Allow Needy Brother to Move in or Not?
Q: My husband of five years and I have been going through some difficult times. We sought out marriage counseling and it's been a work in progress to say the least. We live in a small modest home with our three-year-old. About a week ago my husband's brother had a terrible fire in his apartment complex and now he's basically homeless. He's been staying with a friend of his, but his friend is moving to China to be a teacher. My brother-in-law hinted at staying with us for a while, just until he gets back on his feet. I certainly do not want him to not have a place to stay, but I worry that with all my husband and I are going through, this stressful situation could be the final nail in the coffin. Is it selfish to think this way? - Kimberly, 41
Dr. Anna: It's noble and commendable to want to help someone else in need. It sounds like you feel that the added stress of another adult in your house might well be the final straw, but maybe there is another way. How well do you know his brother? If you like and trust your brother-in-law, why not see if you could negotiate some babysitting time in exchange for a temporary place in your home. Maybe this could allow you and your husband some much needed space to work on your marriage. Date night? Additional counseling sessions? A few hours a week to take a walk together by yourselves? If he only need a place for a few weeks, this might work out well. On the other hand, if your brother in law is irresponsible or untrustworthy, listen to your gut and set a firm boundary. It is just as important to say no and set limits to protect yourself and your family. The health of your family should come first. It's healthy to say no so you can preserve what's most important to you.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.