I have a 42-year-old stepdaughter who lives with her 33-year-old fiancé on the West Coast. We live in middle America. She has never lived with us, and makes it known to her father that she felt abandoned by the divorce (at age 1) from her mother. We lived in the same city, and paid child support and more.
She has a bad habit of needing to “borrow” money when she decides to use her money for fun things and runs out. She grows marijuana legally and works sporadically. She has a history of coming up with big ideas of opening a business, being a real-estate agent, becoming an actress and more.
His daughter always wants to use our savings as her bank account. She has no credit cards, and a terrible credit score as a result. In other words, she’s all about taking action with her life, but it’s all talk. Most of the time these “loans” turn into gifts, mostly because her father is unable to say no to her.
“‘His daughter always wants to use our savings as her bank account. She has no credit cards, and a terrible credit score as a result.’”
I manage our money because he is absolutely terrible with it. I have been able to pay off everything, house included, before we retired. We are both 65. We are also taking care of his 87-year-old mother by buying her groceries every week, mainly because of her poor money skills in the past.
I have told him that, despite being comfortable, we cannot afford to continue to pay for both his mother and his 42-year-old daughter. For one thing, she’s in a relationship and they should be making financial decisions together. My husband always agrees, but when she hits us up for money he always looks at me with puppy-dog eyes — and if I say no, I’m the bad guy.
She just asked for $1,000 that she says she’ll repay in two weeks. How do I get this adult woman to stop asking for “loans” — she rarely repays them, and they are not for an emergency — and urge her to start saving money just as her father and I did?
Frustrated in Middle America
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Your question is a good one, but needs a minor tweak or two.
You can’t get this adult woman to stop asking. Not even your husband can persuade or convince her to stop asking for money. You cannot control another person’s behavior. Your husband cannot control his daughter’s requests, and you cannot control your husband’s constant acquiescence. You can only control your own behavior.
So what can you do? First, you can listen to your husband and suggest that his guilt over not being there for his daughter is something that he can work through in solo or marriage therapy, or even by talking to his daughter honestly about how he can’t rewrite the past, and how money won’t make up for that. Indeed, it commercializes their relationship and reduces their bond to a transaction.
“‘Your husband cannot control his daughter’s requests, and you cannot control your husband’s constant acquiescence.’”
Second, you can make sure that your joint savings account requires both signatures to withdraw money. That way, he will be forced into having an uncomfortable conversation and risk his daughter’s anger or, worse, rejection. But is a relationship that is dependent on one person getting what they want a relationship worth having? His actions are one of an enabler rather than a helper.
Third, preempt the next monetary request, and don’t sit back and wait for it to happen. It will be more difficult if he does. Your husband could even write a script for the next time his daughter emails or calls. “I love you and want a real relationship with you, but I can’t continue to loan you money, as it comes out of our joint bank account, and it’s simply not fair to my wife. I hope you understand.”
You draw your boundaries with other people — family or friends — and they decide to respect those boundaries or not. Typically, a person who is used to taking — an inveterate borrower or a sunshine stealer who finds a shoulder to cry on where everyone else is to blame for everything — won’t go quietly. They will continue to push until they realize it’s hopeless, and move onto the next person.
I trust your husband can respect himself, his marriage and his daughter enough to be honest with her. I also hope the relationships survives, and thrives.
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