Getting Beat With the Guilt Stick
October 3, 2011 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Getting what I want. Now feeling the guilt.

My partner moved on last year and left me most of her estate in her will. Before we got together I lived a pretty simple life mostly out of necessity.

With our getting together and her passing that has changed. I am now able to live in a nice place, travel, work, and pursue interests more than I've done in the past. Just five minutes ago I was approved for a new car that I am able to pay for with minimal stress.

It's rarefied air and I am beginning to feel guilty and, at times, lonely. I want to hide so I won't be on the receiving end of someones jealousy. The relationships with people I have known have changed a lot already. I am already fantasizing ways of not showing the car to friends to minimize any blowback.

I really want to enjoy what I have. Help!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There is a great organization designed to help young people (30s and less) process exactly these kinds of questions. It might be helpful for you: Resource Generation. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions
posted by cubby at 12:57 PM on October 3, 2011

Are you rubbing in these new found benefits? Thus making your friends jealous? Or are your friends just miserable people who cannot be happy for you and feel like they have to spoil your nice experiences for you? Need a bit more detail to be able to provide any kind of meaningful response.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:58 PM on October 3, 2011

Are you actually on the receiving end of someone's jealousy? This is key. Either you are, and you drop those "friends" like a bad habit, or you aren't, and you need therapy for survivor's guilt.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:01 PM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

You could do the old farmer trick and buy a car of similar shape and color as your last one. Also, it's good to decide what is a reasonable percentage to give to charity and do that...something standard like 10% so you don't start obsessing about how little is not enough.

Mainly, you don't really know how much money you should have right now -- what's normal. Your partner wanted you to have it, fully knowing what kind of person you are, so there is no need to think you are doing something wrong by using it unless you don't trust the deceased's judgement.
posted by michaelh at 1:06 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Or both drop "friends" and get therapy if the situation applies, of course.

I can say things like "None of this is your fault, you have no reason to be guilty," but reason and emotion don't really have much to do with each other. So here is my advice:

Honor your memories of your partner by living your life the way she would have wanted you to live it. Honor your true friends by continuing to be their true friend. Honor yourself by realizing that you have physical necessities that must be met in order to do the first two things. Enjoying your windfall will come naturally as you keep yourself physically, mentally and spiritually fit and surround yourself with good people.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:08 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I want to hide so I won't be on the receiving end of someones jealousy.

Anything, and I mean absolutely anything puts you on the receiving end of jealousy. A person who has a hard time getting a car will be envious of the fact that you did not. A person who struggles to eat will be envious that you are not. A person who never had a partner will be envious that you had one to lose. A homeless person you pass on the street will wish he had a roof and a toilet and a guaranteed meal. A child will envy your freedom as an adult, and a very old person will envy your relative youth. You can't get away from it; the grass seeming greener on the other side is part of the Human Condition. All you can do is try your damn best to life virtuously and leave the hair shirts and the flagellating to someone else.

Be a good person, pick up a few more checks and throw a few more dollars at charities or fundraisers than you normally would, and treat yourself to what your partner would have wanted for you.
posted by griphus at 1:11 PM on October 3, 2011 [12 favorites]

There's JFK quote that's a re-phrasing a Biblical line, and I like:

To those whom much is given, much is expected.

Something like that. Basically, you have the means to live comfortably and beyond what you would have expected. So make sure to give back, financially of course, and also with your time if you aren't working full-time (or even if you are).

Use what you have to make the world at least a bit of a better place.

And, man, ditch those lame friends who can't handle it.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:11 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also: anyone who will openly envy the way you got your new car, or any other new thing or experience you enjoy thanks to this inheritance, is either deluded, an asshole, or a terrible friend. Probably all three.
posted by griphus at 1:12 PM on October 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Gently suggested, why do you think that 'enjoying what you have' is a priority or the point right now?

You might still be on 'grieving or just trying to understand what you just lost' - like your partner, and your previous relationships with friends, and the whole way you knew how to be in the world when you were just with someone who had money, rather than someone with money yourself. So much of your world sound like it just changed. Guilt might be a lovely manageable distraction when compared to considering how you think about money, or think about how other people view you, or what you are going to have to do to learn about living with money, or how to turn down people who ask you for money, etc.

Seriously, even without survivor's guilt, there are a fab number of resources about people who win the lottery big who talk about how their world turned upside down and suggestions how how to be you in the world, but with money. If you can ignore the crassness (losing a partner is not like winning the lotto), those resources might give you some useful advice.

Even with the way you are framing your question, you don't sound particularly centered right now. Maybe a question that might help is what do I need to know, and what skills do I need to understand how to function in the new world I find myself in? (one without my partner, with money, and a whole lot of questions about what else might have changed).
posted by anitanita at 1:17 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I knew a family who won the lottery, literally. They had one son in boy scouts, a small business, and lived by modest means. They won before a weekend, and went on a scout trip to the snow that weekend, and helped other folks put on snow chains at night. They went through the whole weekend without telling anyone, and claimed their prize a week or two later, after talking with a lawyer and an accountant about their options with finances.

They bought a nice house, paid off their business, and gave generous bonuses to their employees. They kept running the business, and didn't end up changing all that much about their lives, beyond their address and their phone number. Still, they were contacted from unknown friends and family members.

If it's a lot of money, talk to someone to help you manage your money and your taxes. This will help you figure out how much you really have to work with, and for how long (assuming no sudden change in your life, like illness or an accident). Like griphus said, having anything can be a reason to envy you. Live your life as you saw fit before, but now you can have less stress about living by necessity alone.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:20 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here is a very similar question that was asked not too long ago:

Please do not feel like you need to give your money to charity or a "good cause" if you don't genuinely feel like it. There is no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. There is no reason to hide. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 1:39 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your partner wanted you to have an easier life. By doing so, you're honoring her wishes and her memory. Those who have started to treat you differently obviously don't understand all your feelings. I really wouldn't concern myself with them. Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind, don't matter.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:59 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

As others have said, you do not have to feel guilty over the good fortune that your partner has bestowed upon you - it's a good reflection on your partner's character to have had her estate sorted out beforehand.

While not being a spendthrift, enjoy what you now have and do things you previously weren't able to do. It's unfortunate that your friends cannot be happy for your current situation, and it may be best to at least distance yourself from them for now.
posted by Anima Mundi at 2:07 PM on October 3, 2011

Maybe you feel guilty about enjoying the benefit of your partner's death. Your partner left you the estate to keep you healthy and happy, so you should use it that way. If you haven't had money, it's easy to get spendy, so you might want to investigate retirement planning, saving and investing for your future health & well-being. If it were me, I'd certainly find a special way to commemorate my partner, and I'd do some charitable giving. And I'd remind myself to enjoy the benefits on behalf of my missing partner who can't be here to enjoy them.

Any friends who give you a hard time are dubious friends, at best.
posted by theora55 at 2:53 PM on October 3, 2011

It's rarefied air, but air you get used to. Don't be afraid to get used to it, as long as you also get used to managing things sensibly.

The less you make it a thing, the less of a thing it will be to your friends. Take everyone out to dinner once a year and be done with guilt. The financial disparity is no one's fault, and you'll do exactly what you did before: the best you can from where you are. Which is all anyone can do, really.

MeMail me if you like.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:28 PM on October 3, 2011

What griphus said, with the addition of this curse-laden meditation by Katt Williams on the subject of haters.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:59 PM on October 3, 2011

You can usually tell who your real friends are when things like this happen.
Wishing you the best.
posted by luckynerd at 5:19 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having a detailed plan for your inheritance might make it seem less overwhelming. When you track it out over fifty years, that's a lot fewer zeroes to process.

And/or you could set most of it aside for retirement. Think of it as your partner's way of spending old age together. I agree with above suggestions that a charitable gift in your partner's name may help, too.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:39 PM on October 3, 2011

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