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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I am a litigation attorney at a great firm and feel lucky for a job I love (most of the time) that pays extremely well. It is also incredibly demanding, and will remain that way.

With the help of my supportive husband, I decided to take a different, less demanding job so I could spend more time with family.

When we started telling family members, my in-laws’ first question was whether I would be taking a pay cut. Since I earned so much, we had paid for several vacations for my in-laws over the years, as well as car repairs and rent when they were low on money, and we helped pay for preschool for our nieces. When we told them I would likely be taking a large pay cut, my mother-in-law asked whether we’d still be able to pay for vacations, and my brother-in-law said his daughters were counting on their “rich aunt” to pay for college.

My husband and I were both stunned. He made a comment that having me around more was worth more than the money to him, and his mom actually said, “Not to us.” She later apologized and said she was only worried about the financial implications of my decision, but I’m still incredibly hurt.

Also, I’m torn about my decision now. Did we inadvertently create the impression that I would always be able to help out financially? If so, is there a way to extricate ourselves from that expectation? Finally, any suggestions for getting over my hurt feelings?

— Hurt


I mean, wow.

To cheer yourself up, consider celebrating that you can’t afford to feed your parasites anymore.

The way past your hurt feelings is to recognize that your in-laws took your money and couldn’t even summon the courtesy to pretend they care about you as a person. That, in turn, says the insult they just delivered doesn’t say bad things about you, but instead reveals terrible things about them.

So for you to find their response hurtful is analogous to ... let’s say, being hurt because your dog says you smell bad when his idea of smelling good involves rolling in decomposed squirrel.

You say you’re torn about the job change now, and I beg you, please, don’t be. You’ve done the right thing for you and for the only people who matter — meaning, those who care as much about your well-being as they care about their own. If your in-laws ever wake themselves up enough to join those ranks, then, OK, good for everyone. Change is always possible.

As for the best way to “extricate ourselves”? The expectation is one they created, not you, so you have no further obligations. If your nieces are still in the preschool you pay for, then maybe work out a non-abrupt exit plan. And maybe privately keep a savings account set aside for future family expenses, since one of them may run aground. Not that you ever need to use your money for your in-laws ever again — it’s just that life holds surprises and you don’t want them arriving when you’re off-guard and broke.

Your husband actually said just the right thing. Coming from the family he did, that’s something to celebrate, too.

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