Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend’s A Freeloader”

My boyfriend and I are both 25 and have been together for three years. The problem is that my boyfriend stays the night at my apartment seven nights a week even though we don’t technically live together. Currently, he “lives” with his mom, which means he basically just goes to her place in the morning to shower and get dressed after spending the night at my place. He said he wants to eventually move in with me and get married but he feels like he needs to live on his own and “have his own physical space” before he moves in with me. Don’t you think if he really wanted to move out on his own he would’ve at some point? And surprisingly, he said if he did get his own place, he’d still want to spend every night with me! He said spending nights apart would feel like a step back in our relationship and he doesn’t want that. I am stumped as to his rationale behind all this. How do I deal with this situation or convince him that he doesn’t need his own physical space to feel like a man? (Also FYI: I’d rather be engaged first before moving in together, and he knows this, but given these circumstances it’s like we’re already living together, and he’s just not paying rent.) — Free Rent

Your boyfriend is a man-child. His biological age may be 25, but he isn’t really interested in being a responsible adult. And, lucky for him, he has two women in his life who enable his childish ways. Both you and his mom have made it very easy for him to live without any real responsibilities. He essentially has two homes he can crash at and where he doesn’t have to pay rent. He has a girlfriend he can have sex with every night of the week and not worry about marrying. As long as you say you want to be engaged before you officially live together, he can continue saying he has to “live on his own first” before proposing to you. But what you’re failing to realize here is he’s not actually interested in proposing to you. There’s nothing in it for him to get engaged. He already has what he wants — he gets to spend every night with you AND he doesn’t have to worry about paying bills. As soon as he’s engaged, you’ll expect him to be on your lease, pay rent, plan a wedding, think about the future — you know, be an adult. He doesn’t want to be an adult. He just wants things to continue being easy. So, stop making it easy on him. Either quit letting him spend every night at your place, or start charging him rent. Explain to him that since he’s at your place every single night of the week, he needs to start paying half of your rent. It’s only fair. If he isn’t willing to do that, it’s time to give him a “curfew,” or a time of the evening when he needs to go back to his mom’s. If he wants to live like a child, you should treat him like one. It’ll only be when he realizes that being treated like a child when your 25 years old kinda sucks, that he’ll decide to grow up and start acting like a man.

My ex-boyfriend and I dated for six years. We lived together for a good part of those six years, and the breakup was ugly. In the two years since our breakup, I have lost nearly 100 pounds and feel better than ever, and he’s in a PhD program and has a serious girlfriend. The problem is he keeps emailing me. In the last six months I’ve gotten several emails from him detailing how great his life is, how he isn’t mad at me anymore, and how we didn’t handle the separation well. I have responded to each email in the same manner — I have been polite and calm, congratulated him on every success he reports (jobs, dissertation, girlfriend) but asked no questions to indicate any interest, any possibility of a reuniting moment, or to encourage further contact. And yet every single email of congratulations garners MORE email. Then he started sending me newspaper articles to read. I casually wrote at the end of an email response “Are you sure your girlfriend is comfortable with you emailing me so frequently?” I thought maybe this would serve as a moral reminder that he should remain true to her and probably leave me alone. Another email came along insisting she is fine with our contact. So I finally asked him “What do you want from me?” and he never addressed the question, just prattled on about my family and mentioned some old memories of the two of us. What does he want? He can’t possibly be marking his territory — I don’t have a boyfriend. I have admitted defeat to him. I admitted I treated him poorly, apologized for all that I did, and congratulated him on his happy life with his girlfriend. The question still nags me though — what else does he want? — Annoyed Ex-GF

Clearly, he wants to stay in your mind. It sounds like for whatever reason, the breakup wasn’t as clean for him as it was for you and despite having a new girlfriend, he hasn’t truly moved on. I know you feel like you’ve been gracious in your replies to him, but the kindest thing to do now is ignore his attempts to stay in touch with you. Any reply you give — however short — is encouraging him at this point. So, the next time he sends you an unwanted email, give him your final reply: “I’ve given it some thought and have decided in the interest of both of us moving forward in our lives, it’s best if we cease all communication with each other. I wish you only the best and harbor no ill feelings toward you, but this will be the last time you hear from me.” If he continues to email you in the future, block his address and/or send all his messages to your trash folder. Eventually, he’ll get bored with your one-sided relationship and move on for good.

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