BOOMER therapist Fran Marmor on family issues.
My wife and I are in a quandary. We have two adult married sons, neither of whom has or intends to have children. Our older son’s wife is a wonderful, professional woman who has truly become family. Our younger son’s wife is completely different. She is obnoxious. She is rude to both my wife and me and has our son brainwashed against us. Of course, we still love him dearly, but our relationship has become strained. We are updating our will and know it is politically correct to divide our assets equally, but we cannot tolerate the notion of our daughter-in-law gaining access to our hard-earned money. We want to explain to our son that he has chosen her and one of the consequences is that we don’t feel compelled to leave half our assets to him as long as he is married to her. What is your opinion?
I definitely understand your dilemma. This is a sensitive subject, so please understand that I am giving my best advice – with full awareness that you and your wife will have to make the decision that ultimately feels right for you. You wrote that your older son’s wife has “truly become family.” The difficult reality, though, is that your younger son’s wife is now also family. Perhaps you could have a conversation with your younger son about how upsetting it is to you that your relationship feels strained. Without making accusations, ask him if he knows what is causing the tension and if he has ideas on how to fix that. As I see it, the difficulty between you and your son and his wife is the problem, not the eventual distribution of funds. Use this time to be as close as possible to your son and his challenging wife. I would not allow your final gift to make a statement other than you love both of your children equally. Imparting the message that you trust them whether or not you approve of every choice is also a loving gesture, probably consistent with how you raised them. Dividing unequally could potentially hurt both children, which is clearly not your intent. In situations such as this, often the child who receives more money feels guilty, while the other feels resentful. Tension can ensue. You sound like a caring man; if you were really comfortable giving one child less than the other, I don’t think you would have written. I respect your concerns, though, and hope that you, your wife and your son can have productive and loving conversations long before your money is divided.