous relationship milestone for this reason, if only because those first impressions tend to shape the rest of your relationship. Then there’s the question of mutual but opposing entitlement: I’ve given this child everything since the day he was born, I’ll love him even if/if you throw in the towel. you are my child
And on the other side: I met this person and decided to share my whole life with her and she loves me so much that she chose me too. You may be her past, but I am her future.
I mention all this because, as I read your letter, I felt that your grudges are less related to the money and more to the fact that your relationship with your in-laws is filled with anger and judgment.
In-law relationships aren’t easy, but ultimately it’s your husband’s choice
I get it — personally, a great relationship with my in-laws wasn’t the easy-to-fit piece of puzzle that one hopes for. For all of the reasons I’ve already listed, plus a barely drinking age wedding and a surprise pregnancy, I’ve had to adjust in my relationship with my in-laws as they move to make room, but now they really are all the second parent hopes that her in-laws will be, and from what they tell me I really am a daughter to them too.
For you, squeezing to fit in with your in-laws is letting go of the judgment you hold about their financial savvy and the resentment you hold against them for feeling they are taking advantage of their son. Different families have different values, and it sounds like your husband’s family values taking care of each other, while your family values self-reliance and doesn’t ask for things that might require someone else’s sacrifice . These two values are admirable, but they’re incompatible, and that’s where your conflict comes in.
Unfortunately, the worst thing you can do is make this 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. Her husband is a person in his own right and sharing his hard-earned money with his parents is his calling.
Encourage your man to set boundaries
Well, you said, “My husband feels in debt,” which suggests you might not think he really wants to give his parents the money, he just feels like he owes them. If this is the case, you can suggest that your man set boundaries. You might suggest that he put a payment schedule on the loan to make sure they actually pay him back, or he might put a cap on the dollar amount he’s willing to lend you.
This suggestion shouldn’t be telling your husband how to deal with his parents, but rather giving him an opportunity to realize that it’s okay to say “no” sometimes. The difference between the two is how you style the message. A criticism will go something like this: “You gave them more money? While encouragement sounds more like, “You’re such a good son when you take care of your parents like that, but I hope you know that if you don’t want to keep lending them money, no one would judge you for it.” Boundaries are both acceptable and healthy.”
And that, my friend, is all you can do. In the meantime, that resentment you hold serves no purpose other than to create further family pressures for your husband to deal with by glaring at your in-laws or a passive-aggressive remark to get them on the Dissect driving home from your house, and eat you inside out.
I understand that letting go of a grudge is easier said than done, but in my experience it’s about taking a new perspective on an old situation. For now, you’re seeing this dynamic as legitimate parents taking their son’s hard-earned money through a manipulation technique as old as your relationship with him, but I encourage you to turn history around and look at it instead as parents who To practice loyalty and generosity, and to support family unconditionally, and they taught their son to do the same—a lesson that has shaped not only the character of the man you’ve fallen in love with, but every one of you as well benefit day.
rooting for both of you,
For love & money