Sunday, November 17, 2013

Enabling kids can damage your relationship

Last week, we touched on the subject of how children can negatively affect adult relationships. One of the responses came from Lucy (not her real name). When I first read her email, I wondered why she stays with her partner. You probably will wonder also after you read it. When I asked her that question, her answer helped me understand why. But first, her email:

Lucy wrote, "I have just become domestic partners with my live-in boyfriend of six years. I wasn't sure we would make it this far in the relationship due to the co-dependent relationship he has with his three grown children. Anything they ask for they get, almost without exception."

Point of clarification: In California, where Lucy lives, "domestic partner" is a legal designation that can provide some benefits to people living together without being married.

Lucy continued, "One example is that we are probably going to have to sell our home, the home we planned on retiring in, because when his daughter needed money for college she did not want to get student loans so he borrowed the money and gave it to her. We are now in debt to the point where we will most likely lose our home. I can understand helping your children pay for college but he is a high school teacher and I am employed part time. 

"His 23-year-old son lives with us three days a week. He lives with his girlfriend four days a week 70 miles away. He lives with us because he likes the community college up here. He is only taking two classes and we pay for everything. His food, gas while he is here, medical etc. He is even driving one of our cars. Yesterday, he came to us and asked us to give him money for when he visits his girlfriend! I suggested, gently, that he look for a community college closer to his primary residence and his dad suggested he get a job since he is only going to school part time. His response, I don't want to. The outcome, my domestic partner is giving him 50 dollars a month. 

"We have had one of his daughters spoil a vacation that we were on in Mendocino (a small city on the Northern California coast) by telling us, after only one day, that we had to drive her back because she had missed so many classes she was going to flunk her Italian class if she wasn't there the next day. No mention of this when we planned the vacation. Why she even came is beyond me. And yes, after a big argument we drove her back. She has forced us to cancel family dinners in other cities because she suddenly remembers other plans. And he always does what she asks.

"He has cancelled dates to give his kids rides places at the last minute, His children have used our credit cards fraudulently. He once asked me to let his daughter throw a party at our house when I had pneumonia and strep. I said no. 

"I know he loves his children and luckily only the one lives with us now, and that is only part time. So it has become easier. I like his children as people but he and his ex have raised them to be spoiled. I blame them not the kids. I have to admit that it seems to be getting a little better but I do not feel comfortable giving him money when I know it just goes straight to his kids.

"So, I am torn. I have a considerable amount saved up that I could put down on the mortgage, which is still only in his name. But I won't as long as he won't tell his kids no."

A few days ago, she wrote: "I am at dinner with his daughter where she is asking him to pay her sorority dues of 350 dollars a semester and buy her a car for college. She goes to school in San Francisco. The city with the best public transportation in California. I should know, I went to college here

I responded, "Why did you enter into a legal domestic partnership when there are the issues you describe? You must really love him. It must bug you that his co-dependency with the kids goes on as you described." 

She said, " I am in love with him and he says he wants to take care of me. Plus, I need his medical. I have two heart conditions and have had two breast cancer scares in the last two years. When you have no medical they tell you to go home and wait for six months to see if it grows. If you have medical, they do a biopsy. That is the truth in our country. 

"The first lump I had medical and they did a biopsy the next day. The last one, a month ago, they found a lump and a shadow on my Xray and sent me home."

I suggested: "Don't start dipping into your savings. You might lose it. I know of relationships where that has happened."

When parents continuously enable their kids, it doesn't teach them to be on their own. And that can put stress on a relationship.

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