I love my girlfriend, and I’m thinking of proposing. The only problem is her brother. He’s obsessed with climate change and doesn’t have steady employment, preferring to spend his time educating others about the end of the world. I’m not a climate-change denier by any means; in fact, my girlfriend and I are both vegans who recycle and do what we can to donate to specific charities targeting climate-change issues. I just don’t want to talk about the end of the world all the time.
Anyway, the issue isn’t that her brother isn’t capable of holding down a job—he just doesn’t want to. She respects that and sees a future where he could live with us and do work around the house. I am not interested in this at all. I don’t care how he gets by—I just don’t want to foot the bill. I come from a blue-collar family, with a single mom who worked two jobs to raise me, and going to college and becoming a professional is a huge accomplishment for me. I am just starting to make a living and pay back student loans, and I see a long road ahead in which I achieve financial stability for my girlfriend and me.
My girlfriend’s parents paid for her education, as well as her brother’s, which I think is wonderful—this is what I want to do for my own kids one day—and while they are great people, they don’t see an issue with him relying on others, because they believe they need him to do the volunteer work that he does full-time. They see her brother as a social justice warrior fighting the good fight, and I suspect that they fund his lifestyle, even though he lives very greenly and without much money to start with. Again, not my business at all and none of my concern, except that I already feel as if I’m expected to float this guy for the betterment of the Earth, and it doesn’t make sense to me.
I love her, I love her family, and I even love her brother. I just don’t want him living off of our incomes in the future simply because he doesn’t work, because he’d rather talk to strangers about the environment. How can I express this to her without sounding callous, and is there any way to express myself without seeming like I’m criticizing her family as a whole? I don’t want to mess up. I want her to be partner for life here, and that includes building financial stability for us and our children—not her brother.
You’re very different from your future in-laws, but I’m glad that you’ve found peace with this fact and don’t see it as a reason to walk away from what sounds like a great, incredibly sweet, if flawed family.
Political differences aside, I agree that you have absolutely no responsibility to support your girlfriend’s brother by offering him a permanent place to stay, especially if you two want to make your own family one day. Y’all are just starting your lives as adults, and you don’t need a “roommate” in that equation. Plus, I’ve lived with a sibling and their spouse before, and it sucks. It’s just… awkward. He’d be a third wheel no matter how optimistic your partner is about it, especially if he’s unemployed with no plans to change that.
He’s her parents’ child, not yours. If he needs a place to live, then he should move in with his partner or his parents. Explain to your girlfriend that you’re ready to start your life with her and there’s no space in that plan for even the nicest roommate in the world. Tell her to imagine trying to argue or have sex with her husband while her brother is in the next room.
Her family sounds close, but you two deserve the opportunity to create your own home that is unique to your relationship and your love for each other. Unemployed siblings just don’t factor into that—and I know, because I’ve been one.
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