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LOVE LETTERS

Moving in with dad — and Harry?

Widower father wants company, and she feels obligated . . . to both of them

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / April 30, 2011

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Q. I have been dating my current boyfriend, “Harry,’’ for eight months. He is 28, and I am 26.

Harry and I have basically lived together for the past few months, and we’ve decided to get our own apartment this summer. There is one catch. My dad lives in the area, and he is a widower. My mom passed away almost 10 years ago. Dad is a great guy and gets along well with Harry. Anyway, my dad suggested that Harry and I move in with him instead of getting our own place so we could save some money. This might sound like a strange idea, but my dad works a lot, so he really isn’t home that much, his house is very big, and he isn’t overprotective.

At first I said no way; we don’t absolutely need to save money. But I’ve been thinking about it more lately, and I’m starting to believe that my dad wants us to move in because he is lonely. So I now really feel like I should move in with him — not because I feel obligated but because he has always been great to me and I really don’t want him living all by himself.

I explained this to Harry and was a little surprised by how against this idea he was, especially since he is always so easygoing about everything. The reason he gave me was that it “would look weird’’ for him to be living with my dad.

I don’t want to hurt Harry, but at this point I feel like the most important thing is for me to be there for my dad. I am not thinking about ending things with Harry, but I need to figure out a way to do what I feel like I need to do (be there for my dad) while continuing to have Harry in my life. I don’t believe that living in our own apartment and seeing my dad on the weekends is enough. I know that even if I did live with my dad we wouldn’t see each other much during the week, but it would still be significantly more than otherwise, especially since I work most weekends. I also think that it would just make my dad feel better to know that someone else is living in the house.

What would you suggest?

GOOD DAUGHTER OR GOOD GIRLFRIEND?, Boston

A. I’m with Harry. I don’t think you should move in with Dad. Not because it would “look weird’’ but because it wouldn’t be healthy for anyone involved. You can’t live with your dad forever, so you’d essentially be creating another temporary situation for him. It would be better for all three of you if you lived close to your dad, made lots of plans with him, forced him to do some social things outside of the house, and then went home to Harry to live the normal life of a young couple.

You can’t be a fake spouse for your dad, and he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who wants to be babysat. He works a lot, he’s a capable guy, and he needs to learn how to be independent. He might want to date. He might want to make friends his own age. He can’t do that if his kid is filling all of his emotional voids.

This thing you’re feeling with your dad might have to do with some of your needs and insecurities, by the way. Maybe you feel overwhelmed because you’ve met the guy you might marry. Maybe you miss your mom and fear that coupling off will pull you from your roots. And that’s why you have to move in with Harry — alone. Commit to spending a lot of time with Dad and being a good daughter but balance that by living the life of a 26-year-old in a good relationship. That’s all you can/should do. Let everybody (including yourself) evolve. MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

Yes, the letter writer’s dad needs a loving push to get out and create his own social life, and she should be encouraging that. However, maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but living together with a boyfriend after such a short time is what strikes me as odd about this letter, not Dad’s invitation to hang out and save money. What was the living situation before Harry? Was she with roommates? Did she move right from Dad’s to hanging out with Harry? Did she ever live alone? LIANMAC

I disagree with Meredith on the “And that’s why you have to move in with Harry’’ point. There’s no need to move in with Harry at all. Doing so to confront your own insecurities seems like a mistake to me (and I think that’s what Meredith has implied). No, I don’t think you should be your dad’s pseudo-spouse, nor should it be your responsibility to fill his empty nest, but there’s nothing wrong with moving in with Dad for a while, then re-evaluating your life in six months or a year. I say, do that. It’s an option you’re lucky to have. MCBOSTONROB

Pick one or the other, dear, because you cannot have it both ways. Harry is not your husband, and so your Dad is not his family. Even for married couples, having an elderly parent living with them requires sacrifice and strains the intimate relationship between a couple. LIFELESSONSLEARNED

You are making this about Harry vs. Dad. It’s not. You need to figure out what is best for you, at this point in your life. If that’s moving in with Dad temporarily, great. If it’s moving in with Harry, great. If it’s living on your own, also great. I don’t think Harry should feel compelled to move in with any member of your family. That’s starting the relationship off on uneven ground. ZEPTEMBER

Your boyfriend is almost 30. He should not be living with your dad; he should be getting his own adult life started. Be there for your dad, but don’t try to replace your mom. Just be a good daughter. That’s all you can do. SNACKSONSNACKS

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.