I’ve always had a great relationship with my aunt and uncle, though they’ve had many disagreements with other family members. They have always been very good to me.
I recently started a new job, after several years of working part-time. My aunt called me (a rare occurrence) saying that she was in dire need of money after experiencing health issues. She asked to borrow (keeping it secret) a significant sum, offering to pay it back in a few months.
Neither she nor my uncle is presently working. I doubt they’ll be able to pay me back. I felt guilty, but she has a reputation for not repaying borrowed money.
So, I declined politely, saying that I didn't have the cash (though I could’ve parted with the money for a few months).
I’ll soon be seeing all the family together and don’t want my aunt and uncle to hear that I’m planning a trip to Europe next year - revealing that I lied about tight finances. But my parents will likely mention my travel plans.
If I insist that they not raise my trip, they'll know about the loan request as something similar happened with a different relative. My mother would be furious that I was asked for money. But I don't want to sour my relationship with my aunt and uncle. What do I do? Time's ticking.
Sorry, but your question arrived too late for a Christmas-timed response, but it’s a situation that may well arise for you again. And it’s your conscience that should be ticking.
Remember that early instruction your parents gave you when you were just a tot? It went something like, “Never lie, because people always find out the truth.”
You place value on this aunt and uncle having been good to you. Yet no value on their needs when money’s tight and health is involved.
It would’ve been better to say that you could only spare a particular amount of cash for a short period.
The lesser loan wouldn’t have been as much loss if she defaulted on it and was worth maintaining her dignity and your good relationship.
Meanwhile, check into her health/financial situation and tell the family if the couple’s situation warrants seeking help through social services or other means.
FEEDBACK Regarding whether parents should apply “tough love” to an emotionally sensitive and recently traumatized daughter who doesn’t work (December 10):
Reader#1 – “My girlfriend nearly died because her family embraced tough love.
“Whenever someone has a serious addiction or an untreated mental illness, e.g. depression, anxiety, a disorder, etc., it’s almost always a result of trauma.
“Tough love says to a very ill person: “Deal with it yourself, we won’t help you,” when they need more help and understanding than ever.
“People subjected to tough love need empathy, understanding, compassion and HELP.
“Because of their illness they’re simply not equipped to succeed on their own.
“Using tough love sets them up to fail. With severe addicts, fail can equal dead.
“I have extensive experience with alcoholics and addicts, and I’ve heard countless “tough love” stories.
“In the very rare case when it works, it serves to alienate the person from those doling it out. I’m surprised that my girlfriend still speaks to her family members after they essentially left her to die.
“You were very clear in your column response that tough love depends on many factors. But I believe it should NEVER be an option.”
Reader #2 – “I think the parents of the young woman need to consider their long-term relationship with their daughter.
“When she finds the emotional strength to meet the world, gets a job, marries, and has children, do they want a relationship with her family?
“If she sees their “tough love” as abandoning her (which it is) will she feel like including them in her future life? I say, back off and pay for some therapy for her.”
Ellie – I’ll repeat the advice I wrote about this approach:
“Only a professional therapist/psychiatrist can predict the impact of tough-love measures on a specific personality….
“My general answer as to tough love’s harm or help: It depends on the parents’ motives and methods, and on the adult child’s inner resilience or lack thereof.”
That said, given that their daughter recently experienced a personal trauma of which they’re aware, therapy is the necessary approach now, not tough love.
Tip of the day:
Lending money to relatives can be problematic, but personal ties warrant trying to help in some way.