Harriette Cole: I’m running out of money because of someone else’s kid

DEAR HARRIETTE: My “nephew” — my cousin’s son — is very dear to me.

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He has autism and sometimes displays violent behavior. Last year, his school recommended that he be transferred to a private institution specializing in educating children with special needs.

I am a 23-year-old server, and, as you can imagine, I don’t earn much. My nephew’s father, my cousin, also comes from a low-income household. Despite this, my cousin tends to spend on luxury items like branded clothes that he can’t really afford.

He decided not to move my nephew to a new school due to the cost involved.

When my cousin declined the new school, I volunteered to cover the tuition fees, and I continue to do so because I love my nephew and want the best for him. However, I am currently facing financial difficulties, and I see my cousin continuing to buy clothes for himself while I struggle to make ends meet.

I want to talk to my cousin about no longer being able to cover the costs, but I’m worried that he might stop my nephew from attending this school if I do.

— Loving Aunt

DEAR LOVING AUNT: The greatest gift you can give your cousin is honesty.

Tell him how concerned you are that he has chosen not to pay for his son’s education but continues to spend money on designer clothing. Acknowledge that he has the right to do whatever he wants, but you don’t understand his choices.

Explain further that you cannot afford to keep paying your nephew’s tuition, but you worry that he will not pay it either. Ask him to consider diverting funds from his fashion fund to his child’s education fund.

Know that this may start an argument, but it might also get him thinking.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Is cheating behavior hereditary?

What I’m about to share is something that I will never share with anyone I know personally: My mother cheated on my father when I was 12. She may not have realized that I comprehended the situation, but I did; I was there, witnessing it happen multiple times. Our family shattered apart after that.

Now, my older brother cheats all the time, and even my younger sister — who currently lives with me — cheats. I frequently reprimand her for it.

I am 27 and currently single. I’ve never had a full-fledged committed relationship in my life. I have talked to some people in the past, but I seem to unconsciously drift away when things start to get serious.  I now realize that this may have been because of attachment issues or fear of becoming my mother.

— Family of Cheaters

DEAR FAMILY OF CHEATERS: It’s understandable that you are skittish about entering into a serious relationship, given what you have witnessed in your family.

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Know that you have complete control over yourself and your decisions. Just because your family members have cheated doesn’t automatically mean that you will, too, or even that you will not find a life partner. You are unique.

Consider getting some counseling to help you work through your feelings about what you have observed as well as where you are in your life right now. A therapist can help you develop tools to work through your emotions and build a path to smart decision-making.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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