Dilemma: I have two wonderful children, both married well to partners who have good jobs and are good parents. However one couple is far more successful than the other, and I keep getting the feeling that this is a cause for jealousy between them. My daughter keeps commenting on what my daughter-in-law has or is buying or wearing, and it feels like it’s overflowing to competition between them. It’s seeping into our camaraderie, as we have always loved to be together as a family, and the girls were like sisters.
I want to start a little secret stipend to go to my daughter to help ease these jealous feeling. My husband is adamant that she’s just acting spoiled and this will just spoil her more. I thought of just buying her special things but I can’t without offering it also to my daughter-in-law, who plays into the jealousy game. We’re all intertwined, so being secretive won’t work. I’d be nervous. The boys stay out of it, pretty much, but as the grandchildren are entering their teens, the tension seems to be escalating, with one granddaughter now showing attitude. Any advice would be appreciated.
Meg’s solution: I totally agree with your husband. An allowance will not solve the problem. Instead it would feed into your daughter’s feelings of insecurity, as Mama would be agreeing with her that a little more money would make her competitive and thus happier. And I cannot help but think of your son-in-law and how it would make him feel.
No, this young lady has to come to terms with herself and re-evaluate the importance of “things” in her life, for her sake, her husband’s and the children’s as well. She’s their role model. As I’ve said many times, there’s always someone with more to be jealous of. Multi millionaires want to be billionaires. It hardly stops.
There’s obviously more going on here, though, as your daughter-in-law is “playing the game” as well. She may feel you favor your daughter’s children, or even your daughter, and perhaps makes up for it by gloating a bit. Remember high school? Fast forward and here we are, same feelings and reactions, different setting. This time, though, someone needs to find the maturity to solve it and get on with fun and warmth. Who needs this superficial stress? There’s enough out there to worry about.
Although it’s not your job or within your ability to fix this friction, you certainly can set the stage for a clearing of the air and hopefully get the elephant out of the room. I vote for a spa day with the girls, just for a treat, or even a spa weekend. Lots of yoga and massage will help open a discussion, in terry robes, of course, where it’s easier to be honest.
If you can’t articulate your feelings well, then write them down in a letter, and bring it with you to read together when a moment presents itself. Take your time and be delicate. Let them know you’re feeling family tension, and want things to be back to normal, warm and loving. Break the ice; find things to laugh about. Talk about feelings, if you can. All of yours. But remember, this is between them, and that’s about as far as you can go. Pray for an epiphany; hope for friendship.
Fingers crossed, it works. If not, there’s always therapy, and it’s highly recommended anyway … maybe for each of you. Remember, this is not just about money. Enjoy your massage. Sounds like you could use it too.
Got a dilemma? Email email@example.com. Meg Green, CFP, is a wealth manager with offices in Aventura. Her Money Dilemmas column runs monthly in The Miami Herald.