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Ask Dave

Wealthy In-Laws Giving Too Much

David's wife comes from a wealthy family, and she wants to use her dad as their emergency fund. They're both 23 and have only been married a few months.

QUESTION: David in Tulsa says his wife comes from a wealthy family, and she wants to use her dad as their emergency fund. They’re both 23 and have only been married a few months. Dave recommends sitting down with her dad and having a heart-to-heart talk about this.

ANSWER: Why don’t you sit down and talk to him about it? Pose the same question to him. Just say, “I need some advice because this is what my wife is saying, and I know in my heart that it’s wrong. And I know that you want us to be mature adults. We know you’re there and you love us, and if something bad happened to us, we could come to you. But we need to learn to plan our own lives, and I need some advice on how to talk to her or your help in talking to her to convince her that we need the dignity of being an adult couple standing on our own.”

If he’s giving you money all the time, you need to talk to him. You said your relationship’s amazing, so you ought to be able to say, “Dude, you are neutering your son-in-law.” If I step in with one of my daughters and I give them money—and we’ve built some wealth so we do some things with our kids—but if I step in to the point that one of my daughters doesn’t think she needs her husband and they don’t need to build a life as a married couple, then as a father, I have done harm to my grown daughter, and I’ve neutered my son-in-law in the process. In his kindness and his ability to do things for his daughter, that’s what he’s doing to you. He’s taking your manhood away. That’s got to stop. Really, I don’t think she’s probably going to be able to do that.

If you think you’ve got a good relationship with him and think he’s a good guy, you need to tell him in a loving way. Start out the conversation first about how much you appreciate him, how much you love and respect him, and how much you appreciate his gifts. But the kindness is weakening your relationship because it’s hard for you to be a man when the real man is her daddy. You need to say that to him over coffee, just the two of you. He needs to back off a couple of steps. If one of my son-in-laws came to me and said that, I can explain to my wife she’s not taking our daughter shopping anymore. To the extent that we can do that and do some nice things for our kids or they can do some nice things for you and it doesn’t interfere in the relationship, then that’s okay. But this is interfering because when Daddy is the emergency fund, that means she never left home. It’s time she did, because the preacher says you leave your father and mother and cleave to your husband.

The good news is he’s a good guy and not a rich jerk. The sooner you talk to him the better. I think you’ll see some good response from him, because there are boundary issues here.