Family owing us money

My parents have a large plumbing business where the whole family used to work, including my husband. Their business began to falter in 2010, partly as a result of the 2008 crash. In 2012, my husband and I loaned $40k to them. It was everything we had at the time. They had promised to pay us back at most, the following month.

From about 2013-2015 they racked up another $40k in late salary payments for my husband and myself. In April 2015, my husband and I left the company and moved to a different state.

Up until November 2017, my parents hadn’t paid us any of the money they owed. From that point forward they’ve been sporadically giving us an average of about $2,000 per month. As of now they still owe us $40,000.

For years my husband and I were upset at them because they always promised to pay but never would because when the time came, they “didn’t have the money”. It was even more upsetting because for years they maintained their up-scale lifestyle. For example, they lived in a million-dollar home whose property taxes alone were $40K per year. And they were full of excuses as to why they couldn’t sell the home to pay off the many people they (still) owe.

It was also upsetting because the money would have been extremely useful in buying our first home in 2016 or renovating it. We incredibly underestimated the work the house needed, and 4 years later we’re still renovating it ourselves when we have the time to save on costs , and mostly working on it when we have the money.

I think it was probably in 2016/17 where my husband and I were done being angry about the situation and them owing us money. We changed our thoughts to think of the money lent as being a gift because we had come to the conclusion you should never lend money you expect to get back. And that really helped us have a more positive relationship with them.

But then they started paying us with the promise to pay every month. And when they couldn’t because they “didn’t have any money” that month, it felt more like we were back in that relationship of them owing us money.

And when my husband and I would visit them, it was especially hard to swallow that they “didn’t have any money” to pay us when for instance, they spent $10,000 hiring professionals to renovate the RENTAL home they were living in for their comfort and convenience (which they ended up living in for only 2-3 years) or purchasing a $5K water filter or buying an almost new SUV.

We haven’t confronted them about this because ironically, we were afraid they weren’t going to pay us anything at all if we did. We’ve seen them do it to others who asked for or demanded their money. And in every situation, they’re the victim. They never apologize or admit they were wrong. It’s always because of circumstances beyond their control that forced them to take the actions they took.

As of now, they haven’t made any payments since September 2019 and said they won’t have any money until the next big job comes out this April.

I’m going to visit them the first week of March. I already know they’ve made some improvements to the new multi-floor rental house they moved in to (apartments, while cheaper, are too small and uncomfortable for them, they said). And I’m sure I’ll find out about other expenses while I’m there.

But I don’t want to get aggravated about this while I’m visiting. I’m going there specifically just to be with them. My younger sister is 15 and growing up fast, my mom has had cancer for the last 5 years, and my dad is 65. I’m there to just enjoy being with my family, because who knows the future.

I thought of a few different options/thoughts I can choose:

1. Accept the situation as it is and be okay with it while I’m there. Kind of a “…., and that’s okay” thought. Again, I just want to have an enjoyable time when I’m there.

2. Talk to them about the discrepancy between their words and actions before or after I go, knowing full well they will play the victim or come up a million excuses. I’m not a fan of this option because nothing will come of it. I’ve already accepted that they are who they are. I also feel like it turns all the attention to them acting differently, and I know I can’t control their actions. I want to focus on what I can do.

3. Tell them before I go that my husband and I are releasing them of their debt, that they can think of the balance as a gift. And if they ever want to gift us in the future, to do it as one lump sum.

I really like option #3 because it gets us back to thinking the money was a gift, there’s no reminder they owe us money every month or expectation/disappointment when they stop paying, and my parents get to spend money how they want—without us feeling like they could have/should have paid us instead.

But as a SCS, is it kind of a cop-out if I chose that option? Because my thoughts cause my emotions, so if I find anything stressful about the situation of them not paying us or how they spend their money, it’s a result of my thinking. So really, I should be fine with things as is and not even need to talk to them about anything. How does a self-coaching scholar think about this situation?