Author Topic: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?  (Read 3747 times)

maisee

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Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« on: November 11, 2014, 10:35:28 AM »
Hi all. Sorry for the long post.

I've been a looong-time lurker, but there was a post over at the antimustachian wall of comedy that really struck a nerve: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/antimustachian-wall-of-shame-and-comedy/and-the-all-time-wall-of-shame-award-goes-to-this-poor-sap/

The poor sap is so much like my dad it's uncanny. My parents were divorced in 2012 and since then it seems like my dad has made a series of bad financial decisions or has had just tons of bad luck since then. Though, I don't have a good picture of exactly what has been going on. It's driving a wedge between him and me and my siblings. He is in debt for roughly $200k due to divorce and for buying out my mom, his truck is about to go, he's got a new family to spend money on (new fiancee and her 2 kids) and we know he's been spending money on repairs to get the former family home ready for sale.

My problem is this: he believes that a lot of his financial stress is our fault (us three kids, now in our early 20s) for not helping him out post-divorce. I'd like to state for the record that this is absolutely not true. Anyway, this came to a head a few nights ago when we approached him and were blind-sided. My dad told us the following: he regrets every cent spent on us over the few years, he's not sure if he wants to disown us completely (that's how bad his money situation -perceived or real- has gotten), and he's holding large grudges against us over small things (financial and non-financial).

I'm not really asking for advice on how to fix his finances. If I gave him advice, he would not listen.

My concern is how do I approach my dad, I guess, indirectly about finances? I'd like to be able to talk to him about specific things eventually, but first want to get a general discussion going to see what's going on in his head. I want to find out how bad it is, really, and then move on from there if he asks for help. I really do want to help. He's clearly bitter/ enraged/ overwhelmed and I'm almost certain it's just about money (he's always been this way, to a degree). Have any of you had similar situations with difficult relatives? How did you handle them?

Thanks in advance!

Bonus question: If he would clearly benefit from seeing a therapist, how do you sell that to a guy who believes he can't afford it?

chasesfish

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2014, 11:05:50 AM »
I think your dad is in a bad place mentally, financially, and personally.  I would disconnect from him for a while and live your own life.  He has to work out the problems for himself.  If he asks for "help", feel free to give him advice.

It's his life and his choices, you can't change that.

GizmoTX

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2014, 11:24:52 AM »
That's terrible of him. There's no way you are responsible for his actions or his debts. I experienced something similar with my father. It took years for him to become less bitter, stop drinking, & stop blaming everyone else but himself. I kept up contact over the years but refused to let him manipulate me. Ironically the woman he married after my mother turned out to be absolutely horrible to him & us by the end of his life.

Did he pay for anything after HS for you? If I repaid anything, it would be his share of this (I'm assuming your mother would have also contributed). Anything beyond this is a bottomless pit of his making, & at a time when you need to be launching yourselves.

I think you make it clear he has your emotional support, if & when he wants it, and that you kids didn't get divorced from him. If you are grateful for his upbringing and/or memories, tell him, but then leave the ball in his court. He has to put distance & time between himself & the divorce, & you know his spending is only making things worse. You draining yourself dry to "help" him is not going to solve this. Nor do you need to know the details -- this just sucks you into the drama. Chances are he won't be grateful, either.


Pigeon

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2014, 11:32:48 AM »
Yeah, he's not a good place.  I would let him know you love him, but I wouldn't get mixed up in his finances.  How on earth does he think his adult children are responsible for his situation--that's just weird.

surfhb

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2014, 12:08:49 PM »
I'd also think it would be a good idea for you too see a therapist on how to deal with what he said.    That's a very hard thing to take from a parent and feel it's a good time to back away from his problems and the guilt you might be feeling.

I personally feel you should not get involved unless he asks!    It's none of your business nor is any of this your fault.    You should let him know how much you love him and tel him you hope it works out for him....period!  :)
« Last Edit: November 11, 2014, 12:13:30 PM by surfhb »

maisee

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2014, 12:11:13 PM »
Thanks for your responses. Yea, I think he needs some distance - a lot actually - but I'll probably just text him to just say, hey how are things going? in like a week or two. And maybe keep doing it intermittently? I think it's smart to gently put the ball in his court.

As for repaying stuff, I was thinking that maybe we should have helped out more. But to be honest it's hard to know where the line is. Like, when we lived there,  we never worked anything out specifically to pay rent, help with utilities, groceries, etc. He never asked, though we definitely did pay for a bunch of things over the last 2 years.

Anyways, thanks for your help.

Future Lazy

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2014, 12:13:15 PM »
Last year, I was living with my mom while she was unemployed. She wanted to charge us 600+ for her spare bedroom, and utilities, which my husband - then boyfriend -and I agreed to pay. However, 3-4 months into this, she handed my husband a fistfull of unpaid personal bills and told him to "pay these". It wasn't a request, asking for money for help, etc. It was a demand. Of course, we moved.

This year, my mother has been employed and also found a room mate willing to pay $500/mo for her spare bedroom, and was getting back on her feet. Over the summer, I was helping my mother make some repairs and improvements to her kitchen. Her temporary room mate was moving out, and we were discussing how she would really rather live by herself. For me, this presented a good opportunity to broach the subject in a semi-passive way...

Stated that I would much rather live with room mates, that the money was worth the hassle. She insisted it wasn't. I asked her, is living alone worth $6000 a year, or more? She hesitated, but still insisted it was. I could have gone on to point out that having a room mate for just 3.5 years would pay off her delinquent student loans, another 1-2 years beyond that would pay off her car... Even though it didn't change her behavior, it was still a great opportunity to provide a different financial perspective.

The moral of that story being that if you display frugal and positive financial models to your dad through your own behavior, it will show him that something different is possible. I would be curious to know who handled the finances and bills while your parents were married - that might give a good indicator as to why he doesn't seem to know his limits or how to manage his income against his expenses...

surfhb

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2014, 12:15:52 PM »
Thanks for your responses. Yea, I think he needs some distance - a lot actually - but I'll probably just text him to just say, hey how are things going? in like a week or two. And maybe keep doing it intermittently? I think it's smart to gently put the ball in his court.

As for repaying stuff, I was thinking that maybe we should have helped out more. But to be honest it's hard to know where the line is. Like, when we lived there,  we never worked anything out specifically to pay rent, help with utilities, groceries, etc. He never asked, though we definitely did pay for a bunch of things over the last 2 years.

Anyways, thanks for your help.

Twenty something years ago he made a decision to become a father.   You do not owe him ANYTHING but your love, respect and gratitude

maisee

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2014, 12:26:26 PM »
I would be curious to know who handled the finances and bills while your parents were married - that might give a good indicator as to why he doesn't seem to know his limits or how to manage his income against his expenses...

Thanks for the reply (and to everyone).

This is the thing that baffles me. He managed every aspect of the family's finances. Until 2012 we had no debts, house paid off, we lived frugally, but very well in a middle-upper class neighborhood. He is an accountant. I think the stress of the divorce kinda broke him and he signed off on an agreement that he later admitted to that he didn't fully read through. Blames my mom for his undoing, but that's not a surprise.

Future Lazy

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Re: Approaching parent whose hair appears to be on fire?
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2014, 12:47:59 PM »
I would be curious to know who handled the finances and bills while your parents were married - that might give a good indicator as to why he doesn't seem to know his limits or how to manage his income against his expenses...

Thanks for the reply (and to everyone).

This is the thing that baffles me. He managed every aspect of the family's finances. Until 2012 we had no debts, house paid off, we lived frugally, but very well in a middle-upper class neighborhood. He is an accountant. I think the stress of the divorce kinda broke him and he signed off on an agreement that he later admitted to that he didn't fully read through. Blames my mom for his undoing, but that's not a surprise.

That's really tough. In that case, then he probably needs professional psychological help. If he feels that much resentment for his ex wife and his bio kids, what kind of havoc is he going to wreak on his new fiancee and her kids? Yikes. There's no way to force an intervention... Space might be best for both of you, even if he doesn't see the light until something else goes wrong - for example, if goes down the same path of resentment with his new family members...