Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Parents Crash With us For Months While They Rent Out Their Condo”

How do I tell my parents who stay with us for three months every year that they can’t do that anymore? This is the story: They rent their condo out for three months a year to make money because they are broke from supporting my brother who is 60. We pay their mortgage because otherwise they either would be living with us full-time or they would be homeless. I have a 3-bedroom condo and a dog. They are two people and a dog. My husband and I love them dearly, but since we have no children, we are used to just us in the condo. Maybe I could tell them that we will help them in the future if need be by paying for food along with their mortgage, etc., instead of their staying with us for three months every year.

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.”

I’ve been dating my guy, “Nate,” for two years. I love his son, “Ben,” but at 18-1/2, he seems to be very irresponsible for his age. He won’t feed or water the dogs when he’s home. He won’t water the trees to keep them from dying. He just started college and won’t follow through on getting his books and parking pass. His dad is a teacher and tended to do his homework in high school. Now I see his dad going online to search for Ben’s college books because Ben won’t do it. The kiddo doesn’t have a job and spends his free time usually playing video games. Also, he is pretending to do homework when he is not doing it.

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.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

23 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Rhoda September 5, 2019, 8:39 am

    Why does LW1 have to watch the news 24/7? Switch the channel and watch what you like, it’s your home! What are they going to do, disinherit you for watching something they dislike?
    Make it REALLY CLEAR to them that you aren’t going to support Deadbeat Bro when they pass on (I guess they’re in their 80s?). You just know they’ll ask you to.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom September 5, 2019, 9:16 am

      I agree but they are essentially supporting deadbeat bro now. They make sure the parents have enough money that the parents can support brother.

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      • avatar

        Rhoda September 6, 2019, 5:20 pm

        Yes, but that’s now. I was referring to what they might make LW promise to do after they die or become incapacitated.

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  • avatar

    Essie September 5, 2019, 9:20 am

    LW1, if you’re 60, your parents are 80-ish?

    Whew. This is tough. So, they’ve evidently run out of money, and can’t afford to live in their home (you’re paying the mortgage). And even with that substantial assistance, they still have to rent the place out for 25% of the year in order to pay their other living expenses? Can they sell their condo and downsize to something more affordable?

    I think all of you need to visit a financial planner together, because their default retirement plan is apparently that you and your husband will support them. It sounds like they’re one bad medical bill or home repair bill away from losing everything. And at their age, serious medical issues are sort of inevitable. Can you afford to pay for long-term care?

    What’s the situation with your brother? Are they still supporting him? Is it because he’s disabled and can’t support himself? What will happen to him when they’re no longer able to support him?

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 5, 2019, 9:29 am

    LW1 You are approaching retirement age. Do you have enough money for retirement? First, make sure you are okay for your expected future. Then, if you like, support your parents. You don’t get a do over once you retire. All financial mistakes you’ve made catch up with you.

    Can you afford to continue to support your parents at your current level once you do retire? If you can’t it is time to start cutting them back now.

    If you are financially stable through retirement even if you continue to support them you’ve done a lot that is financially right!

    You talk to them as an adult to an adult. Mom and Dad we’ve realized that we are no longer up to three month visits. We need you to come for only one month, once a year plus a few two week visits. Three month visits no longer work for us.

    Don’t get into an argument with them about it. Don’t try to explain over and over why only one month instead of three or listen to why they need to rent their place for three months so you need to support them. People who are taking advantage of you, and your parents are, will take your statement as the beginning point of an argument. They will argue until they wear you down to get what they want. The key is to not have the argument. Just repeat what works for you without arguing. Just repeat, that doesn’t work for us.

    Parents “We have to stay with you for three months. We can’t pay the bills if we don’t rent.”

    You “That doesn’t work for us.”

    Parents – “You’ve got to let us stay with you. We don’t have anywhere else to go when we rent our house.’

    You – “That doesn’t work for us.”

    Parents – “You know we have to rent out house.”

    You = “That doesn’t work for us.”

    Parents – “If you loved us you’d let us stay with you.” or “You are so ungrateful for all we’ve done for you.”

    You – “That doesn’t work for us. I’m not going to continue this conversation.”

    Also, cut off the conversation. “That doesn’t work for us. I’ve got to go now.” Refuse to keep engaging. If they bring it up the next time they talk to you, and you know they will, you say I’ve already told you that doesn’t work for us and I will not discuss this again. Then hang up or leave the room.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse September 5, 2019, 9:34 am

    Maybe they could stay with your brother for a few months instead of you, considering they pay for wherever he lives, right?

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    • avatar

      Rhoda September 5, 2019, 4:11 pm

      I was wondering about that. Does he live in their basement or in his own place. I’m picturing this ad on Air BnB for “vacation home, complete with unshaved man who plays video games in the rumpus room all day”.

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  • avatar

    RedBlue September 5, 2019, 9:37 am

    Now we know where millennials come from. It’s generational.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 5, 2019, 10:16 am

    LW1 You need to be prepared for what you will do if they come for a one month visit but are actually planning to stay for three months like usual. What will you do if at the end of one month they don’t leave.

    One way to handle that would be to have them arrive for the third month of their usual stay. If they normally rent their condo from January through March have them arrive for March but no sooner and send them home even if they have rented their place out through April or longer.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 5, 2019, 10:29 am

    LW2 Nate hasn’t tried everything to make Ben be responsible. He hasn’t actually stepped back and let Ben be responsible for himself and to fail when he isn’t responsible for himself. Until he does so Ben will see no reason to do what he knows his dad will do.

    Dad needs to not buy the textbooks. He needs to not go out and get the parking pass. He needs to stand back and let Ben fail and then stand back and let Ben figure out what to do next. Ben won’t successfully finish his first year of college but he probably won’t anyway. In college the grades are based on tests and papers and presentations. Dad can do all of the homework and Ben will still do bad on the tests. Dad can write papers and get the grade for Ben on those. Dad can put together the presentations but he can’t go and give them. Ben has to fail in order to grow up. Dad has carried Ben about as far as he can unless he likes the idea of Ben remaining a dependent adult for the rest of dad’s life.

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  • avatar

    Fyodor September 5, 2019, 12:44 pm

    I think that LW2 should butt out of how her boyfriend parents his adult son. I think that it’s fair for her to talk to him about how the situation affects her and their relationship , but it’s not her place to interfere with his parenting.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark September 5, 2019, 1:42 pm

    LW1). Stop being a doormat. You are being used hard by your parents.
    .
    LW2). Eh… This reads just yet like another stepparent making mountains out of molehills just to get permission from the peanut gallery to fuck over the child they simply can’t stand. A child they no doubt wanna make go away so they can pop out a brat of their own. Gross. Petty. And seriously fucked up.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom September 5, 2019, 3:28 pm

      As a parent is has come up from time to time in discussions with other parents about when we realized we needed to step back and let our kids make their own mistakes and let them fail so that they could grow as a person. I don’t think that having a discussion about whether it might be time to let the kid grow up and make his own mistakes is pushy. If she is adamant that he must discuss it and must do what she wants then she is pushy. If she asks if that might be an idea then okay.

      She should have known that the parent/child dynamic was going badly when she watched dad, who is a teacher no less, doing his son’s high school homework. That is such a huge parenting fail.

      She shouldn’t move in until dad and son have worked through this.

      There is a good chance that son doesn’t want to go to college at this point or doesn’t want to go to this specific college. Since he needs a parking permit it sounds like he lives at home and is a commuter student. She can make a suggestion and then she needs to stand back and see how they work things out. In my job I see dependent, adult children of all ages who have never gotten their act together enough to work full time, let alone be self-supporting. She needs to be wary of that but otherwise she needs to give them space.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom September 5, 2019, 4:10 pm

        A very recent example of this. A friend’s daughter is attending college at the local state university in the local city. She planned to room on campus with three other friends from high school. The dorms are nice. They are basically four bedroom apartments with two bathrooms, each kid having their own private bedroom. The daughter didn’t get around to sending in her application before the deadline and didn’t get into the dorms. She is living at home with her parents and riding into the local city with her mom who works there. She is walking from her mom’s workplace to the campus which is about ten blocks.

        Her parents didn’t keep track of the dates for the application. They left it up to her and she messed up. It’s a pretty easy lesson on keeping track of deadlines and getting things done on time. Her parents didn’t try to save her from making a mistake. They allowed her to have the room to learn on her own.

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    • avatar

      Rhoda September 5, 2019, 4:14 pm

      Mountains out of molehills??? Go back and read it again. The guy’s father did his homework for him when he was in high school! He can’t even remember to feed and water the family pet!
      He’s been coddled and spoiled his whole life and has no clue how to survive now that he’s entering adulthood.

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  • avatar

    CanadaGoose September 5, 2019, 2:11 pm

    One solution may be having the brother move in with the parents, since they are supporting him. That should remove the need for LW1 to have to support the parents, and make it easier to do shorter visits. My guess is they have a 1-bedroom condo so the brother will need to sleep in the living room. Crowded but the brother should be supporting himself. What happens when one parent dies? The other will be lonely and since they have no friends (odd) then having the brother live with the parents will help with that. Also, the LW should contact her brother and let him know he better figure out how to support himself once the parents pass, so he can plan.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros September 6, 2019, 6:33 pm

    Nate isn’t doing whatever he can to make his son responsible. He’s enabling him. In fact, DOING things does not make other people more responsible. What incentive is there for the son to do anything when his dad will do it for him and will pay for it too?

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  • avatar

    allathian September 9, 2019, 1:33 am

    Nate isn’t doing anything to make his son grow up into a responsible adult. He’s infantilizing him. There’s no incentive for the son to change, because for whatever reason his dad lets him behave like an irresponsible kid.

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  • avatar

    ron September 9, 2019, 8:34 am

    LW#1 —
    You are enabling your parents to enable your brother. There also is not reason to essentially cede control of your house to your parents and allow them to dictate that the TV will constantly be on news. They don’t need to earn money renting out their home. They need to stop enabling your brother. You say that you are their only family in your initial post, but you have an enabled brother. Your parents and brother can live together.

    Does your husband really support this crazy circus you have organized? Since you both feel uncomfortable in your home during these 3-month stays, I’m guessing that the answer is no.

    Through your parents controlling you, personally, you and your husband are in essence enabling your brother. So… the big question is whether you, independent of your parents, view your brother as worthy/needing financial support. Does he have a serious mental/physical disability which prevents him from supporting himself, or is he merely lazy and entitled? Do you and your husband plan to financial support your brother after your parents pass? That’s where this is headed.

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  • avatar

    Hazel September 9, 2019, 8:51 am

    I assumed the brother has some serious health problems, either physical or mental which mean he is still dependent on the parents. Some places have very little government support available for those in this situation. It would definitely be worthwhile for LW to look into what other help might be available to brother after parents are no longer here, and find out if parents have made any provisions for him in their wills.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom September 9, 2019, 9:14 am

      People who can’t financially support themselves probably don’t have enough assets to support their son after they die.

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