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Accepting free stuff comes with strings

Wed., May 8, 2013

Dear Carolyn: I live with my boyfriend in his mom’s paid-for vacation home. She comes to visit a few times a year, and we are expected to provide meals and entertain her. I’m totally OK with this.

Here’s the reason for writing: Sometimes one of my boyfriend’s siblings wants to use the house as a vacation home. Totally fine, but I’d rather leave town so they can use it freely. Boyfriend wants to stay to enjoy their visit, so we stay.

Also, Boyfriend wants to make everything perfect for their arrival. Visiting sibling makes way more money than us, but we foot the food bills – again, at Boyfriend’s insistence.

Boyfriend thinks I’m being unreasonable in not enjoying (OK, in resenting) these visits.

Part of me is willing to consider that he’s right, but the other part feels put upon. I have my own home nearby, but Boyfriend insisted we live here, so I’m no homeless freeloader. What do you think? If you say it’s my issue and I should let it go, then I will. – Conflicted

Whether you need it is irrelevant; accepting free stuff means accepting whatever strings are attached.

Are some of those strings unnecessary? Perhaps. I think maintenance and Mom-hosting are the price you have to pay for using the home, whereas hosting the sibling is the price your boyfriend wants to pay for using the home. “Have to” means universal standards for decency demand it; “wants to” means your boyfriend’s individual standards for conscience demand it.

Let’s take it a step further, even: Isn’t this a quality to celebrate in him, not resent?

And, you’ve apparently decided that Boyfriend’s reasons for insisting on this home take priority over your reasons for wanting to live in yours. You’ve also made your resentment clear to Boyfriend, and he hasn’t budged. Together, these mean you either need to accept this full-frontal hosting as part of that whole package, or reject the whole package as not worth this particular cost.


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