This week I received a question from a reader about how to deal with her boyfriend’s family financial situation. Here is her question:
My boyfriend has an older brother that lost his job and was losing his home (their childhood home). At the time he was living with his brother – paying him rent and helping with bills. He didn’t want their childhood home to be taken so he purchased the home from his brother telling him that he could stay there until he got back on his feet- paying whatever rent and bills he could afford. His older brother got a job with the help of my boyfriend but now refuses to pay rent or help with any of the bills telling my boyfriend that they are brothers– and he shouldn’t have to pay rent or help with bills. He told him he can’t afford to help. My boyfriend doesn’t know what to do …. He said he can’t afford to support his brother and feels that he shouldn’t have to (keep in mind his brother is in his mid fifties – by boyfriend is in mid forties).
We have been discussing marriage and wants us to live in his home. I told my boyfriend that as much as I love him I cannot move my son and I in his home along with his brother. His brother smokes and drinks heavily and I don’t consider that to be the type of atmosphere for my son or I to live in. My boyfriend has been so upset about his dealings with his brother that it is starting to affect our relationship. I can’t and won’t tell him what to do as it is his family issues. What can he (I guess we) do?
I sometimes wonder why we put up with situations within our families that we wouldn’t even consider if the same thing happened with a stranger. I remember a time when a friend’s brother owed them money – not a huge amount but enough that it would have made a difference in her life. They had agreed on a set timeframe within which he would repay but he kept blowing her off with different excuses, even though she was pretty sure he had the money. She eventually got some advice from a solicitor who simply said to her “would you put up with this if the person who owed you money was not a family member?” Luckily, it was resolved and they have maintained a good relationship.
You are certainly correct when you say that you don’t want to interfere with his family business. I remember that before my hubby and I got married, one of the things we were advised about was not criticizing the other’s family or getting into their family disagreements. Your role is to support your boyfriend and be there for him. I admire you taking a stand for what you believe is best for you and your son; sometimes these things get pushed to the back when it comes to relationships and love.
It is important to get the facts straight in any disagreement and there are some questions that come to mind in this situation. Was the house bought at market value or a cheaper price to make it easier for your boyfriend at the time? If the brother sold cheaply, he might feel he is owed some slack now. Was there a firm agreement as to when the brother would start to contribute to household expenses? Maybe he has a different idea as to when this should be. As their childhood home is involved, is there some sort of emotional blackmail going on?
I am a firm believer in communication and discussion. In this scenario, I think that the best course of action is for your boyfriend to sit down with his brother and discuss how he feels. He will need to be prepared for this meeting and have copies of recent utility bills, mortgage repayments, and anything else that pertains to expenses that should really be shared by all members of the household.
It could begin with your boyfriend reminding his brother that he paid his share when he was living in house, before he owned it. So why should it be different now. The discussion needs to be frank, without emotion; your boyfriend should simply state the facts – that he cannot continue to support and subsidize his brother, especially as he now has a job. As far as the bills are concerned, these should be split evenly between the people living in the house. If the brother is still struggling financially, perhaps a nominal rent would be more in order than the market value of renting part of a house in their area. Maybe a gradual increase could apply; the amount going up as the brother gets back on his feet.
It is important that he keeps the discussion to the subject of sharing the financial responsibilities of the household. Your boyfriend should not introduce the fact that you want to get married and live in the house; this will only muddy the waters and add an emotional aspect to the situation. Maybe his brother is actually concerned that you will get married and then he will have nowhere to live. He should also not bring up that you are refusing to live in the house with the brother there. At this time, all he should be trying to do is get his brother to fairly contribute to the household expenses.
If the issue cannot be resolved, your boyfriend may have to make some difficult decisions. He will need to decide on his top priority; what does he want most, a relationship and marriage to you or to continue supporting his brother in their childhood home. Is your relationship worth more to him than his childhood home? Hopefully, he chooses you, in which case he has a choice.
First, he could offer to sell the house back to the brother, which could be possible now that he has a job. Then the two of you, with your son, could find somewhere else to live and the whole problem would be solved.
As a last resort, he could tell the brother that the house will have to be sold anyway, as he cannot afford to keep paying the mortgage and all the bills. The positive side of this is that good can come from starting a marriage fresh; a new home would give you this, even if it means losing the childhood home. I wonder if his emotional attachment to the home is so great that he would risk losing the chance of making a life with you?
His brother won’t ever stand on his own feet while he is being subsidized. Just because they are brothers doesn’t mean that one has to sponge off the other. Remember, we are not responsible for family members, just because we happen to be related. Unless there is some underlying health issue, each member of a family should be able to stand on their own two feet and not expect others to sacrifice their life and happiness.
I think the lesson here is to not accept behaviour from a family member that you wouldn’t accept from a stranger. Loyalty is an admirable value but it shouldn’t come at the price of your own happiness; that is too much to ask of anyone.
Good luck and thanks for submitting a question. I hope this can be resolved and you and your boyfriend can enjoy a happy future together.
Readers, what do you think they should do?
Sounds like the brother is taking advantage of the reader’s partner. He needs to get tough on the brother. If he has enough cash to drink heavily and smoke, he should be contributing to the rent – if he’s not willing to do that there isn’t any reason why he can’t move out now he has a job.
The reader shouldn’t move in to that environment with the brother still there – not a nice situation to have to deal with.
I agree. Boos and drinks are not cheap. He could be putting at least something towards rent. However I know that dealing with family can be really difficult.
What a terrible situation to be in. I’m not sure what I would do. I guess sometimes it doesn’t pay to be compassionate.
I personally have had nothing but bad experiences with lending money to my wife’s side of the family. Fortunately it was only $200 that we lost last time and we can afford to never see that again.
My family on the other hand are really good, and always pay back their debts within a couple of days / weeks.
What has happened with your wife’s family? Did is cause issues in your relationship? I would think it would make things awkward. I try not to mix finances with family if I can help it.
Such a touchy subject. Family usually comes first. By saying no to moving in with the brother, she is not earning points. I would stay firm because she is right, but it is impossible to make the BF think straight when it comes to family so she will probably have to live with him making mistakes (like giving too much money to his brother) and not say a thing.
It is true. It is hard to be objective with family. Our emotions and blood ties to them make us subjective.
Wow. That does seem like a very difficult situation. I do agree that communication is key and needs to be open and honest.
Open and honest communication is the only way to communicate if you ask me.
This is definitely a tough situation. I went through something similar. He just needs to be kicked out. He obviously shows no respect.
He isn’t showing respect. You are right. However, the repercussions from family for kicking him out may be too much for them to bear. How did things shake out with your family?
Oh, what a tough situation! Miss T is right on point with her advice, but I also wonder if the brother would benefit from AA or counseling? Not to make an already difficult situation more difficult, but alcoholism can change people’s behavior and demeanor, especially when it comes to money.
You are definitely right. His addictions need to be dealt with and should be considered a factor in this decision. I wonder though if he would go. I have seen how difficult it is to get people to go for counseling.
It’s a very tough situation. It’s not easy to make decisions especially when family members are concern. You need to discuss things with your boyfriend and find a solution that can work for both of you.
I would agree. My parents are constantly dealing with this with my mom’s family and it is yucky. I don’t envy them. In fact, it really bothers me how much people are against each other as a result of things.
The saddest part of this story for me is that the man is in his mid-50s! My goodness, he should have some part of his life together, but he is a wreck. Enabling him more will not solve the problem. Your advice is spot on. Really, this brother needs to be kicked out and forced to handle his life on his own, but while that is easy to write, it is much more difficult to do.
It’s true. You would expect some maturity at 50 but he also has an addiction problem which can affect his behaviour. Dealing with family is never easy and very complex and one really has to decide what risks they are ok taking. Dealing with family is risky.
If you are discussing marriage then you need to talk to him. I had this problem with my brother and honestly tough love it what needs to happen. Some people want others to feel sorry for them and use the we are family as the tool to get what they want. I would discuss the issues with your boyfriend but let him talk to his brother alone. Family will always be family but you don’t want to get entangled.
Good advice. There is a place for tough love. If things got worse for his brother though I wouldn’t want him carrying guilt. Often we do that.
The older brother is definitely a mooch – and always will be unless forced not to be. I think your boyfriend will have to decide who he values more – his brother or you.
You are right Cat. He does have to decide what is more important. Putting family aside though is way easier said than done. We can’t help but feel attached and obligated.
I agree with your advice here; I know for me, there have been family issues in the past sometimes (I think they take advantage of me sometimes!), and like you said, we really shouldnt’ deal with things from our famililes that we wouldn’t take from a stranger!
Easier said than done though. We seem to make more excuses for family. My issue is that sometimes those wounds don’t heal and that can be big burden on someone’s shoulders. Not a way to live.
Kick out the mooch! In our own relationship we have decided to provide as much care as we can to our parents, but not necessarily our siblings because we expect that my partner’s siblings would take advantage in exactly the same way.
If you can afford to drink and smoke heavily, you can contribute something!!!
True. It isn’t like he has no money, he just isn’t spending it on what he should. Addicition can be a very powerful thing though and should be considered.
I agree in that sometimes family members treat strangers better than they treat eachother. I have seen that in my own. Makes me sad. I think your advise was spot on. This was a good question.
I have seen that too and it also really bothers me. I think some people think that family will love you no matter what which is the way it should be but that doesn’t give you a license to treat them like crap.