Dear Ann Cannon • I am a co-owner of our home. I invited someone to stay with us during this pandemic. He currently lived with his grandmother, but she was concerned for her health. I said he could stay until it was safe to return to her home. My spouse doesn’t like the idea. Can he ask this person to leave if I told him he could stay?
— At Odds with My Spouse
Dear At Odds • Honestly, I don’t think it matters who technically owns the home in this case. It’s much more important that you and your spouse find a way to be on the same page. After all, inviting another person to live with you is a pretty big deal, even if the invitation is extended for the best of reasons.
For the sake of your relationship, you and your spouse need to respectfully lay out your cases, listen to one another, and then be willing to work together toward a solution you can both live with.
Dear Ann Cannon • For reasons beyond my control, I am currently living with my brother-in-law and his family. I try to be nice and let things slide, but I am so peeved with their children. They are so loud, disrespectful, ungrateful, etc. They hang off of the top cabinet drawers, climb on top of the fridge, sit on top of the kitchen table while everyone is trying to eat, throw stuff and hit and swear at their parents, put holes in the wall, draw on the walls, throw food behind the couches and let it rot. These kids are 8 and 7. I really don’t feel like it’s appropriate behavior from kids their age. They act up and nobody tells them anything or disciplines them in any way.
It’s very frustrating for me because I have a baby under a year old and those kids are constantly making so much noise late into the night that keeps her up, and during the day she can’t take her naps because they watch YouTube all day at full volume and have their noses stuck in their phone or tablet at full volume, as well. Also, they get nose-to-nose with my baby and yell in her face, and I’m not a fan of that because of germs. They also have poor hygiene because the mother doesn’t really pay attention to them, so they never wash their hands and are constantly walking around the house naked and covered in dirt and grime.
I am at the end of my rope here because every time I try to talk to my husband about moving, it is always a hard no. We can’t afford it, etc. So, I tell him to at least talk to his brother about telling the kids to be quieter and not so much in our baby’s face all the time, but he just says he can’t because it’ll just cause problems. I don’t know what to do because I feel like because we are living here for very low rent, I am expected to just sit down and take whatever they throw my way and not complain. It is really affecting my mood and my marriage at this point. We are constantly arguing. Am I being the jerk here?
Dear Desperate • Wow. No, you’re not being a jerk. You’re just in a very, very, VERY tough position. Living with another family is challenging under the best of circumstances — and these are clearly not the best of circumstances.
So, what can you do? Unfortunately, for now at least, you may have to accept that there’s not a lot you CAN do to change the behavior of those with whom you live, and, frankly, I’m not sure your husband could either, even if he did talk to his brother (whose family clearly needs serious help). You should, however, continue to put the welfare of your own child first, and if that means directly telling her cousins to lay off, then do it.
For now, try spending as much time as possible outside and away from the house with your child. Is there a park nearby where you can practice some social distancing during this difficult season of COVID-19? Invite your husband to go with you and find ways to reconnect. And to keep your spirits up, try to do one thing every day that gives you joy. Meanwhile, keep planning for the future and looking for an exit strategy. I wish all of you the very best.