Borrowing from the In-Laws
by Susan G Mathis
Our friends Becky and Thom decided early in their marriage never to ask for financial help from their parents. They understood that this meant they would need to learn to live within their means, even sacrificing when necessary.
At times this also meant not sharing their financial struggles with their parents because their parents tended to want to help them. After setting this financial boundary, they never expected or asked for financial assistance from them. Still, they gratefully accept the occasional financial gift, because they know their parents enjoy blessing them from time to time.
One of the biggest issues newlyweds often face is whether to ask family members for financial assistance. Young couples often face great financial challenges, especially in this economy. They’re beginning careers and have few material things, and they often bring school debt (and sometimes other debt) into the marriage. They may have received financial assistance for their wedding, but because there’s so much pressure in today’s society to have it all, they may be tempted to seek more financial assistance to get established quickly.
Once you marry, try to avoid getting your parents involved in your finances. There are other ways you can receive help from your parents without becoming dependent on their financial resources. Maybe you respect the advice they may provide. The Bible reminds us that it’s not good to be indebted to anyone—and that includes parents (Proverbs 22:7). That’s good advice, especially where family is involved.
There are often hidden risks that come with borrowing money from family or friends. Sometimes the borrower is embarrassed to ask for a loan, and the lender is put in an awkward position, even if he or she wants to help. Promises are made and both parties expect to honor the arrangement, but too often the situation changes, and the debt is left unpaid.
When this happens, the borrower feels guilty and ashamed, while the lender feels disappointed and even angry and resentful. And the relationship is damaged because expectations are left unfulfilled and trust gets broken. So we encourage you to avoid borrowing from others, and if a family member or friend does offer you money, it works best if it’s a gift, not a loan. Relationships are simply too important to allow money to come between them.
Pam and Ben struggled to get on their feet financially when they were newly married. So Ben’s dad offered to build their dream home if they put an apartment in the basement for him. After the house was built and Ben’s dad had moved in with them, they found that living with him was easier said than done. Disagreements, different values, and relational issues opened Pam and Ben’s daily lives to critique, and they felt they didn’t have the right to refuse his counsel. Eventually they sold their dream house and moved into a house they could afford without the assistance or input of Ben’s father. After they freed themselves from the purse strings that made them feel obligated, they realized that they should have avoided financial ties to family from the start.
To set such boundaries, you and your spouse should take the lead with your respective parents. Establishing clear boundaries when necessary will benefit you, your mate, and your parents. And if you’re the parent, understand what all this means.
How has borrowing money affected a relationship in your life? I’d love to know!
Adapted from Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2014, all rights reserved. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.
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