Dear Wendy: “How Can I Tell My Boyfriend’s Parents That I Don’t Want Their Crap?”

I’ve been in a relationship for a year and a half and everything is going great between us. We even plan to move in together this summer. The plan is to move into the apartment that my boyfriend’s parents currently live in — it legally belongs to him but his parents pay for all the expenses. His parents will move out and into their new home, and have already said that they are leaving us their old furniture, because they would like to furnish their house with completely new stuff and this way, we wouldn’t have to buy anything. That I can totally understand and I’m thankful for some of the pieces they are leaving behind. However, there is a lot I would throw out, not only because much of it is old and unusable (knives, cracked dishes, etc.), but their “style” is really old school. Now, I told them that my family and I are going to buy a new wardrobe and some other new things I want to replace, and apparently my boyfriend’s mom is not pleased by this. She told him that he should definitely keep the old furniture because otherwise, if we break up he would be left with nothing. He and I have talked about handling things during a breakup scenario and have agreed we’d like to buy new furniture and redecorate. But his mom thinks their apartment is nice and there is no reason to change things. Now I am afraid his parents will be offended if they see how much we want to refurnish and buy (with our money). How do I handle the situation without being ungrateful? — Martha Stewart Intruder

First, you need to get clear about who will actually be buying new furniture when you move in with your boyfriend. In one sentence, you say you and your family will be buying a “new wardrobe and some other things you want to replace” and then later your say you and your boyfriend will be refurnishing the apartment “with your money.” Well, which was is it? I wonder if it’s actually your boyfriend who’s worried about being left with no furniture in the event of a breakup and he’s just telling you it’s his mom who’s concerned? Or, maybe he wasn’t worried until his mom brought it up, but now that she has, he sees she’s got a point. It’s definitely worth discussing with your boyfriend and making absolutely sure that he’s not only on board with refurnishing and redecorating the apartment, but you’re in agreement with who will be paying for all these new things (and how they’d be divided if you do break up).

Once you’re sure you and your boyfriend are on the same page, let your boyfriend give his parents a list of items you’ve agreed to keep and a list you’d like for his parents to get rid of before you move in. For your part, you can send them a thank you note a month or so before you move in sincerely thanking them for the items you and your boyfriend have decided to keep. Express your gratitude for the money they’re saving you and the use you know you’ll get from the hand-me-downs. Reiterate that you’re looking forward to creating a home with your boyfriend and expressing your unique design style, but you’re grateful to have a head start with some basic pieces that fit your needs so well. If that’s not enough for your boyfriend’s parents, it really needs to be his job to convince them he’s a big boy and it’s time they minded their own business.

I am a 24-year-old recent college grad and my boyfriend is 37 and lives with his ailing mother and older brother. My parents’ house burned down two months ago and he invited me to come live with them. It’s been rocky, to say the least. His mother has a “mother hen” personality. She’s constantly giving advice without my asking, and is such a penny-pincher that I can’t even buy a package of chicken without her squabbling about whether we should bring it back and get the chicken on sale. She eats things I buy without asking: my father’s Christmas present, an entire loaf of bread, a bag of chips, and other things. I am grateful that she has let me stay in her home, and I show it by going grocery shopping with very detailed, specific lists of about one hundred items, buying my own separate groceries with my own money, and cooking dinner. I am pregnant and find myself awash in fluctuating emotions and she’s beginning to get on my nerves and I can’t hide it anymore. My boyfriend has tried to talk with her many times, but she doesn’t change her behavior. She’s a sweet woman in general, but her behavior is wearing me down. I feel like it’s an issue that’s really hurting our relationship, because my boyfriend can see both her side and mine. We are financially incapable of moving out for the next few months, and my parents are living somewhere far away from my job and without a lot of room. She’s at the house all the time and my only solace is work. I just don’t know what to do. Am I completely in the wrong for being frustrated? Do you have any suggestions for how I can try to do better? — Henpecked

Yes, get a place of your own as quickly as you can — even if it’s just a small studio apartment — and then you can have all the say in the world about the rules where you pay the rent and your name’s on the lease. Until then, you really have no right to be upset with a woman for eating what’s in her fridge, pinching pennies (especially when she’s housing three other grown adults), and always being home in the house that she pays for. I’m sorry, I know you’re pregnant and I’m sure you must be feeling emotional during a period that sounds pretty stressful, but you simply don’t have a leg to stand on here. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated in the home where you’re crashing, then move out. If you can’t afford to move out at the moment, suck it up and be grateful someone cares enough about you to provide a warm home, a bed to sleep on, and a kitchen to cook your meals. That’s a lot more than most people who can’t afford their own places get, so practice mindful gratitude and make a solid exit plan. In the meantime, you and your boyfriend would probably both benefit from some alone time outside the home and away from his mother. And for God’s sake, quit putting the poor guy in the middle. Do you really expect him to choose sides between a woman who’s carrying his baby and the woman who’s providing all of you a place to stay (for free!)?? Besides, his energy should not be spent talking to his mom about her “behavior.” It should spent be getting his act together and finding a home for his soon-to-be family.

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