April 13, 2024
Money

Ask Amy: My new wife got angry when I asked for my share of a wedding gift


Dear Amy: My wife “Mel” and I are newlyweds. After the wedding, my wife’s grandfather sent her a check for $10,000.

I jokingly asked her to hand over my $5,000 share as her new “partner.” She responded with an angry rebuke, which inspired me to start thinking seriously — why aren’t I entitled to share in this wedding gift?

D: This answer would depend on your wife’s grandfather’s statement of intent when he sent this money. Was this a “wedding gift,” or a gift sent to your wife after your wedding?

If the money came along with a note saying, “Mel, I hope you will use this gift toward retiring your college debt so you can get a running start to your marriage,” then the grandfather is using the occasion as a way to give his granddaughter a special gift. If the grandfather did not state any specific intentions and addressed the card/envelope to both of you as a wedding gift, then it is for both of you.

In my opinion, you blew it when you jokingly asked your wife to hand over your half, although the real gift here is that this episode should force you two to discuss your finances: What’s hers, yours, and ours. Being married should inspire both of you to change your orientation from “me” to “we.”

Will you deposit your paychecks into a joint account and pay your expenses from this account? Will you pay your expenses proportional to your incomes, or split them equally? Will you each assume responsibility for your own credit card debt and agree not to let the balances grow over a set amount? Moving forward, if one of you wins the lottery or receives money from a family member, will you deposit it into your joint account to be shared equally?

If you two divorced, these matters would be decided by the community property laws in your state. During your marriage, you get to make these choices as a couple, and I hope you will. A postnuptial agreement would codify some of these decisions, and is essentially a road map for dividing assets if you divorced. Even if you get a post-nup, don’t plan for your divorce; plan for your marriage.

You might ask your wife how she would react if the situation were reversed, and you had received a generous cash gift from a family member. Would she expect you to share the gift equally? (I expect she would.) Would she thrust out her hand and immediately demand half? (I expect she would not.)

Dear Amy: My ex-wife and I divorced five years ago. I have primary custody of my three daughters, ages 6 to 12 (their mom sees them every other weekend).

Three years ago, I met the wonderful “Elise.” Elise and I got married last year and she moved into our home. She didn’t bring children into the marriage and is thrilled to be part of our family. All of the girls seem to be doing well, aside from occasional emotional storms based on their age and stage. The youngest daughter is most attached to her new stepmother, but the others are getting there.

My issue is that Elise wants the kids to call her “Mom.” She has not asked them to do this (they call her by her first name), but she has made it clear to me that she is disappointed that they don’t. I’m not sure what to tell her.

Confused: You should tell your wife exactly what your children would tell her: they already have someone in their life they call “Mom.” The stepmother’s journey is extremely challenging, possibly more challenging for an eager and inexperienced new parent.

Your wife is one of your kids’ parents, but she is not their mom, and as time goes on she will carve out her own special relationship with these daughters. The relationship absolutely must start from a place of trust, respect, and friendship. And so it should be “Elise” for now, and over time, as your household group becomes more intimate, the kids and Elise may come up with another name that suits everyone.

Dear Amy: I was so upset to read the question from “Depressed and Disappointed.” Her son had recently died, and yet her husband and his adult children expected her to host, cook and clean for them during their vacation visit. I’m glad you advised her to go away during this visit. She deserves better.

Distressed: Her husband’s disregard was extreme.

© 2024 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.



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