Dear Carolyn: I live with my boyfriend in his elderly moms paid-for vacation home. She comes to visit a few times a year for a few days each time, and we are expected to provide meals and entertain her. Im totally OK with this. When shes not here we care for the home as if it were our own: paying house bills, doing maintenance, paying for repairs, etc. Again, totally OK with this. Im very thankful to live in her beautiful home with her wonderful son.
Heres the reason for writing: Once or twice a year, one of my boyfriends siblings wants to use the house as a vacation home for his family and friends. Totally fine, but Id rather leave town so they can use it freely. Boyfriend wants to stay to enjoy their visit, so we stay. While they are very nice to me, I feel awkward.
Also, Boyfriend wants to make everything perfect for their arrival, so we spend lots of time prepping and then have to clean after their departure. Visiting sibling makes way more money than us, but we foot the utility and food bills as well again, at Boyfriends insistence.
Boyfriend thinks Im being unreasonable in not enjoying (OK, in resenting) these visits.
Part of me is willing to consider that hes right, but the other part feels put upon. I have my own home nearby, but Boyfriend insisted we live here for various reasons, so Im no homeless freeloader. What do you think? If you say its my issue and I should let it go, then I will. Conflicted
Carolyn Says: Whether you need it is irrelevant; accepting free stuff means accepting whatever strings are attached.
Are some of those strings unnecessary? Perhaps. I think maintenance and Mom-hosting are the price you have to pay for using the home, whereas hosting the sibling is the price your boyfriend wants to pay for using the home. Have to means universal standards for decency demand it; wants to means your boyfriends individual standards for conscience demand it.
I suppose that means its more negotiable, but whats to be gained by seeing it that way? Presumably such generous hosting helps your boyfriend avoid feeling like, to use your words, a homeless freeloader. Youre loath to appear as one even anonymously to us, so surely you can sympathize with his need to prove his value and gratitude to his innermost circle.
Lets take it a step further, even: Isnt this a quality to celebrate in him, not resent?
Yes, his efforts come at a cost to your comfort and convenience, and there is something primal about feeling as if your own home isnt truly yours. But it, um, isnt.
And, youve apparently decided that Boyfriends reasons for insisting on this home take priority over your reasons for wanting to live in yours. Youve also made your resentment clear to Boyfriend, and he hasnt budged. Together, these mean you either need to accept this full-frontal hosting as part of that whole package, or reject the whole package as not worth this particular cost.
Besides after putting in a friendly appearance, you can leave when the sibling comes, cant you?
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