My boyfriend has an older brother that lost his job and was losing his home (their childhood home). At the time he was living with his brother – paying him rent and helping with bills. He didn’t want their childhood home to be taken so he purchased the home from his brother telling him that he could stay there until he got back on his feet- paying whatever rent and bills he could afford. His older brother got a job with the help of my boyfriend but now refuses to pay rent or help with any of the bills telling my boyfriend that they are brothers– and he shouldn’t have to pay rent or help with bills. He told him he can’t afford to help. My boyfriend doesn’t know what to do …. He said he can’t afford to support his brother and feels that he shouldn’t have to (keep in mind his brother is in his mid fifties – by boyfriend is in mid forties).
We have been discussing marriage and wants us to live in his home. I told my boyfriend that as much as I love him I cannot move my son and I in his home along with his brother. His brother smokes and drinks heavily and I don’t consider that to be the type of atmosphere for my son or I to live in. My boyfriend has been so upset about his dealings with his brother that it is starting to affect our relationship. I can’t and won’t tell him what to do as it is his family issues. What can he (I guess we) do?
I sometimes wonder why we put up with situations within our families that we wouldn’t even consider if the same thing happened with a stranger. I remember a time when a friend’s brother owed them money – not a huge amount but enough that it would have made a difference in her life. They had agreed on a set timeframe within which he would repay but he kept blowing her off with different excuses, even though she was pretty sure he had the money. She eventually got some advice from a solicitor who simply said to her “would you put up with this if the person who owed you money was not a family member?” Luckily, it was resolved and they have maintained a good relationship.
You are certainly correct when you say that you don’t want to interfere with his family business. I remember that before my hubby and I got married, one of the things we were advised about was not criticizing the other’s family or getting into their family disagreements. Your role is to support your boyfriend and be there for him. I admire you taking a stand for what you believe is best for you and your son; sometimes these things get pushed to the back when it comes to relationships and love.
It is important to get the facts straight in any disagreement and there are some questions that come to mind in this situation. Was the house bought at market value or a cheaper price to make it easier for your boyfriend at the time? If the brother sold cheaply, he might feel he is owed some slack now. Was there a firm agreement as to when the brother would start to contribute to household expenses? Maybe he has a different idea as to when this should be. As their childhood home is involved, is there some sort of emotional blackmail going on?
I am a firm believer in communication and discussion. In this scenario, I think that the best course of action is for your boyfriend to sit down with his brother and discuss how he feels. He will need to be prepared for this meeting and have copies of recent utility bills, mortgage repayments, and anything else that pertains to expenses that should really be shared by all members of the household.
It could begin with your boyfriend reminding his brother that he paid his share when he was living in house, before he owned it. So why should it be different now. The discussion needs to be frank, without emotion; your boyfriend should simply state the facts – that he cannot continue to support and subsidize his brother, especially as he now has a job. As far as the bills are concerned, these should be split evenly between the people living in the house. If the brother is still struggling financially, perhaps a nominal rent would be more in order than the market value of renting part of a house in their area. Maybe a gradual increase could apply; the amount going up as the brother gets back on his feet.
It is important that he keeps the discussion to the subject of sharing the financial responsibilities of the household. Your boyfriend should not introduce the fact that you want to get married and live in the house; this will only muddy the waters and add an emotional aspect to the situation. Maybe his brother is actually concerned that you will get married and then he will have nowhere to live. He should also not bring up that you are refusing to live in the house with the brother there. At this time, all he should be trying to do is get his brother to fairly contribute to the household expenses.
If the issue cannot be resolved, your boyfriend may have to make some difficult decisions. He will need to decide on his top priority; what does he want most, a relationship and marriage to you or to continue supporting his brother in their childhood home. Is your relationship worth more to him than his childhood home? Hopefully, he chooses you, in which case he has a choice.
First, he could offer to sell the house back to the brother, which could be possible now that he has a job. Then the two of you, with your son, could find somewhere else to live and the whole problem would be solved.
As a last resort, he could tell the brother that the house will have to be sold anyway, as he cannot afford to keep paying the mortgage and all the bills. The positive side of this is that good can come from starting a marriage fresh; a new home would give you this, even if it means losing the childhood home. I wonder if his emotional attachment to the home is so great that he would risk losing the chance of making a life with you?
His brother won’t ever stand on his own feet while he is being subsidized. Just because they are brothers doesn’t mean that one has to sponge off the other. Remember, we are not responsible for family members, just because we happen to be related. Unless there is some underlying health issue, each member of a family should be able to stand on their own two feet and not expect others to sacrifice their life and happiness.
I think the lesson here is to not accept behaviour from a family member that you wouldn’t accept from a stranger. Loyalty is an admirable value but it shouldn’t come at the price of your own happiness; that is too much to ask of anyone.
Good luck and thanks for submitting a question. I hope this can be resolved and you and your boyfriend can enjoy a happy future together.
Readers, what do you think they should do?