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Ask Dave

Thankfulness and boundaries

Emily's future in-laws are moving a little too fast and going a bit too far in trying to do nice things for her and their son. Dave doesn't think they're bad folks, just excited about the upcoming marriage. He gives Emily some gentle advice on boundaries and relationships.

QUESTION: Emily from Champagne, IL, is in grad school and her fiancé is a youth pastor. They’re getting married in May, and her soon-to-be in-laws have found an inexpensive home for them and would like to gift them the down payment. Emily isn’t sure she likes the idea under the circumstances, so Dave walks her through this reasoning and offers his advice.

ANSWER: You need to get to know each other before you buy a house together. I always recommend that young couples rent for a year and concentrated on each other, the new marriage, cleaning up any debts you have and establishing an emergency fund. Then, a year or so from now, if something comes along and they want to help you get into a property by gifting you some money, it’s a wonderful offer if the timing is right and the property is right.

It sounds like these people are trying to do a very nice thing that they’re very comfortable with, but they kind of got out ahead of you. I don’t think they’re bad folks, but they violated some boundaries in your relationship with your fiancé. It sounds like they’re hard-driving, wide-open folks who just go do stuff. They didn’t mean to, but they stepped into your yard. They just really like you, and they’re glad you’re marrying their son, but they’re trying to help too hard.

If I were you, I’d sit down with your fiancé and say, “Honey, let’s tap the brakes and slow this thing down a bit.” Be very grateful in your language with his mom and dad, and he probably should do that. Just tell them how grateful you are, but that you two want to take a year and really get to know each other and rent something cheap. Then after a year, if you still want to help us with a down payment that would be very nice. But right now, we’re going to start a little slower.

That’s what I would suggest you do. I think it’ll be good for the boundary issue and for your finances. I would tell you to slow down, slow them down and slow everybody down. Just take your time, make sure you’re out of debt and have an emergency fund in place. And then, if they want to step up beside you and help you guys buy something, it would be very generous on their part. And, by the way, that would be a house that you pick out.