- 2 years ago
This is going to be long.
First, some background.
I’m in my mid-30s and divorced with a special needs child that I share 50/50 with my ex. I have not lived anywhere close to any of my family for more than a decade. My divorce nearly bankrupted me, and I’ve had a very hard time financially. Admittedly my parents have helped me through the worst of it – helped me move, help occasionally with the costs of childcare and medical care for my son (which are above and beyond the typical), etc. But I live paycheck to paycheck with no savings, barely keeping my head above water. I work full time and have a good career, but I am nowhere close to recovered from the financial devastation of my divorce. If there is an emergency and I have absolutely no way of figuring it out myself – and I mean literally none – I will go to my parents. But, that is a last resort. I have and will sold belongings before. They have gone above and beyond for me my whole life, and I do not believe they should be burdened by the results of my life choices. My parents have always been middle-class but have worked hard and saved for a long time. My father grew up poor and my mother probably lower- to middle-class.
My SO is my age. He has a daughter full time, the mother is only involved maybe 5% of the time. He grew up in a different socio-economic environment than me, I would say somewhere between poor and lower-middle class. He was very much a latchkey child, left to take care of himself from a very young age. The youngest of 3 children, he was working manual labor by the age of 12. To this day he is a blue collar guy, but these days he has a desk job in his industry. He is a great father and man. Responsible, generous, and hard-working. Where we live is where he grew up, so his family is pretty much all here.
Now on to the problem. My SO grew up in a very co-dependent environment. Although he has two older sisters, he carries the weight of the whole family on his shoulders. One sister is older than us and lives with the parents, but contributes absolutely nothing to household expenses. The other sister is married with her own family, and they have a good bit of money. Whenever anything goes wrong, it is up to my SO to handle it. About 5 years ago SO’s parents came to him saying that their house was about to be foreclosed upon and they were going to file for bankruptcy. Rather than let this happen, he sold most of his things and moved himself and his daughter in with them. He took over the mortgage and all of the bills, taking out personal loans to make it all happen. His parents each have their own bedrooms (!), his daughter has a bedroom, and his sister (who does nothing) has a bedroom, but my SO has been sleeping on the couch all these years. When we met 2 years ago, they were nowhere close to becoming more independent. In fact his dad took an early retirement without telling my SO. His mother hasn’t worked for decades, and his dad just had a temp job. I think his dad pulling the early retirement thing, along with me starting to buzz in his ear that he was being taken advantage of, finally gave my SO the kick in the pants he needed to begin to force independence. As of now, they have taken back over all of their household bills. The last thing SO was paying for was satellite TV, and he cancelled that several months back. He buys some groceries, but mostly for he and his daughter. He used to buy groceries for everyone – and also cook dinner for everyone after coming home from a full day of work (when his parents were just sitting around doing nothing). No more.
I can certainly appreciate being in a tenuous financial situation where any little thing can become an emergency because of lack of money. However, it seems like there is never more than a month in between emergencies with these people. My SO has very clearly developed what I consider to be a savior complex as a result of spending his life saving his family. It makes him feel good that he’s able to do it, and he sees it as a reflection of the type of man he is. Unfortunately, they have zero boundaries and clearly do not appreciate my SO at all. It is my opinion that they use him without thinking twice about it, and do not care at all about his happiness or ability to move on and have his own life. The biggest things that keep happening involve his dad’s health and their vehicles. His father has smoked his whole life and is now having ongoing heart and lung problems as a result. He will not take care of himself, so he’s constantly landing himself back in the hospital. My SO gets left dealing with the fallout and often the medical bills. They both have old cars that they don’t take care of, so they are always breaking down. Just yesterday they were out and about with his daughter and their van broke down. He had to leave work to get it pushed off the road, then meet them again after work to find a way to get it home. He’ll spend his evening tonight and probably tomorrow trying to fix it. Now, 2 years ago he would have dug into is own pockets to buy parts they needed etc. These days he makes them wait until they can buy it themselves. This has sometimes meant him having to drive his dad to and from his evening part-time job for a week at a time. But, he still runs to their rescue and takes it upon himself to put in all the labor and energy to get things fixed.
As I’ve said, they never go more than a month in between instances. There is always something that my SO is being called upon to fix or pay for. And honestly I don’t think they appreciate at all what they have in him. He is being used and it makes me sick.
My SO would and has helped me in a pinch, but always as an absolute last resort, and I never expect him to do anything for me. If my car broke down I’d be calling a tow truck to take my car to the shop and figure it out from there. My first instinct would not be to call him to leave work to come save me and handle everything from A to Z.
Now that his parents are paying for their own household again, he’s been paying off some of the debts he accrued while helping them and we plan to get engaged and merge households in early 2019. He already has a ring, I’ve been waiting for a proposal. But this codepedency makes me question whether I’m equipped to deal with this forever. I would absolutely not be able to deal with him throwing money at them at every turn, but assuming he mostly just drops everything and runs to their rescue, can I even deal with that? Am I being heartless? Or would anyone feel this is ridiculous and needs to stop? I don’t expect him to never be involved with or help his family. But I think it’s ridiculous that his sisters do nothing and everything is left to my SO. He has so much on his plate with them that I feel bad any time I DO need him for something.
Has anyone experienced anything remotely like this? What can I do to cope? Should I just run the other direction? I love this man and his generous spirit, but the way his family treats him has caused me to have so much resentment about his inability to pull away and have normal boundaries and his own life.