Fast-forward to a dinner party at his house. I didn’t know I was going to dinner with his ex-civilly unionized partner of five years turned best friend. That her name was still on the mailbox. That they’re best friends who do a lot together on a weekly basis.
He said she told him not to tell me because “women won’t like how close we are,” but he said he wouldn’t lie about their history. I don’t know how or whether to proceed when the person he talks to about our relationship encouraged deceit and omission when she thought I wouldn’t like something. That doesn’t sit well with me, and now I’m always questioning what’s getting omitted.
— Look Who’s Coming to Dinner
Look Who’s Coming to Dinner: “I don’t mind that you’re close with exes. I respect it. What bothers me is that you either didn’t think for yourself and ran your decision through your bestie, or didn’t own your own stuff and blamed an ex for your own choices. One who, by the way, persuaded you that deceiving and sandbagging me was a good idea.”
I wouldn’t call this new relationship a promising one — but it would be interesting to see whether he responds productively to your assessment of his behavior. Maybe he’ll wow you. Good luck.
Dear Carolyn: My dad is super weird about money after my mom died, about 10 years ago. He remarried four months later. My parents had been thrifty and saved a good amount of money for retirement. He and his new wife bought luxury cars and an expensive vacation home.
He often tells me, “We have plenty of money, and we would be glad to help you out.” I have three kids under 8. When I actually suggest something — e.g., sports camp or money for kids’ college funds — he demurs, saying that’s nothing we NEED or he’ll help later with college.
I hate it. I always feel like a greedy churl after talking to him. However, my older sisters’ kids got sizable starts to their college funds when my mom was still alive. I feel like I owe it to my kids to keep asking, particularly since it is in large part my mother’s savings that she never got to use.
Should I just accept that he is all talk and will never give?
Anonymous: That tops the “should” list, yes. Your dad’s evasiveness suggests either he has spent the money down or his wife opposes his giving you any. Or he’s worried he’ll run out. Regardless, shame seems like the best explanation for his not providing details.
I generally don’t advise thinking the worst of people until they leave you no other choice. However, my advice to any adults who believe they’re due parental support or an inheritance is to assume it’s not coming. There are so many ways for adults not to cash in on their parents’ wealth that it verges on irresponsible to expect you ever will.
Your story includes a couple of those ways already — new spouse, extravagance. Another is the most straightforward: It’s not your money, it’s his.
And you may yet encounter other common obstacles to inheriting, like overestimating what they had to begin with, freakish longevity, poor investing or lawyering, shifting priorities and crippling end-of-life care expenses.
Once you’ve made your peace with the worst case, then you’re ready to decide whether it’s worth it to you to explore better cases with him. It might not be; choosing not to feel like a “greedy churl” is valid.
But if the issue is more your dad’s evasiveness than it is the money — and if it’s damaging your relationship — then absolutely say that to him. His frequent “glad to help you out” remarks are an opening to comment. Just stick to a non-churlish flow chart.
To start: “I appreciate that, Dad. For planning purposes, I hope you’ll share what you have in mind.”
If he gets evasive again, then: “You keep bringing it up, then getting evasive. Even if the truth is hard or awkward, I would like to know.”
And if needed: “If the money’s gone, or [Wife] objects, whatever, then I won’t love you any less. I prefer truth to these hurtful vague answers.”
If he remains unshakably vague in his assurances, then either trust him and drop it (and expect nothing), don’t trust him and drop it (and expect nothing), or inform him: “Mom cared about this. It would mean a lot to me if you honored her wishes as she did herself with the other grandkids. Small 529 deposits now get big later.”
Any response at this point will be crystal clear.