May 23, 2014 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Husband refuses to discuss in-laws

Washington Post
 

Hi, Carolyn: My husband’s parents are in their mid-80s, and they have lived with us for 14 years. They don’t pay toward household costs. They moved in with us originally because my mother-in-law took care of my son while I worked. My son is now 15. My father-in-law still works full time at a repair shop he has owned most of his life.

My husband recently retired due to health issues, cutting our income in half. We are in our mid-50s, facing our son’s college costs and our own retirement.

I have started to resent having to support my in-laws. I think they should contribute toward household expenses. My husband disagrees. He becomes very angry whenever I bring this up.

Am I completely in the wrong? I know we all should honor our parents, and they did a lot for us when we were young. What is the right thing to do? – N.

When your spouse not only disagrees with you, but also ignites on contact with the subject, the “right thing to do” becomes moot. Figure out what you can do, and stay on that side of the menu.

You can, for example, spend a long day with your finances to track where your money goes.

You can then show your husband the numbers – without a peep about his parents. If he accuses you of trying to back into the issue, then explain calmly that he made it clear he wouldn’t discuss having his parents contribute so you had to go to Plan B. And this is Plan B. So would he like to participate?

You can also identify unnecessary expenses, and discuss which ones to cut.

And you can, in the unlikely event you haven’t already, talk to him about other income sources, such as disability or other types of work his health issues permit.

Most important: You can explain to him – again, calmly – that you don’t appreciate his shutting you down with anger on a topic that profoundly affects not just you two, but also your son.

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