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Ask Dave

You Aren't Helping Him

Laura has been helping her brother pay rent and utilities for a few years off and on. How long should she and her husband keep this up? Dave tells Laura they're not really helping this guy.

QUESTION: Laura in Kansas City has been helping her brother pay rent and utilities for a few years off and on. How long should she and her husband keep this up? They don’t want to deplete their own emergency fund, but they worry her brother will hurt himself if they stop helping. Dave tells Laura they’re not really helping this guy.

ANSWER: This guy either needs help or he’s a drama queen. When someone is threatening suicide, I pop them into the psych ward instantaneously. I would have the cops pick the person up and put them in the psych ward, because I assume that all threats are real. If the only reason that he’s not committing suicide is because you’re paying his rent, then he’s got serious mental issues. I am no longer going to be blackmailed by that.

The question is whether you are really helping this guy, and the answer is no. His drama has gone on for years, and he has not dealt with his drama. You are allowing him to not have to deal with his drama by paying his rent for him.

If he’s working on something and you’re seeing progress and he is seeing a counselor and the suicide issue is starting to wane away and he’s starting to plug into the culture and get a job and all these kinds of things, then you see his life getting better. Then you are putting your hand under his foot and lifting him onto the horse.

Right now, if you lift this guy onto the horse, he just falls off the other side. If you say that the unemployment rate where he lives is 25%, that means 75% of the people are working. He’s not employable because of his state of mind. If he came in to interview with me, I’d smell all this drama on him in about 30 seconds, and the interview would be over. He’s not employable because he hasn’t dealt with his stuff.

We need to get this guy marketable again so he can go win. He needs some wins. You can tell if you’re helping someone by asking what their life will look like in 20 years. Project it out and ask if you are getting traction. Are we moving him in the direction he needs to be moving?

He needs a new vision, a new set of goals and some new things to do with his life so he can suck it up, rear back his shoulders, and bay at the moon again. This guy hasn’t won in a while. He needs to win, and you paying his rent is not forcing him to win.

I’m not going to put up with his victim language. Oh, he lives in a place with 25% unemployment—oh, shut up! Don’t participate in his being a victim. It’s time for him to not be a victim anymore. Step up and help him win—don’t make excuses for him. Then you are helping him by paying his rent. Right now you are just participating in his whining.

I’m not going there. You’re not helping him there. Five years from today he’ll be worse than he is now.