“Oops, I Invited My Boyfriend to Move in with Me, But I Made a Mistake”

I’m 64 and I lost my husband to ALS two and a half years ago. I moved out of our house to another town and bought a house there. I met a man, “Henry” (71), five months later and thought I had fallen in love. One thing led to another and I lived with him for a while while trying to sell my house. That didn’t happen so I told him I would move back to my house and we could travel from one house to the other, or he could move in with me – his choice. He decided to put his house on the market and move in with me.

It was a disappointing experience and I really should have said that we’d keep two houses. I thought it would work out. Henry’s a pretty nice companion. But then he started complaining about all my friends. I told him this morning that my friends were angels when my poor husband was ill – that they helped us so much and he had no right to complain about them. I reminded him that I’ve only known him two years and I’ve known my friends over ten years, some for about fifteen, and if he complains about them, he won’t win. Anyway, we are not talking much today.

I hate to admit it, but I’d love for Henry to move back to his house. I feel terrible to tell him this. How do I tell him this? His other girlfriends as well as his wife of 27 years all left him, and I had sworn to him that I would not do that to him too, poor guy. There has to be a reason why everyone left him. I haven’t really found the reason, but I don’t want him in my house with me. I hope he doesn’t manage to sell his house. Help! — Housing Crisis

Well, first, you are not obligated to make up for Henry’s past relationship disappointments. It’s not your job to be what his past partners weren’t or to provide what they couldn’t or didn’t want to. And it’s definitely not your responsibility to keep Henry feeling secure at the cost of your own well-being or your own set of priorities. You are a woman of a generation that grew up socialized to prioritize the emotional equilibrium and physical well-being of everyone else over her own, and you don’t have to do that anymore.

You don’t have to enable co-dependence. You can actually prioritize your OWN well-being and still have healthy and happy relationships and friendships. In fact, your relationships can be even stronger when you prioritize your own needs because you’re no longer creating a breeding ground for resentment or exhausting your emotional reserves tending to everyone else’s needs.

Think of your social network, which includes romantic partners and includes YOU, as a garden. You want to weed out the weeds and be careful not to over-water or under-water everything else. You’ll want to deadhead the blooms and trim back overgrowth. What I’m trying to say here is that Henry needs to be trimmed back a bit. You need to give your relationship room to grow, and right now, with you two living together, there’s not the necessary space you need. Maybe, with space, you’ll grow closer together or maybe you’ll grow apart. But unless you trim things back a bit, you’re going to end up tangled together, your roots strangling each other, and your garden – and your well-being – suffering as a result.

Don’t wait for Henry to sell his house and then panic over how you’re going to get him out of yours. Stop this madness before it progresses. The kindest thing is to tell him *right now* that you made a mistake inviting him to move in with you and that he needs to take his house off the market and stay put. Let him know that, in adjusting to early widowhood, you thought you needed a partner living with you to feel happy again, but you’ve realized that what you need is some space to learn about and enjoy who you are on your own. That doesn’t mean you can’t be in a relationship with Henry, but it does mean you need to live separately.

Will this crush Henry? Maybe. But he’ll be ok. You lost your husband and you survived. People can be resilient. People can experience great loss and move on. You’re simply telling Henry you aren’t ready to live together. He’ll get through. And if this results in the ending of your relationship? Well, then the odds weren’t in your favor anyway, and better to end things before he sells his house and moves in with you!

My wife tells me that the proper etiquette for my family to invite us to family gatherings is to do it through her. She says that verbal invitations should be coordinated through the wives of each household. I’m fine with my family going through me and her family going through her. Is there a right way and a wrong way? — Confused Husband

No, there’s no right way or wrong way, but I think that some time in the past few decades society came to the realization that men are capable of keeping track of a social calendar as well as women are and a woman doesn’t need to shoulder that burden unless both she and her partner prefer her to.


  1. allathian says:

    Both my MIL and my mom have always handled the social calendars of their families. My mom largely did it because my dad is very introverted. Now he’s largely opted out of social functions altogether (extreme introversion and chronic pain, sometimes he genuinely isn’t capable no matter how willing he might be), so all invitations to our family events go through mom, and dad attends if he feels he can manage it.

    My MIL and FIL divorced 30 years ago and both of them have remarried. My FIL is now in a care home for people with dementia, so now he obviously can’t be expected to organize anything. But even when he was compos mentis, my MIL was responsible for ensuring that their kids had a relationship with their father’s side of the family. Granted, if she hadn’t they probably wouldn’t have had a relationship with their father’s side at all, given how flaky he was in maintaining a relationship with his kids after the divorce (she had full custody but he had frequent visitation, and he failed to show up more often than not even though my MIL, according to my husband, did all she could to promote a good relationship).

    I love my MIL and generally we have a great relationship, but I admit that it sometimes annoys me a bit that her first instinct is always to contact me for social arrangements rather than my husband.

  2. LW 1 Wendy’s advice here is just so so spot on. Live close by, and visit often. Later in life we have become ourselves and have our important friendships and if our whole network is irksome to a new living companion then they don’t fit your whole life, and need their own space. Doesn’t mean the end of the relationship if you clarify now. LW 2 if my partner’s family expected me to handle all social arrangements I’d be well annoyed, that’s his job for his side while keeping me informed and its my job on my side while keeping him informed. Its hard enough to co-ordinate that stuff around life and work without it all falling on one person. Getting a shared calendar app online is easiest.

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