My brother is 41 and he has been using people his whole life – and he gets away with it. He often gets my dad to pay his rent. He gets his girlfriend to buy him plane tickets. He even once charged my mom to plant flowers in her yard when she injured her back on Mother’s Day! I know that you are going to tell me that it is none of my business – most people do. But my parents are spending so much money on him when they can’t really afford it. I am also worried that he will never get married, because he doesn’t understand the meaning of “equal partnership.”
“My Sibling is a Mooch, UT”
Dear “MSIAM, UT,”
Hello! I understand the pain you feel watching someone – who you probably think has a lot of potential – not pulling his weight in life and relationships.
Chapter 1. It is your business
I am probably going to surprise you when I say that it is your business. Someone, whether it is your brother, your parents, or even your brother’s girlfriend told you. So someone has involved you and made it your business. Let’s also be honest here and throw it out on the table – the more money your dad is giving your brother means less of a nest egg in terms of savings accounts for your parents (and therefore possibly more direct or indirect burden on you as they age). Or it can mean less money that they will be able to pass on to the rest of the children.
Chapter 2. Is there a “trade” relationship?
Now I don’t know your brother, but it is possible that your brother has a “trade” relationship with someone. For instance, it does sound like he at least does some work for your mother (even if he did charge her). But does he do the same for others? For instance does your brother help his girlfriend with her kids, or help her with her yard work? Has your brother ever painted a room for your dad or helped him with a job? Sometimes these “trades” are worth their weight in gold to someone.
Unless he is extremely charming, it is almost impossible for someone to just shell out money over long periods of time without getting something in return.
Chapter 3. It makes people feel good to help out
Now think back a time…you may be like me and you are extremely independent, but have either of your parents spent money on you for school, wedding, car, etc. that they may not have spent on your brother? Or is it a way for them to make up for something?
Also, a lot of times people need to feel needed. It could be that your parents know that there is a problem, but it makes them feel good to be helpful.
Chapter 4. A time to take responsibility
Now that I have discussed where the family may be coming from, I want to stress to you that I think that it is worth its weight in gold when someone is responsible for themselves. I think that it is really important for everyone to be independent. Because what happens when the financial source is gone….is this person going to be able to function on his own?
Chapter 5. The conversation
I think that it is important for you to have a conversation with your family and your brother. Do it in a non-judgmental way and focus on the future. Keep a good relationship with your brother because no matter what, it sounds like he is a good person (otherwise why would so many – including you right now – want to help him?)
Here we go…
“Sam (made up name), there are so many people that love you and want to take care of you. I am a little concerned that sometimes they do it when they cannot always afford it – like mom or dad. I am just afraid that if something happened to mom or dad that you may run into trouble financially.”
Or to the parents….
“Mom and dad, I know that you love both Sam and I very much. I know that you have been there for us whenever we needed it. What I am concerned about is that in doing so with Sam by occasionally paying his rent I am not certain that he has been learning to take care of himself, What if something were to happen to you? We all want to help him, but it may be better is we helped him learn to help himself a little more.”
Whatever your conversation is, it is better not to let it fester. I have seen situations get out of control and relationships that cannot be repaired. This is a difficult topic and I wish you the very best!