Will a Tough Love Confrontation Work for a Family Finance Meltdown?

In my search for stories of tough love applied to money problems and financial disasters, I received this response from a Oasis657, a message board reader: 

My 25 year old step daughter has been allowed to live with us (we have a duplex, she lives “upstairs”) for going on two years now.  We offered her help because she was working full time and going to school part time and since her dad didn’t have the resources to fund her education, at least he could let her live here rent free.  This was going along just fine until she got into a car accident last November.  She totaled her car, then she had a meltdown.  She quit going to school, got fired from her job, and now she won’t do anything.  We’ve tried everything we can think of to help her get back on track, but she refuses all of our efforts.  Frankly, I don’t know where she gets the money to eat these days.  We’ve been as patient as we can with her, but we’ve had to give her an ultimatum, either start doing something productive, (school or work would be fine) or move out by the end of September.  This is really hard on us because her behavior is so baffling.  She doesn’t seem depressed, or psychotic, or anything like that, she just won’t DO anything.  To top it off she’s got a boyfriend who’s almost 20 years her senior (who she won’t even introduce to us).  It’s enough to make me depressed or psychotic!!  Stay tuned, I’ll update when the time comes.

I will be looking for updates on this situation but it seems  that there is more involved here than just money.  (I am referring in part to the boy friend 20 years senior. )  

In a previous tough love money story, a similar drastic action by a parent was in fact successful.  In other examples where money love was given to a family member in the form of a loan, that backfired.  This is borne out by Delores, another poster who had this to say about an unsuccessful tough love action toward a family member:

For instance, a few years ago, when my husband and I had some savings left after he left the military and we moved to another state, his older brother asked if we’d give him $300 so he could get training for a job that would help him while he went to college.  Basically, his plan was to get bartending training so he could work evenings/nights while attending school during the day.  As far as I know, he quit the bartending training halfway through for some reason and never got a refund of any of the money.  We also paid his car insurance at this time because he was between jobs.  He’s still barely employed (by choice)  and has since picked a fight with me that deteriorated into him no longer speaking to me…my firm opinion is this was largely motivated by the guilt of owing us money.  As in, “well I don’t have to worry about paying her back now because she’s such a bitch.”  I see now that is exactly how he thinks, and I guarantee that short of life saving surgery he will never get another dime from us.”

This outcome seems to clarify why some experts recommend that you connect the family member with a third-party professional who can provide a dispassionate assessment to the family member, without fear of a damaging permanent alienation.  I will continue to look for reports on true tough love stories like these.

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One Response to “Will a Tough Love Confrontation Work for a Family Finance Meltdown?”
  1. Shawn says:

    Just a caution about your stepdaughter and her car accident. Did she have a head injury? If so, it might be worth it to have her assessed. Brain trauma can lead to a variety of baffling behaviors and require professional help. Symptoms include depression, moodiness, short-term memory loss, inability to sequence and inability to concentrate, to name a few. This type of injury (and its resulting symptoms) is common also among many of our returning war vets (e.g. explosions) and long-term football players (multiple hits). One of the most tragic outputs is the individual’s inability to maintain steady employment.

    My daughter was in a car accident in high school and was unconscious for 30 minutes. To look at her today, you’d never know she was in an accident; however, her story sounds alot like your step-daughter’s. Especially frustrating for her is that she can remember that she used to be able to do things prior to the accident that she cannot do today.

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