My family is very dysfunctional and very poor. I basically had to claw my way into financial stability, and it’s made me very frugal. My boyfriend isn’t. He’s from another country originally and comes from old money, although we both make middle-class salaries. He’s very generous with his friends and family, and while I love that about him, he doesn’t really understand why I don’t treat my family the same way. I don’t speak to my parents. My father took out credit cards in my name when I was a child. My mother tried to convince me to give up my scholarship money to her in college. I have a limited relationship with my siblings and never give them cash or easy-to-pawn gifts after my sister once took the money I gave her to pay for rent and blew it at a casino instead. My boyfriend doesn’t understand why I don’t give my nephews the expensive sneakers or video games they want. He teases me for being a “miserly old aunt” and says I’m being petty and trying to punish my siblings with my success.
That hurts. I want to help my siblings, but I learned a long time ago that they’ll squander my gifts. I pay private tuition for my brother’s two girls and try to encourage my nephews in their schoolwork. My sister pawns anything expensive I get for her boys. I don’t have a safety net outside of what I’ve made for myself. My boyfriend can always fall back on his parents and grandparents. I have tried to relate my personal experience to him, and he just tells me the American dream is a mirage. How do I get through to him? Ninety percent of our relationship is perfect, except for his opinions on my family. It’s exhausting to argue about this.
—No Family Loans