Dear Life Kit: My boyfriend's parents pay for everything. It makes me uncomfortable She loves her boyfriend's parents, but their generosity feels inappropriate. Maya Lau, host of the podcast Other People's Pockets, weighs in on how to move forward.

Dear Life Kit: My boyfriend's parents pay for everything. It makes me uncomfortable

Dear Life Kit: My boyfriend's parents pay for everything. It makes me uncomfortable

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Photographs by Fabrizio Frigeni/Unsplash; Markus Winkler/Unsplash; Collage by NPR
Collage of a mother bird leaning over her nest of baby birds with open mouths as if to feed them. In her mouth, she holds a credit card, symbolizing a parent supporting their child financially.
Photographs by Fabrizio Frigeni/Unsplash; Markus Winkler/Unsplash; Collage by NPR

Need some really good advice? Look no further than Dear Life Kit. In each episode, we pose one of your most pressing questions to an expert. This question was answered by Maya Lau, creator and host of the podcast Other People's Pockets, a show that asks people to talk about their finances with radical transparency. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Dear Life Kit,

I love my boyfriend's parents. They're the kind of people you meet and think, "There's no way they're like this all the time." Except, they are. They wake up every day at 4:30 a.m. so they can drink coffee and garden before they leave for work. They're kind, passionate, generous people and they have treated me like family since day one. I know many people will think it's ridiculous to have any complaints about my situation, but here it is: They're way too nice.

We live in different states, and when they come to visit they stay for a week or two, and they pay for everything. Literally everything. Anything we do, anywhere we go, anything I even think about buying, they somehow sense it and beat me to it. They once found my shopping list while I was out, and they did my shopping for me. They picked up everything ... from the groceries right down to the very personal items I would have really preferred they left alone.

I'm deeply uncomfortable with it, but I have no idea how to politely say "I am a real adult with a real adult job, and I would like to buy my own sandwich at lunch today." My boyfriend fundamentally doesn't understand where I'm coming from. He says thing like, "Your parents buy us stuff too." Sure, they send gifts on holidays. They might pick up the tab at dinner, but this feels very different.

So my question is: Am I crazy to complain? And if not, what can I do? — A Real Adult

Maya Lau is the creator, host and executive producer of the podcast Other People's Pockets. Photograph by Brandon Hill hide caption

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Photograph by Brandon Hill

I would say, don't always assume that other people's attitudes towards money are the same as your own.

The fact that somebody wants to cover something for you does not mean that they're trying to assert that they're more of an adult and you are just some small child. It's OK if you feel that way, but it's not a universal truth. So try to interrogate where that comes from.

[You mentioned] his parents come in from out of state and stay with you for two weeks, which in my book is a really long period of time to have houseguests. There might be an element of his parents feeling like, 'Look, we're saving all this money on a hotel, the least we can do is pay for everything.' Maybe they don't want to be a burden, so covering everything is a way to compensate for that.

I think [their generosity] comes from a good place. Now, does that mean you can't say anything? No. I think you need to have a real discussion before they visit. Either a casual conversation with your boyfriend present, where the two of you have gotten on the same page ahead of time. Or maybe it's just a conversation you have with your boyfriend and then you ask your boyfriend to have this conversation with his parents.

I wouldn't come at it from the stance of being aggrieved and offended and infantilized, but more like, 'Oh my gosh, you guys are so generous. I love spending time with you. I just want to say, maybe there are certain things we can agree on ahead of time that you can cover if you want. Beyond that, we're good.' And, if this is really how this person feels, 'I just want to let you know that when you come to stay here, you are welcome here. And it is not a burden for us to have you for two weeks.'

I also wouldn't necessarily bring up them finding the note and buying all these personal things. I would just [emphasize] that it makes you feel more comfortable and like there's less of an imbalance if you all agree on some of these things ahead of time. And hopefully, if they're generous, they're also good listeners.

Listen to Maya Lau's full response in the audio at the top of the page or on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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Dear Life Kit is hosted by Andee Tagle and produced by Beck Harlan and Sylvie Douglis. Bronson Arcuri is the managing producer and Meghan Keane is the supervising editor. Alicia Zheng produces the Dear Life Kit video series for Instagram.

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