DEAR CAROLYN: I live with my boyfriend in his elderly mom’s 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. I’m totally OK with this. When she’s 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. I’m very thankful to live in her beautiful home with her wonderful son.
Here’s the reason for writing: Once or twice a year, one of my boyfriend’s siblings wants to use the house as a vacation home for his family and friends. Totally fine, but I’d 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 boyfriend’s insistence.
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Boyfriend thinks I’m being unreasonable in not enjoying (OK, in resenting) these visits.
Part of me is willing to consider that he’s right, but the other part feels put upon. I have my own home nearby, but boyfriend insisted we live here for various reasons, so I’m no homeless freeloader. What do you think? If you say it’s my issue and I should let it go, then I will.
DEAR CONFLICTED: 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 boyfriend’s individual standards for conscience demand it.
I suppose that means it’s more negotiable, but what’s 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.” You’re 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.
Let’s take it a step further, even: Isn’t 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 isn’t truly yours. But it, um, isn’t.
And, you’ve apparently decided that boyfriend’s reasons for insisting on this home take priority over your reasons for wanting to live in yours. You’ve also made your resentment clear to boyfriend, and he hasn’t budged. Together, these mean you either need to accept this 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, can’t you?