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Co-Habitation Tips. General Advice and A Teenager is Involved.
February 8, 2013 7:52 AM   Subscribe

The long-distance boyfriend and I have decided to get engaged and he's moving in. Yay! Me: 40's, divorced, sole adult in household for over 11 years, raised three kids, with youngest (14 yo son) still at home. Have friends and a happy life here. Him: 50's, never married but has a son in his 20's with whom he has a great relationship, has friends and interests he can continue to explore here. (He also has a job ready for him here.) To anyone who has experience of this type of situation, what advice do you wish you had been given to make this as painless (and ideally, actually fun!) as possible?

A few details, if they help:

* He's moving in with us (250 miles north) into our 3-BR house as I have an incredibly sweet rent deal because I live in the town where I teach and we get offered special housing deals. I mean, like crazy low rent. So that's why we're not getting our own new place. We also have a lot of room.
* He has spent up to 10 days here at a time and it's been fine. We've both gone out and done our stuff, met other friends, cleaned together, Hurricane Sandy Clean-Upped together, ...no issues. We seem to create a decent seamless flow of cooking, cleaning, laundry.
* My kids really like him. He and the son get along well. My best guess (without knowing anything) is that THIS is where we really need to have advice and guidance. My ex has no involvement in our son's life, so it's not like the BF is going to step on dad's toes, but of course, BF isn't Dad. Yet he will be the only male role model in the kid's life.
* We've already got one room set up to be his room so everyone has their own space.
* I have every intention of keeping special time with my son. I know he'll need that. Hell, I need it too.
* BF and I are planning on taking a course together so we have our own special thing to do.
* We've discussed finances, made a budget and will open a joint account for household expenses.

What other things would help make this easier? We're both thrilled to have found love and we're excited about the rest of our lives together. But we'd both like to avoid any/all of the things that could throw us off-track, basically because we're both clueless about cohabitating (especially with a teenage boy in the house).
posted by kinetic to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yay!

I find that the "Room of One's Own" thing is key.

As for your son, he's at that age where all PDA is GROSS! So keep that to a minimum when he's around, at least in the first few months.

No matter how annoyed your fiance is, YOU are the sole person to mete out discipline to your son. Your fiance can't even yell at him.

You might want to have a "family meeting" set up for once a week where everyone gets to discuss stuff affecting the family. This should be made as fun as possible. For example, set up a vacation fund and plan a vacation, with reports on how much money has been saved up for the jaunt, or what new arrangements have been made. Discuss the monthly budget, insofar as how much money is available for discretionary spending and brainstorming ideas for how that money might be spent. You can also bring up chore assignments, or large projects that need to be done around the house.

Keep the lines of communication open with your son. Let him have room to vent about his annoyance with the situation (things will annoy him.) Validate his concerns, help him come up with ideas for dealing with them.

I find that Husbunny and I each need alone-time. I hang out with the kitties, he hangs out downstairs watching Eurovision (I promise, that's his hobby now.) At a predetermined time, he comes up and we watch our shows together. It's a little ritual and we all enjoy it (especially the cats.)

Don't discount how much alone-time you need. We need a lot.

Everything is negotiable, at every stage of your relationship.

Discuss distribution of daily chores. It's a lot easier if you're the cat box scooper, your fiance is the dishwasher unloader and your son is the garbage remover. That way there's no finger pointing.

Your son will act out. It will suck. Love him through it. Also, keep in touch with his school. Call his teachers for progress, or set up a meeting just to discuss the changes in his life and ask for a heads up if there are behavior issues or changes in his school work.

Mazel-Tov!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:05 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This whole thread is great, but smoke's advice is the best.

Really, he makes brilliant points in that thread, and the original about the relationship between step parent and child, and parent and child. example a, but there's more
posted by taff at 8:08 AM on February 8, 2013


* He's moving in with us (250 miles north) into our 3-BR house as I have an incredibly sweet rent deal because I live in the town where I teach and we get offered special housing deals. I mean, like crazy low rent. So that's why we're not getting our own new place. We also have a lot of room.

Have him pay you rent at a fair market rate anyway, and put it in your 14-year-old's college fund if you don't need it for regular savings. The benefit of your job is low overhead. The benefit of his job is money. If he's going to benefit from yours, you need to benefit from his.

He has spent up to 10 days here at a time and it's been fine. We've both gone out and done our stuff, met other friends, cleaned together, Hurricane Sandy Clean-Upped together, ...no issues. We seem to create a decent seamless flow of cooking, cleaning, laundry.

10 days of idyllic playing house is not the same as combining lives. He has never been married, and he's in his 50s. You have been the sole decisionmaker for a long time. You are both going to be set in your habits and ways more than you realize.

of course, BF isn't Dad. Yet he will be the only male role model in the kid's life.

No, don't make it that way. Aren't there coaches, teachers, parents of his friends, other people who are male role models in your son's life? At 14 I hope so!

We've discussed finances, made a budget and will open a joint account for household expenses.

I would be careful about combining finances with someone who is not your son's father but whose financial decisions will profoundly impact his life.
posted by headnsouth at 8:45 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


You might be mom and in charge, but you'd consult a roommate before inviting a third person to join the lease. 14 is old enough to have some amount of veto power over near-strangers living in their home. Be sure that you've okayed this with the kid before proceeding.
posted by theraflu at 9:29 AM on February 8, 2013


Just so this doesn't go awry, the kid hopefully asked a while back if BF could live with us. He's delighted.
posted by kinetic at 9:35 AM on February 8, 2013


Has fiance lived with a child/teen before (e.g. his son)? I recently had the experience of a partner moving in with me and my young adult niece (originally 19, now 21). My partner has never lived with a young adult. We have had a lot of challenges with the niece being, well, young and occasionally clueless (e.g., cooking late at night w/noise, or forgetting to lock the bolt), and my partner (from my point of view) seeing the cluelessness as disrespect as opposed to developmental, comes with the territory, and to-be-corrected. I'm not sure how to correct this, more something to watch out for.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:37 AM on February 8, 2013


He has spent up to 10 days here at a time and it's been fine.

Oh man... you may not want to hear this, but I would strongly strongly urge you guys to not move in together yet. My personal experience is with several friends who have done this (by moving themselves or having their love move in with them) and every. single. one. of them regretted it and some are still paying off debts (emotional and financial) from their misadventures. I know you're in love and you feel so very very sure, but... you're taking a crap shoot. Visits are different from every day life. Sweet rent deal or not, I would strongly urge you to have your partner rent or sublet a place nearby first (he can afford it, right?). If it turns out to be a silly, unnecessary precaution, so be it. Consider it to be insurance. And for God's sake, don't combine finances yet. Any eagerness to do so is giant red flag. What's the rush?
posted by Wordwoman at 9:44 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Should have made more clear: had typical custody arrangement of weeknight dinners, alternate weekend sleepovers for 21 years so yes, he gets living with kids.
posted by kinetic at 9:45 AM on February 8, 2013


People have given you good advice. I'd also consider a few scenarios to plan for even if they are unlikely like what if the BF's son or your other kids has a run of bad luck and needs a place to stay. Does your place become their place also? How will people be reshuffled? What if you lose your sweet rent deal, what options are the most appealing to you, son, BF for continuing the arrangement? How will you deal with conflicting loyalties if your son and BF wind up at odds? (my dad had many shortcomings but was pretty clear he was on my team or neutral in a general sense in petty conflicts, though overarching things like "I wish GF didn't come on vacation with us" were non-negotiable) What if something happens to you, what is the legal plan for your son and BF re: your things, if that needs to happen? And mostly, what if it turns out that it's premature or there's some weird unforseen thing? Can BF get his own place or is he stranded with you?

I had a parent with an almost-living-with-us GF when I was in high school and it was okay but not great. It wound up limiting the time I got to spend with my parent and, more importantly, the time I got to spend on my own in my parent's home (which was my weekend home). My dad was sort of painfully shy and foisted a lot of what he considered "girl stuff" off on his GF. She and I got along really great but she wasn't family to me, if that makes sense. I wish you the best moving forward with this.
posted by jessamyn at 9:48 AM on February 8, 2013


My situation is a bit different because I was childless and moved in with my BF and his 13-year-old daughter. It has been really, really difficult.

My advice: Outline from the beginning how you and your BF will handle discipline issues. I'm sure you son is better behaved than the one I'm currently living with. (Hell, Lindsay Lohan is better behaved.) Nonetheless, issues will come up. Is your BF allowed to directly discpline your son (take away cell phone, computer, etc.) or do you prefer that he talk to you first?

The own room thing is awesome. Awesome.

The class sounds good but will that be your date night? If not, plan one. Once you're living in the same house, it's easy to get out of the routine of spending time with just the two of you.


Have him pay you rent at a fair market rate anyway, and put it in your 14-year-old's college fund if you don't need it for regular savings. The benefit of your job is low overhead. The benefit of his job is money. If he's going to benefit from yours, you need to benefit from his.

How you plan your finances is your business, IMHO but if your BF knows you have cheap rent and you ask him to pay market, he'd likely be pissed (I know I would be!)

My BF's mortgage is ridiculously cheap and I just give him a lump sum of money each month. He just uses it as he sees fit.

Respect his hobbies/alone time needs, etc.

Finally, remember that there will be a period of adjustment. We just moved in together before the holidays and I'm still having growing pains. Nonetheless, I'm glad I did it.

Good luck.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went through a similar situation as a teenager.

Even if your son is 100% cool with your boyfriend and him moving in, it is still going to be very difficult for him. If you've only grown up with one adult in the house, it's hard to get used to the compromise that happens between adults. Your son is used to you having the final say, but your boyfriend moving in is really going to change the family dynamic. Combined with his own growing independence, I don't think there's any way for it not to be difficult for him. That doesn't mean it's bad, but, remember that your son needs you.

Also ... a couple of things to keep an eye out for ... my mom and stepfather left me with the impression that they were just waiting for me to graduate high school so they could get on with their shiny new "real" life. They weren't mean or anything - it's just the way they made plans. My stepdad, who had grown children of his own, was not really interested/involved in my teenage life, and my mom kinda followed his lead. Their attention naturally landed on the things most important to them as a couple. The result was that I had to figure out a lot on my own and I really felt like a footnote in my mom's life.
posted by stowaway at 10:26 AM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I was 15 my mother remarried and my stepfather moved in with us. Differences: I'm female, he had a son almost my age (who'd never lived with him or us beyond weekend visits), stepfather was in his mid/late 30s. When he proposed to Mom, she asked me what I thought and I was sincerely all for it, but...

Bad things:
-- His additional income made me ineligible for financial aid when I applied to college, but somehow he wasn't really contributing much money to the household.
-- Mom vented to me about their relationship problems. Every few weeks she'd declare that we were leaving, and then it would just blow over.
-- Basically right after he arrived I got my learner's permit and eventually started driving on my own. Mom and stepfather were NEVER on the same page about any of the rules surrounding that, and...ugh.
-- Stepfather often tried to parent me, both about unnecessary things and in a way that was incredibly heavy-handed. I was a really good kid, but he'd learned parenting skills on his own son, who e.g. wouldn't brush his teeth unless yelled at (...and eventually dropped out of high school and wound up in prison).
-- Related to above: stepfather was an explosively angry person---no physical violence, just yelling. Previously our family culture was no raised voices unless less it was a Big Fucking Deal, and if voices were raised things would not be okay for a while after. So he and I would get into screaming arguments, and then he'd be back to normal five minutes later while I remained rattled for days.

The one good thing was that I did feel that he was family. When I needed him in an emergency he was right there, and a few times I overheard him bragging to friends about my accomplishments. But family does not equal parent, which was the source of many of the above problems.
posted by ecsh at 10:34 AM on February 8, 2013


One of my friends told me that when her mom remarried, what her stepdad did that she and her sisters loved was to make sure to spend regular one-on-one time with each of his new kids--the thing that she did with him was go to baseball games. So consider planning for special Fiancé/Son time as well as special Mom/Son time.
posted by telophase at 1:42 PM on February 8, 2013


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