Home Australia BEL MOONEY: How can I stop my son constantly sponging money off me and make him repay his debts?

BEL MOONEY: How can I stop my son constantly sponging money off me and make him repay his debts?

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This careless couple is in a mess, aided and abetted by the people around them, writes Bel Mooney

Dear Bel,

Over the years my son (50 and an accomplished graphic designer) has never managed money, often borrowing from me, my husband or his late father. During lockdown Matthew was depressed so we paid for some counselling. We helped so much, especially my husband who was very generous as it is his stepson.

Not much changed until August 2021 when I was sick, stressed and told my son he had to get a permanent job. He did – and earns around £2,600 a month. But still says he can’t make it.

In December I approached him again about the constant ‘loan’ (since September I have not been repaid). He admitted to having an old High Court judgment for debt. To compound matters, his partner of 14 years, Tina, has no idea!

We sought help from the Citizens Advice Bureau about the debt, which now stands at £2,112. My husband has offered to settle the CCJ as long as Matthew pays him back monthly.

Last weekend we wanted to talk through his serious money problems with his partner, but he warned if I tell Tina it would be the end of their relationship.

This careless couple is in a mess, aided and abetted by the people around them, writes Bel Mooney

This careless couple is in a mess, aided and abetted by the people around them, writes Bel Mooney

My husband and I both feel she would be very understanding, especially since my husband has offered to help. But he became very angry and defensive.

He charges £40 a day – not for food or bus fare. I think he gambles. Every month he has no money left about ten days after payday. He never opens his mail and says he never gets a bank statement – but has put together a spreadsheet detailing his expenses.

I didn’t believe a word – especially as he had entered £250 supposedly due to me every month, which is absolutely not true! He refuses our help and recently stole money from his eight-year-old son’s safe.

My other son (a very successful business executive) suggests we seek help from a behavioral specialist, but I know Matthew wouldn’t be interested. I have told Matthew that there will be no more money from the Bank of Mum and it is crucifying me.


A 50-year-old man with a profession who steals from his eight-year-old son’s safe? I find that very difficult to process, and the readers will too. A deadbeat druggie on heroin, yes – but not a talented guy with a salary.

The other strange thing about this story (your unedited letter was three times as long) is that he and Tina have a joint account that she just takes money from as she needs it.

You rightly see it as ‘part of the problem’ – and yet she is unaware of his borrowing and debt after 14 years. In denial, he doesn’t open bank statements – but why doesn’t she? This careless couple is in a mess, aided and abetted by the people around them.


Contact Bel

Bel answers readers’ questions about emotional and relationship issues every week. Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk. Names are being changed to protect identities. Bel reads all letters, but regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

You say you don’t think the money goes to drugs ‘as he seems ok in himself’. But you can be a high-functioning cocaine addict without people knowing. Within your son’s professional environment, it is quite likely, I’m afraid.

As a gram of cocaine can cost around £80 and can only last a day or two, debt can soon arise. Meanwhile, 0.5 percent of people are addicted to gambling, and he may actually be. Addiction can cause appalling behavior, like stealing from a child’s savings. Addicts lose control. And the story of your son’s adulthood is characterized by a total lack of control.

After a letter like this I would normally suggest Citizens Advice for help with debt management as well as advice on other issues. But you tried both. And I would suggest total honesty in the family – which you certainly haven’t tried.

There is no reason why Tina should be shielded from her partner’s serious problems – to which she is unwittingly contributing. The couple are both adults, and the time comes for a short, sharp shock. They need to learn about the consequences.

I understand why it ‘crucifies’ you to close the ‘Morbank’, but you have no choice. You must stay strong. You have been doling out and rescuing your irresponsible son for years (like paying his mortgage) and it has to stop.

It could be that he always felt overshadowed by his smart, sensible brother – but that would be an issue for more counseling.

Meanwhile, Matthew and Tina have to work on this problem together, for the sake of their child.

There’s plenty of online advice on budgeting etc. If she can’t handle it and chooses to leave him, then maybe that’s the best outcome – and there’s nothing you as his mother can do about it. Now it’s time for some tough love—and that means (in this case) letting go.

Can I ever escape the pain of my past that haunts my nights?

Dear Bel,

I am 57, married to my wonderful second wife Jenny and have four children. Two are from a previous marriage, but we have no relationship due to an acrimonious divorce 20 years ago.

Jenny and I have been together for 20 years and our son and daughter live at home. My wife has been in a wheelchair for 17 years and I am her full-time carer. She is still able to live a good life, but daily pain medication can make her forgetful so she can’t be left alone. Of course I wish she was still healthy and independent, but we have a great marriage.

My only problem recently is sleep, despite medication. My mind goes into turmoil and worries about things I can’t control.

My mother (who I was close to), father and then older sister died through Covid.

1710592877 591 BEL MOONEY How can I stop my son constantly sponging

1710592877 591 BEL MOONEY How can I stop my son constantly sponging

My family was never “touchy feely” as I have striven to make mine. I don’t think I ever mourned my parents and sister.

We were not allowed to show emotion as children and I was sent to boarding school because my mother had mental problems and despite my father’s wealth was unable to look after me.

I didn’t attend my dad’s funeral like his second wife and I’m not getting on (she was always verbally abusive) – and she ordered me to stay away because of Covid.

I get very sick of myself and can sometimes cry for no apparent reason.

Do you think it’s because I haven’t grieved properly or is there something else going on in the background?

One night, when I was nine, I was raped by prefects at my school.

I remember everything and in my early 20s I tracked down all five and dealt with it in my own way. A slap or two here and there, a message to a wife to see her young boys with him.

One had passed away so I visited his grave and peed on it. I don’t think the trauma involving the rape has anything to do with it now, as I feel like I’ve dealt with it in my own head.

I just can’t stop brooding about things like my upbringing and not being able to talk to my sister and parents. I don’t want to feel this melancholy anymore. What can I do, can you help?


The author of today’s long second letter began with ‘Life is so sad, isn’t it?’ I’ve saved her comment for here because I want to reply, ‘Yes, damn it is!’ for you too, Henry.

It is the time when lovely, kind-hearted people come forward to remind us of all the good things in life and advise us to enjoy the daffodils. I’ve done it myself more than once. But right now I’m suffering from shingles, caused (I’m sure) by eight months of stress.

So I’m not going to give the uplifting tweet to a man who bravely looks into the abyss every day after tormented nights – but survives to look after a beloved disabled wife. I greet you.

What jumps out of your letter is the horrific rape of five prefects when you were nine. You’re convinced you’ve handled it, so it’s gone. . . Goodbye, trauma.

But it is far from that easy. You say, ‘I remember everything,’ and I suggest that this is clear evidence of the trauma that is now plaguing you and preventing sleep.

You had a loveless childhood and suffered the rejection and loneliness of being banished to boarding school, where you were raped by older boys. It’s terrible. I rather admire the decisive way you tackled it (or rather, them) when you were a man; it must have felt like a triumph at the time.

But trauma doesn’t go away. Listen to the great psychiatrist, Bessel van der Kolk, in his brilliant book, The Body Keeps The Score: ‘We have learned that trauma is not just an event that happened some time in the past; it is also the imprint that experience leaves on the mind, brain and body.’

According to this world-renowned expert, a horrific experience like the one you endured as a child can ’cause actual changes in the brain’. In addition, of course, you grieve for your parents and sister, but perhaps some of that grief is for something irrevocably lost to you: the opportunity to change your family’s emotional history.

You know in your heart that it was always far too late for them to speak and demonstrate the love you longed for, and yet you could dream, couldn’t you? But now they’re gone and you’re left with painful memories that won’t heal.

It is my belief that you urgently need to start therapy to help the healing process. Do it to enable you to be strong for your family in the future. Read this medicalnewstoday.com/articles/therapy-for-childhood-trauma and then decide what to do.

I extend my hand to you.


And finally… cards spread cheer like nothing else

Two neighbors brought me an envelope. The lovely card (depicting a landscape by Kurt Jackson, an artist I admire), reads: ‘I hope you’re feeling a little bit better! Spring is just around the corner – start making some plans for summer. I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re up and running – and dancing again. Love Elaine (& Bob).’

These friendly people live near our parish church and I have been in very recent email contact with Elaine. So why go three quarters of an hour to deliver a card? Oddly enough, I thought I’d write about why maps matter – and here was the proof. “Oh, how nice” I said, just as I opened each good-fresh card, whether it was from a friend or a mail reader.

You put the well-chosen map on the mantelpiece, and it gives you joy every time you see it. What email can do that?

Our local Clintons are full of cards for every occasion, yet sending them is going out of style. There are online card companies and every Christmas I get a few nifty animated cards. But you can’t set them up! They can’t grace your house for a few weeks.

Some acquaintances have announced that they would no longer send Christmas cards, but would ‘give money to charity instead’.

My first thought was: ‘Why not do both?’ — they were well-to-do people. My second thought was: ‘OK, just ‘fess up’, you can no longer be bothered with buying, writing and postcards.’

Every Christmas my husband and I design and have our own unique cards printed, and of course they cost us time and money. It is our choice. But I have many friends who recycle and make their own cards, which costs them nothing. The point is the joy they give – and continue to give. A lovely card – and the message in it – can be kept for years.

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