Only Connect

By Barbara Blouin, The Inheritance Project

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.

From Howards End by E.M. Forster

The words “only connect” have often been in my mind in recent weeks. For me, to connect with others is to live fully. Not infrequently, after I have sent an acknowledgement to someone who has downloaded Inheritance Project publications, I get a  personal response. (I always send a personal acknowledgement.) Almost invariably these people talk about being dis-connected [not a typo]. They tell me that living as an inheritor leaves them feeling out of contact with most people, “regular” people, and they don’t know how to find the connections they are seeking.

Because these responses are sent to me personally, I am not at liberty to tell you what they wrote, but there is a theme that runs through these emails. So many inheritors experience themselves as being alone and often lonely. They don’t know how to meet others like themselves, and through reading the books and booklets they order or download from The Inheritance Project, they discover that they are not alone after all. But even so, the connections they discover are not personal. They find out that there are others like them, struggling with the same painful, often conflicted feelings, but they don’t know who the “others” are, or how to find them.

And they don’t know how not to feel so alone. A reader from the UK recently wrote that she has spent much time searching the Internet but has not found any groups or organizations with which she can connect, and she doesn’t know anyone in the same situation as herself.

I found myself in a similar situation when I began to work with my two co-authors back in 1993. Even though I had “regular” (not wealthy) friends, I didn’t know any other inheritors with whom I might connect, or discover what we had in common. Finding these two inheritors who became my co-authors, and first, interviewing each other, then looking for others who we might be able to interview was a life-changing event for all three of us. I no longer felt as isolated, although I am still “in the closet” with most people I know—unless I know them well enough to risk trusting them.

But most inheritors haven’t had the kind of opportunity that the three of us almost stumbled on. We were lucky; there was a lot of serendipity in the way we connected.

It isn’t only inheritors who become isolated, or blown off course, by connecting with someone who is wealthy. One man wrote recently to me that his decision to marry a wealthy woman—though the wedding hasn’t happened yet—has left him not knowing what to do with his life and, in particular, his work.

A woman in her forties who searched the Internet has discovered that she is “not alone.” This has led her to look for ways to connect. But she is still looking. Knowing that there are sources “out there” is not the same as finding them.

Connecting is rarely easy. There are so many obstacles to connecting, both with other inheritors and with people who aren’t wealthy. Inheritors tend to hide their wealth because they don’t feel safe enough to “come out.” I find it interesting how many times over the years I’ve heard inheritors talk about “coming out”—an expression normally used by gays. For many heirs, to come out about their unearned wealth is as difficult and scary as it is for gays. What kinds of harsh judgments are they going to encounter? There is strong bias against inheritors in the general population. Virtually any inheritor who comes out will run up against envy and resentment. More often than one might expect, these “ordinary people” are not at all shy about expressing their opinions in ways that are deliberately insulting and sometimes downright hurtful.

To give an example from my own life: I was asked for loans three times by a man I had considered a close friend. He had plenty of financial problems. I was always willing to lend him money, and the first two times he paid me back, but the third time was different. I was uneasy right from the start. When after the agreed-upon date for repayment passed, I reminded him of the agreement. His response: “You don’t need the money. You’re rich!”

There is much more that could be said on this subject, but this is enough for the time being. If you are an inheritor and can relate to any of these examples, reading some of the booklets and the two books on this Website will be very useful, in particular my booklet For Love and/or Money: The Impact of Inherited Wealth on Relationships and The Inheritor’s Inner Landscape: How Heirs Feel by Katherine Gibson.