Friday, August 14, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "My Indian Fiancé is struggling to fund his parents' lifestyle!"

(Img via Thomas Lefebvre)


Sharing a letter from a reader...


My Indian fiancé is in a predicament. His parents are healthy and in their early 70s and have social security income, retirement and pension from both the U.S. and India, and also own a home which they rent out. They insisted that my fiancé take out a mortgage to buy them a new house to live in. And that he furnish it for them, including televisions in the bedroom and living areas and satellite television with Indian channels. They also expect him to pay the mortgage. And all of their expenses, including cell phones and medical expenses. 

He earns only $38K, which is less than his parents’ combined retirement incomes!!! He has no savings as he has always supported them. His parents' have significant savings and $45K annual income - free and clear to do whatever they want with. They take trips to India, give more than a thousand dollars to the church each year, and save money for their two grandchildren. But what of their son, my fiancé? He has no money to support himself or to support a family of his own or to save for his own retirement - least of all contribute to our household when we marry. He can't even buy me an engagement ring because all of his money goes to his parents. He has to work a second job or overtime if he has any significant financial needs. Why would parents who already HAVE sufficient lifetime income demand that their son support them, leaving him penniless??? 

If this situation goes on, when we marry, I will have to support us and our retirement and our children on my own, as he has nothing left after giving his whole salary to his parents. He will not be able to contribute to our income or financial security. 

He has a younger brother as well who now lives in a separate household. His brother earns about $60K per year. I told him to sit down with his parents and put it all down on paper and show them how much he earns and how much he is spending on them and how much he has left - and also how much they earn. And then insist that they pay their own way, or at the very least a large portion of their own expenses - and then if they still insist on taking money from their children have he and his brother each contribute a small amount. I also told him to go to counselling with his parents, or or have his uncle and/or someone from the church sit in so that they will listen. 

I also have a son. I would never expect him to take care of me at the expense of himself, his family, or his future - and certainly not when I am fully able to care for myself. I love his parents, but I find their expecting their son to support them selfish - it would be different if he were well off or if they were impoverished ... but that is not the case. 

I also don't see this as a Christian thing to do. I understand there are cultural dynamics at play here, but surely as parents you want the best for your children, and culture or no culture - what parent would allow a child to support them when that child clearly could not afford to do so???"


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Dear readers, what advice do you have for this reader?
Have you ever supported your Indian parents? 
Do you think some Indian parents have an expectation to support them?
How can you get around this if you're not earning enough to support yourself?
What can this Bahu do from her position?

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25 comments

  1. It sounds to me like you've encouraged him to do the only right and reasonable thing here: sit down with them, talk through it, put numbers down on paper, set boundaries.

    If your boyfriend isn't willing to do that then the only thing I would say is to NOT become legally financially entangled with him and his family by marrying. Honestly. You would be better off having children with your boyfriend without marrying him in this case just so that you could safely keep your hard earned money away from the parents and keep it earmarked for raising your own children. (Not that your boyfriend would dream of having a child out of wedlock if he's not putting his foot down about the supporting the parents!)

    The only other thing I would add is that I don't think these parents are going to see reason here. What they're doing is so extreme, that I think it can only be done by people who are willfully ignoring reality and truth. Because of this my advice to your husband would be to simply sit down with YOU, crunch the numbers, and then decide on a fixed amount that he would be able to give them per month. It shouldn't be a huge amount, just an amount that would convey that he is grateful to them and is willing to help them - I'm thinking somewhere in the ballpark of $300 per month tops given your boyfriend's salary. That's 10% of his income which is quite generous. Anyway, I think that he could also elect to have a simple discussion with them: I want to get married, I have my own financial priorities that I need to worry about, and so from now on I'll only be able to give you x amount per month." And that's it.

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  2. Many Indian parents view their sons as their ATMs. They are an endless vortex of need and selfish enough to jeopardise his future for their own comfort. If he cannot set firm boundaries, and soon, get out of dodge.

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  3. Stories like this make me want to cringe as an Asian man. South Asian, yes, but I find that this patriarchal, community-first mindset extends throughout pretty much all of Asia, not just the South. In other words, because there tends to be so many people and such few resources, families have become over-reliant on each other and have little understanding or respect for personal independence. Hence, they have warped emotional boundaries that tend to be very clique-ish, selfish and manipulative. 'Self-respect' isn't a term that seems to valued in our societies; it is often pushed aside for the sake of outer social success and other hallmarks of security. Heck, even in Bollywood the Industry is called a 'film fraternity' (where seniority and connections seem to matter a lot more than raw talent) - a term you'd almost never hear anywhere else!
    But getting back to this woman's story- it amazes me how little guts her husband has, and how outright selfish his parents are. I would agree with what 'Elizabeth' has also posted, about not getting further financially involved with this man. That is why I would encourage for any 'foreigner' dating an Asian/South Asian, before you get too romantically involved, first watch how they interact with their parents and other authority figures. Are they strong enough to set emotional boundaries? If not, then don't delude yourself into thinking that your lover may change just out of the strength of your love, or that your love can overlook his flaws in asserting yourself. With Asian families, you may find them out-muscling you emotionally throughout the entire life of your relationship! And 'Elizabeth' is right about the parents likely not listening to reason; when people have intensely irrational beliefs or feelings through willful stupidity, you have to let them learn their own lessons. What people in our societies need to understand is that the status of being parents does not make them perfect individuals, nor should they have their every whim expect to be taken care of like a spoiled child. Have the husband sit down and explain to his parents his own reasoning- what's the worst that could happen? They disown him, or their 'society' disowns him and thinks of him a bad son? So be it, if that's what it takes. Let them go. If they withdraw themselves from him because he isn't fulfilling their selfish needs, then they honestly aren't good parents and are slaves to the opinions of equally-selfish others. When I was young, my parents usually bashed 'Western' parents for not caring about their children, allowing them too much independence and 'throwing them out' of the house at age 18. But I see now that there's a lot of good in this; if the child has proper values, he can have the strength to hold his own when he goes out in the world. And I see that a lot of Asian parents are worse in the opposite extreme, over-coddling the kids so that they don't know how to be functioning adults. Hopefully the guy here can 'man-up' (as they say) before he loses his fiance and dignity.

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    Replies
    1. Sadly I don't think he will man up. If he tries to (as he did today) his parents will make him feel so guilty he will back down (as he did today).

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  4. I think her suggestions to fix the issue were the best and now it is up to her fiance whether he listens to her or does his way.

    ps, $45K for two persons is not the same as 38K for one. So comparison is not quite fair. But if everything is really about the family values, than definitely the youngest should contribute too.
    Btw, whose grandchildren parents are saving money for?

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  5. 3 questions-
    Is the younger brother who makes $60K a year donating to the parents too?
    And does the younger brother live in India or whereabouts?
    Do the parents live in India or the US?
    (Mortgages in India are a ripoff.)

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    Replies
    1. They all live here in the U.S. within a few miles of each other.

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    2. Thank you for your reply. We all live in a large U.S. City. The parents' home (which they rent out) is within ten miles of the brother's home. The new home that my fiancé purchased is within miles of brothers' home.

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    3. They own several homes - one here in the city and two in India- their personal home and the home they inherited when their parents passed away.

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  6. Indian's average life expectancy age is 66 years and you parents-in-low are in 70s. Don't worry haha your future is bright only.

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  7. Many parents view their sons as their ATM's. they have warped emotional boundaries that tend to be very clique-sh, selfish and manipulative.Even parents enjoy their parents property, their own earnings, retirement money and also they expects him to buy house to live in.This wont stop till this. This may extends to have control on the son's family and they are unable to bear that they are happy with each other.parents who already have sufficient lifetime income demand that their son support them.parents who already have sufficient lifetime enjoyment by roaming here and there demand that their son support them to roam still more .when some struggle comes to his life they leave him to face himself and keeping them-self in comfortable zone and saying on phone that they are "worrying about his life and performing pooja on his name " to get sympathy again.

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  8. no we don't, they are financially all set for the retirement. So are my parents. Needless to say, if something bad was to happen, we would help as much as we could.

    as for your blog post, I personally would not want to be with such a guy or have his parents as my in laws. They are totally wrong to ask him for money when they make more, and he is stupid to give in to their demands. I do not see myself with a person who cannot say no when his parents are so unreasonable and gready.

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  9. This seems extreme. We helped them out in the beginning. Currently fil is the managing trustee for our whole ngo and mil over sees the hostel and staff. So they get a salary. But they have to answer to my husband. They do a great job so no real issues come up. Fil sold some land 2 years ago and bought another one nearer our ngo headquarters. This left him with a few thousand. After seeing how hard we work ro make ends meet, they actually gave US 2k to help while I was off for maternity leave and not getting paid. My inlaws would live in and have lived in poverty to make sure that their even adult kids are ok... as for the reader this is a red flag to me.

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    Replies
    1. I agree. This has been a thorn in our relationship - one he promised to address but kept putting off. Now I see he won't resolve.

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  10. Good you understand before marriage that the relationship with the in-laws will be very different than your own expectations. There is nothing in your post about what the parents may have sacrificed/done to help the sons. There may have been an expectation that they were sacrificing a long time ago so that the son would be in a position to help now. $38K is not much - do they know what he makes? He may have led them to believe he was doing much better - and their demands may be based on that belief. Yes, in many Indian families there is an expectation that the kids will support the parents through retirement and old age. You need to have a serious conversation NOW about this because the demands may only INCREASE with old age, health problems, etc. And your fiancée's ability to say "no" may decrease in those situations. Perhaps he and his brother can agree to a monthly amount that they can each pay into an account for the parents. The parents have to be told that that amount is all that can be afforded. Good luck!

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    Replies
    1. He swears they know what he earns - but if so how can they demand so much from him?

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  11. I am in Indian female. I am married to a non-Indian person.

    I would see this as a red flag. His inability to stand up to his parents and be honest and discuss finances is very common in Indian households. I grew up with it. I put a stop to it approximately five years, separated out my finances, and gain a sense of independence.
    Your fiancé unfortunately needs to do the same and if he can't, this will ultimately translate into a lack of strength. You need somebody who is going to stand up for yourself, your marriage, and your family. His parents will likely ask for other things in the future, and it's very selfish.

    Think strongly about how to proceed. Your advice is perfect. However, knowing how the culture works, I'm pretty sure none of the above is going to happen. Or have any effect. They seem to be unaware of the difficulty that they are imposing. Most of this is ultimately up to your fiancé on how he handles it. Watch carefully to see how he handles it because that is how he will handle all other situations involving the in-laws.

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    Replies
    1. I now see how he will handle - he will timidly bring it up - his mother will have feigned medical emergency - he will collapse in guilt.

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  12. My hubby supports our family and his family back in Pakistan, we send them a set amount of money monthly and if they need extra for anything, we send it if it's within our ability. I married him knowing this is how it would be and I am totally okay with it. My family needed help monthly for my father's hospital, he is 94 and is in a hospital special for Alzheimer Nd Dementia and my husband was willing to help monthly, so it goes both ways. I love him for it. As long as it doean't put us in a hole we are happy to help.

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    Replies
    1. My fiancé brings home $2400 per month. He gives $2000 of that to his parents.

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  13. We send a lot, but we can. We are taken care of plus more so I cannot complain. Sometimes my FIL gets greedy an wants useless things but my husband always makes it clear that we send what we can after our needs are met. He would/ have done the same for my family. I love him for it too.

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    Replies
    1. My finances needs are not being met - he gives parents 90% of his income and does not have anything left. He cannot pay his own bills and must work a second job to scrape by.

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  14. This is seriously extreme and the biggest issue id your fiancé not being able to have an honest open discussion with his parents which I kind of can understand. This is more of a cultural thing than religious one. Your advice is correct.
    1. Discuss with them. No need of going into all details but inform them that he earns less than them.
    2. Refuse to give money. He has to be firm.

    I do not mind supporting parents but that should be based on how much I can afford. If they need money, and I cannot afford a lot of it, both sides have to cut corners, not just 1 party.

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  15. Well I think we are ending relationship - because when he tried to discuss with family his mother had sudden health emergency. I'm a nurse and I strongly suspect mom is distracting with drama to guilt my fiancé. He ate it up and now won't discuss again for months. He says he was hoping I would understand and that its life." FYI parents did not sacrifice for their kids. They did not pay for their education, help them financially with marriage or home purchases or anything. Fiancé paid for younger bothers education and his own. In that respect they are not the traditional Indian family. His parents did not save for their kids needs - they just spent everything - so now are making up for it by taking their adult kids money to save for their grandkids? We were supposed to go on trip tomorrow but he can longer drive since his car is broken and he can't afford to fix. I told him he is subsidizing his nephews (parents claim to be saving all of their money for grade school nephews), the church t parents give thousands of dollars per year to church), and his parents lifestyle (expensive travel etc), none of which they could afford if he wasn't paying their expenses. He is pressuring me to get him a job where I work so he can afford to support his parents. My solution is for him to stop supporting them, since they have sufficient income, savings, and own two homes. They aren't destitute. Now I see what will happen - he won't stand up for himself, much less me. Ready to give up.

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  16. I think the financial problems is just the tip of the iceberg - the biggest problem that I see is actually not the financial aspect - but the lack of ability of your fiance to say NO to them and set up healthy boundaries so that he can function like a normal person - ie. earn, pay bills, save etc.
    Giving 3/4 of your income to your parents when they are funds is creating a disability for oneself. Sure, it's fine to help out parents - but in this case I don't think he actually needs to help them sooooo much. This extreme generosity must be coming out of some psychological issue like guilt or shame or insecurity.
    The majority of Indian parents will be very concerned that their sons are able to support their families. They will even say, don't get married until you can financially support your wife and children. So it seems very odd to me, this whole situation.
    You are smart to have these discussions now before marriage. I would have a serious talk about your future with him and expectations. I doubt any Indian girl would ever put up with all this! If you marry him, you are marrying him first and foremost - and you and your children need to come first, before his parents. If he is unwilling to do that, well then....

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