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jnkpauley's avatar

Help sister-in-law or not?

Asked by jnkpauley (226points) August 23rd, 2016

My husband and I have been married for nearly 20 years. We’re in our 50’s and we have both work hard all our adult lives. We have no children. His sister is also in her 50’s. She has been married and divorced 3 times and has 5 children. Two of the kids are at home with her. One is unable to live alone. The other is just starting high school. Sister-in-law is very needy. While she appears to be able bodied, she makes it known that she is in pain, fatigued, etc., and has never worked outside the home. She was in a car accident some years ago which has affected her neck – to what extent, I don’t know – but it is a point of focus for her. My widowed father-in-law has taken care of his daughter most of her life, and gives her money and buys her things (appliances, car). He is now elderly and very ill. While he will likely leave his daughter money, he seems to be trying to lay the groundwork in order that we basically take up where he left off. After receiving an email from his dad, my husband seems to be caving in to the guilt and pressure placed on him by his dad to “help out”. I feel extremely uncomfortable with this arrangement and feel I should have some say in this. I believe his father respects me and I
did voice my opinion about the situation. I feel that she is a grown woman, capable, and of well above-average intelligence, who can learn to do for and provide for herself. I am not sure he heard (or wants to hear) the message clearly. How do my husband and I, diplomatically, tell his father and sister that we do not want to carry on the family tradition of taking care of her?

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8 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

First of all, make sure you and your husband fully agree with this, that your husband won’t relent or change his mind.

Secondly, I would not cut her completely off, but rather work on some way to ease her off dependence on family. Let her know that you cannot help her after, say, the first of the year, or next April. You many need to see about having a Social Worker help her determine what community support may be available.

Again, I emphasize your having discussions about this with your husband. You may need a counselor yourselves to communicate over this; it is the kind of issue which can cause severe disruption to a marriage. By your own statements, it does not appear that your husband agrees with you.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Very hard and delicate situation! You cannot ignore her but neither can you bear the burden for ever. This woman has to realize that SHE is responsible for her actions. She needs moral support but also has to draw the line somewhere. Speak to your husband and stick to a certain approach.

Coloma's avatar

If she has never worked outside the home and has some health issues and she is in her 50’s, well, this is not like she is 25 years old with a college degree and refusing to work. I would be supportive but not over “help.” Tell her what you can and are willing to do. Helping her in practical ways ( buying the kids new clothes, helping with a car repair, giving a gift card now and then, etc.) or when things are tight does not mean you have to buy her a new car or pay her bills.

Ask her what she is willing to do if you do help her in some way. Maybe she can house sit for you if you travel, do some housekeeping, or other tasks that you could use help with. You shouldn’t have to support her, obviously, but, if your biggest reason for not wanting to help her at all is because you feel resentful she hasn’t had to work as hard as you and your husband, well, I’d say, show a little compassion. It is hard to find work in your 50’s, I know, I was wiped out in the recession and am barely getting by these days.

I was married once and have one adult child, but, trust me, I never thought I’d be in this position and while I do not ask for help, it is appreciated when a friend does something nice for me as I was able to do for myself and others for many years.
As long as she is not some shop-a-holic and lives within her means what’s wrong with showing a little love and generosity?

PriceisRightx26's avatar

Chronic pain can be invisible but it is very real. Please understand that. Discuss the situation with your husband, determine what is necessary, and help out if you can. Beyond that, there are just too many variables and I don’t believe you’re approaching this objectively enough, to be honest..

ZEPHYRA's avatar

While I truly understand what you are all saying and I agree the woman needs support and love, I also know for a fact that certsin people do take advantage of help, kindness and support. I don’t know if this lady is that kind of person and I hope she isn’t. I am all in favor of family support, however if this couple end up carrying her and her kids on their backs and always feeling obliged to be there, believe me, things will become nightmarish. I would feel very overwhelmed by all this as @jnkpauley obviously does.

JLeslie's avatar

Honestly, the questions that come to my mind are, where were the dad’s of the five children to help support the kids? Was the accident after any of these 5 kids were born? Do I sit in judgement a little? Maybe. It depends on the details, which I don’t completely know. I think the 5 kids should be helping to take care of their mother more than her siblings. I do think helping out here and there if you gave the money is nice, and I would most likely do that, but I wouldn’t be fully supporting her.

If your FIL wants to do it then he should give her the money now. Hopefully, she doesn’t blow through it fast. Or, he can set it up in a trust for her and put you or someone else in charge of the trust. If he doesn’t have a will he needs to go to an estate lawyer ASAP.

I tend to believe people who are in chronic pain. Does she get disability?

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Good points about the fathers of the kids and the adult kids helping if they are able.
@ZEPHYRA Yes, I agree, helping out now and then is not the same thing as fully supporting another.

disquisitive's avatar

Do what you feel is right for you to do. I know that I would tell FIL to provide for SIL in his will if he wants her to be dependent forever.

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