DEAR NATALIE: A few years ago, I moved into a house that my dad owns. He lets me stay there rent free while I finish college. In the meantime, I met a girl and we have two kids together. Now it’s me, her, our kids – who are one and three years old – and now her younger brother and mother have moved in. I am thinking about moving out and getting a studio for myself because it is too crowded in my house. My dad also wants everyone to start paying rent. It’s turned into a big issue with my girlfriend who doesn’t think it’s fair that I would move out and leave her with the kids. I don’t want to break up with her. I love her, it’s just I feel like I’m suffocating. Any way to figure this out? – TOO CROWDED
DEAR TOO CROWDED: Not sure why your girlfriend’s brother and mom thought they could just move in, but you moving out is not the answer. The answer is they need to go and find their own place. If you move out and leave it all on your girlfriend’s shoulders, I doubt you’ll have a girlfriend for very much longer. Plus, your children need you and it’s time to step into your responsibilities. Talk to your girlfriend about her brother and mom moving in. Is this temporary? What is their long-term plan? Do they need assistance to find another place to live? How can you be of help to make that a reality? Do what you can but set a timeline. I appreciate that sometimes we all need a hand up, but it’s not fair to you or your growing family not to have the space you need.
DEAR NATALIE: My mom is a wonderful person who has terrible taste in men. Her most recent boyfriend is an alcoholic. My mom drinks too much and I think being with him has made it all the more acceptable. Well, a few months ago she had a few too many and crashed her vehicle into a stop sign. Thank goodness no one else was hurt, but she was banged up pretty bad. She also was arrested for drunk driving and her boyfriend was in the car with her at the time. They got into a big argument and now they are taking a “break.” My mom was doing so much better without his influence. I think the arrest made her wake up and question her decisions. Recently, he has been reaching out to her again and I think he wants her back. She is toying with this idea. I’m begging her not to bring him back into the fold, citing the most recent issue with the police. She got angry with me and told me that “things are different now for her and she won’t go backwards.” I don’t believe her. What can I do to make her see that he is a huge part of the problem? – LOVE MY MOM, HATE THE DRINKING
DEAR LOVE MY MOM, HATE THE DRINKING: Unfortunately, you can’t control what your mother decides to do, but you can set boundaries for how you interact with her should she start dating this guy again. If she wants to see him, then you can say to her, “Mom, I love you. I want you safe and healthy. I recognize you don’t need my permission to date but if you start seeing him, I will have to set the following boundaries with you…” and then list what it is you will or won’t do anymore. Maybe that means limiting the time you spend with her. Maybe that means you go to her to visit so that she doesn’t get behind the wheel. Perhaps it means when you hang out you won’t be drinking. Set your expectations and your limits. It’s hard to watch someone hurt themselves, especially when you love them so much. But all you can do is control your actions. Set the tone and seek support if you need it.
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