Help! My Boyfriend Won’t Marry Me Even Though His Son Moved In With Us.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 23 2013 6:15 AM

Parent Trap

In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend doesn’t want to get married—even though his son has moved in with them.

(Continued from Page 1)

Q. Re: Milking the cow: This question breaks my heart for the boyfriend's child. This boy's mother has a serious medical trauma, and his dad's girlfriend is complaining about the living vs. marriage arrangements? Original LW, please, please try to approach this with compassion. Your opportunity to provide a loving stable home for this boy should be looked at as a gift. Also, I would hope for everyone's sake (yours, your boyfriend's, and his son's) that you are making decisions about this relationship and cohabitation based on whether you are happy now and not "counting on" some future happiness. If you only see living together as a dress rehearsal for marriage, and not as a wonderful opportunity on its own merits, you have moved in together for the wrong reasons.

A: Yes this boy needs to be the focus of his father's life. There's a lot of work that needs to be done for a child who has suffered so much trauma. But I disagree that the letter writer should see this as an opportunity to provide a stable home for the child apart from her long-term needs. If her long-term needs conflict with those of her boyfriend's, there goes the stability for the child. I think it's better for her to bow out now than disappear in a year or two.

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Q. Dividing Up Parents’ Home: My parents both passed away after lengthy illnesses. I have three siblings and toward the end of my parents’ lives, we were fortunate enough to share the responsibility of caring for them and making important decisions amicably. That being said, this is still an emotional drain on us and we are all feeling raw. My sister "Anna" is a very nostalgic person in general and has been taking this process harder than the rest of us. This weekend we have to go through my parents’ house and sort items to keep, sell, donate, or toss. Here is the problem: Anna will attach a meaning and a story to every. single. thing. Then she will want to talk about the item and reminisce about our parents. Of course I expect us to do this about some sentimental items. But there is nothing sentimental about our parents’ toaster. Everybody grieves differently, and I do not want to hurt Anna further by snapping at her or looking cold and indifferent to her emotions. But I'm also not sure I can spend the entire time with Anna without getting frustrated, not to mention it will take us a long time to go through a household at that pace. Is this something I should just suck up or is it worth a conversation with Anna? If so, how would that conversation go?

A: You can respect her process of grieving by asking her to respect yours. As you all are getting ready to tackle this task, you can say to her that you know talking about the memories attached to the objects helps her, but for you it's more painful than cathartic. You can say that to get through the house-emptying, you just need to put a lid on your emotions and methodically, objectively, focus on the task at hand. Tell her that when you've sorted the objects you're keeping from the ones you're giving away, you'd be happy to discuss the memories they evoke. But when you have that conversation, you should feel free to say, "Anna, I have to stop here. I need to limit how much time I spend thinking about the past because it makes getting through the present harder."

Q. Re: Fiancé and Fanatical Giving: I think you missed a broader point. This couple needs to have some serious pre-marriage counseling to address their clearly different religious views. Most people who tithe (which literally means to give one-tenth) do so based upon strongly held religious beliefs. The LW evidently believes those beliefs are "foolish." This seems like a recipe for disaster.

A: An excellent point. You're right, this is not just a financial issue but a matter of belief, and her dismissal of his deeply held views is concerning.

Q. Rebound Whiplash: Our daughter split from her beau of three years and within two months was engaged to a new guy who baffles us. He barely speaks, has stayed in our home on two occasions for days at a time and never offers to help out (setting table, cooking, clearing or heaven forbid, treating us to a hostess gift, meal out or even a thank you note). Our daughter gets very defensive about him, saying he's her soul mate, so we have stopped trying to talk her out of it. But what advice can you give us when this oddball mooch visits again? Our tongues are raw from being bitten!

A: It certainly sounds as if in order to cut short the mourning over a relationship that fell short, she decided to marry a guy who falls short. I should say that I met my husband right after ending a relationship of several years and that we got engaged after knowing each other for six weeks. The clear difference is that my husband is great! Let's give this guy the benefit of the doubt and say he's an extreme introvert. However, not having the gift of gab is different from not being able to clear your plate. But your issue is not how to get the guy to set the table, it's your concern that your daughter is making a huge life decision from a position of weakness. Since you say she gets defensive about him, you've obviously been rebuffed in your efforts to discuss this. So I suggest shifting from your concerns over his character to the timing of their engagement. Talk to her privately when they aren't both staying at your house. Say of course she's an adult and free to make her own decisions, but since you love her more than anyone, you just want to counsel her to take her time before rushing into marriage. Then when he shows up with him next, don't wait for him to help, just assign him some tasks, preferably in front of your daughter. "Damien, would you mind setting the table—the dishes are there and flatware in that drawer." If he refuses let it hang in the air without further commentary.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.

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