Saturday 20 January 2018

Dear Mary: My son's rich wife expects him to pay for everything

Library image. Photo: Thinkstock
Library image. Photo: Thinkstock

I'm divorced with adult children. When I was going through the divorce and also struggling with cancer, my son was my rock. He opened a bank account for me when he started working and I only have to ask if I need anything. He solves all the family problems and never complains. He has many friends from school and university, is very popular and a genuine guy.

He works in a very demanding, well paid job. He travels the world for his company, gets short holidays and is at his desk every morning at 6.20, having been on the train for an hour.

Ten years ago, he married and they have a family. My daughter-in-law is the sweetest girl, shares our values and is a wonderful mum. She was educated at the top universities, but never took up employment.

Her family are very wealthy and never knew life as we did. They have servants and travel to their homes abroad on an on-going basis. They make me and my family very welcome, come to visit us and meet our friends and are lovely cultured people.

Now, Mary, for the problem. It must be serious when my son called me. His wife wants to be kept in the style of her family. The children have a full-time minder, a cleaner comes in five days a week, and all the clothes go to the cleaners. She goes to her gym every morning and then meets her friends for lunch and comes home only when the children are leaving their nursery school. The nanny takes over then and it's tennis or more socialising for his wife.

Despite all the help, the house is like a war zone. Flights are booked at the last minute at the highest prices and then often cancelled and re-booked. She travels all over the world for birthday parties and family gatherings. She is a wealthy girl, but not once has she offered to pay for any of these trips. All of the above and more are funded by my son and he is at his wit's end and almost burned out.

He has tried talking to her many times but she just does not or will not understand. His only outlet was tennis on a Saturday, but now his wife has insisted that he give that up and take charge of the children at weekends.

I think it is so sad -- when he returns from a business trip abroad there is not even a pint of milk in the fridge or a bite to eat. He buys the dinner every evening on the way home from work at 7.30pm. What can I do, Mary? He tells me that this is quite a common situation. His friends and colleagues talk of slaving all hours and the wives are not playing their parts. I think it is a terrible abuse.

Mary replies:

There isn't really a whole lot that you can do, because it is your son's marriage and the contract is between the two of them. It is very good that he is able to sound off to you, because after he has been speaking to you it probably makes him feel much better.

He has been married for a long time and has allowed the situation to develop to the point it is at now. He sounds like the original nice guy who helps everybody and doesn't know how to say no, and therefore cannot say no to her either. But look at it from her point of view. She grew up in a household where servants took care of everything, there were multiple homes, money was not an issue and perhaps her mother never cooked. Why should she expect things to be any different in her life with her husband? It's the only way she knows.

In essence, you have no fault to find with her other than her lifestyle, and even that you would probably accept were it not for the fact that your son is funding it all, and unlike her he does not come from 'old money' but is having to work at quite a frantic pace to keep the money coming in.

However, this means that he doesn't see his children all week -- he is gone early in the morning and home just before their bedtime, and when he is abroad he doesn't see them at all. So I can understand why she wants them to have more time together at the weekends. However, he very much needs his time to himself, if only from a health and fitness point of view, so he should come up with a compromise of some sort whereby he spends more time with the children but retains his tennis.

If it were simply money, then he has the solution in his own hands -- he can cut back on what he allocates for running the household or he can tell her that he cannot pay for all the flights that she takes. But I have a feeling that it may be a bit more than that.

Why has he not been able to get her to listen to him when he told her previously that he cannot afford their luxurious lifestyle? Is he able to deal with arguments? What did he see in the way of role models between you and your ex-husband when you had differences of opinion?

This, together with his personality, should give you an idea as to where his problem lies. And the very best thing that you can do is to be there for him when he needs to complain to somebody, agree with him that it is very difficult for him, and try your best not to criticise her.

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