Money is a complicated issue, especially when it comes to its role in supporting family members. Most people want to be generous with the people they love, but when are you providing too much of a good thing? And are you at risk of potentially enabling a problematic money pattern?
Signs You Need to Establish Clear Financial Boundaries
In some cases, it's obvious you need to establish financial boundaries. For example, if someone steals from you or blows all the money you gave them and instantly asks for me, that's a clear sign that boundaries need to be considered.
But many times, the need for boundaries feels more subtle. You may not even realize you're in an unhealthy financial relationship because you care about the other person. Here are some signs you may need to consider establishing solid financial boundaries:
You Continuously Feel Resentful
Resentment is a strong indicator that you need to set boundaries with someone (and this doesn't just apply to money situations). When we feel resentful, it's often because we feel taken advantage of, or because we feel like we're putting our own needs on the back burner.
Remember that healthy boundaries are also about protecting your integrity. You deserve to have limits with yourself and others.
You Feel Strapped for Cash Yourself
It's okay to offer financial support to others, but you shouldn't be doing so if it jeopardizes your own needs.
No matter how much you love your friend or family member, your own financial future is also important. A healthy financial boundary may include paying yourself first before giving money to others. You may also need to revisit your budget or financial behavior to feel more empowered about your own money situation.
Your Loved One Keeps Lying to You
If you know your loved one is lying about their spending habits, it's undoubtedly time to consider setting boundaries. Deceit erodes trust within relationships, and it acts as lighter fluid for strong negative emotions, including anger, disappointment, and shame.
While setting healthy boundaries doesn't necessarily change lying, it does mitigate how entangled you become with someone else's behavior.
Your Loved One Isn't Changing Their Behavior
People typically lend money to support their loved ones during economic troubles. But what if the situation isn't so temporary, and the economic trouble keeps getting worse and worse?
Unfortunately, some people take advantage of generous behavior. This can be true in a financially abusive relationship, but it can also be true in codependent parent-child dynamics or relationships where addiction or mental health problems are prevalent.
Although it may be a painful reality, sometimes a tough love approach really is the best way for someone to change. If they know someone else will always bail them out, there just might not be enough incentive to change their money habits.
Types of Financial Boundaries in Healthy Relationships
Boundaries come in different shapes and sizes, and how you set financial boundaries depends on your specific relationship. Here are some limits to consider:
Prioritize Your Own Financial Goals
Regardless of how you choose to support others, you should have an idea of your own personal finance needs. What are you saving for? How do you invest? What do you hope to spend money on in the next few months or years?
If these questions make you feel anxious, it may be time to go back to the basics. Do you have a budget? Do you know what your average cash flow looks like each month? Are you in need of financial assistance yourself? Even if you don't like your answers, having insight is the first step toward considering which boundaries you need to instill.
Avoid Giving Direct Money
If you're concerned about your loved one spending money impulsively (or using it to buy drugs or fund other concerning habits), don't give them cash. For example, if you're helping them with rent, set up a payment plan where you can pay the landlord. Or, go with them to buy groceries instead of sending them a check to buy food.
Provide a Fixed Amount and Don't Cater to Excess Requests
Many people find that it's best to designate a specific amount of money to provide. If that runs out, it runs out. This strategy can divert the pattern of someone seeking recurring financial requests.
However, if you've had weak money boundaries in the past, your loved one will likely test your new boundaries. In doing so, they may try to pull at your heartstrings. They might beg for more money or try to play on your emotions (I won't have enough gas money to get to work this week. I don't know if I'll be able to make rent, so I might just end up homeless).
These pleas are scary to hear, but if you truly want to set healthy financial boundaries, you need to remain consistent and firm. That's the only way someone else will respect your limits.
Stop Lending Money
If a loved one continues asking for cash or keeps using money in ways that feel unacceptable to you, it may be time to stop giving in altogether. This is not you being cruel. This is you setting a stage for financial peace while also conveying that you don't condone certain decisions.
Remember you are not obligated to do anything that feels distressing to you. Setting firm boundaries allows you to build a healthy relationship with yourself, which benefits everyone in the long term.
How We Can Help You Establish Healthy Financial Boundaries
Giving money might feel like the easiest thing to do. But giving into faulty power dynamics and refusing to hold a loved one accountable for their spending decisions is ultimately damaging to a relationship.
At Resurface Group, we help loved ones reconnect with their family members, improve their mental health, and set important boundaries in their lives. No matter your specific circumstances, we are here to support you.
Contact us today to learn more about our unique program.