Telling the In-Laws You Can Pay Your Own Way, Thank You

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Dear Whit: Whenever we go out with my in-laws, my father-in-law always picks up the check. You would think that isn’t a problem, but sometimes I would like to be the one to take care of it. My wife and I have been married for 4 years and we do pretty well financially, so I want to show that we don’t depend on my in-laws generosity. Part of the problem is that he is a big, intimidating guy who played football in college and owns his own company. So he kind of makes me feel like a little boy, especially because I am not big or athletic. What do you think I should do the next time we go out to dinner? Can Handle the Check

Dear Can: First, do it before you go out to dinner again. Start by talking to your wife to see how she feels about it. If she says that her parents are generous people, then you can understand her father’s (and her mother’s) motivation. Be grateful for and gracious toward their munificence. Conversely, if she says that her father likes to flaunt his wealth/power, you have to decide if you feel comfortable in that position. Assuming that you want to clearly demonstrate your independence, you can talk to your FIL when the issue is not at hand or on the table. For example, you might bring up the topic when you know that your wife and her mother are going to out together. In a relaxed environment in which your FIL doesn’t feel the need to fulfill his traditional role as husband/father protector, he might be less rigid. Explain to him that you respect his intentions and that you want to emulate his example. Maybe he’ll be flattered by your sincere expression of imitation. More than handling your money or your masculinity, it’s about handling your dignity. Expressed in those terms, your FIL should understand what you are talking about—especially when you put it to him “man to man.”

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  1. My dad does the same thing. He says it’s his job and that my husband can return the notion when our sons grow up. In the meantime, treating the family when we go out makes him happy, and I don’t want to compromise his happiness…do I???

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