In-Laws and Your Finances Are Like Oil and Water

by mike on December 9, 2010

There have been many movies and television shows that have used the in-law relationship to provide humor.  The “Everybody Loves Raymond” show and the “Meet the Parents” series of movies come to mind as examples.  Good humor always has a shred of truth in it.  The reason you laugh at shows like these is because you know the in-law relationship can be interesting.  For some of you, interesting is probably an understatement.  Where it gets really dicey is when you are either loaned money by your in-laws or rely on them month after month to subsidize your household.  Is that a good idea?  Let’s examine.

First of all, I do want to clarify that by in-law I am mostly meaning the wife’s parents.  A daughter’s father is more likely to feel like he needs to take care of her, even if she has a husband.  He may even feel like his son-in-law is not doing an adequate job, so he needs to step in.  After all, he’s just trying to help.  I do acknowledge that the husband’s parents may help you financially, but I think it is trickier when the wife’s parents are involved.  There are three reasons (and probably many more) why accepting a loan or regular monthly help from your in-laws is not a good idea.

1. It changes the relationship. If you owe your in-laws (or your own parents for that matter) money, it changes the dynamics in your relationship.  Instead of just son-in-law and father-in-law, you are now borrower and lender or continual giver and continual receiver.  You may not think that is a big deal, but you are mistaken.  Chances are, the in-laws will feel like they should have a say in your financial decisions.  In some ways, they’re right.  If they are providing money for your household, it would be rude for you to squander the money on wasteful things.  The problem is this meddling can even creep into other areas that affect your finances such as how many children you should bring into the world.  You and your wife should be (along with God’s guidance, of course) in charge of your lives, no one else.

2. You lose your spouse’s respect. Even though she may not admit it (even to herself), your wife will lose respect for you if you cannot provide for the family without her father’s help.  It sets up a situation where “Daddy knows and is better than you”.  When you get married you are to “leave your father and mother and cleave to your spouse”.  This doesn’t mean you cut them out of your life, but it does mean that your spouse should be your number one source to rely on.  One of the biggest things that can cause a marriage to fail is the slow erosion of respect for each other.  You want to avoid that situation at all costs.

3. You will lose respect for yourself. Nothing will cause a man to go into a depression faster than when he cannot provide for his family.  In some cases, your family may be able to live a modest lifestyle with no problem using your income.  However, in order to maintain a higher lifestyle, you rely on the in-laws.  Either way, it will rob you of the self-satisfaction of being the provider.  Men thrive on that satisfaction.  It sometimes causes them to do super-human things that don’t even seem possible.  Another aspect of this is if building wealth for your future is a goal, you are less likely to do so when receiving help from either set of parents.

I do want to clarify that I am not talking about occasional gifts from a parent.  I want to emphasize that borrowing money from them or the month after month income enhancement is where the problem lies.  If you are currently in that situation, I encourage you to really discuss it and pray about it.  I believe that if you re-evaluate, it can really bring you closer as a couple and strengthen your marriage long-term.  That is way more important than driving a nicer car or having a bigger house.

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