My brother's girlfriend is nuts should my wife have to deal?
May 31, 2009 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I have to move clean out my mother's house in another state. She just moved into assisted living for Alzheimer's Disease last weekend. It will be an emotional week where I will need a lot of support. My brother has been in an on again off again relationship with a woman for the past five years. He was off for the past six months or so and moved in to help take care of Mom, but now they are back together and spending all their time together. SHe is annoying, crazy, doesn't work and last year punched an 87 year old family friend in the face. Anyway, my partner/girlfriend has said she will only go down and help me and my brother clean out the house if she has the right to never see my brother's girlfriend. Meaning I rent her a car and she leaves anytime this woman comes around. I think that this is going to cause a lot of drama, but I completely understand where she is coming from. I really need her there, but I am really afraid that WW3 will break out and I will be in more hot water. ANy ideas?
posted by washateria to Society & Culture (18 answers total)
I think its fair that she not want to see this woman. I think its also fair that you say that is too much of a burden to deal with and it will probably just be easier for all concerned if your partner stay home.
posted by ian1977 at 5:02 PM on May 31, 2009

I agree with ian1977. My boyfriend had to deal with a difficult family situation last year and decided that he'd rather leave me at home than worry about it. I provided support by being available on the phone whenever he needed me. I know the phone isn't the same as being there in person, but if it alleviates one huge point of stress, it might be worth it.

If you also need her there to help with the physical work, do you have a friend who might be willing to go instead?
posted by cabingirl at 5:08 PM on May 31, 2009

I don't think she's being fair at all, and her plan to help you out so long as she can follow through on her plan to theatrically snub your brother's girlfriend regardless of the problems it causes for you is worse than her not coming at all. We all lose perspective sometimes, so if I were you I'd try to put your situation in perspective for her - like, hey I know you hate that lady and so do I but the thing is that I have to clean out my mother's house because she has Alzheimer's Disease and had to move to a fucking home and I have this gigantic time consuming emotionally devastating task to get done in one weekend and could you just get over yourself for two fucking days, ignore Girlfriend, and help me?
(Put it in your own words, but that's the jist. It'd work on me).
posted by moxiedoll at 5:26 PM on May 31, 2009 [11 favorites]

I too think it's fair for anyone to want what they want. And it sounds like you want and need your partner's support. That's indeed one of the benefits of a long-term relationship: support and comfort. If she can't give it to you now during this difficult time, I hope that you are getting it at other times.

If it's a comfort and a stress-reliever to have her with you, ask her to put her feelings aside and help you. If it's more stressful to have her there--or to even ask this of her--then go by yourself.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:27 PM on May 31, 2009

I'm in agreement with ian1977 and cabingirl - it will probably be best to leave your sweetie at home, sitting close to her phone. Why bring chaos and drama into a situation that's probably going to have plenty of both -- dealing again with your mothers illness, and dealing with anything which hasn't been resolved with your mother, years of memories laid bare as you sort through the physical pieces of her life. And your brothers presence. And his girlfriends presence. A lot of possible stress there, or so it seems to me.

Why add to that load?

You can hire someone to help with things to be moved, put an ad on Craigslist looking for a strong body at ten bucks an hour and you're set.

Treat yourself with care while you're there. Eat right, sleep well if you are able, rest as you walk through all of this, maybe catch a movie or ??

I wish you the best as you head into this.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:29 PM on May 31, 2009

her plan to theatrically snub your brother's girlfriend

Actually, I think having a car there can make this NOT be theatrical. She can quietly leave without it being a big deal. She can deliver a load of stuff to the Salvation Army. She can run out for more boxes, packing tape, snacks, pizza, beer or whatever. She can go keep your mom company. Or, she can say she's doing all those things, and really go out for a drink. Whatever. The time she IS there is more important. Having a relatively impartial third party there to help with this kind of task can be EXTREMELY helpful to adult children sorting through their parent's things. Even if she does have to duck out for a while to stay sane.

I don't really see this as a problem, unless you're going to resent her the whole time. If that's the case, yeah, it's better if she just stays home.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:33 PM on May 31, 2009

I'd bring your girlfriend, but not expect her to be there 24/7. And whenever she has to vacate the premises because of your brother's girlfriend, go with her. I don't think it has to be dramatic. "Oh, hey, Mary. Great to see you. We were just going to drop these clothes off and check out that whatever thing. See you later!" It's a good excuse to get some coffee, lunch, book-browsing, or other recharging time.

Make plans several nights that aren't breakable, even if it's only taking a walk--something to mark a definitive end of each day. You'll probably be able to work harder and more efficiently, and feel less resentful and overwhelmed, if you have something to look forward to rather than an endless, formless week of work.
posted by littlegreenlights at 5:39 PM on May 31, 2009

I think your girlfriend is being selfish and should suck it up. That said, she can be useful if there's a car, as SuperSquirrel says, by running stuff around the city in the car. She must NOT give attitude, though- if she's annoyed she needs to quietly leave. As if you don't have enough to deal with. When the dust settles look at this relationship again- I would NEVER do this to my boyfriend.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:51 PM on May 31, 2009

Also, so sorry that you're going through this.

If you can afford it, hire some help- you deserve it. Even if you just delegate the help to a specific task- "box up all the food & books & bag all the clothes" or whatever- give the hired strangers a task to do that you won't need to do yourself (I assume you'll have papers & sentimental stuff to tackle).

Bring along another friend, if you can- someone who's good-natured and funny, to lighten the mood.

Make sure there's TONS of food and drinks and ice on hand. Set a timer and pass around snacks every 90 minutes or so- that's how they keep the teamsters happy on film sets. It's really important: hungry people get grouchy, fast.

Bring along some sort of sound system and play pleasant, upbeat music. Your girlfriend might enjoy something small with headphones in case the annoying woman starts up.

Keep the atmosphere as physically comfortable as possible. Sit on a chair to do sorting jobs, don't hunch on the floor. Open curtains, windows and doors to let in light and air. Music and snacks. Order food BEFORE people are hungry. Keep some comfy seating available the whole time so you can all take breaks and relax a little. Leave the TV on. Etc. The more physical comfort and upbeat atmosphere you create, the less unpleasant the atmosphere will be.

Give each other lots of positive vibes. Privately tell your brother, your girlfriend, and his girlfriend how glad you are that they're there. Praise the attributes you hope they'll have. "Honey, I love you, thank you so much for your support and for helping me stay calm. I'm glad you're here." "Brother, I'm so glad you could come to do this. I feel lucky I'm not an only child. You're a rock." "Brother's girlfriend, you helping means a lot to me. Thank you so much for being such a calming influence on my brother." If you praise people for this kind of thing at the start of the day, they tend to try to live up to that praise as the day goes on.

Best of luck to you- it will be difficult but you can handle it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:02 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cleaning out a loved one's house is incredibly hard, far worse than just moving, and you will need all the help you can get. In fact, there likely will be so much to do that the two of them might not need to be near each other very much.

I'd have a bigass chat with brother at the first sign of trouble from his GF, though.
posted by sageleaf at 6:06 PM on May 31, 2009

No real advice on gf, but some advice on clearing up the house: look inside everything. I did the same thing over the space of a week in a one bedroom apartment. It just took that long to sort things out as it looked like a jumble sale. (insert long story here about her refusing all help) I found pictures inside books that were going to the Good Will, jewellery everywhere, you name it, it wasn't where it was supposed to be. Even though I knew for ages that my mum was sick and I'd have to do this, it was a draining, emotional week, much more so than I thought it would be. I was prepared to be all sensible and ended up crying (me? I'm not a weeper!) at the oddest things. So, take stock and figure out whether you need a little support from the gf or whether it's going to be more stressful. And, good luck. I am sorry that you're having to do this and that your mum is sick.
posted by x46 at 6:46 PM on May 31, 2009

I'm going to line up on the side of the folks who think your partner should suck it up and deal. Being in a relationship means supporting your partner through the worst times. This is clearly one of those. By staying by your side, she can help you present a united front of sanity and reasonableness in the face if the clearly unreasonable girlfriend. (Punched an 87 year old person? WTF? Why were there no charges filed?) By bailing out on you, I see her as saying "well, I'll help and support you, but only to the degree that it doesn't make me feel bad." Not really the right message to be sending if you ask me.

Which is a long way of saying "do what Moxiedoll said."
posted by anastasiav at 8:41 PM on May 31, 2009

Do you stand up to the crazy lady when she starts her drama or do you just duck your head down and let her roll? Because if you're not supporting your girlfriend when the crazy starts to fly (and we don't know, from your question, if you do or don't), then yeah, I understand why she wants a car.

Wanting a car is about wanting power. In this case, the power to remove herself from the situation. There is something about being around this woman that makes your girlfriend feel helpless. You said you want to avoid WW3 -- are you a conflict avoider? Does she feel like she can't defend herself from Crazy Girlfriend because you would be put out by the conflict that caused?

A united front of reasonableness sounds great, but that assumes that you're going to be standing beside her, not hiding in another room somewhere hoping it all blows over. If you aren't willing to confront your brother and his girlfriend about her crazy antics, then yeah, rent your girlfriend a car or let her stay home. It's not her job to police your family.
posted by junkbox at 9:31 PM on May 31, 2009

It's perfectly understandable that you want your partner to be there for emotional support, and I think she should provide you with that support. However, if I were your girlfriend, I would also want reassurance that I would not have to be around someone who had punched an 87-year-old in the face. I doubt her desire to flee the premises when this woman appears has much to do with theatrics.

I think renting the car is an easy, relatively inexpensive way for you to get the emotional support that (it sounds like) your girlfriend is willing to provide you, while also respecting the fact that she wants to be able to remove herself from the presence of a crazy person with a track record of violence.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:19 PM on May 31, 2009

Your partner is basically refusing to cope with the situation as it is, and is withholding her support unless you change the terms. I don't think that's fair, especially considering that she knows you need her there. It's a little blackmail-y to my ears. Her request is making a tough and painful time tougher and more painful, adding pressure instead of helping to alleviate it. That's not fair, and I think you should tell her so. But I also think you should listen to her and compromise in some way.

Getting in the car and leaving whenever someone you don't like shows up is not a very adult way to behave. In fact, it can only make a tense situation worse. Your partner should only be there if she can remember that her role will be to help make a bad situation better. If she can't handle that, then she needs to stay home, but it shouldn't have to be your call.
posted by hermitosis at 10:32 PM on May 31, 2009

Seems to me that either you leave your girlfriend at home; or your brother leaves his girlfriend at home; or you change your girlfriend's mind.

Assuming the second would cause a bunch of drama, and the third isn't practical, I guess you'll be leaving your girlfriend at home. Also I wouldn't say "I'm leaving you at home because you're being selfish, and I don't need another pain in the ass right now" - instead I'd say "I know how difficult it would be for you, and I appreciate your offer to help, but as I'm hoping brother's girlfriend will be there putting in a whole day's work, there might not be much for you to do. We'll save some money if you have a relaxing day at home, and wait by the phone; if I need emotional support I'll phone you right away".

It doesn't have to suck all that much, of course: Instead of your girlfriend, you can take your friend from sport team/college/book club/whatever who is more emotionally resilient than your girlfriend, and better at lifting heavy things.

Or, if no such person exists, there are moving companies who will send around a huge guy who can lift that 200lbs chest of drawers and carry it down the stairs on his own; cleaning companies who will have cleaned houses like this before, etc.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:40 AM on June 1, 2009

Depending on how close you are with your SO, there are different expectations from the SO. Also, depending on how much of an inconvenience for your SO this is (does she have to take off from work? Spend $ on a flight?) there are different expectations from her.

If she doesn't have to take off from work too much, and you guys ARE very imporant to each other then she should suck it up and realize that this is even harder for YOU, that you also don't want to put up with the crazy woman, but you have to, and it would be such a huge help to you if she came. It's not like you're friends with the crazy woman and then just asking the SO to hang out with a friend she doesn't like. YOU don't like her either, she should want to be there to support you even more through this, since the crazy woman is making this already even harder than it should be. But I'm saying this if your SO is more of a "partner" than just a "girlfriend" - meaning if she's your partner she should support you through tough things in life such as this, if she's just your gf then she might not have to be there. And if she would be doing you a favor such as taking off from work when she only has 10 vacation days (or something equal to this) then yes that is a lot to ask from her, and really depends on how much she wants to support you through this.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 6:07 AM on June 1, 2009

One thing that has not been suggested is making sure you have your own motel room in addition to a car. Make sure GF has things to do on her own. Even if she doesn't do the heavy lifting at your mom's house, being able to have meals with her & sleep with her is probably going to be some comfort to you.

The other suggestion I would make is to work with your brother to avoid your GFs running into each other -- try to schedule time at the house so that when his GF is coming over yours is leaving and vice versa.

Good luck. I lost my mother over Christmas last year, and I understand how emotionally draining family drama and grief can be, combined.
posted by elmay at 10:38 AM on June 1, 2009

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