Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “He Supports His Entire Family”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I have been seeing a guy for about seven months, but I am worried to become more serious due to his family situation. He supports his entire family, meaning he works a lot and money is really tight. I wouldn’t have such an issue with it if I didn’t feel that his family was taking advantage of him. His mother does not work due to medical issues, so I understand helping her. But both of his sisters have children with no support from the fathers, yet one has been out of a job for over 5 years and the other only works sporadically. Neither sister is looking for another job. I think that it is awesome that he helps out so much (paying rent, buying food, etc), but I’m terrified what will happen if his sisters get pregnant again. I don’t think he should abandon his family, but I wish he would insist that they carry their own weight. What concerns me is helping his family would delay or even rule out buying a home, having children of our own, etc. Is it my place to say something, and if so, what can I ask?
86 comments… add one
  • Budj

    Budj January 16, 2012, 10:06 am

    I think it’s tough to say something here until he expresses wanting to be more serious…just coming out of the blue and saying it before he wants to move forward could be viewed as offensive. IF this is an absolute dealbreaker I would just move on without commenting on his financial situation.

    If you stick it out long enough to have that conversation I would express your concerns how you put it here. You think it’s great he takes care of his family, but you are concerned with your financial future together if he continues to “enable” (don’t use that word…that is what I’m calling it) his family…you have a valid concern here so don’t feel bad about it. Be prepared to be hated by the sisters though because you are rocking the boat they have happily been riding for 5 years.

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  • avatar

    anonymous January 16, 2012, 10:23 am

    Do you have a sense of why he’s doing it? Does he do it because that’s what men in his family culture “have” to do? Or does he do it out of love & not mind going without himself if it means he can help his sibs?

    Both of these can be positive traits, speaking of his commitment to doing the “right” thing even if/when he doesn’t feel like it (in the first example), or speaking of his generosity (in the second case). Either of those could speak well of a person.

    However, if he’s doing it out of guilt and then resenting them, or allowing them to treat him poorly, you have a guy on your hands who is going to need a lot of help, and I don’t see a great future. You’ll be feeling like you have to stand up for him, and the sisters are going to hate you for it. Eventually he’ll probably resent your interference too, although he won’t necessarily say anything.

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    • Budj

      Budj January 16, 2012, 10:40 am

      Two sisters living in the home both with children and fathers that don’t pay child support unwilling to find long-term employment of any kind when their mother is living at home completely unable to work (in a lot of situations this would be considered easy / free day care unless her disability made her immobile) = I’m willing to assume this is a situation where the guy is being / letting himself be taken advantage of. There is no reason this guy has to foot the bill for the whole family.

      This is also assuming we don’t get an update that both sisters are in school full-time or some other hugely important detail…

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      • avatar

        MsBorgia January 16, 2012, 11:40 am

        Your comment about getting more details in an update made me giggle.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B January 16, 2012, 12:39 pm

        I just don’t get why women don’t get child support from the fathers of their kids. Legally, they can be compelled to pay. I understand the women may not want to deal with him anymore, but you don’t have to see him when he drops the check in the mailbox or gets it deducted from his paycheck.

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      • avatar

        ForeverYoung January 16, 2012, 12:50 pm

        Yeah I don’t get it either. Your brother didn’t knock you up, so why is he supporting you? These girls sound extremely selfish. At least one of them can work full time while the other watches the kids. I can’t even imagine asking my brother to do that for me.

        Why does no one seem to have pride in being able to support themselves anymore? It’s like everyone is looking for the next sugar daddy. It’s gross.

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      • avatar

        atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 3:58 pm

        Also legal fees to track the guy down ain’t cheap. Especially if in the end it amounts to chump change if the father’s dont make much money or don’t report it

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      • avatar

        *HmC* January 16, 2012, 7:32 pm

        That’s what the Department of Child Support Services is for (that’s what it’s called in California anyway). They’ll go after the non-paying party (let’s face it, almost always the father) on your behalf. The process isn’t that complicated, but a lot of people are woefully unaware of how it works. Most fathers aren’t THAT difficult to find. And DCSS will deduct child support money from their paychecks OR many other forms of income (social security, unemployment). A court order to pay child support is serious business and it’s worth a lot of money to the mother and the child. It’s really astounding to me that more mothers don’t go after this money.

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      • avatar

        iseeshiny January 16, 2012, 12:53 pm

        That’s assuming the fathers have jobs. And while legally they can be compelled to pay, you have to know where he is. If he works under the able in another state it’s kind of tricky to get his wages garnished. I have a friend whose ex (and father of her two children) waits tables and his income appears so low due to unreported tips that he’s only required to pay her twenty bucks a week. It’s not like most of these deadbeat dads are doctors or lawyers with well-documented incomes, ties to the community and incentive to keep up the image of an upstanding member of the community. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

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      • avatar

        iseeshiny January 16, 2012, 12:53 pm

        That’s not saying I think the sisters are right to sponge off the brothers.

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      • avatar

        Flake January 16, 2012, 12:58 pm

        I have a friend who is an unemployed single mom. Right now the unemployment part is not by choice, but she is taking this time off to take care of her 2-year old. She knows the father and doesn’t ask for child support because she is too “proud”. He is a loser that gets welfare and is working “under the table”… I will never get this reasoning…

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      • avatar

        oldie January 16, 2012, 1:01 pm

        Often this is done not out of pride but as a way to keep the father out of the child’s life. The mothers may know full well what awful guys the fathers of their children are.

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      • avatar

        Flake January 16, 2012, 1:04 pm

        Not in this case.. I do know the guy, he is no prize definitely, but he is harmless. They have friends in common, and they do talk on occasion. It’s just that she is hell-bent for some reason to prove that she can do this on her own.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B January 16, 2012, 1:38 pm

        Then she’s letting her pride get in the way, in my opinion. Even if the guy is a loser, more money towards the child’s upkeep is better than less.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 16, 2012, 4:02 pm

        I agree with oldie here. A lot of times kicking in child support means the father gets visitation rights. That gives him the right to come in and out of the child’s life as he pleases. Unless the mother can prove that he’s unfit to be a parent at all, it’s unlikely that she would be able to keep him from visiting the kids. And it is scary what some of these “fathers” do during visitations with their kids. I’ve always said that if I had any doubt a guy would be a decent and present father, I would rather take three jobs and keep him out of my kid’s life. Of course, the moms here aren’t pulling their weight to make up for it.

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      • avatar

        plasticepoxy January 16, 2012, 6:50 pm

        in MN (at least I think this is the way it goes here) child support and visitation are two separate issues.

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      • avatar

        AKchic January 17, 2012, 6:30 pm

        Child support and visitation are two separate issues. A parent can be years behind in child support but still be allowed visitation. In fact, you cannot legally deny a non-custodial parent visitation based on past-due child support. At least, not in Alaska.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 17, 2012, 8:07 pm

        Well, I’m no lawyer so I’m not entirely sure, but I think all of that falls under a parenting plan in TN, so if you go to set up one of those things, you’ll probably be setting up the other too. So if the fathers don’t have visitation already, they may be trying to keep that from coming up. I don’t know.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar January 16, 2012, 2:07 pm

        It isn’t a question of pride for your friend – it is a question of what the child is entitled to. The money isn’t for her – it is for the welfare of the child. I think it is a type of negligence to not maximize every benefit owed to your child. True some men hid wages and end up paying very little but at least you can say those mothers tried. Some people like to martyr themselves though – it is sad when the child has to suffer because of it. Even $20 a week is over $1000 a year. I don’t know anyone that would turn down $1000 for no good reason.

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      • avatar

        atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 4:01 pm

        I agree with you. Its unfair to the child if that woman knows the father not to maximize what she can get. Too often people equate child support with money for my good for nothing ex-spouse when in reality that money belongs to the child. Why a man would not give the full amount is awful as well. The kid suffers because of two dumb parents

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      • avatar

        AKchic January 17, 2012, 6:27 pm

        Kate, as a mother who doesn’t get child support for her two oldest children – let me give you an education in the child support system (known as CSSD in Alaska).

        If you have an open case with the CSSD office, then you have a case worker that doesn’t do much. Every month, you will get a statement mailed to you saying that X amount is owed to you in a monthly amount, X amount in arrears, and X amount tacked on for interest on the arrears. Currently, for my second son, I am owed a total of a little over $28,200 for the last 9 years.
        If the father does not work, CSSD does not collect. Plain and simple. If the father does not get a paycheck (i.e., works “under the table”/gets paid in cash only), CSSD does not collect. If the father moves around a lot, CSSD “cannot locate” the father to “enforce a support order”. If the father does not have a home or utilities in his name, CSSD cannot locate him. CSSD doesn’t actually put a whole helluva lot of effort into finding these guys. Trust me on this one.
        CSSD gets a very small percentage of the monies they collect for “processing fees”. The only time they are gung-ho about collecting is when the person they are collecting for is on welfare (medicaid or cash assistance) because then the gov’t keeps the money as recompense for the money expended for welfare payments. Food stamps does not count in this, nor does state-funded child insurance. Some states are better at collecting child support than others.
        Some guys will refuse to work rather than pay. Some will work until CSSD catch up to them and start deducting from their paychecks. Then they quit and start the process all over again.

        Now, some women don’t have CSSD involvement for a variety of reasons. Not knowing the paternity of the child(ren) is one reason. CSSD can and will pay for DNA test(s) to establish paternity so child support can be collected. Some do it in order to prove that they are “cool” with their former flames. In some cases, the fathers are in prison or even dead, so there is no money to be had.

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      • avatar

        LW January 18, 2012, 2:08 pm

        One father is in jail and the other one does not work, so not much child support to get!

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      • avatar

        LW January 18, 2012, 2:06 pm

        Letter writer here! The sisters are not in school!

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  • avatar

    Michelle January 16, 2012, 10:24 am

    I think it’s better to say something sooner. If this is not what you want in your life, move on and end it now. His family is going to be part of the package, don’t expect to change that.

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  • Leroy

    Leroy January 16, 2012, 10:28 am

    I wouldn’t confront this issue directly, but it’s appropriate to ask him what he wants for himself in the future. This will tell you whether he views his current obligations as temporary, or if he expects to be supporting these women indefinitely. And whether he has a realistic idea of what he’ll be able to achieve with them attached. But he either recognizes that this situation is a burden or he doesn’t. I doubt that he needs to have you point this out to him.

    Expect to have these women turn on you if they sense that you’re going to alter their arrangement.

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    • avatar

      cporoski January 16, 2012, 11:00 am

      This is a great answer. You are totally right. I know couples who support family members and it is a big strain. It is one thing to support a family member in thier 80s and another supporting them in thier 50s. Think long and hard about this one, LW.

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      • Leroy

        Leroy January 16, 2012, 3:33 pm

        Thanks. I have the suspicion, just based on some of the details she’s provided, that her BF may have grown up in an environment where this sort of behavior is relatively normal. Which is why it’s probably best for her to try to understand his perspective and mindset before confronting him on the issue.

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  • avatar

    CG January 16, 2012, 10:37 am

    YES to being hated by the sisters. My aunt was in that exact situation for the entire 25 years of her marriage because her now-ex-hubby supported his family before they married and his family was pissed when she came along and objected to that. (And they were like the LW’s potential sisters-in-law — able to work, just chose not to.) And my ex-uncle still gave his fam money, even when his wife and children needed things. At one point, my aunt and cousins literally did not have a working bathtub/shower in their house — and actually had a big hole in their bathroom floor! — because he gave his parents and siblings the money that would have been used to fix the bathroom. So my aunt was in a very tough situation between the doing without and the rocky relationship with her in-laws. Hopefully the LW doesn’t find herself in a similar situation if she gets more serious with her BF.

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    • avatar

      CG January 16, 2012, 10:38 am

      This was supposed to be a reply to Budj! Don’t know what happened.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar January 16, 2012, 10:37 am

    I would ask him how he envisions his life: What does he want for himself – a wife? kids? a home? And if he has a plan to achieve it. If his plan is to maintain the status quo then you have your answer – he comes as is – and if it is bothering you now then move on because these types of problems don’t get better with age. If HE wants a different life than one involving supporting his family then you can talk about how he would like to achieve it and you can assess the likelihood of that happening. Then you can decide on how long you are willing to wait to see it is actually happens.
    I generally believe that you shouldn’t try and change people from how they were when you met them – but since the behaviour could affect any future relationship with you, after seven months I think you can ask if he wants to change this part of his life or not and go from there.

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  • avatar

    Temperance January 16, 2012, 10:54 am

    I think what you should do is bring it up by mentioning that you think it would be fun for the 2 of you to save up for a vacation, and wait for his response. If he says that he can’t afford it because of X reason, you could gently ask him why he’s paying for his sisters. (Gently. Not like I just did.)

    Have the two of you talked about moving in together? That’s the first step to cutting the purse strings. His mother would likely qualify for disability if she’s actually disabled, and his sisters need to get jobs and child support.

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    • avatar

      savannah January 16, 2012, 11:30 am

      Ugh, if only thats how disability worked. Is a hugely tedious and bureaucratic process that can last for months, even years. Plus there are unholy time requirements, if she’s has not worked for years it will be very hard to qualify for it now and the paperwork to defend and document her disability is costly as well.This is especially true if they don’t have good records of the onset of her disability. Just another friendly reminder of our government clusterfuck.

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      • avatar

        cporoski January 16, 2012, 4:54 pm

        It might be alot of paperwork but if you aren’t working, you should have plenty of time to fill it out and read up on it. just saying.

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      • avatar

        ForeverYoung January 16, 2012, 5:00 pm

        My thoughts exactly.

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      • avatar

        savannah January 16, 2012, 6:36 pm

        Eek! This is the attitude of people who have never attempted to make a system like that work for them. The process looks nothing like just a stack of paperwork they send you home with. It’s getting ahold of documents that no longer exist or never existed, attending multiple doctors appointments, wrangling specialists to see you and have them document your disability, and for this mom in question since she has been out of work she must also historically defend her unemployment (by way of her disability) by documentation as well.
        Think about how that process gets even more complicated if say you are disabled and have limited mobility, speak english as a second language, rely on public transportation or are uninsured for example. And again my main point is that after all of that effort if his mother has been out of work for years, she might not qualify, period no matter how much paperwork she fils out. Sounds like some able bodied and employed privilege speaking though your comment. Just saying.

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      • avatar

        ForeverYoung January 16, 2012, 6:49 pm

        I guess I just think the effort should be worth it to her, and especially to the boyfriend. I’m sure he could help her with a lot of this stuff like the transportation, paperwork, etc. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great the boyfriend is taking care of his mother (unlike his sisters who are just lazy leeches), but if she can’t work due to a disability she should have looked into all this immediately upon becoming disabled, not now, 5 years later.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 16, 2012, 7:02 pm

        There are a few things about this letter that make me think the boyfriend’s family may be an immigrant family. The strong dedication to family – the only able-bodied male keeping the women afloat – the family members all living together (or did I just assume this?)… I’m wondering if there is some sort of immigration issue that would keep her from receiving disability. Has she ever worked in the U.S.? Is she a U.S. citizen? Does she speak English?

        Am I the only one who thought this?

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      • avatar

        savannah January 16, 2012, 7:02 pm

        Yes, I totally agree, she should still try to get on it. She should have immediately. It will be very hard for her now. But maybe shes already tired and failed. Some people have to refile 3,4 times before they qualify, if at all. I’m just trying to convey that 1. it is not so easy as ‘just’ getting on disability and 2. they might have already explored this option and it is closed to them.

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        ForeverYoung January 16, 2012, 7:28 pm

        Yeah, my comment wasn’t really helpful. Normally I try to stay away from “you should have done this” because it’s a little late at that point, but I don’t understand how all of these problems have fallen solely onto the boyfriends shoulders, especially with 2 other adults capable of working in the house. Which leads me to believe he has no backbone, and she should just move on. After 5 years of his supporting them, I don’t know how he could change his life to have a healthy dynamic with which to create a future with the LW.

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        atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 9:48 pm

        I thought they were an immigrant family too. But I was scared of speaking up in case it looked bad. Which now that I read your comment it doesn’t. If they are an immigrant family there may be even more reason for them to stick together especially if the sisters/mom have trouble with english. Also he might just come from a culture where they remain heavily involved in each other’s lives whether fully grown or not

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      • avatar

        LW January 18, 2012, 2:22 pm

        Letter writer! The family is not an immigrant family. The mother does receive disability, but it is only about $500 which doesn’t even cover rent.

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      • avatar

        Temperance January 16, 2012, 9:22 pm

        Oh, I am familiar with the process. I know that it takes a long time and several appeals … but isn’t that better than relying on family if you don’t have to?

        I saw downthread that you commented with the possibility that this is an immigrant family, which would explain why they are so close. I didn’t think of that because Mr. Temperance used to support his family, so I just assumed that they were freeloading. (Not the disabled mom, obvs.)

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    oldie January 16, 2012, 11:26 am

    I don’t think LW should wait to address this. It sounds like she want the relationship to become serious, but this is a huge stumbling block. I suspect it is MOA time, but she should have the discussion with bf first. He is like a guy who is paying alimony and child support from two failed marriages. Even if he is a great guy and a hard worker, any financial future with him is severely curtailed, because he is already supporting three families. Unless LW sees herself being happy as virtually the sole bread winner for her own new family, with a less than available husband who is working beyond full time to support his birth family, she needs to MOA. As LW says, if she decides on a life with this guy, she will be choosing a life in which she likely cannot have a house and kids of her own and will come in second to the birth family. It is tough to leave a bf, who seems like an extremely good guy, but a future with him is dim. From the way the LW wrote, it doesn’t sound as if she is wealthy or has a huge salary. If she does, then she needs to decide whether she is willing to support bf’s family.

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      cporoski January 16, 2012, 11:53 am

      Very good point. LW, If you move in with this guy, INSIST on separate finances. Because he can use his extra for the sisters and not his whole income. Because, what will happen is you will pay the bills and even more will go to the sister if they are together. I am someone who thinks money and financial security is very important and I would run the other way from this situation.

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        AmitR January 16, 2012, 12:29 pm

        I guess Love being what it is, LW can decide if she will MOA or not. But this I can say with certainty: it would be stupid to move in with him into this situation!

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    • Will.i.am

      Will.i.am January 17, 2012, 10:12 am

      And this is the problem I would have as well. Not everyone’s ideal situation is to live pillar to post with their boyfriend or girlfriend, even if they love each other very much. There’s a VERY BIG DIFFERENCE between marrying someone one way and then something bad happens while you are married, then walking into a relationship that is already financially strained.

      I personally can’t do it, because it is a very big strain that can’t fix itself very easily. Especially in this situation, where his family comes first and anything else comes second. Trust me, you don’t want to live the rest of your life coming up 4th or 5th in the pecking order, and I can guarantee his mother and sisters will have a lot of say so about your marriage. From their standpoint you are taking their “money tree” away from them, which means that they can’t survive any longer. You are the problem, not them, because “blood is thicker than water.”

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  • avatar

    Anna January 16, 2012, 11:37 am

    You’ve been together for 7 months, so it’s definitely not too soon to have a talk about the future. My boyfriend and I moved in together after a year but started talking about it at around 7-8 months. I would just start out by asking him what his future goals are – does he want his own family? See if his goals line up with yours. If you determine that they do and you both could see yourselves moving forward together, then it would be appropriate to address the mooching sisters. Of course, don’t use that term. I would say “I really admire how responsible you are in taking care of your family, and that’s a quality I look for in a life partner…however, it concerns me that you may not be able to maintain your current level of financial support for them if you have a family of your own someday. How would you potentially resolve that situation if it came up?” Something like that.

    As for the sisters, they need to learn a lesson in responsibility from your boyfriend. I understand their baby daddies don’t pay child support, but it takes two to make a child! That means two people are responsible for providing for the child, not just the father. They need to get off their asses and get jobs ASAP. I don’t know how old the children are but they need a positive adult influence who teaches them to work hard rather than take advantage of anyone they can leech off of. They especially have no excuse if the mother is able enough to babysit while they go to work.

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    atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 11:44 am

    This is something taht will likely continute to be a problem. If he hasn’t stuck up for himself in 5 years of his sister not working how do you expect him to act in the future. People don’t change LW they don’t. Chances are you will always fight about this. Or he’ll just choose his family over you

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    ForeverYoung January 16, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Um what? The mom I get. The two sisters who are popping out babies that they can’t afford with men who clearly can’t support them either? LW, your boyfriend needs to get a backbone. I agree that if you try to change him the sisters will hate you. Is this the type of drama you need in your life?

    Honestly, I would MOA. I don’t see how this situation is going to resolve itself. Maybe that’s harsh, but if your boyfriend has been used for long enough he will never get himself out of the situation. Are you okay with him supporting his family indefinitely? Because at least with his mom he will probably be supporting her for the rest of her life. And at the rate he’s going he’s also going to be supporting his sisters and however many kids they decide to pop out. Yikes.

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  • avatar

    artsygirl January 16, 2012, 12:21 pm

    LW – Finances and families are two major stresses in any relationship, and you have them doubled up. Yes it is wonderful that your BF works so hard to insure that he is helping out his family but it sounds like this has gone well into the realm of them taking advantage of him. Unfortunately, I doubt anything is likely to change. After 5 years of support they have come to expect it, and I imagine that even if you convince him to cut off the money, they will a) guilt him back into giving them support and/or b) he will feel inclined to him them out over Christmas gifts, and then school supplies, etc until you are back at him handing over his money every week, AND c)everyone is going to resent you. I think the only person who can stop this cycle is your BF and I don’t think he is likely to do that again AFTER 5 YEARS! Maybe he has a hero complex, maybe he thinks that it is his place as ‘the man of the family’, who knows. You need to sit down with him and voice your concerns. If you do decide to move in with him, keep finances separate otherwise you will be supporting these mooches. P.S. It doesn’t matter that the fathers of his nieces/nephews are not in their lives, they are financially responsible and can be taken to court, have their wages garnished or even imprisoned for not paying child support.

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      artsygirl January 16, 2012, 12:28 pm

      P.P.S I forgot to mention, that if I were in your shoes I would MOA, unless he can show a plan to remove his financial ‘obligations’ and stick to it. Right now I think your position is untenable. You can either be the financial martyr who will never be able to save money or purchase things you want/need. “Sorry darling, I know I promised to take you on a honeymoon cruise but my sister is pregnant again and will need the money for her hospital bills”. The other option is that you are the bitchy sister in law who is running your husband’s life, making all the decisions and being generally disliked by your sisters-in-law, your mother-in-law, assorted nieces and nephews, and quiet possibly your husband.

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        atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 4:03 pm

        Agree. The toll of being the bitchy woman will weigh down on you. You’ll be the nag. The one that doesn’t let him etc. And it will start to make you feel less than attractive

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  • avatar

    KarenWalker January 16, 2012, 1:08 pm

    Your boyfriend’s actions make it clear that he values his family and that he wants to be there for them, which can very admirable. So completely withdrawing help is probably out of the question. Before approaching him, you need to do some reflecting: if you have a future with him, what are you prepared to do to help his family? Will you be ok with always supporting his mother, maybe even having her live with you? What are you willing to do to help his sisters? Maybe help them look for jobs, offer to babysit for free on occasion, maybe cook dinner or buy groceries once in a while as they’re getting back on their feet? Once you’ve really thought about what you find acceptable in terms of the help you are willing to offer his family (if any), then I would talk with your boyfriend.

    Are you at a point in your relationship that it makes sense to have a conversation about the future and where things are headed? If so, are you both thinking you want a future together? If so, then, and only then, would I bring up your concerns. I would talk about the things you want for your combined future: a wedding, a home, a family. Now’s the time for you to discuss your financial situations and tell him you are happy to contribute to your mutual expenses.

    Raise your concern about how much money he is spending to help his family: how are you two going to be able to support your own family (and maybe his mother), while he is supporting two other families? Reinforce how you think he is a good guy for helping and how you admire his family values (if that’s really how you feel). Acknowledge that his mother is truly in need of his help and how you think it’s good that he is there for her. If you’re ok with supporting her, too, tell him that.

    Mention your concerns about his sisters. Point out that they are lucky to have a brother like him to help them when they were in a rough spot. Gently remind him that they no longer have to be in that rough spot. Point out that they are capable of working and that there are plenty of lawyers available to help single moms hold fathers responsible in terms of child support. Talk about the ways you’d be willing to help them out. Try to be as non-confrontational as possible; they are his sisters and they’ve successfully manipulated him into paying their way for a long time so he may be defensive/blind to how he is being used.

    Let him know that you love him and want a future together, but that you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of life you two have worked hard for and should be able to have (*so that his freeloading sisters can milk him dry* – don’t say that last part). Let him know you don’t expect this change to happen overnight, but that you can’t see yourself having a future together if you don’t see improvement within, say, 6 months. If he understands your point of view and seems agreeable, the two of you need to figure out a plan of action: 1) when is he going to talk to his sisters? 2) how long are you going to give them before stopping the financial help? 3) will he completely stop giving them money or will he decrease the amount little by little? 4) will talking to his mother help/will she get on board with this plan? 5) what will he do if sisters and/or mom give him a hard time; will he stick to his guns or will he give in to their demands?

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    • avatar

      Something More January 16, 2012, 2:01 pm

      This is exactly the opposite of what Karen Walker would say 😉

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      • JK

        JK January 16, 2012, 4:21 pm

        Yes, when I was reading it I realized that I was reading it in Karen´s voice (in my head), and it was so out of character, it was bizarre!

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        Something More January 16, 2012, 6:27 pm

        “Oh honey, what is this? What’s happening here? Get me a martini and quit your whining!”

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  • avatar

    stilgar666 January 16, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Talk to him. If he doesn’t share your concerns…MOA.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't January 16, 2012, 1:41 pm

    It seems like however she broaches the subject, the LW is left with two options:

    1). sacrificing home ownership, children, vacations and a financial cushion in order to stay with a man who is supporting his entire family.

    2). having in laws who absolutely hate her guts for stopping the gravy train and a partner who might resent her (if he is worried about the well-being of his nieces/nephews or if his sisters cut off contact in retaliation).

    I dunno, LW….neither one of these seems all that awesome.

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  • avatar

    rob ottapocalypse January 16, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Jump ship. He’s shown with his siblings that he’s a bad parent. He’s parented his siblings into being leaches, and that’s how he will raise your kids. If you want a pack of lazy leaches, get knocked up…. he’ll pay child support.

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    • avatar

      Britannia January 16, 2012, 2:59 pm

      Super harsh, but basically true, with a bit of conjecture.

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  • avatar

    Bossy Italian Wife January 16, 2012, 2:14 pm

    I don’t think it’s polite to bring it up in a way that sounds like you are more worried about yourself than him, if you catch my drift. You have to really be gentle about the situation. Do I personally think it’s cool he’s supporting his free-loading family? HELL NO. But that is my opinion based on very little information.

    It’s hard to say why he feels the need to support his family in this way; perhaps there were issues of abuse and abandonment and he feels that he is the only strong one in his family. Maybe he’s just a good guy who’s gotten used to doing this for his family. Maybe his father died and his last words to his son on his deathbed were, “take care of the family, son.” There are a whole host of things I feel I just don’t know.

    Then there’s the issue of YOU. Because if you were taking care of yourself, why would you care about his financial situation? I understand that you want to be able to see a future with him, but I am guessing that his family is not going away anytime soon. I am hoping you don’t want to be taken care of financially in addition to all the people he’s already caring for.

    Look, the bottom line is, if you love someone, you talk to them about the things that are important to you both–the conversation shouldn’t be centered around money. You should know (in my opinion) at this point why he is taking care of his family and you should be able to discuss it with him in a kind and compassionate way…. and not a way that is centered around what you think you may or may not be getting in the future.

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    • avatar

      oldie January 16, 2012, 6:59 pm

      What you say is true, but unavoidable. She is concerned about herself and whether there is the possibility of an acceptable future with him. She is 7 months into the relationship and ready to get serious, apart from this. It likely is MOA, but I think he deserves a discussion first. She can’t tell him that he is wrong to support his family, but she can certainly tell her that she doesn’t see a future together under these circumstances. That is why the discussion has to center on her needs. Not he is wrong, but that she also has legitimate needs and sees herself faced with a definite deal breaker.

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  • avatar

    MiMi January 16, 2012, 2:41 pm

    How does your boyfriend feel about his role as family breadwinner? He’s doing all the work, but does he talk about it, say he’s sick of it, think of it in a positive light, have plans of his own? You haven’t mentioned his point of view. If he hasn’t made his thoughts and feelings on this situation known to you, you need this information in order to make an objective decision about whether this is a family dynamic you really want to deal with in the long term…

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  • avatar

    Britannia January 16, 2012, 2:50 pm

    It’s not your place to say anything. That’s his family, and it’s his choice to prioritize them. If his priorities, and subsequent lifestyle because of such priorities, don’t mesh with you and what you hope to have for the future, MOA. He doesn’t deserve to have you try to make him realize that his already super stressful situation isn’t “right” or that he needs to start stressing about the future. He’ll figure things out on his own terms in his own time. Either be with him, as he is, or find someone who better fulfills your needs and life plans.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie January 16, 2012, 3:10 pm

    This guy is being taken advantage and needs to set limits on his help for this family. The sisters can get legal help to collect child support from a public defender free of charge. Even so the family will always come first and the LW has to accept that or MOA.

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  • avatar

    Francine January 16, 2012, 3:25 pm

    I can understand your feelings. But, while I do think it’s appropriate for you to explain to him your concerns about how his choice to support his family effects you (or your concerns for the future), I don’t think it’s your place to tell him your thoughts about his choice to support his relatives or his family’s choice to accept his financial help unless he asks for your opinion. It might be okay to ask him help you understand better why he does it if you can do it in a way that conveys that you’re curious rather than critical.

    You may feel that they’re taking advantage of him but whatever’s going on is happening with his permission.

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  • avatar

    Meredith January 16, 2012, 3:51 pm

    I would be super concerned about this too. If you see a future with this guy, then his family is part of the package. For whatever reason, he feels a strong sense of obligation toward them, and this is something you won’t be able to change. He’s actually acting as a crutch, not allowing them to hit “rock bottom”…which the sisters will have to do in order to ever learn how to stand on their own two feet. Your boyfriend needs to get into therapy to be able to understand the role he plays in supporting his family’s dysfunction and why he feels the need to play that role. Chances are slim he’ll be able to make a clean break. If you decide to stay with him, it has to be with the knowledge that he will likely always support his family. You cannot change him or his family dynamics. Please understand this is coming from someone who KNOWS. Good luck!

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    • avatar

      oldie January 16, 2012, 6:55 pm

      This doesn’t seem a situation for therapy. That just pits LW’s and therapist’s values against the bf’s family values, which is what he is acting from. A therapist is not going to convince him that is whole world view and value system are wrong and, frankly, I think it would be unethical for the therapist to even make such an attempt. LW doesn’t even hint at what became of bf’s father, but for whatever reason (death, divorce, left when all the kids were young and never heard from again), the bf is the man of his birth family and taking that role very seriously. If I were LW, I would still have a talk with him, but this really does seem like MOA territory. LW and bf seem to have quite different values, apart from the financial hopelessness of LW’s case going forward.

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    • theattack

      theattack January 16, 2012, 7:08 pm

      I agree with oldie here for all the reasons she stated. I also just don’t think we should jump to the conclusion that his family is dysfunctional. Just because his family doesn’t function the same way as our families doesn’t mean his is wrong. People have different family styles, and I don’t think it’s our place to judge them. (In fact, my own family has been judged on here in a letter I wrote, and it was not at all helpful). The only issue is that the LW’s wants don’t mesh with her boyfriend’s. He doesn’t need to change anything unless he wants to. He just needs to find a girl who wants what he wants.

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      • avatar

        Meredith January 16, 2012, 9:20 pm

        I guess by dysfunctional I meant the sisters not supporting their children and not attempting to either. The mother being unable to work due to medical conditions I understand. But a brother supporting his sisters and their children because they choose not to work or look for work or seek child support is not the signs of a well functioning family dynamic. Just my opinion of course. Also my husband sought therapy for why he felt obligated to rescue his family members over and over again and it was very beneficial for him, so that’s the reason why I think it may be helpful. It depends on whether this situation actually makes the boyfriend unhappy. If he’s perfectly content to support them then the LW has to decide whether or not this issue is too much for her to handle.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 16, 2012, 9:28 pm

        Your last two sentences are completely my point. In your husband’s case, it sounds like he recognized that being the hero was not good for him to do. For him, the situation was dysfunctional. For the boyfriend here, it could be what makes him happy. Their family may just be extremely religious and believe that women shouldn’t work. Whatever the dynamic is here, if everyone is happy with it, then it’s not dysfunctional. If the boyfriend admits that it’s not a good situation and is ready to take action about it (independent of influence from the LW!), then therapy could be a good option for him.

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        6napkinburger January 17, 2012, 3:57 pm

        Not sure what religion requries women not to work but condones unwed mothers with absentee fathers. Just saying.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 17, 2012, 8:10 pm

        It was just an example.

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    • avatar

      savannah January 16, 2012, 9:41 pm

      “He’s actually acting as a crutch, not allowing them to hit “rock bottom”…which the sisters will have to do in order to ever learn how to stand on their own two feet”
      I would advocate for this method if the sister’s were not mothers. I don’t know how you simply let go and watch someone with kids hit rock bottom. I think the damage would be too hard to justify the benefit you were seeking.

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  • theattack

    theattack January 16, 2012, 4:19 pm

    LW, this guy must really like you to have been with you for seven months. But he’s been with his family since birth, and he’s been in this situation with them for five years. I’m betting that if he had a problem with the situation, he would have already changed it, or at least confronted them. He’s most likely not frustrated with it, or he would complain about it to you. If he hasn’t changed it by now, he doesn’t want to. And he would most certainly choose his family’s happiness over a girl he’s only been with seven months.

    What he does with his money is his decision. If you want to ask him some questions about his future like someone else suggested, go for it. It will make it easier to know for sure when you have to break things off. But do not bring up his financial decisions to him directly. That’s in poor taste, and it’s really none of your business at 7 months.

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    • avatar

      Temperance January 16, 2012, 9:20 pm

      I actually disagree with the family first stuff. Mr. Temperance had supported his family while he was living with them in college. Once Mr. Temperance and I became more serious, he included me in the conversations and I helped him cut ties with them. It worked well for us, but he also realized it was f’d from the beginning, and that his mom is irresponsible.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 16, 2012, 9:30 pm

        The key there is that he wasn’t happy with the situation to begin with. I have a feeling that the LW’s boyfriend is absolutely dedicated to his family since he hasn’t complained about this situation to the LW. For someone who is all about their family, it won’t fly for an outsider to come in and tell them that they’re doing it wrong.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie January 16, 2012, 5:03 pm

    Where are you AKchick, we need you on this one.

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    • avatar

      AKchic January 17, 2012, 6:45 pm

      AKchic was attempting to enjoy a 3-day weekend 🙂 Unfortunately, it wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.

      I will be giving my take below in a few minutes 🙂

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom January 16, 2012, 5:44 pm

    I think you also need to be aware that if he did quit supporting his sisters they would likely move in with whatever man was available who would support them and then when each relationship ended they would be at your door with their children. It’s very difficult to turn away children and they would likely all end up sooner or later living with you and once they moved in they would have no incentive to move out. You are right to be wary.

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  • avatar

    Calle January 16, 2012, 6:58 pm

    Move on from this incredibly unhealthy situation. As another poster stated, there are basically two futures. 1) Boyfriend continues to support his family at the expense of his own future and family (unless you are fairly wealthy, it is very difficult to support two households 2) In-laws who hate your guts for stopping the money train. Considering they have no problem accepting money from the boyfriend for FIVE years, I have no doubt that they are most likely selfish people who will blame the LW. These futures will cause a lot of issues. LW, what happens when you have children? Are you going to be irritated that money that could be going to support their future education is spent on his lazy sisters? i would. I would move on, but I would actually tell the boyfriend why. Basically say that I care deeply about you but I don’t see a future with you because of your family dynamic.

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  • avatar

    Jubietta January 16, 2012, 7:17 pm

    I feel my soapbox growing under my feet…you can’t change other people, it’s just not possible.

    Having said that, it is possible to communicate with someone you love and let them know that things going the way they are isn’t working for you. A conversation like that might lead the other party to make an assessment that leads them to make a choice of their own free-will to make a change. If that’s the case it’s really, really important that the person making the change communicate any changes to other people in their life in a way that EVERYONE knows it was their choice. In this case it will be very important that the sisters know that the BF has chosen to change the way he spends his resources, all of his resources, in line with new priorities…his priorities! That, if done well, could shield the LW from the wrath of the sisters.

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  • katie

    katie January 16, 2012, 8:25 pm

    i have to agree with everyone- there are two outcomes, and both are not good. the ONLY way that this could turn out well is if he ultimately decides that he wants to start his own family, and so he lets his sisters know that he has to support his own family now and he cannot support theirs any longer… but still, i dont see that turning out well. the sisters will blame you, because its easier then blaming their brother.

    when i first read the letter, i wondered what nationality he and his family are, but after thinking about it, that would only lend some logic to the why of what he does… it would do nothing to change it in any way.

    LW, if this is something you are not ok with, you gotta moa. you guys have different lives, different values, view family differently, maybe you came from different places in the world, whatever- love isnt enough in this situation.

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  • avatar

    Lindsay January 16, 2012, 9:58 pm

    At this point, it’s not your place to tell him what to do. However, if you were to get serious, then obviously what he did with his money would be an issue for you. Even if you didn’t combine your finances, then you’d at least be relying on him to pay a certain amount of money toward common expenses, which could be affected depending on how much he was contributing to his family. It’s also something that you’d want to work out ahead of time because you wouldn’t want to wait until six months into your marriage and realize that it was nonnegotiable for both of you. Personally, I think he’s got to change his stance on his sisters eventually, because presumably, he’s going to have to support a family of his own one day and can’t do that while supporting so many other people.

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  • avatar

    AKchic January 17, 2012, 6:54 pm

    A few things stood out for me on this.
    1) You don’t mention what your boyfriend feels about this situation.
    2) You didn’t mention that you and your boyfriend actually discussed being more serious than you already are.

    Do I think the scenario as you described is fucked up? Yes. Do I think you need to have a discussion about it with your boyfriend? Probably. How? That is the $64,000 question, darlin’.
    I would classify this as “no good deed goes unpunished”. My own mother is experiencing this issue right now, with an eviction notice unless she gets my sister and nephew out of her apartment.
    You are only 7 months into your relationship. If you WANT to get more serious, then discuss getting more serious. If he wants to get more serious, then by all means, bring up plans for the future. See what his goals are. If he has goals that don’t involve supporting the sisters, that’s when you can ask him (gently) about how he plans on weaning them off his financial teat. His mother is a different story, and that one you can offer to help out with (whether it’s disability if she’s not on it already, or leaving it be because she needs extra money because disability isn’t enough). Others have given great questions for the sister thing, and I suggest you go with some of those.
    If he has no plans on the future, then honey, move on. Some guys like being the savior and the shining knight. Walk away, because you’ll always be second fiddle to his sisters.

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  • avatar

    Lourde Ann March 16, 2017, 9:15 am

    I feel the same thing too. My boyfriend has been supporting his entire family. His parents, the family of his brother and sister.

    I am very much worried about my future with him. They are currently staying in one house together. My bf pays for everything, food, bills, school allowance for his brother’s kids.His brother just got a work recently after two years of doing NOTHING. I remember when my bf spent TOO MUCH to celebrate the 7th bday of his brother’s daughter. And now he spent a LOT again for the 1st bday of the second child. The following day, the child got admitted in the hospital and he paid all the hospital bills!!! my bf plans to buy a house bec he is so stressed about his father being alcoholic and engaged in illegal transactions. I was so happy knowing he can finally leave his birth family but when i read the message from the wife of his brother, i got a hint that when it is finally time to move to the new house, THEY WILL ALSO MOVE WITH HIM to that house. It was supposedly OURS!! They their’s!!!

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