In addition, we also see them three times a year for two weeks at a time, so it’s not that we are never with them. My parents love being with us because they don’t have the best of friends and have no other family. My husband and I are 60 years old and when my parents stay with us, we watch the news 24/7 and can’t watch our movies because we don’t want to send them to their room or we don’t want to leave them in the living room. They can visit for one month but but not for three months anymore. How can I tell them they can’t do this even though they are trying to make some money to live on? — One Month is Enough
Subsidizing your parents, who are subsidizing your brother, is not your responsibility, and although it’s wonderful that you and your husband enjoy their company and it’s incredibly generous that you’ve allowed them to stay with you for at least a quarter of the year in addition to paying the mortgage on their condo, you are under zero obligation to continue to do so. You don’t mention any financial hardship in paying your parents’ mortgage or in having them stay with you for three months every year, and since you say that you would be willing to offer additional financial support (in the way of food, for example), I hope that means you have the means to comfortably do so. Again, you are under no obligation to do these things and it would behoove you to help your parents explore any government assistance that may be available to them – and your brother! – that may have been perhaps overlooked in lieu of your generosity.
If your generosity is still available and necessary for them to make ends meet, I would tell them this: “Mom and Dad, ‘Henry’ and I love spending time with you and are so grateful we are able to enjoy our visits with you as much as we have been doing so. However, we’ve realized recently that our visits are most enjoyable for us when they are no longer than one month, and going forward we would like to extend an invitation to you both to stay with us for up to one month and not longer. We are aware that the money you make by renting out your condo for three months helps you to make ends meet. We very much want to help you explore additional sources of support and income as well as ways to manage your budget that will allow you to continue living at the same level of comfort you’ve grown accustomed to without relying on three months of rental income from your condo. Such additional support can also include us, should you need it. We love you both very much, and we hope you will take this request and invitation with the love and care that’s intended and know that we are always here for you and look forward to what we hope are many more years of making happy memories together.”
Nate tries everything to make Ben responsible, but nothing works. It seems that Ben doesn’t want to grow up,p and wants to fly “under the radar” to get out of any responsibility. Meanwhile, Nate and I want to get married — we love each other very much and are very compatible — but Ben soaks up a lot of money and I think the romance goes out of the relationship more easily when kids are at home. I have been waiting for Ben to grow up a bit before moving forward, but I see regression in the college boy now that he is older. It seems that he will do anything to stay “on the teat” as some would put it. Nate doesn’t like his son’s behavior but does not know how to change it. Any advice? — Waiting for Him to Get Off the Teet
Your boyfriend Nate may think he’s tried everything to make Ben responsible, but doing Ben’s homework for him, researching where to buy Ben’s college books because Ben refuses to, and letting his unemployed son live rent-free while playing video games nonstop and avoiding his school work falls far short of actually “trying everything.” Nate is enabling the very behavior you say is driving a wedge in your romance and keeping you from taking the next step in your relationship, and it may be indicative of Nate being unwilling to let go of his child and embrace a new role in Ben’s life.
Tell Nate it’s time for him to stop babying his grown child and to instill some tough love, even if it means watching Ben stumble a bit – which he will – as he gets out of the gate. Explain that fostering some independence in Ben will not only benefit your relationship, but also it will benefit Ben. His self-esteem will grow as he gains confidence in his own abilities to get shit done, even if it isn’t done perfectly or very well at first. He’ll learn from his mistakes when he’s forced to figure out better ways of accomplishing tasks and meeting goals because Daddy won’t immediately jump in to do everything for him.
Nate’s backing way off is the only way Ben is actually going to grow up. If Nate can’t do this, not only will it send a message that he’s unable to commit to a future with you, but also he’ll be letting down Ben and being much less of a parent than he’s capable of being. I’d look at these next few months as a trial period to see how well Nate can begin to let go and move into a new stage of parenting and make room for a new stage of your relationship. I know you love him, but if he can’t successfully wean his 18-year-old kid over the next year and shift some of his time and energy and space to you, it may be time for you to move on.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.