Dear Amy: My brother is newly divorced.
After he and his wife split up, I let him stay with me so he could save money, sort things out, and receive some emotional support.
He is a good guy and he pays half of the bills. He pays them late – but he pays them.
He is also sloppy and I am constantly cleaning up after him.
He is aware of my displeasure with cleaning up after an adult, but he seems not to care.
He has lived with me for close to five years now – and I need my space. We are both middle-aged and divorced. I’m an empty nester, and want to live alone.
I am annoyed by everything he does, but I feel awful for feeling that way.
Amy, there are times when I don’t want to come home because I know I will encounter a mess. I yearn for space and time alone.
Am I being selfish and uncaring for being annoyed just by his presence?
– Stymied Sister
Dear Sister: Five years in, your brother is no longer “newly divorced.” (His divorce has already lasted longer than my first marriage.)
He is a middle-aged man living with a sister who treats him exactly the way he wants to be treated – like a child. It sounds like such a good and comfortable situation for him that of course he doesn’t want to leave!
It’s a marvel that you still consider your brother a “good guy,” because – according to you – he is completely disinterested in your discomfort. Instead, he seems to be drafting along on your superior caretaking abilities and your guilt regarding him.
Why do you feel guilty? It might be because you equate love with caretaking.
Maybe it’s time to prove that you love him enough to let him go.
I suggest that in order to save your relationship with your brother, it is time for you to ever-so-certainly, calmly and kindly show him the door. Consider this gentle shove a declaration that it’s time for him to start his next chapter, and that he is ready.
Tell him, “It’s time for you to find your own place. I need to live on my own, and so do you.” Don’t get personal. Don’t relitigate his past behavior or allow him to bargain his way into staying.
You can set a timeline for his moving out and help him to look for a place he can afford (possibly sharing a home with others).
Be aware that because he has been paying to live in your home, he could be considered a tenant. If he refuses to leave, you may have to start the eviction process. Check with your state and local regulations regarding evictions, in case it comes to that. I hope it doesn’t.
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Dear Amy: I hope that we are finally emerging from the pandemic in a real way. After so much time living in a vastly altered reality, I find I’m struggling with how to get back out there. I feel like my mood is somehow suppressed, and can’t figure out how to reboot.
Dear Tired: I’ll tell you what I’ve done: I’ve gone outside.
Call it Vitamin D therapy, exercise therapy, or running away(!) – reconnecting with nature has been a game-changer for me.
Long walks, twice a day (or long outdoor sits, if walking is too difficult). Bird watching. Tending garden beds or flower pots.
These are all things that most people can do, and they are guaranteed mood boosters.
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Dear Amy: I was horrified by your response to “Mystified,” the husband who didn’t understand why his wife had lost a lot of weight and had become “more independent.”
Instead of praising her weight loss and her independence, YOU suggested that she might be having an affair!
Dear Horrified: Many readers did not like my answer to this question. To recap: “Mystified” reported that his wife had recently lost a lot of weight, that the intimacy in their marriage had changed, that she had become more independent, and that he believed his wife was “going through the motions” in their marriage.
I suggested that one possible cause for these changes (there are other possibilities) could be an “outside flirtation,” and that he should communicate about their relationship.
If the genders had been reversed and the husband had lost a lot of weight, become more independent, stopped being intimate, and was “going through the motions,” I don’t believe we would be celebrating his independence, but positing that the marriage might be in trouble.
©2022 Amy Dickinson.