More family issues today. Please help this "House Mother."
Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for 9 years. His younger sister (now 21) encountered some issues with her father and stepmother and we agreed to let her move in with us for a short time. What was supposed to have been a temporary, three-month stay has turned into more than three years. His sister has not kept up her end of the bargain (has not saved money, did not pay her personal bills, has not gone back to college, etc.) and has repeatedly made some very foolish decisions that have set her (and us) back financially and personally.
My boyfriend has not held his sister accountable for many of her actions and has been unwilling to set rules and deadlines in various situations. For the rules and deadlines that we have set - he has not enforced the consequences when the rules have not been met and has frequently bailed his sister out of situations in which I feel she should have had to own up to her mistakes. During these three+ years, our relationship has taken a serious hit...primarily because of a lack of privacy and the fact that we, essentially, became overnight parents of a young adult. I feel incredibly unsupported and have voiced my concerns numerous times. For the umpteenth time, his sister was supposed to have moved to the dorms to start school in January and did not follow through with that. I feel that "enough is enough" and expect that she will move out...she has a full-time job and has saved up some money over the past few months (although given that she has not had to pay for rent, utilities or food for the past three years, I am extremely upset that she has not saved up money during her entire stay)...and suggested that a fair time was March/April.
My boyfriend believes this deadline to be unfair. I understand his desire to help his sister but cannot understand why our relationship consistently takes a backseat and why he is not fed up with his sister's rude and selfish ways. I have spent the remaining years of my twenties being a "house mother" and I want my life and my partner back - PLEASE HELP! How can I get him to tell his sister to MOVE OUT!
- House Mother, Boston
A: Your boyfriend isn't a bad guy, but he might not be the right boyfriend for you.
For whatever reason, your boyfriend is a father to his sister. Even if she does move out in March/April, she could come back -- and you boyfriend would probably welcome her. Even if he disciplines her and sets limits, he'll do so as a parent, not as a sibling.
I think you need to spend some time considering whether you're willing to accept you boyfriend's role in his sister's life. Perhaps you want to date someone who doesn't come into the relationship with any dependents.
She was 18 when she moved in -- she was a kid then. She's 21 now, no longer a kid. Maybe there is a possible compromise. I'd be curious to know if there is a deadline your boyfriend would be comfortable with. Have you asked? Has he offered an alternative?
Even if he has, this woman isn't going away, not really. She's like your step kid. At the moment, you're the wicked step-mother (sorry). You can learn to love her -- or leave them both.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.