From helping with student loans to a wedding to a down payment on a home, there are probably lots of ways your parents are willing to help you and your partner out financially, especially if you’re just starting out.
But for some couples, accepting money from parents can be a point of contention. To better understand why this money fight happens and what you and your partner can do to get past it, here's some expert advice.
WHY THIS ARGUMENT COMES UP
Even if your parents have perfectly good intentions, an offer of financial support can still ruffle some feathers. According to Clare Dubé, a financial social work counselor, the reason for the disagreement often comes down to a matter of perspective.
For example, you might feel that your parents’ offer is a generous gesture, whereas your partner might view it as getting too involved in your relationship. “In this case, the partner who doesn’t like the in-laws giving money is putting a thought and meaning behind the gesture,” Dubé says.
If you and your partner disagree whether you should accept financial help from your parents, or how much you should accept, talk through what’s really behind the issue. Maybe one of you was raised to be financially independent, while the other grew up accustomed to family members helping each other. Or perhaps the gesture makes one of you think you can’t support yourselves, while the other views it as a way to start a life together on more solid financial footing. “Each partner will come with their own views and perceptions, and neither partner should be shamed or judged for how they feel about the subject,” Dubé says.
TIPS FOR MOVING FORWARD
Once you have a clear understanding of each other’s feelings, you and your partner can determine how you want to proceed. If you decide to accept your parents’ financial help, Dubé recommends documenting it, even if the money is intended as a gift. If the money is meant to be a loan, include all details of the transaction, such as how it will be paid back and if there is any interest being charged.
If you and your partner don’t need or want the money, make sure to turn down the offer respectfully, without assuming that there were strings attached, Dubé says. If your parents refuse to take it back, one route could be to tell them you admire their generosity and would be happy to share it. “If there is no immediate need for the gift, you can suggest making a donation to a charity that is important to you,” Dubé says.
If there is concern that tension could build, sit down with your parents and have a conversation similar to the one you had with your partner so each party feels heard, understood and respected. After all, your parents may not realize how they are coming across, or that the money could potentially bring out negative feelings. Prompts such as, “Can you help us understand your desire to help financially?” or “Are you aware that it makes me/us feel...” or “What would work better for us is...” can all be useful ways to get to the heart of the matter.