Friday, March 22, 2013

Do I Have to Support My In-Laws Financially?

Is it my husband's responsibility to take care of my siblings?

Does one spouse have the right to give money to parents even if the other strongly objects? Do parents have a right to expect financial support from kids, as payback for all they have done throughout life?

These questions have aroused a lot of discourse. The question of whether a married man or woman should should support his in-laws financially can be a dicey one.

The communal way of life that characterised African society in the past means that it is our culture to take care of our elderly parents and help them with their respnsibilities. 
Take this example:
The guy’s parents are nice people, as are the woman’s parents. However, his parents have a built-in expectation that they should be given some kind of financial support from their son. This isn't something that they directly discuss with his wife, but they have instilled in him over the years – and probably growing up – that it’s his responsibility first and foremost to make sure his parents are financially taken care of. In other words, taking care of elders comes first, as payback for all they have done to raise you over the years.

His wife, on the other hand, does not pay her parents anything. She finds it hard to imagine parents taking money from adult kids, much less expecting to receive it. Needless to say, this is a source of conflict.

She doesn’t want him to pay his parents. She feels that they don’t truly need the money, as they live in a home that’s seemingly paid for. They don’t appear wealthy, but they don’t appear to truly be struggling either. Her in-laws appear to be in good health.

Her viewpoint is that income that a couple earns is for them to support themselves and their own children. 

His viewpoint, on the other hand, is that since he works hard for his money, he should be able to give money to his parents if he wants to. He sees it as his duty to help them, whether she likes it or not. In his view, they are a part of the package and she should understand that. Clearly, she doesn’t. It must burn her to think that money that could be used for their family is being given to his parents as a priority – despite her having a problem with it.

What do I think? I am of the opinion that there is a portion of the money that we earn that can and should be spent to support others outside the core, immediate family unit. The proportion of the family income that goes towards this is totally reliant on the extent to which the family needs are fully being met.

Perhaps more importantly, one of the two people in the relationship does not approve of large allocations of money to others outside the family unit. This should not be overlooked, compromise, as would be the case in many marital disagreements should be made, both spouses must bend, in a mature and amicable way each partner must meet the other in the middle.

Ijeoma Olujekun

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