Not Co-Signing Is An Act Of Love

Celeste and her husband are close with her brother. He called them to ask about co-signing on a home loan. How do they lovingly and respectfully tell him no?

QUESTION: Celeste in Minnesota and her husband are close with her brother. He called them to ask about co-signing on a home loan. How do they lovingly and respectfully tell him no? Not doing the deal is an act of great love, as Dave explains.

ANSWER: I’ve found in those situations that a real good diplomatic way of doing things is just tell the truth. What is the truth? The truth is that co-signing is a dumb idea because if any little thing happens, it could put a strain on an otherwise great relationship. The answer is if I were talking to your brother, I might say, “As weird as it sounds, I’m not going to co-sign because I love you and because I treasure our relationship too much to put it in jeopardy. I know that our relationship is based on a whole lot more than you using me to get things.”

If he’s the type who gets mad over this kind of thing, then your relationship’s not really good anyway. That’s an illusion. Relationships that are based on taking from one another only are not real relationships. I’m guessing he probably won’t. You just have to be kind about it. You could just say this is an awkward conversation because you don’t want to hurt his feelings, but if you have to, you’re willing to risk hurting his feelings now to keep from really hurting them later. You don’t want to have this conversation. It’s weird to talk to him about this, but he asked, so you answer. And talk about the awkwardness of the moment. There’s awkwardness in the air. That’s why he’s asking you about it. It’s okay to say it’s weird and you don’t really want to have this conversation, but you need to give him a solid answer, and it has nothing to do with him. If there was one person on the planet that you would co-sign for, it would be him, but there’s not one person on the planet.

You would be stupid to co-sign for anyone. There are people I love more deeply than anything, and I’m not going to harm them. He obviously can’t afford the mortgage. So you’re going to help him harm himself by buying something he can’t afford. That’s not helping him. That’s hurting him. You don’t necessarily want to go there in the conversation if you don’t have to, but that ought to give you lots of assurance that not co-signing is you really helping him. People don’t like to hear no, so you’ll see how that works out.

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