Living arrangement causes discomfort
DEAR READERS » Every year, I step away from the Ask Amy column for two weeks in order to work on other writing projects.
Enjoy today’s “Best Of” column (from 2010).
I’ll be back with fresh Q and A next week.
DEAR AMY » Nine years ago, my daughter and her husband asked me to move with them into a new home.
I had been widowed for five years and they felt I should not be alone. (I am now 84 and in pretty good health).
We all got along very well until about six months ago, but I don’t know why. Nothing was ever said openly. They purchased a lake house recently and spend weekends at that home. I am not invited (nor do I want to be). There are no children involved — just the three of us. I do have a little dog that he seems to hate — but I cannot give the dog away.
Lately I get the feeling that my son-in-law is not happy with our situation. He barely speaks to me and mumbles “good morning” or “good night.”
I contribute to the household, pay rent, clean house, wash their clothes, take care of their dog, etc. I have spent thousands of dollars on this house and paid a third of the purchase price.
Should I speak to my daughter about this? She and I get along very well. I feel she knows there is friction here but has not said anything to me about it. Should I look for another place to live? I don’t really want to live alone but I will if I have to.
DEAR CHALLENGED » First this: Your arrangement seems to have worked well for everyone for nine successful and peaceful years.
Unfortunately, each person in the household seems extremely averse to bringing up a topic — or even asking a question — that might result in an uncomfortable moment or two, and so you have spent the last six months engaged in an extremely uncomfortable silent standoff. It is human nature to avoid discomfort, but you all have taken it to a new level.
You are a full partner in this household — you helped pay for the house and pay rent and expenses.
Sit down with them
(if you can’t manage to face him, speak with your daughter). Say, “I feel a lot of tension lately; can you tell me what is bothering you? It would be good to clear the air. I miss the way we all used to get along.” This might have started over a very trivial household matter. Or it might not have anything to do with you — but with work, marriage or health difficulties of theirs. Maintain an open attitude and try not to be defensive. Read “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most,” written by members of the Harvard Negotiation Project (2010, Penguin).