Hi Jake,

My father-in-law is a homophobic jerk who has treated my husband (his son) like dirt his entire life. Not only was he really hard on him as a kid, but after my husband came out, he didn’t talk to him for six years. When they finally patched things up, he would still make rude and disparaging remarks about his “lifestyle”, our marriage, and LGBTQ+ people in general. To this day, he won’t say more than three words to me when we’re in a room together.

Now, he’s getting older (mid 70s) and struggling with finances since he never did a good job saving. He recently sent an email asking my husband and me for help covering some of his living expenses. His rent is going up and he’s having trouble affording things like his cellphone, gas, and groceries. We haven’t agreed to anything yet, but my husband is leaning towards giving him some money, possibly even offering a monthly allowance!

I feel very strongly that we should NOT use our shared finances to help a man who has made his feelings about our “lifestyle” very clear for the last 20 years. Am I a jerk for not wanting to support someone who has never, even to this day, supported us?

Stingy…Not Sorry

Dear Stingy…Not Sorry,

Some people say that “family is family”, and no matter what, you should always take the “high road” and help out when you can… even when they don’t really deserve it. That’s perfectly fine… for them. But that doesn’t always suit everyone.

Your feelings are pretty clear that you don’t feel right supporting someone who hasn’t supported you and your husband, which seems perfectly valid to me. By saying disparaging things about your identity, or even ignoring you or your husband, your father-in-law is conveying he doesn’t respect who you are. So, why should you feel like helping someone out who doesn’t honor and acknowledge you?

In fact, one might even argue that giving in to his request when your heart is telling you otherwise is akin to a self-betrayal, which ultimately lowers your self-worth. Not only that, but often times helping someone who has been negative or abusive can be enabling, as it can send a message that it’s okay to continue that treatment towards you.

Here’s the thing about being an adult: you get to decide for yourself how you want to manage your money, including how much you want to help someone else with it. There are no requirements by law to step in and bail someone out, so how you decide to spend or give (or NOT give) is a uniquely personal decision. In this case, it’s between you and your husband.

The first step in that process is to have an honest and heartfelt conversation with him about your feelings around the situation, so he can understand why you feel the way you do. You’ll want him to understand that giving to someone who is so vehemently against who you are and what you stand for isn’t good for your psyche.

Next, you might offer that if your husband wants to help out, it’s perfectly okay for him to use his own personal money (if there’s some financial separation there). After all, you and your husband aren’t the exact same person, and he is perfectly entitled to feel differently about it.

The goal here isn’t to get him to think like you, and come to the same decision, but to respect your personal boundaries. If he wants to find a way to help out on his own, that doesn’t blur into your resources, he’s allowed to do that.

At the end of the day, it simply feels cringey when someone who has exhibited disdain or avoidance suddenly comes begging in a time of need. That said, as half of a couple, your goal will be to make the best decision for you, without impeding that of your hubby.

Being true to your feelings doesn’t make you a jerk. Alhough if you wanted to be, you could certainly think about telling your father-in-law that instead of giving him the money, you’ll be perfectly happy to donate it to some pro-LGBTQ causes, in his honor.

But you’re not being petty, right? 🙂

Ask Jake is our advice column by Queerty editor and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Jake Myers. If you have a question for Jake, please email [email protected], or contact him through his LGBTQ therapy platform.

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