Author Topic: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?  (Read 7078 times)

ladyinred

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SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« on: December 10, 2014, 10:15:07 AM »
Long time lurker, first time poster. I found MMM a year ago and my husband have since cut our monthly living expenses in half and are planning more steps to cut it further. I am really stoked with the changes we're making in our lives!

My husband's sister has decided in the last month to file for a divorce from her husband because he just isn't as exciting and interesting a man as she needs in her life. They have been married ~10 years and have three kids (2, 4, 6). Also have a house, two cars and other standard American dream paraphernalia. He works, she is full time SAH mom.

I was surprised to hear that even though she served him papers, he isn't moving out during the trial separation period. She says its because they can't afford two places right now. Turns out, they aren't making enough money to make ends meet most months. Occasionally they "break even". They just put everything on credit cards and when payday comes, throw as much money as possible at the credit card bill and call it good. They have been doing this for five years.  I can't give any specifics about their finances; I don't know those details and I suspect they don't either!

He doesn't plan to get a better paying job. She doesn't plan to get a job at all- just going to live off the alimony or something like that. They have no plan going forward, divorce or no divorce, and it is clear they are in a horrific debt emergency.

I want to do an intervention- slap them both across the face and shake them and yell "What are you doing?!" They need someone to sit them down and talk about their expenditures, make them honestly face their situation and make them consider what to do about it. But obviously, if you broach the subject of someone else's finances just to tell them all the things they are doing wrong, it won't go well. She is particularly stubborn and she will get defensive and then probably won't talk to us again for a while.

Is there any way to do an intervention in this situation? Or should I just sit back, be polite, stay out of their business, and watch them go down in misery?

Future Lazy

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2014, 10:38:37 AM »
Have you talked to the SIL at all about the cutting back and money management you've been doing?

In any situation where you're working closely with a family member to help them improve their behavior, it's really best to just lead by example. It takes time and patience, but people really DO respond to seeing the actions of others have good outcomes.

The only, only place where I would suggest directly intervening would be to offer some help searching for a job or helping her build a resume. Of course, if she doesn't want help or think it's important, and says no, you have to take no as an answer. Just keep the offer to help open.

Forcus

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2014, 10:45:51 AM »
Yeah, I'd probably stay out of it unless she directly asks for help. And even if she did that, the whole "bored of marriage" and willing to break up a family because of it, kind of puts a stop to any help I would feel like giving.

Chrissy

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2014, 10:58:43 AM »
"Or should I just sit back, be polite, stay out of their business, and watch them go down in misery?"

YES.  These two people are adults.  They are a mess, but they're allowed to make their own mistakes.  All the information they need is available at the touch of their fingertips, but they choose every minute of every day NOT to seek it out.  You should respect that choice. 

I understand feeling like you should do whatever you can to save them, so you can feel okay with yourself, however, you should reserve your willingness to jump in for when your SIL and her kids might need government assistance, food, shelter, winter coats, etc.

rubybeth

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2014, 11:02:26 AM »
Yeah, I'd probably stay out of it unless she directly asks for help. And even if she did that, the whole "bored of marriage" and willing to break up a family because of it, kind of puts a stop to any help I would feel like giving.

I'd stay out of it. If she's getting a divorce because she's bored, she may be too much of an idiot to help anyway.

Seņora Savings

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2014, 11:03:08 AM »
I'm sorry that you're in this situation.  It must be really hard to watch people that you care about living so unsustainably, especially when there are kids involved, unfortunately, I think you already know what has to be done:

Or should I just sit back, be polite, stay out of their business, and watch them go down in misery?

If living with the man she's divorcing because she doesn't have any money isn't enough to get her in gear, you advice won't do much.

The one thing that you can do for her is NEVER GIVE HER MONEY.  This will be hard when she tells you that she doesn't have enough money to feed her kids, but any money that you give her before she downgrades her lifestyle will just be a band-aid.  I'm not sure if this needs to be said, but you and your husband have to be on the same page about this.

The two of you might make a plan for what you'll do to help her kids if you feel so inclined.  This can be anything from having them over for dinner once a week to setting up a college fund for them.

I would caution you against being openly judgmental about her divorce.  You don't know the full story.  I can't imagine that being in that financial situation leads to a happy marriage.  Additionally, your SIL seems to avoid problems, so it's not impossible that "I'm bored of this marriage" is her way of saying "my husband is verbally abusive" or "we yell at each other everyday in front of the kids".

Cpa Cat

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2014, 11:17:01 AM »
There is really no incentive for either one of them to do better until their divorce is finalized.

Think of it from the husband's perspective: Why should I cut spending when she's going to end up getting half of what we have plus alimony? I'd rather give her half of the debt than do better and end up paying more to her.

Think of it from the wife's perspective: Why should I demonstrate that I can do better, when he could use it against me to lower my alimony. I deserve the standard of living that I'm accustomed to.

Think of it from both perspectives: Why should I cut spending when he/she is probably going to just bankrupt out of this and leave me holding the bag. Better to live it up now and deal with the consequences when I don't have this ball and chain. Or, maybe I can marry someone better who will save me from all of this!

swick

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2014, 11:18:23 AM »
It depends on your SIL's personality - personally I would share my story and leave it at that. You can probably address a lot of the issues they have with how you frame your story. How there have been lots of benefits other then financial as you have discovered common goals, turned savings into a "game" you play together, how you have been learning new and exciting skills.

See how she responds and goes from there. On the one hand she could be a totally self absorbed person, on the other hand,  her comments of: "he just isn't as exciting and interesting a man as she needs in her life." might be more a reflection of their circumstances - a bit of an endless loop because they are being beaten down by the money stress and raising three little kids.  It depends on what type of person she is.

Prairie Stash

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2014, 11:19:09 AM »

I was surprised to hear that even though she served him papers, he isn't moving out during the trial separation period. She says its because they can't afford two places right now. Turns out, they aren't making enough money to make ends meet most months. Occasionally they "break even". They just put everything on credit cards and when payday comes, throw as much money as possible at the credit card bill and call it good. They have been doing this for five years.  I can't give any specifics about their finances; I don't know those details and I suspect they don't either!

He doesn't plan to get a better paying job. She doesn't plan to get a job at all- just going to live off the alimony or something like that. They have no plan going forward, divorce or no divorce, and it is clear they are in a horrific debt emergency.
Why would he move out? He has a house to live in lready, it even has room for his kids, does she honestly expect him to give up his kids too? Maybe she should move out during the trial separation, if she's staying for the kids sake then I would think that also applies for him. Some fathers do love their kids enough to want to see them daily...She might be shocked when he fights for custody later on, he might be smart enough not to mention this yet.

Why would he get a different job? He already has a job, if he was planning on a better job he could have done that pre-divorce. You seem pretty biased in your approach with expecting him to change to fix things, my first instinct was to think what the SIL can do. It seems like your first instinct is what can the BIL do, just by the order you state things. Obviously I'm not an expert in your particular situation.

You should stay out of it. It's your SIL that has a problem and eventually your SIL will figure out a solution. You should offer a shoulder and listen but refrain from any advice. This a long term problem that will take a long time to resolve. 

Chrissy

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2014, 11:21:04 AM »
Yes to everything Senora Savings just said.  My parents took in my 10 year old cousin for a year when her mother was incapable.  They did NOT give my aunt money.

Tyler

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2014, 11:48:50 AM »
Stay out of it. I can guarantee there's more to it than you know. Money may be a convenient excuse to mask deeper issues, and you shouldn't believe everything people say in a situation like this.

FWIW, in many states moving out before the divorce would be extremely foolish for the husband legally and would affect his claim to custody of his children. I'm happy to hear he's staying put, regardless of the reason.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2014, 12:09:07 PM by Tyler »

ladyinred

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2014, 12:12:11 PM »
Alright, alright! I figured the answer was to stay out, but if there was any chance of being able to offer some advice without being completely out of line, this community would know how. Thank you for the input.

I think SIL, my husband, and I are doing dinner next week. I shall be supportive of her situation (of which, I will admit I do not know all the details) and if the topic happens to come up, share some of the success we have been having in the last year. Our choices haven't always been easy but the results have been worth it and I hope she can see us as an example to follow.

Let me assure you all, I would never offer them money. I know that only complicates relationships and just enables their in denial lifestyle. We would offer to take the kids in or let her rent out our downstairs apt before a cash handout.

DollarBill

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2014, 01:06:43 PM »
I feel bad for the 3 kids

HairyUpperLip

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2014, 01:29:06 PM »

rmendpara

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2014, 01:29:28 PM »
Alright, alright! I figured the answer was to stay out, but if there was any chance of being able to offer some advice without being completely out of line, this community would know how. Thank you for the input.

I think SIL, my husband, and I are doing dinner next week. I shall be supportive of her situation (of which, I will admit I do not know all the details) and if the topic happens to come up, share some of the success we have been having in the last year. Our choices haven't always been easy but the results have been worth it and I hope she can see us as an example to follow.

Let me assure you all, I would never offer them money. I know that only complicates relationships and just enables their in denial lifestyle. We would offer to take the kids in or let her rent out our downstairs apt before a cash handout.

It's really tough to force help upon an adult... especially when it's not your child who you would have some sort of influence over.

At this point, her life is a mess and I doubt she's ready to make rational decisions while everything is changing for her.

Given you have noticed how poor some of their/her decisions have been, it's best to offer indirect advice and support. For instance, leading by example, bring up topics indirectly, etc. In consulting, we call this "making the client think they came up with the idea."

You can do this in a variety of ways, so I'll give a few thoughts:

- "Hey, I heard on the news that 60% of US households live paycheck to paycheck, and couldn't come up with an unexpected expense of $5k, do you find that surprising?"
- "Hey sis, I've been using this website/software to track our budget for the past 6 months, and WOW it's so fascinating. I'm embarrassed at how much I found out I spend on Starbucks in just a few months! I think coffe is way overpriced. Do you know of any good coffee makers that could help us lower our spend while using better coffee?"

Of course, tailor it to a topic you want to get her to think about, but you get the idea.

For some people who make poor financial decisions, the biggest problem (in my opinion) is that they really just don't ever put pencil to paper to really know the details of the challenges facing them. They would rather live in ignorance or pretend it's not a problem than to deal with it. The challenge as sister/friend is to get her to start facing these challenges and thinking about them, but to do it without telling her she's an idiot directly and having her put up her defenses and get even further away from the problems.

In any case, just a few thoughts. Sorry she and you/husband are having to deal with it.

Good luck.

diesel15

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2014, 04:36:16 PM »
For some people who make poor financial decisions, the biggest problem (in my opinion) is that they really just don't ever put pencil to paper to really know the details of the challenges facing them. They would rather live in ignorance or pretend it's not a problem than to deal with it. The challenge as sister/friend is to get her to start facing these challenges and thinking about them, but to do it without telling her she's an idiot directly and having her put up her defenses and get even further away from the problems.

This exactly.  I've been in this position and tried to help.  What seems so obvious to me and most others here is apparently not obvious to the vast majority.  It's so interesting to me that people will willingly piss away $200 a month on so many things but couldn't come up with $2400 in an emergency.  I completely agree that giving her money under any circumstances is a huge mistake.  What I've found mildly productive is to suggest small changes and show her how they make a big difference over time and work from there.  Going full nuclear will definitely not get the response that you're after.

jzb11

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2014, 05:10:28 AM »
Frivilous divorce, the american way!

wtjbatman

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2014, 08:47:09 AM »
Frivilous divorce, the american way!

To be fair, she is really bored.

bye-bye Ms. FancyPants

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2014, 09:20:52 AM »
Frivilous divorce, the american way!

To be fair, she is really bored.

LMAO - Good point wtjbatman!

ladyinred

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #19 on: December 11, 2014, 09:24:31 AM »
Frivilous divorce, the american way!

To be fair, she is really bored.

It's terrible because it's people I know and care about... but I still LOL'ed.

Jack

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #20 on: December 11, 2014, 10:02:00 AM »

I was surprised to hear that even though she served him papers, he isn't moving out during the trial separation period.
Why would he move out? He has a house to live in lready, it even has room for his kids, does she honestly expect him to give up his kids too?

No kidding! If I were him, my attitude would be "my job pays the mortgage and you're the one who wants to leave, so if you don't want to be around me then GTFO of my damn house!"

FWIW, in many states moving out before the divorce would be extremely foolish for the husband legally and would affect his claim to custody of his children. I'm happy to hear he's staying put, regardless of the reason.

Quoted for truth.

sekritdino

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #21 on: December 11, 2014, 11:42:05 PM »
What might be helpful is to gently offer your help to your SIL. Say something like "I know you guys have had some money trouble. Your brother and I have learned some good money management this over the last year and have really gotten out monthly expenses down and have been able to save a good amount of money. If you want, we would be happy to help you and give you some advice with your finances."

Sometimes people are scared to ask or don't even know that there is help available.

TerriM

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Re: SIL's hair is on fire - Is there a way to do an intervention?
« Reply #22 on: December 12, 2014, 12:00:53 AM »
We've had two friends go through a divorce after going on depression meds.  They lose interest in the other person.  Luckily neither had kids.  It's not funny, but I think "divorce" should be listed as a side effect to some drugs. 

I have a hard time thinking that someone would break up with kids that age unless they were either on these meds or something was fairly wrong.   

It's going to be hard to watch.  This sounds like long-term messy.

I think the thing you can do for the kids--if you're in the same town--is simply be a listening ear, a place for dinner (if you're ok getting mooched off of), and a safe haven if they get kicked out or need a peaceful place to go.  If you are in the same town, you'll need to put down limits on your time from her asking for babysitting, but if the kids call and want to come over because they need it, you might offer that to them.