When Cultures Collide

Wendy married a Nigerian. His father is preparing for a retirement party next year. The adult children will be responsible for a lavish party. Wendy resents it because it's cutting into their financial plans.

QUESTION: Wendy in Phoenix is married to a Nigerian man, and his father is preparing for a retirement party next year. This means the adult children will be responsible for a lavish party. Wendy resents the party because it’s cutting into their own financial plans. Dave tells Wendy this party is going to be limited to Wendy and her husband’s budget.

ANSWER: When you married a man from Nigeria, did you never intend to visit his family because of your personal goals? I think a visit to his parents, knowing that you married a person from another country, is in the cards when you marry someone. It’s almost an implied part of the deal as far as I’m concerned. Unless he told you that his parents passed away or they didn’t have any relationship or something like that. You’ve known they were there and someday you’d visit them.

I think for the lavish party, it is reasonable to limit to your budget. There’s no reason that your family should bear the brunt for 90% of this party. That means his son is throwing the party, not his children. And his son is not independently wealthy. So it’s reasonable for you guys to limit your participation in that. What you’re describing to me is a $7,000 party on your part.

I think the $3,000 for airline tickets, you don’t have a right to whine about. Not even for 30 seconds. Welcome to being married. But the lavish party where some brothers and sisters don’t contribute, one of them is putting in a little bit and your husband is basically supposed to pay for it, then no. If my wife were to do that, I’d have a problem, and if I were to do that, she’d have a problem. The brothers and sisters need to pitch in some, and you need to pitch in less.

In my mind, with what you’re describing here, if the cost of living in Nigeria is a lot less, my guess is that if you put in a couple thousand bucks and they put in a thousand, then that’s going to be your lavish party. After that, it’s not going to happen, and the answer is no. Your husband is being guilt-tripped into carrying the whole load. That’s not a cultural thing, that’s a dysfunctional family.

I don’t know how far you’re going to get in the discussion with him, but in that part of the discussion, I would probably limit it to a couple thousand dollars, and then you’re not allowed to whine at all about the airline part.

You are just going to slow down a little bit on your debt reduction goals while you do this. But it’s not like you’re going to stop. I’m saying instead of a $10,000 budget, I have a total budget for $5,000 max, and everyone else chips in, or we’re not even doing that.

Or you can fly dad over here and bake a turkey. We could do that cheaper as well. Throw out some other options. Those are some things to think through. But I think you’re probably in on this one to a degree. I don’t think you’re going to win the argument to say we do nothing in this situation. Really, what I’m doing there is I am bending to cultural mandate a little bit.