Stepchildren spar over couple’s money policy



Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

This tendency younger people have to post their entire life on social media is causing quite a problem in my family. Since this is a second marriage for both and we were in our 40s at the time, my husband, “Dan,” and I have a policy for finances: You handle yours and I’ll handle mine.

Earlier this year, my stepdaughter “Bonnie” asked us for financial assistance for her fertility treatments. Dan declined to give Bonnie and her husband any money, as was his right. My older daughter, “Carrie,” turned 30 this month and since she needs a new car and is saving up for a house, I gave her a substantial cash gift as a birthday present.

She posted a thank-you on social media and Bonnie immediately started asking us why we could give Carrie so much money for a birthday and nothing to help her have a child. Dan explained our money policy to her, so now she is mad at me for refusing her when I obviously have “so much” spare cash. Dan is annoyed at Carrie for splashing this all over social media, and while I agree Carrie shouldn’t have specified the amount, I think Bonnie is acting entitled, so we’ve argued about which daughter is more at fault.

The girls are also mad at each other and their siblings are choosing sides, too. How can I get us back to the happy blended family we were before this stupid money fight started?

— Family

There’s nothing stupid about it.

And nice job blaming young people and their gosh-darned social media!

Seriously?

I don’t like the indiscretion, narcissism or competitiveness that social media brings out in us. Your kids are behaving badly. But they didn’t make this mess, you and Dan did: Your “you handle yours and I’ll handle mine” policy didn’t pass your kids’ outrage test and you weren’t ready for that.

I have an opinion on the policy myself, but I won’t even share it because it’s irrelevant. All that matters is that you and Dan decided it was right for your blended family between you, but didn’t consider how it would play with the people it directly affects.

The time to tell them what you were doing and why, for example, was when you decided it — not after a dramatic demonstration of its effects was out there for all to see. They would have found out without Facebook, right? They always do eventually.

If you’re really OK with Bonnie getting no money while Carrie gets a lot, then so be it. Admit to yourself this is the outcome you want, and own it. Including with Bonnie. As in: “We decided mutually to separate our money, so paying for your fertility treatments is your father’s decision alone. But it was indeed my choice not to step in or challenge our money-separation policy.”

If you don’t like the consequences, then you need to change the choices. Or at least talk to Dan about them, to see if you chose way too blunt an instrument for managing a blended family.

Again — I offer no opinion on the policy itself. This is about your need to reckon with its ripple effect vs. just blame the kidz for catching on.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

Syndicated Advice Columnist
Advice Columnist Carolyn Hax takes your questions and tackles your problems.

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