“His Cousin Won’t Move Out”

My husbands’ unemployed cousin is living with my family. I thought it would be for a weekend, but there is no end in sight. We are doing a total remodel/renovation on our house (stressful enough on our marriage) and he does help my husband work on the house, but my husband was just laid off and his cousin, who doesn’t have a job, contributes nothing to our bills. While I’m ok with my husband taking time off because he is a carpenter and is building our home, I’m the only one working to support a family of four (plus helping my daughter and her two kids), and having another grown man to feed is expensive and, quite frankly, infuriating.

I have two jobs – one full-time and one part-time, and I pull overtime. My husband expects me to buy his and his cousin’s cigarettes as well (I’m not a smoker). I’m becoming resentful because my husband agreed to ask him to leave, but now says he doesn’t know how to and so he has yet to do it. While I know my husband is benefiting from having the help working on our home, our marriage is suffering.

While I feel selfish for wanting his cousin out because the house has been a beast of a task, I don’t feel like our home is home (I want to walk around in my undies if I want but am confined to my room). What do I do to resolve this without ruining my marriage? In all fairness, I should mention, that prior to his moving in, we were paying his cousin to help with the house renovations and he was a great help to my husband. — Wanting My Privacy Back

Your husband’s cousin needs money, your husband needs help with the house, and you need the cousin out of your home. Talk with your husband about what you’re able to pay the cousin and then tell the cousin that, while he can’t stay in your home anymore, you would love to have him continue working for pay. I wonder if your husband and his cousin might also be interested in working on other projects together if this goes well and that a long-term plan for getting them both employed again could involve partnering up and marketing themselves as carpenter/handymen in business together–with your home as an example of their work.

Regardless, you agreed to a weekend, it’s been more than a weekend, and you need to put your foot down and insist that your husband tell his cousin to leave. Stop buying their cigarettes (or at least the cousin’s) and work with your daughter on ways she can be more financially independent so you aren’t responsible for helping her and her two daughters on top of supporting four other people.

I am currently in a long-distance relationship. I live in Chicago and my boyfriend lives in LA. We have been dating for almost nineteen months now. I see him every month, and in the summer it’s for a few weeks at a time because I am a school teacher and I have summers off. I am also a mother who has joint custody with my ex-husband.

My boyfriend thinks that it’s easy for me to just up and move to LA, and I keep explaining to him that it’s not. I have a secure job, I have a house here as well that I would have to try to sell, and most importantly, I’d have to fight to relocate my daughter. Do you have any advice for me, especially on how to communicate with him on this issue? — Chicago or Bust

You say to him: “I’m a mother and I have a responsibility to my child to make life comfortable and secure for her. In my mind, that means giving her easy access to both her parents and working with her father to make sure she knows she is our top priority. Because of that, and because of the good job I have that I don’t want to leave, I don’t see myself moving to LA. You could come here, but I’m not going there. If you aren’t open to moving to Chicago, then I think it’s time to part ways because I’m not open to moving to LA.”

(And, frankly, this is a conversation you should have had many, many months ago!).

Back in January I started dating a guy I met on a dating app. He told me he was looking for a relationship; so was I. After our first date we felt a lot of chemistry and we wanted to see each other again. I was honest with him letting him know I was a single mom, and had a 3-year-old. After that I felt he resisted, but told me it was okay. After dating for 2 months and being intimate with each other, I told him it would be nice for us to meet each other’s friends, or be friends on Facebook, at least. But then he told me he was not ready for a relationship because of my son, that he was scared to take into parent role. I was hurt because I opened myself to him, and lied to me about being ok with my having a child. I also had a feeling he was not over his ex girlfriend, since they still had pictures together on FB.

We didn’t speak for six months and then three weeks ago, I reached out to him by text just to say hi. He was impressed and apologized for how much he hurt me and wanted me to give him a second chance. He happens to have a trip planned this weekend in Vegas with three women, including his ex (he’s the only guy), and they are renting a house. He invited me to go, but I don’t feel comfortable spending a whole weekend with his ex. He reassures me they are only friends, and that going forwards we will do trips together ourselves.

How should I feel and react? He’s asked me to be his girlfriend, by the way… — What Stays in Vegas

Are you looking for a serious, longterm relationship? If so, this isn’t the guy for you. He’s already told you, explicitly and implicitly, that he’s not interested in being a father-figure in a kid’s life. If you’re looking for something casual and/or short-term, this could possibly work, but if you’re casual, you really shouldn’t care whom he goes to Vegas with or what he does there as long as he isn’t exposing you to any health risks. You need to be honest with yourself and MOA if you think, like I do, that you two simply are not a good match for each other right now.


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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.


  1. dinoceros says:

    LW3, I think he asked you to be his girlfriend because he realized that after telling you he didn’t want a relationship, the sex went away. So, he wants it to return. You ignored the red flags the first time around when you knew he was hesitant about being a single mom. Don’t ignore them a second time when he’s already clearly told you he doesn’t want to be serious. The fact that he lied the first time should indicate to you that you can’t believe him simply because he says you’re his girlfriend.

    1. Seriously? Seriously! says:

      Totally disagree! If it had been like 6 days maybe, or even 6 weeks, but 6 months is a substantial amount of total “off” time. If it was just about keeping sex available, he wouldn’t invite her on a trip with his ex.

      As someone who had a rocky start with their husband after meeting on coffee mets bagel, I say don’t go on the trip but try dating the guy, making it clear that your child is firmly in the picture and that you are a packaged deal.

      Coffee meets bagel -to me- signifies interested in a relationship. You only get one match a day and it is through Facebook; you need to fill out a profile, you only get matched with friends of friends (so there is a layer of pre screening) and there needs to be double matching in order to communicate. It’s a pretty inefficient way to meet people just to hook up,

      But you need reframe other people’s emotions and feelings in your mind– he likely didn’t “lie” to you, he Likely either changed his mind or realized he was wrong. In fact, by telling you he wasn’t sure he could do it, he was being incredibly honest with you. And after 6 months, he realized he actually liked/likes you enough to try it out. I think you should give him a shot but just realize that you both are trying to find out if he’s the kind of guy who can be with a woman who has a child. If he can’t, that’s ok, it isn’t a character flaw, he’s just not the right guy for you.

      1. dinoceros says:

        Yeah, it’s possible he changed his mind, but it’s not super common. I have several friends who had a guy say they weren’t interested in a relationship whose guys came back and said something about how they were just “afraid to get hurt” or whatever. Then the exact same thing happened again. None of them actually turned out to be truly ready. I know that’s just anecdotal, but I think until she actually sees what happens months out, then it’s totally unclear.

        Part of what I looked at was the fact that he didn’t make any effort until she reached out to him. I think that behavior is fairly common because they think the person is truly done and not willing to compromise on their boundaries, but they reach out and they think, “Wait! They’re still on the line.” But maybe I’m just cynical. But though I said sex, it might be he likes her companionship or whatever and would want a relationship … if she didn’t come with a kid.

        All that’s to say that I don’t necessarily think he’s some sex-crazed manipulator who is trying to trick her, but missing someone can make a person ignore their actual dealbreakers. I guess time will tell!

      2. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

        Part of what I looked at was the fact that he didn’t make any effort until she reached out to him. I think that behavior is fairly common because they think the person is truly done and not willing to compromise on their boundaries, but they reach out and they think, “Wait! They’re still on the line.”

        . . . Or it’s “Wow, I thought I screwed things up beyond repair with her, but maybe she’s willing to forgive my stupidity and give me another chance!”

        I’m not saying it’s guaranteed happily ever after, but I agree with Seriously; there’s no harm in going into this with the understanding that you’re both trying to figure out not only if he’s ready to be a part of your son’s life, but also whether your son fits into his. We’ve all made choices we’ve regretted after the fact and wished we could take back, so it’s not impossible this is one of them for him. So, no, LW, it’s not WRONG to want to give him another chance, but it’s also not wrong not to if you don’t want to.

  2. TheRascal says:

    There are so many problems with LW1, but I’m caught up on the cigarette thing. This is a conversation to have, LW1:

    Husband: “Honey, I need money for cigarettes.”
    LW1: “No.”

  3. LW1: I agree that you should ask the cousin to leave, but is the work he has been doing for you worth more than the food and cigarettes you have been buying him? I mean carpenters are usually pretty expensive, and if he is doing work several hours a day that a carpenter would be making $20.00 and hour doing, which is the national average. So if he is work even 20 hours a week on your house that would be $400.00. That and take into account how much quicker you will be getting it done. Seems like the food and cigarettes might be a bargain.

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      That’s what I was thinking. I get that it’s a pain having him there, but why don’t you make a deal that he can stay till the house is done? There has to be a time limit on that though, or else it’s possible the house will never get done. Work out an agreement with your husband. The house has to be done by such and such a date, the cousin will be paid in food and board, and once the work is done the cousin can no longer live there for free.

    2. SpaceySteph says:

      Agreed. No such thing as a free lunch, or in this case, as free labor. It’s silly to think that the cousin will continue helping out on the house after you kick him out… unless you make it worth his while some other way.

    3. But it sounds like the cousin isn’t actually a carpenter. He’s probably functioning as a helper.

      1. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Yeah, but if the husband can focus on the carpentry without having to haul stuff around and do the easy jobs, it’ll get done way faster. And I’m sure he can help with the carpentry, with direction from the husband. Like, hold this here for me, or cut these into this size, or whatever. Leaving the husband free to do the skilled work. Even a general labourer will cost you.

      2. Ehh, even “helpers” get paid. I’m married to a general contractor. You complain that your house no longer feels like a home, and then put the majority of the blame on your cousin by marriage.

        How long has your home reno been going on? Yes, it’s frustrating that the cousin is still there, but he’s not a freeloader if he’s working. I ask this from my experience, is your husband treating your home’s renovation like an actual job? Because that caused some stress in my marriage, and at least we weren’t living in the house. Also, remind dear hubby that while he isn’t drawing a paycheck, he’s still working. For himself. At his house.

        Tackle this one step at a time. The first step is finishing your own home. Because a house undergoing renovations is never going to be a home until tog finish it.

  4. LucyGoose says:

    I’m so confused by a line in letter #3. He was impressed. Impressed? Just because you texted him? Yeah, he’s laying it on thick if that’s what he told you.
    On another note, I don’t think it’s fair to say he lied about being okay with your son. Maybe he thought he *could* handle it at first and any number of things could have happened along the way to change his mind. No, you don’t sound like a good match otherwise, but I wouldn’t blame it exclusively on that, either, or call him a liar.

  5. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

    Eh, I’m kind of on the fence about Wendy’s advice for LW #1.
    I don’t really see it as an issue with the cousin. I feel like LW has an issue with the husband but instead of addressing the marital issue, she’s choosing to focus on the cousin. She sounds kind of resentful that the husband isn’t working but ‘taking time off’ to work on the house. Honestly, if he needs you to buy him cigarettes AND you have to work 2 jobs to stay afloat, then taking time off isn’t really a viable option.
    IMO, it sounds like LW wants the husband to get another job and work on the house in his free time but doesn’t know how to address it with him.

    1. artsygirl says:

      I agree Cleopatra – The LW clearly wants cousin out of the house since he is a drain on their very limited resources. Her husband doesn’t want to be the bad guy – making her either kick the cousin out or put up with it which is pretty shitty behavior. The fact that she is working two jobs while husband, cousin, and unnamed fourth person do not pull in a pay check is obviously infuriating. I am not even going to touch on daughter and two granddaughters

    2. dinoceros says:

      Yeah. I think the other issue is that the husband is fine with the cousin being there and is putting off the talk rather than telling the wife that he disagrees.

  6. LW3: it was a bad idea to recontact him. Forget his number. He is not for you.

  7. artsygirl says:

    LW1 – You need to set husband down and make him commit to a timeline regarding renovations and cousin. Since he is out of work currently, that means he could put in 8 plus hours a day working on the house which will hopefully speed up the reno timeline. Perhaps you can suggest that cousin can stay until the renovation is done since he is helping out, but then needs to find new living arrangements. Stick to your guns, you hold all the power since you are the only adult working.

    LW2 – Unless your BF has a reason he HAS to stay in LA say for a job, I cannot see why he has made the unilateral decision that you and your daughter have to move to him. I think this relationship might be dead in the water since your daughter and her healthy relationship with her father should take precedence – just point out that if her ex had primary custody of your daughter, you would do everything in your power to make sure you could maintain visitation with her.

    LW3 – Wendy is spot on.

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      Re LW2, even if he has a good job there it’s not a great excuse, because so does the LW. If this relationship is going to work out, one of them has to move. Having a child who either can’t leave the state, or can leave but will then basically lose her father, trumps a job no matter how good it is. If he disagrees, well then she should end the relationship.

  8. Northern Star says:

    LW 3: Part of your issue with this guy was that he didn’t appear to be over his ex–and the other, more important part is that he wasn’t able to deal with your child and dumped you. Now YOU reach out, not him, after months of no-contact after he ended it, during which he made no effort to see you—and he invites you on a trip to Vegas that he planned with his ex. You said nothing about him telling you he’s ready to handle your child.

    Um. Nah.

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