DEAR AMY: A couple we know, who have a 14-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son, just welcomed an 18-year-old boy (whom they have known for years), into their home to live. He has been thrown out of his parents’ home, but I don’t know why. The 18-year-old has a job and helps them with the bills. He doesn’t have a car. I see a potential train wreck in the offing. To allow two unrelated teenagers to live in the same house seems to deliver an open invitation to a real problem, should their hormones become inflamed. Please offer your advice and feedback, in hopes that they read your column.
DEAR WORRIED: Here’s my feedback: To people who offer shelter to others who need it — thank you. You are heroes.
To neighbors, friends and extended family members who take in teenagers going through a rough patch: Thank you. You are demonstrating true family values.
Your assumption that unrelated teenagers shouldn’t cohabit because of “inflamed hormones” is faulty. Using your logic, my family shouldn’t have welcomed exchange students into our household during my childhood. Teens shouldn’t attend co-ed sleepaway camp, or live alongside other teenagers and young adults for months as counselors. And not to put too fine a point on it, but what about the “inflamed hormones” of both parents with this young man in the house?
Using your logic, surely the family is surrounded by new risks and temptations, and the 18-year-old is also at risk.
There is no question that bringing an unrelated person into the household changes the dynamic of the household and places both children at an elevated risk for sexual contact or abuse. But your automatic assumptions about the risk might be outsized; and, importantly, this is none of your business.
DEAR AMY: I am a 38-year-old woman. I want so much to get married and settle down. I gave up on love almost entirely until two years ago when I met my current boyfriend. He is supportive, smart and kind. We love each other very much and have a healthy relationship. He is without a doubt the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. However, there is one barrier that is keeping us from moving forward: his co-dependent relationship with his parents. About a year ago he moved back in with his parents to help his dad take care of his aging mother. His parents rely on him for everything (financial and business decisions, errands, home maintenance, scheduling appointments). As a child of immigrant parents (they emigrated from Vietnam in the late ’70s), he feels an obligation to make sure his parents are happy and comfortable in their old age. They gave up so much to make sure he and his siblings would have a good life. I want to have a family with him, but I don’t know how much longer I can wait. I feel selfish asking him to choose me over them.
DEAR WAITING: You need to have a frank and open conversation with your guy about getting married and having a family of your own. Given his commitment to his parents, he might expect you to move into their household — or have them come and live with you two in whatever household you and he create together. You might be able to create an extended household where you live next door to his parents, but rest-assured that his hyper-involvement with his parents will continue. “Everybody Loves Raymond” ran on television for nine seasons on this very premise.
Your use of the term “co-dependent” implies some sort of dysfunction. And maybe there is dysfunction here that you don’t describe. But in many cultures, his behavior is completely normal and expected. He is not dependent on them, but is simply giving back out of a deep sense of respect and duty. His cultural imperative might be stronger than his connection to you, and so you should not expect him to automatically choose you if he is forced to make a choice.
DEAR AMY: “New Mom” was worried about her in-laws staying with her for an extended period when she gives birth to her second child. She should look into a nearby Airbnb listing. We have one near our house and we now use it as our frequent guest house.
DEAR HAPPIER: Definitely.