Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My wife’s daughter, 26, has lived with us for the past five years. She pays rent of $400, including everything. Her boyfriend of three years now also lives with his parents, but he pays them no rent. They party every weekend and then she stays the weekend at her boyfriend’s parents house. I added tougher rules at our house in hopes they would get a place of their own. It hasn’t happened. We don’t allow him to spend the night here and we insist that when we go to bed, he must go home. He bought her a “promise ring,” I believe to keep her from nagging about their next step. I love my stepdaughter, but as a parent I feel we need to give her a bigger push to move out and become self-sufficient. She talks about staying here until her school loan is paid off, but at the rate she’s paying, it would be a decade before that happens. I seriously believe her boyfriend has no intention of ever moving from his parents’ house. It seems so strange to me that they don’t seem to want a place of their own. I try and encourage our daughter to save money so that they could buy a house, but each time I bring it up, she gets defensive. Any suggestions?

Frustrated in Portland, Oregon

DEAR FRUSTRATED: The last thing you should do is encourage your stepdaughter to cohabit with her boyfriend. Nor should you point her/them toward buying a house. Her boyfriend sounds completely dependent on his parents and you can assume that he will remain so.

These two are not candidates for cohabitation or homeownership.

The way to put the squeeze on your renter is to gradually increase her rent until she is paying roughly market value. Then it will be obvious that she can afford to live elsewhere. You can discuss this with her as a family, helping her to set goals and a timeline, and then you should start the clock running. Depending on where you live, she might be able to afford to rent a room in a group house. This would be a good option for her; it would get her further out in the world and might provide an incentive to work more, party less, and get on with her (own) life. I assume she would prefer this to you and her mother controlling her romantic choices in your home.

DEAR AMY: Day after day, I read your column and just once I’d like to read something from a wife who is happy with her mate. I’ve been married for a little more than 50 years. We were married before we were both barely 21. Over the years we have grown together, learned to compromise, give and take, put others’ feelings and needs ahead of ours and hold on to each other in the rough times and the good times. Of course, there have been times when we wondered what the heck we were doing, but we made some simple rules years ago: 1) Never go to bed angry, 2) never try to change each other, 3) respect each other and trust each other as the gift from God we are to each other. We’ve weathered a lot together and I’m sure we will face more challenges together. But life is an adventure, so why not enjoy it instead of finding fault with everything? Thank God my husband is able to overlook all of my little oddities and love me anyway. He is a keeper.

Happy Wife

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DEAR HAPPY WIFE: Your rules for a happy marriage are wise. Couples wondering how to make a lasting and sustaining relationship should follow them. Choosing to love someone through tough times — to love someone “anyway” — is the answer.

Your attitude toward your own life and your appreciation for your long union is inspiring. I hope you two enjoy many more years together.

DEAR AMY: Here’s another response to the whole “teens and tattoos” question. When my son was an early teenager he wanted his ears pierced. We told him he had to wait until he was 15. By 15 he had lost interest. When at 16 he decided he wanted a tattoo, we told him he had to wait until he was 18. Again, he decided against it. He is now 28 and has said several times that he is glad we gave him a waiting period rather than just saying no. It left the decision up to him when the time came.

Proud Parents

DEAR PROUD: Very wise. Thank you.