Dear Amy: My wife and I bought a house. Our intention was to sell it to my son and his wife for the same price that we paid for it.
We rented it out while getting their existing house ready to sell.
We agreed to the stipulation that they need to improve how they handle their money. They both work, but live paycheck to paycheck. (My daughter-in-law is a spending machine.)
The new and bigger house has appreciated 20 percent since we purchased it and they both really want to move in, but they have not kept up their end of the bargain.
If I cancel this deal or delay selling this house to them, she will go bonkers.
She is VERY headstrong. My son needs to stand up to her, but I am reluctant (I already tried) to put this on him because he is going through treatments for depression — this depression thing has really changed him.
He has mentioned failure and suicide.
I just cannot support a lifestyle that supplies 37 pair of underwear for their 4-year-old daughter.
His mother and I want to do the best thing.
What do you think?
— Concerned Father
Dear Father: You are attempting to control this couple, and this is the worst way to go about it.
If they are so bad with money, then aren’t you setting them up for failure by putting them into a “new and bigger” house? How will they afford the upkeep and the taxes on this more valuable property?
And because you have such low regard for her and a lack of compassion for him, they should not be financially entangled with you.
Overall, if you are trying to inspire someone toward change, you need to agree to specific and achievable milestones. “Improve how they handle their money” is a vague stipulation. Are you in charge of deciding if they have “improved”?
This arrangement also has you believing that you have the right to count their young daughter’s underwear, which you don’t. That is extremely disrespectful to everyone in the family.
This lack of respect is potentially disastrous for your relationship with this family. Your lack of boundaries and harsh judgment will have a negative impact on your son’s mental health.
“This depression thing” is real. Depression is a serious illness, and your son should be focused on his health and treatment – not on pleasing you.
Your son probably does need to stand up to someone, but in my opinion, you are the person he needs to stand up to. Unfortunately, his depression has likely robbed him of the strength to do that.
If you made an agreement, you should stick to your end of it. And then you should remove yourself from all financial control.
If you and your wife want to help them, you could put your extra money into a college fund for your granddaughter.
Dear Amy: My aunt suddenly lost her husband after more than 50 years of marriage.
My uncle was the last living member of that generation on my father’s side.
While we live states apart, my aunt and uncle were very kind to me when I was little.
We reconnected when my father passed away several years ago and talked often.
I have tried to stay in fairly constant contact with my aunt since my uncle’s death.
While my uncle was kind to me, I am now learning that he was not a very good husband or father.
My aunt shares way more than I should know, but I want to be there for her.
How do I continue to support her, but spare myself the graphic details?
Dear Torn: You should continue to listen with compassion, while understanding that one way that (some) people express grief after a sudden death is through anger.
Let her let it out. Connect with her children to make sure they are offering emotional support to their mother.
Look up a grief group in her community and encourage her to attend meetings and connect with others.
Understand, too, that some people wear many masks.
Dear Amy: I don’t always agree with you, but I did agree with your response to “Concerned Sister,” who described a situation where she was housing her niece’s boyfriend and keeping it a secret from her own sister.
I’m glad you stood up for her need to be transparent about a situation which seems doomed to failure.
— Been There
Dear Been There: This seemed like a situation where the adults needed to be in the know.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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