My own family has been torn apart by my grandmother unequally giving money to her children, but maybe I am just creating the same thing in my boyfriend's family? I would be really grateful for any advice. I'm so upset by all of this that I can't even think.
Navigating the financial challenges of graduate school is not easy, and you’re certainly not the only student who wishes for a little cushion, maybe in the form of a fairy godmother that swoops in and takes the money stress away, leaving you to focus on your studies and eat something other than ramen. In your case, it must be especially envy-provoking to be in close proximity to this kind of relief and not have access to it. So your feelings are understandable and very, very human. At the same time, though, I think they’re clouding your perspective and, left unchecked, have the potential to damage your relationship with your boyfriend.
If you and your boyfriend are planning to spend your lives together, you two will need to discuss a lot of things. If these conversations haven’t happened in the five years you’ve been together, it’s important that you have them now. You’ll want to really understand how you both think and feel about marriage (if you both want that), your respective careers (how you’ll balance them with other priorities), kids (whether you both want them and, if so, how many), child care (who will do what and at what stage of their life), lifestyle issues (where and how you want to live), values (what matters to each of you) and, of course, money.
Your boyfriend is right that how his parents choose to handle their money is between them, but what’s between the two of you is how you talk about the money you do have and what you do with it. I don’t know what arrangement you currently have as a long-term couple—who pays for what between you—and how you arrived at that, but maybe part of your anger at your boyfriend’s parents is misdirected and, in fact, you’re angry with him. For instance, since he’s working and you’re a graduate student, would you like him to help pay some of your expenses? And if so, have you talked to him about this, or are you hurt that he hasn’t offered on his own? My guess is that you two haven’t sat down and talked about money—I don’t mean just the logistics of it, but what it represents to each of you.
Money can signify so many things: love, acceptance, commitment, safety. It may be that getting financial support from your boyfriend would make you feel loved and valued by him—a gesture that indicates his admiration for how hard you’re working on your doctorate and an appreciation of how much of a sacrifice you’re currently making. It could also be that your blood is boiling because you’re envious not just of his brother and sister-in-law, but of your boyfriend himself. Maybe you feel resentful that he had it easier because his parents helped him while he was working toward his doctorate and your parents aren’t. You may even, without realizing it, want his parents to make up for the care you feel you aren’t getting from your own parents. Or perhaps having his parents’ support would make you feel more accepted by them as a future member of the family, or give you a stronger sense of commitment from your boyfriend.