Paying to the inlaws and seeing little in return

This could perhaps be in the relationships forum, the marriage forum or the culture forum. But this is probably the broadest audience. In many ways I can understand the issues I’m going to outline and anticipate some of the replies, but I’d like to air them.

I am recently married, although we’ve been together for several years. Her family are from the mid-south of Taiwan. I’ve visited several times a year and they’re nice. Their English may be a little better than my Chinese but our conversations are not fluent. But I like them and their home is a nice place to be. Her dad doesn’t speak much, a couple of times when we visited, it was around an hour before he came downstairs to say hello. The first time I visited I think he went out jogging as my now wife came to pick me up from the station on her scooter. That’s his character and it’s kinda cool that he sees no need for fussing around.

When we got married, my parents, brother, sister, uncle and aunt visited from the UK. They helped out with some of the cost here and paid for the reception in the UK. (They’re not minted btw, retired lecturer and social worker). The wedding here involved the usual necessities such as photos, cookies etc. Her parents were in Taipei less than 24 hours. At Chinese New Year, my parents sent them a card from the UK. Showing an interest. I wouldn’t expect anything comparable to happen in reverse. Fair enough. This is just background information really.

My problem, which may be a matter of like it or lump it, is money paid to parents. Chinese New Year is one thing. $5000 per parent, fair enough, that’s the tradition. We live in Taiwan. However my wife, who has three credit card bills (supported her when she was a student) pays $5000 to them every month. Probably quite normal. They worked very hard when she was young - probably 7 days per week, at work and bringing extra home. They bought a house in cash which they’d saved while living in a tied property. So now they have no mortgage or rent. He is around 50 and chooses not to work (although previously this may have been partially down to looking after his now deceased mother) while the mum still works. So we have maybe NT$400k of debt between us, much of it due to the wedding or my wife’s studying. I’m on about 50k per month and my wife a little under 40k, which is relatively comfortable even after monthly payments, but the faster debts are paid off, the better.

I just can’t help feeling that while her dad chooses not to work, with no housing costs, that $5000 every month would be far better placed paying off our debt, which of course we are paying interest on. Helping out the in-laws if they were in need would feel very different.

In societies, things have to come around, go around. I’ve been here long enough to understand red envelopes work like that. Any system that didn’t ultimately balance out would fall apart. But I feel there is little coming in the other direction, whether it be help, visiting Taipei (never other than wedding), recognition or interest in my traditions such as Christmas or birthdays. They do welcome and accept me at their home however, but I’d like to see them in Taipei, to see our home. etc.

Someone asked me if my wife had brothers or older sisters. It is relevant, I suppose. She’s the oldest of four sisters. But I don’t really want to be looking forward to the parents death as a way of things balancing out and having said that, I have no idea what would happen then, 30 or more years hence. We’d prefer not to be in Taiwan by then anyway.

I think most of the arguments have already gone through my head, and I expect I’ll have to accept them, but it would be nice to hear what you think. I hope I don’t sound selfish/ ungrateful or culturally ignorant/insensitive.

Sorry, I don’t have anything to add, but great post, Mr Fruitloop. I really enjoyed reading it.

If your wife wants to pay her dad. She should. whether he works or not should not concern you. If you wanted to send home a 100 pounds every month and your wife got worked up about it, I would say the same.

Its between her and her folks. IMHO.

How finances become merged in marriage will always be interesting and different from couple to couple. My attitude has been to take it as it comes, but there’s no way I’m going down the pay over the salary and ask for an allowance route. It makes sense to me that our lives and therefore finances are intertwined, while it is important to retain some personal money to piss up the wall, spend on toys, handbags or whatever.

I support her to an extent, because I have more money than her. But she lives less expensively than me. I forgot to mention that I pay 2/3 of our rent and more often than not pay for meals etc - which has some relevance to the comment about her spending her money on her dad.

mmmm, I gave you my opinion. If you have issues about paying your rent and your wife living more expensively, there is no way I would have known that.

I din’t say take a salary. About finances, well your lives are entwined and how you pay for it should be too.You can talk to her about cutting down on her bags and trinkets but not the money she sends home. Not cool.

From a married guy: Is $5000NT a month worth marital bliss? If yes, stfu and forget about it. There are hills to die on. This ain’t one of them.

Now that I’m done being rude. What I find odd is that her parents didn’t help her with her educational expenses. Dad being a lazy git is normal. After a certain age, the only job an old guy can get is delivering lunch boxes, 7-11 or McDonald’s.

Count yourself lucky. I fork out $25,000NT a month to my wife and that doesn’t get me shit. She does laundry, watches the kid and if I’m really lucky she washes the dishes once a month. If I want to eat, either I buy it or I make it myself. If I need to call someone in Chinese, get a friend to do it because wifey won’t. If I have a problem that I need back up on, shiiiiiiiiiiiiit(Clay Davis impersonation), I’m on my own.

It is a common thing in Taiwan. You should have talked to her earlier about it. Praise Jesus, that your MiL stays out of your shit and FiL isn’t an alcoholic and/or womanizer. :pray: You’ll be caught up in another year and a half and then you can start saving for retirement and vacations debt free till you have kids. :discodance:


Just to set the record straight, I said she is more frugal than me, lives less expensively.

Bags, toys and beer was just an example to say that for the sake of their identity, people need to spend some personal money too, whether it be on boys toys such as computers or bikes, a social life, handbags, clothes or whatever. If she did spend some money on bags, that would be a reasonable part of her identity. Her personal money is probably more “sensibly” spent than mine, though I believe you can’t put a price on social relationships (particularly as an ex-pat), and mine are largely conducted in the pub.

The comment about allowances refers only to the fact that I know some people hand over their salary to the wife, who takes care of the finances and hands back pocket money for the husband. If that works for them, fine. Neither my wife nor I wants that for us.

that doesn’t sound right at all. Are you joking? Why are you paying her 25K?? :doh: College debt?

It’s her $5000, not mine. It’s her that can’t afford it and would be better off paying off her debts. I want us both to clear our individual and joint debts.

I reckon he could probably get back into the shoe business he was in before. The mum, who works in the factory, actually handmade/assembled Tiger Woods’ and Barack Obama’s bespoke shoes - not that it shows on her salary!

If that includes rent and bills, I also fork out $20,000. Otherwise, point taken.

OP I forgot to ask, what do you want in return?? Your title says you see little, what do you want more of?

if your marriage is rock solid and she loves you for what you are and vice versa then its pointless worrying about the Ntd 5000!! like u said she is very frugal so instead of spending Ntd 5000/month say on the hair dresser, spa whatever she is giving it to her dad so in a way isn’t it getting balanced off??

I don’t know, maybe i am too simple minded and look at the bigger picture instead of sitting and analysing each and every bump in the road…

I don’t know what I’m asking for really. I would love to see them in Taipei and would really feel it as a sign of respect and recognition. But I can’t imagine them visiting us, certainly not the dad.

I guess I feel that I have to accept their ways - buy the wedding cookies, pay the CNY hong-bao, it’s non-negotiable - but feel little interest in mine in return.

I guess I’ve just grown up in a culture where parents are more likely to be forking out for kids rather than the other way round, at least until they become old and infirm.

This didn’t happen, wouldn’t have happened and is purely a thought experiment but while “you must buy wedding cookies for the father of the bride, it’s the way it is in our culture”, it’s unimaginable that the foreign bridegroom would say “the father of the bride pays for the wedding in our culture, that’s the way it is”. So I feel a little like cultural understanding of these (relatively minor) issues is all one way.

But, we are on their turf, play by their rules. I do understand that.

Don’t know how long you’ve been married. Did you mention it?? Anyways, these cookie and wedding bills issues will soon be behind you. That’s the bright side. The dark one is that Mrs. Fruitloop and you would have built new issues by yourself. Happens in all marriages. At some point we all stop blaming our mothers/aunts/pets in laws. :bow:

A lot of the things I’ve mentioned are probably just minor examples to illustrate the point of feeling a little powerless to have a legitimate opinion or take a stand in an alien society.

Maybe I should perfect my Chinese and become a citizen. Then I could legitimately feel hard done by!

Wedding bills etc are history (6 months). That was more about the symbolism of my folks spending time and effort (and cash) to come half way round the world, while I feel a trip to Taipei is too much to expect from the in-laws.

Actually, I don’t feel too aggrieved. It just seems a bit counter-intuitive to be broke while giving money to parents who aren’t.

If her parents visited more often, you probably find things to complain about that too.

WTF? 5k is so little, most people who give parents money give at least 10k or something. Or half their salary.
What’s there to complain about if you two are making a decent living and she’s not taking your money to build her family a house or something like that?

She probably feels the pressure to set an example for her siblings, as the eldest child.

NT$5000 wouldn’t be enough to buy her her parents food even if they ate only NT$25 meals.

Go live with her parents for a month if you’re really that offended about them not visiting. I’m sure you’ll be gladder than you’ve ever been about their lack of interest in your lives after that.

With you two earning NT$90,000 combined, and living non-extravagant lifestyle in general, won’t it be less than a year before your NT$400,000 debt is paid off? 90k-30k living expenses = 60k. 400/60 = 6.6. 400/65 = 6.15

Does that 13.5 days of paying off your debt early really matter that much? How much interest are you really saving from the big bad banks? Not that much for the normal loans. Pay her credit card bills off first (jointly). Then the issue of how much interest you two will save will not be that big of an issue anymore.

Don’t know why you expect anything back from your wife giving them money. It’s not like you’re buying some sort of “in-law service” from them. Who knows, they’ll probably be willing to babysit your kids some day. Think of the hundreds of thousand NTDs that’ll save instead!

Be glad you don’t see the return, Fruitloop, as it means you don’t need it. If you ever do, you can be sure they’ll find a way to return it to you. Anyway, $5000 NT islittle enough.

I know, and understand, that your wife could use it in ways that might seem to make better financial sense, but your has to make this investment, too. It makes perfectly good sense to her.

Cross cultural marriage is never easy, especially in the beginning, once you get a better understanding of the culture here, it gets easier.
No, you don’t sound selfish, just honest.I think what is bothering you is the fact that relationship with the inlaws seem unilateral, a one way traffic.Well, it shouldn’t be.Once you have kids , you’ll have them banging down the door DEMANDING to get involved.
BTW, the groom doesn’t have to pay for it all, there’s such a thing called dowry and then the groom reciprocate with a hefty gift in return , but it is the tradition that groom pays for the dinner, party etc while the bride’s family buys the cookies.I don’t know which party is supposed to pocket the cash from ‘ang bow’(red packets) received for the wedding.Maye somebody else could chip in on this.
And money to the parents is not ‘paying’, it is ‘giving’, an act of filial piety.
Well, parents DO fork out for the kids here, many Taiwanese I know live on the parents right through their post graduate, doctorate years. Maybe your in laws aren’t as well to do as you imagine them to be.
If you are uneasy about the current arrangements, it may be good to sound it out with your SO so she knows how you feel.

@ Fruitloop

I think I understand what you are saying, its more of the “setting a precedent” than the 5k. I had that discussion with my mrs before marriage, and I said that if we were really going to get married then we were forming our own family and she would have to understand that our needs are prioritized over the needs of her parents, especially since her parents are sitting on various empty properties that can be sold/rented, but the MiL refuses - so similar to the FiL’s refusal to work in your case.

However, even with this understanding she still puts ‘her’ family first, she lost her job at the start of the recession so Ive paid the mortgage, credit cards… everything, for almost a year, then at CNY aftter she got a tiny pay check, she forked out all of it to her parents hongbaos saying, “but my siblings paid more, its so embarrassing”

Even though she had no money to give and we were struggling under debts, (but still just clearing credit card/mortgage payments each time) the fact she couldnt say to her family that she was unable to contribute and instead chose to hide this from them and make us suffer (and me pay and sacrifice more) is the actual bone of my contention, as in the future, with our limited resources, it makes me wonder whether the grandparents would get to eat/access to healthcare… before our kids. However, I would hope her maternal priorities would overrule her family loyalties, but who knows. So this is why I feel for you, because for me, this is the one major hurdle to trusting her bringing up our children.

Can you change this behaviour? I dont think so, thats why others are advising to live with it. If you cant live with it, then there’s only one other option.

As a side, normally, as well, it seems that its the child that the parents are least good to that ends up paying everything and all resources focused on the parent’s favourite child - so it could be worse!

(ie, our female friend who contributes 50% salary to family, while brother spends 80% of family income and contributes nothing)

These things are all negotiable. My parents-in-law give ME red envelopes (since I am junior to them) at New Years and waived the bride-price.

One possible solution would be to take another job and make more money.

Money is a constant source of consternation in many married couples, mine included. Someone often feels hard done by when their spouse is giving away money and they don’t understand where its going. This is partly a language problem in Taiwan, because as foreign spouses it’s very hard to do the things we need. My wife takes care of all the finances because she can read the language and knows whats going on. I just have to trust her. This gives me a feeling of hopelessness and a dependence that i don’t really enjoy, but thats how it will be have to be unless we move to a country that uses English to communicate in.

It really used to bother me, but thats a waste of time and caused too much friction. 2 years on, i’m more relaxed about it and realize that my wife has our best interests in mind.