Holidays. Family. Money.

Each one can be stressful, but all together—in the same house?

Get this conflict under control, says our elder, and do it before Christmas.

Dear EWC:

OK, so last year I went through a lot. I had a baby, the father broke up with me, we ended up back together, but it was a rocky road that my family made very difficult.
I was just trying to find a way to breathe so I wanted to start school; it was a quick 3 week program and I needed $900 to start. I didn’t have it so I asked my cousin to lend me it. Long story short, she did—but with a written contract saying I had to start paying her back right after I finished. Well it didn’t happen. I couldn’t pay her back, and when I did finally get a cheap job to take care of my daughter and our family, things got bad.

My boyfriend’s parents told him he had to be out of the house within 2 weeks, that he couldn’t live with them when they moved. Naturally I pleaded with my mother but because of past blow-ups she refused. I wasn’t going to let the father of my child—the person I loved—be homeless so the money I had been saving I spent to get us our first apartment. Things are so close that we are barely making rent now and we can’t even do Christmas for our daughter.

I just haven’t got to pay my cousin yet. I feel terrible because I can’t contact her in any way; I have no phone and I’m honestly just too scared to explain to her my circumstances.
Here’s my dilemma: My mother wants me and my bf and my daughter to go to the Xmas gathering at my aunt’s (my cousin’s mom) but I don’t want my Xmas being ruined because I know my cousin will say something or expect me to say something about it and I just want a good Xmas, no stress. My boyfriend says I should go and just not let her bother me but it’s impossible! I don’t know what to do or what to say, please help! And I’m sorry this is typed so terribly I was in a rush.

Tell-Tom replies:

I’m so sorry for your circumstances, but I believe that honesty is the best policy, and I strongly feel the sooner you address this issue with your cousin, the better will things be in the long run.
Your cousin was quite wise to require a written contract. My suspicion is that she required this contract because she had doubts that you would neither complete your educational course nor pay her back. Both concerns appear to have been valid. That you have a written contract means that you are legally bound by the contract to pay your cousin back and if you do not do so, she may take legal steps to recover her money.

Christmas is, unfortunately, a time of stress. Your cousin will not make matters worse; you have unfortunately already made the decision to make any time together stressful by your actions. That may sound brutal, and I’m sorry if it does, but you need to take responsibility and accountability for your actions. Here’s how to do so:
By whatever means possible, make contact with your cousin NOW and tell her the truth, just as you have told us. You say that you cannot contact her… but were able at one time to contact her for the loan. I do not accept that you cannot contact her. I know that you don’t wish to contact her, but wishing not to and doing the right thing are two separate issues. It’s time to do the right thing.

Do NOT put this off to Christmas or after. Times are tough and I know that money is short, but you have an obligation both morally and legally to do the right thing. Make an agreement to repay the loan; do NOT miss a payment by even an hour. Make payments on time and if possible, early. The amount of payment will likely be small given your circumstances, but NOW is the time to show good faith by doing the right thing and taking ownership for your actions.

And here is something to think about: You and the father of your child broke up, got back together, and have had a rocky road between you. His parents refuse to have him live with them. Your Mother also says no. You make no mention of his having a job or how he contributes financially to you and his child. Is this relationship going to last? Is this man more important than your family?

Please do the right thing.


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