Direct Answers – Invisible Strings

Recently we helped each of our three 30-something children buy homes by acting as guarantor. My husband spent hours helping with repairs and maintenance. I help with the grandchildren several times a week, and we often have everyone over for meals.

None of this would be a problem except that, apart from a verbal thank-you, there has been no other gesture of thanks from any of them. We feel hurt, disappointed and a bit embarrassed, and wonder if our expectation of something more is unreasonable.

Some of our friends received flowers, wine, and tickets to a show for providing less help to their children. Others have also had little or nothing.

These children were brought up to know better. We would just like a simple invitation to dinner at their homes to say thanks for putting yourselves on the line for us.

The hurt is festering but we don't know how to resolve the matter. We get conflicting advice from friends, with some saying we should count it a privilege to help and should expect nothing, while others are incensed on our behalf.

~ Martha

Martha, you say you raised them to know better. If that statement is true and all three children gave you the same level of thank-you, then this is what they consider adequate thanks.

If you get the same answer from each child, and you think the answer should be X but they say Y, then your answer is wrong.

In addition, if they couldn't have afforded their houses without your guarantee, didn't you get them into a house they might otherwise have been prevented from having?

Whether their credit rating wasn't high enough to get the loan, or their income and savings weren't sufficient for a loan, more time would likely have solved those issues. In this sense, you circumvented the financial rules and safeguards. Should you be thanked for that?

When a loan is given, all the details are spelled out—fees, penalties, due dates and everything else. But as cosigner, you didn't spell out what you expected. The bank told them. You didn't. In your mind you had secret expectations.

We understand perfectly how you feel. You want a nice, spontaneous, meaningful thank-you. Everyone likes that.

But some events—graduation from university, the birth of a baby, the purchase of a first home—are milestones in a young adult's life. How can they share the stage?

Put yourself in their shoes. If this is their home, they are supposed to be making payments. They are paying taxes, insurance and utilities. You didn't give them a house. You gave them a debt the bank would have prevented them from having.

We shouldn't expect to be compensated for something we give freely. If we do, the gift is not free, from the heart, without strings attached. We should not think we are giving a gift if we expect anything—anything—in return.

If we have to tell someone how to say thank you, what is the value of the thank-you? When thanks are not instinctively given, they are hollow.

We understand your feelings, but those feelings are not helpful in this situation. Your children may not think you gave them a gift. They may think you gave them a debt.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for March 6, 2017

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