Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I’m 25 and am struggling with a division between my parents and my boyfriend. It stemmed from an argument. I live with my parents, and was at my boyfriend’s place some 30 minutes away when they asked for a ride to dinner. He drove all that way to get them, then take them another 15 minutes to the restaurant. During this drive things got heated; my parents were saying I abuse and neglect my cat because I leave her alone to spend time with my bf. (I cannot take her with me because his grandma is allergic). My cat gets a little anxious when I’m gone so I’ve gotten her a calming collar but that’s not enough for them. They say I don’t leave enough food or water when I make sure I do before leaving. This made me cry and my bf saw so he had snapped back and told them to back off and tried to defend me. It got heated and angry words were exchanged. I was trying to get them all to stop but everyone was at each other’s throats.
My parents have not let go. They’ve told me I didn’t defend them from him and how disrespectful he was, which I understand but they were disrespectful to him as well. Afterward, my boyfriend let go of the argument and admitted he said some disrespectful things, but also says he doesn’t appreciate the way they treat me.
Meanwhile my parents keep speaking so badly of my bf, accusing him of being abusive and a cheater. They never mention how my bf helped my stepdad get a job or helped us pay bills since my stepdad lost his job due to absences. I’m really happy with him and he has treated me right. We’ve been together for almost two years.
I feel stuck at my parents' place. They want me to pay more bills now after we agreed that the rent and bills would be paid by them. I was helping my mom before my stepdad came to live with us but he has no job. She feels like her husband is unreliable and their relationship consists of constant arguing and slamming doors and leaving.
I can’t afford my own place and was thinking of finding a foster for my cat and staying with my bf. I’m lost as what to do and how to try to keep both relationships somewhat peaceful or if it’s even possible. I think we’re all at fault here but it seems like if there is a conversation, it’ll turn ugly. Any advice would be really appreciated.
There are many layers to this conflict, which is why it likely feels overwhelming and impossible to deal with. Let’s break it down into some manageable chunks.
Issue 1: Your parents are undermining your relationship with toxic commentary. You’re happy. And, you’ve been with your man for two years. That’s no flash in the pan. He’s made an effort to be helpful to your parents more than once. And — here’s a biggie — after the big blow-up, he admitted (at least to you) that he was wrong. Abusive? Cheater? I’m not seeing it. If anything, it sounds like your stepdad is the one with issues, and it’s possible your mom is struggling with that and is letting her own issues affect how she sees your reality. Stand by your man. It sounds like he’s working for it and is trying to earn your love.
Issue 2: You live with your parents and the situation is unhealthy. They’re pulling power plays and leveling low blows by questioning your feline parenting and changing the game on you in terms of rent and bills. Not cool. You may be their “little girl,” but you’re also a grown, working woman in her mid-20s. Trust your instincts: move out. It will give your relationship with your parents some much-needed breathing room.
Issue 3: Your parents and your boyfriend aren’t on speaking terms. It would be fabulous if they could all show maturity and grace and clear the air with an adult conversation, but it sounds unlikely — for now. These wounds are fresh, and time truly does help heal bruised egos. Your parents love you; your boyfriend loves you. Try to stay out of the middle and be patient.
In a perfect world, everyone would get along and be happy. And people who ask for money and rides to restaurants would show some gratitude. And people who get upset and say things they regret would apologize for it. Sounds like your boyfriend is trying his best to create that world for you and your family. Sounds like your parents aren’t.
I know it’s stressful to think about creating even more disruption in your already wild world, but it’s time to seriously consider packing your bags and your kitty and getting an apartment with your boyfriend right meow! You’re living in a toxic environment, with the “grown-ups” being mean to one another, to your boyfriend, and to you. Meanwhile, your boyfriend is your rock and I’m guessing he’ll do anything to make you happy and keep you safe. Including leaving his currently living situation with grandma and whoever else.
So huddle up with him, look at your combined finances, and start targeting apartments that take cats. It might be a struggle for a while as you both get your feet under you and adjust to living away from family and with one another. But this is the next logical step for your relationship and the universe is telling you that the timing is perfect.
Don’t let anyone take shots at the joy and partnership you have with your boyfriend. This will make your relationship stronger and your life happier.