Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In-Law Week, Day 3: Must Man Choose Between Mother And Girlfriend?

[Ed. Note: Tazi has had a large influx of letters from men complaining about their mothers and wives complaining about their in-laws. I have decided to make this "In-Law Week" in an effort to let Tazi make the world a better place!].

Dear Tazi:

I have been dating a wonderful woman named "Lorelei" for almost two years now. Since I lost everything in a horrible divorce a few decades ago I have been gun-shy about marriage, since I have worked very hard to rebuild my life. I now own my own home, have a car with no payment, and have healthy savings and retirement accounts, as well as a few blue chip investments. I would hate to lose all of this in a second divorce (and have to start over again in my fifties!) so I have stipulated that I will not marry a woman until I have lived with her for at least a year.

After Lorelei and I were dating for a full year, I asked her to move in with me. Her reasons for saying no were valid (she feels that the first year of a relationship is always the easiest) and wanted to wait for another year to pass so we could get to know each other "with our masks off". I had to laugh, because up until that point I didn't realize how much of ourselves we censored from each other - at that point, I had never farted in front of Lorelei, kept a lit candle in the bathroom whenever I knew she would be coming over, made sure the bed was made and the sheets freshly washed...all stuff I generally overlook when I am around the guys.

Now that the two year mark is approaching I have once again asked Lorelei to move in with me, and she has said yes - on the condition that we are engaged and have a tentative wedding date in mind to work toward. She has told me she does not wish to sell or lease her house long-term and combine our finances unless she knows that she will not be out of house and home should things not work between us. I hadn't thought of things this way before, and realized how self-centered I was being. After speaking with my attorney and financial planner I had paperwork drawn up that will protect both of our interests, and Lorelei has read and agreed sign them after her lawyer reviewed them. Wow, three paragraphs and I still haven't told you my problem!

Lorelei has decided to lease her house with the option for the lessee to buy after two years. She is currently looking for a tenant before making our move, the only thing that is delaying us. Last month, my father passed away after a short but terminal illness. My mother is now looking to move in with me so she does not have to live alone. Mom is in excellent health and does not need someone to look after her - but if she did, she has her choice of my six other siblings, all who live nearby! Five of my siblings are married, and Mom has said she does not want to live somewhere where she will not be "the woman of the house", which rules out all but my youngest brother who is 28 and not married. "Joe" lives on his own and has offered to give up his apartment and move in with Mom to keep her company, help with expenses (the house is paid for, but there are always bills and repairs), and see after her. Mom has refused this offer, saying that Joe is old enough to be on his own and that she will not have him moving home with her! Joe cannot afford to buy his own home - even with Mom's help - so this idea is out, too.

I suppose I have detailed the problem enough for you to figure out what it is, but let me spell it out anyway: If my mother moves in with me, Lorelei will not...and I can't say I blame her. What woman would want to give up her own home to be subservient to another woman of the house? We have talked about renting/selling my house and moving into Lorelei's, but my house is larger and more conveniently located to both of our jobs, and because I live just over the border in a different state my property taxes are a lot lower than hers, as are my income taxes. We have considered selling both houses and buying something that will be "ours" but that would take even more time in this difficult economy. What the heck do I do? Do I have to choose between my mother and my girlfriend?

What Would Dad Do?

Dear What Would Dad Do?

It is obvious from your signature that you are deeply mourning the loss of your father; to be thrown into this new situation makes life all the more difficult. I ran your letter by a friend who happens to be a social worker, and she suggested that you and your mother not make any unplanned, major life decisions for the first year. Since you and Lorelei had already planned on moving in together, you could go forward with this plan, or you may wish to hold off - it all depends on how you feel. How supportive of you was she during your father's illness? How emotionally supportive of you is she now that your father has passed and you are adjusting to life without the man whose opinions and guidance you still seek? The answers to these questions will help you decide what to do about living with Lorelei or holding off for a while - even if it is not for a whole year.

You should tell your mother that making a major move within the first year of a spouse's passing is a bad idea. On the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, death of a spouse rates 100 points - the highest stress level one event can score. Divorce comes in a distant second at 50 points. (Click here to check your stress!). Moving into a new home will only further that stress. Point out to your mother that although you currently live alone, plans to move in with Lorelei in the very near future were all but finalized when your father passed and that those plans, although slightly delayed, are not subject to change. Stress that this means she will not be "the woman of the house" at your house; that Lorelei will be the woman of the house and that perhaps your brother Joe's offer would be worth a second look.

Whatever you do, do not make your mother not moving in about your desire to live with Lorelei but rather about your desire to have control over your own life. Remember that you did not invite your mother to come live with you - she invited herself. If your mother is still adamant about not living alone (one year later or not) and refuses to live with your brother, might it be worth suggesting she sell her house and buy a condo in a senior living community? Most people who do this find that they love it!


P.S. I find that letters from men do tend to give a lot of background information before directly stating the problem. I have yet to figure out whether this is a desire to be thorough and communicate well or a desire to avoid getting to the issue.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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