Some night, after the nude display, the rubbing, and the massages are over and you and your girlfriend are alone, suggest watching the movie Cyrus, in which Jonah Hill plays a grown version of your young man. As the credits run, it should spark a lively discussion. I suppose when you first moved in, things were a little odd, but the boy was still young enough that his behavior didn’t seem alarmingly compulsive. As the old joke goes, “Oedipus, schemidipus, I just love my mom.” But by age 10, it is concerning that your girlfriend and her son remain Velcroed. That he also rubs up against you indicates he’s not just marking his mother, but that he is developing a global problem with appropriate behavior. You are in an odd position, and I don’t mean only when little Cyrus is engaging in frottage with you. You are neither father nor stepfather, but you are more than just an observer. Situations such as yours are why it’s so important for people to have clear expectations about their roles, and an ability to discuss and adapt as relationships shift, before moving in with someone and becoming in loco parentis. This is especially necessary when the parent seems a little loco.
Talk to your girlfriend. You can use your expertise as a male to explain that it’s time her Cyrus started becoming more independent and putting some actual physical space between himself and her. Sure, you are likely to get some pushback, but if you don’t have the kind of relationship that allows for such a conversation, then you have to wonder what you’re doing with her. If you’re all going to remain a threesome, you have a real obligation to make sure Cyrus doesn’t become that young man on the subway in the raincoat muttering and standing way too close to other commuters.
My younger brother is trying to become a real estate agent, and my husband and I are selling our apartment and buying a house. The apartment was an investment by my husband and his parents—I moved in after he bought it. His parents are using their longtime agent for the new transactions. I brought up my brother with my in-laws, but they said they wanted to stick with the person they know. My family is now saying that I have betrayed them. My father has disowned me, my mother has screamed at me, and they all say that I should give my husband an ultimatum: Either he uses my brother or I leave him. My family says I am being controlled and that I married my husband for money, which is untrue. They say they will not be part of my life because of this. What can I do?
This sounds like a great opportunity to foreclose on a relationship with your family, at least for the time being. They falsely accuse you of marrying for financial advantage, and now you are being disowned for not forcing upon your in-laws an unearned financial advantage for your brother. I can just see the logo on your brother’s business cards: “Hire me, or I’ll make your life hell.” This can’t be your first indication that your family is volatile and bizarre, but what you do now is keep your cool. Tell them you will not listen to their threats, and if they want to cut you off, you wish them well. Focus on how lucky you are to have missed whatever personality disorder they all seem to suffer from and that your marriage has brought you a loving and supportive new family.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“My Twin Sister Says I'm Fat: Prudie offers advice on twins entangled in family rifts, rows, and rivalries.” Posted Aug. 25, 2011.
“Give Grandpa a Kiss-Off?: A creeping suspicion tells me to keep my father-in-law away from my kids. Should I listen to it?” Posted Sept. 1, 2011.
“Longtime Companion: Is it OK to hide my gay affair since my wife doesn't want sex anymore?” Posted Sept. 8, 2011.
“Deadly Family Secret: My mother-in-law hid a life-threatening condition that could strike my child. How can I forgive her?” Posted Sept. 15, 2011.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“Type 'R' for Revenge: Dear Prudence advises a woman who got her cheating ex fired by sending a nasty email—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted Aug. 29, 2011.
“The Nudist Next Door: Dear Prudence advises a reader whose new neighbor needs better curtains—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted Sept. 6, 2011.
“Am I Dating a Swinger?: Dear Prudence advises a woman who craves a monogamous relationship but can't seem to find one—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted Sept. 12, 2011.
“He'd Like a Virgin: Dear Prudence advises a woman who lied to her fiance about her sexual past—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted Sept. 19, 2011.