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Trouble With Brother-in-Law

"I Hate Living With My Brother-in-Law"

This question is from a Group Therapy post in our TrèsSugar Community. Add your advice in the comments!

After my husband died two years ago in a car accident, I moved in with my brother-in-law with my then-3-year-old son. It was his idea. He said he wanted to be there for his nephew. He has been a great father figure to my son. He has supported me as I've been a stay-at-home mom and got a degree online. And he has been there for me emotionally as I've coped with the death of my husband. 

There's only one thing I am unhappy with. I hate, hate, hate it when he brings home women. He is not a man whore or anything. He's had three girlfriends in the two years we've been together. But washing the sheets they had sex on, telling my son he can't play with his uncle because his uncle is in bed with a "guest" at 10:30 a.m., or finding an opened condom wrapper in the kitchen makes me so angry. Last month, my son saw him making out with his casual girlfriend on the couch and asked him what they were doing. My brother-in-law broke up with his girlfriend a couple of weeks ago, but I am sure he will find another one soon enough.

I feel guilty feeling this way because of everything he has done for us. He has a right to a healthy sex life. But I feel like he is being disrespectful to me and hurtful to my son by bringing other women into the house we share.

Has anyone else ever had a living situation like this when they were raising a 5-year-old? How did you deal with it?

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henna-red henna-red 4 years
I also want to say that you really, really need to talk to a therapist. You've stepped sideways into a thing, and you're hoping to slide sideways into something more permanent, and a thearpist can help you with learn how to figure out your feeling, and what you need to be looking at as far as a safe, healthy, happy home for your son with appropriate boundaries and appropriate standards for father, uncle, adult male figure, and mom.
henna-red henna-red 4 years
Julie, I'd like to suggest that you really need some space and time away, and out of this environment to get some objectivity about your feelings. I don't think you're going to get those things in the house, in tight quarters, or a familiar and safe space. It's all too easy to just go along, and to not actually examine yourself, your motives, your feelings. I know you're ok with your son and his uncle about asking unc if he can keep son for a couple of days while you get away, think, feel, examine... Your responses here also tell me that you just don't want to let go of this situation, no matter how you may feel about your husband's brother. And I believe that sense of safety and security is clouding everything else. Getting honest with yourself is critical to making the right decision for yourself, whichever that is.....and whatever is the right choice for you will be the right choice for your son.
luckyduckyy luckyduckyy 4 years
So he told you that he wanted both of you to live together forever, and you just went along with it? You would willingly deprive yourself of a fulfilling, committed and happy relationship? You would whole-heartedly throw away any shred of your own independece? FOR WHAT? A roof over your head, a 'father figure' for your son, support...WHAT??? Let me knock down those first few suggestions for you. A roof over your head: whether you know it yet or not, you are fully capable of providing a roof over your own head, as well as that of your child. Moreover, your strength and dedication in taking the less easy route will teach your son that hard work and dedication can help a lot in life. As for a father figure for your son: exactly what kind of a father figure is he, that he needs to live with you to be it? I suppose the good parts are that he has a male role model (but so what? women are just as good), he has someone to play with and help care for him. But then there's the bad: he watches as a confusing scenario is presented to him- "i have a mom and a.... uncle? father? he brings home women that are not my mom? but i thought he was... huh" Can you see that you are only working hard to confuse the hell out of your son? Thirdly, there is the issue of support: YOU CAN DO THAT FOR YOURSELF, AND FOR YOU SON. You need to get yourself and your son out of this situation now, before it gets any worse. You've already semi-trapped yourself into this fantasy where you have a pretend husband who financially supports you and your son while providing some modicum of emotional support. But then you don't have an actual husband-wife relationship. You don't have sex with each other, but you get jealous when he brings other women home. You are jealous and territorial over something that isn't even yours. Spare yourself any more confusion and quasi-heartache and just leave.
juliedeki23 juliedeki23 4 years
"I mean you sleep in the same bed as his uncle but you aren't in a relationship with him. How do you explain that to your child?" I don't usually sleep with him. But he has a TV in his room and we sometimes go to sleep watching movies together. We don't get naked or make out or anything like that. I know I look like an idiot but you need to realize that I've seen him as a brother and friend for many years and my relationship with him has slowly changed and I am not certain of my own feelings for him. I am going to talk to him tonight and ask if he sees a future for us together as more than friends and roommates.
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 4 years
I agree with pretty much everyone above. But, I wanted to add something. You say you are worried he is hurting your son but don't you think your relationship with his uncle is hurting him too? I mean you sleep in the same bed as his uncle but you aren't in a relationship with him. How do you explain that to your child? I think that situation is more harmful to your child then his uncle having relationships with other women. Your relationship with his uncle is complicated and it can be very confusing for a child.
henna-red henna-red 4 years
Still seems to me that you are each using the other as some kind of surrogate partner. You each get something out of this relationship, but it's very incomplete. You don't have the emotional or legal commitment that a marriage or commited significant other offers. It just sounds to me that you are both emotionaly wounded, and not willing or ready to move into that place that requires the risk of loss to make this a whole, complete relationship. I'm not sure that what I'm hearing is attraction. I think that what I'm hearing is safety. He's safe. He fills the place your husband filled without the risk of rejection or of stepping back out into the single woman raising a kid. But you also don't have the security of a legal, financial commitment. And he doesn't have to put himself out there to gain a family, or to build or make one, he has one built in. He has what his brother had without the sticky legal obligations or commitments. Quite frankly, I think you need to see a good therapist. I think you are accepting less than a full, committed partnership, and I think that every time he brings a girlfriend home, you feel threatened about losing what you have....frightened of having to face what other widows face...gaining your independence, standing on your own two feet, and actually moving on with a life that includes all of the possibilities and potential that you had with your husband. Those are scary, difficult things, and his support of you has meant that you can put it all off......until you feel secure and ready. Except that I don't think you will feel secure or ready until you are actually doing those things. This whole relationship just seems very exploitive to me, from both sides. And I totaly agree with BiWife that you need to get out of his bed! I agree that what you're expressing is a sense of entitlement around his life and his affection, and you're going to end up hurt very badly, one way or another, if the two of you don't find some appropriate boundaries, and have some honest discussion about what you want to be for each others.
kurniakasih kurniakasih 4 years
Yikes. I agree with the others so far. You're living under his roof, he's got no legal obligation for you and your son, he can even ask you guys to leave and give you your 30 days notice tomorrow even. All he's doing is out of the goodness of his heart. If he leaves wrapper of condoms on the kitchen counter, next time just tell him to put it in the trash can, that's all the most you can ask him to. It's unfair to expect him to be celibate, to deprive himself of his needs. It sounds to me now you're just taking advantage of this guy. If you don't like his lifestyle, you should leave. And yah, how about his parents or your parents? I'm sure they will open their door for you temporarily as you get your act together. I'm just going to remind you that people change their mind all the time. He may not want to get married now, he may vow not to, but what if one day, he meets and falls deeply in love with another person, and wants his OWN family? He can adopt her kid(s) or even adopt together or has his vasectomy reversed. If he's willing to take care of you and your son so far because he's your brother-in-law, what makes you think he won't go the distance for a woman he's in love with? You should definitely learn to be independent, so you're not ready to leave now, ok, just use your time to build your career, have your own money, savings, and to prepare yourself just in case you'll be in a situation when he wants his own family. I'm sure he won't just abandon you guys, but he will definitely put his own needs and wants into priority too when it's come to that. Good luck.
BiWife BiWife 4 years
"We love each other and sometimes sleep in the same bed but don't have sex. You may be right about the jealousy thing. But I don't know if I could go through with it if he asked me. It feels weird even thinking about having sex with him." you need to get out of his bed if you're not going to be involved with him romantically. period. You really have to clear up your relationship with him - do you want to marry him?
BiWife BiWife 4 years
clearly, you're attracted to him and feel that you should have some ownership of him. you either need to confess your attraction and take the relationship from family/friend to lover/significant other. If you aren't willing to do that, then you're going to continue to get angry at any woman he shows affection to, which will embitter you towards him in general and make the whole living situation go very wrong. You should probably look at getting a full-time job that pays instead of a part-time internship. You're a mother, you have a child to care for, your BIL is not his father and does not have any responsibility for raising your child, but he's doing this out of the goodness of his heart. By assuming he's going to be there indefinitely to provide fully for you and your son, you're totally taking advantage of his assistance. Be an adult and take responsibility for your child now, not several years from now.
juliedeki23 juliedeki23 4 years
I did not explain things very well. My brother in law wants me to live with him for the rest of our lives. He doesn't ever want to get married or have kid. (He has had a vasectomy.) I know this is the best place for me and my son. While it would be great to be independent I am currently working part time as an intern and won't have enough money to live on my own for several years. But even if I had the money my son and I would still want to stay. We love each other and sometimes sleep in the same bed but don't have sex. You may be right about the jealousy thing. But I don't know if I could go through with it if he asked me. It feels weird even thinking about having sex with him. It is just so frustrating living with a man and looking forward to when he gets home from work and then finding out that he has actually brought another woman home and you'll be spending the night alone without another adult and that you get to look forward to the evidence of them having sex the next morning. And feeling guilty about being angry.
dikke-kus dikke-kus 4 years
Agreed with bubbles. He's a single guy and you live under his roof. A condom wrapper is nothing to be upset about. A broken booze bottle or drug paraphernalia or hookers yes, now that would be a sign to move out. If you were married/dating and had a romp on the bed your son wouldn't be playing on your bed first thing in the morning either. Besides what happens when he gets engaged or married and starts his own family? He'll be focused on her as number one. You're responsibility now is to make the right decisions for your son. Maybe it's time you plan a way to get your own place. You could start dating or working or moving on in life they way you want to and so could he.
Bubbles12 Bubbles12 4 years
You really need to focus on getting your financial act together so you can move out, then you own your son's environment. Bottom line. Do you have feelings for the brother-in-law? It's the only way I can make sense of your reaction...
henna-red henna-red 4 years
"I don't want....I don't want.....I don't want...." This isn't just your life your talking about, and it's not all about what you want. There isn't anything wrong with your son learning that adults have adult relationships, and if you don't want him exposed to those relationships, then your only choice is to find yourself and your son your own place to live, where setting the rules and boundaries is entirely your job. No offense, but i think you've had the best possible support that you could possibly have for the last few years, and now, when it's time for you to stand up on your own, and put that new education to use, you're afraid of trying, of changing, of being soley responsible for your son in your home. And the "wants" you're expressing here are selfish and show an enormous amount of dependence on you BIL. It's not only selfish to expect him to be celibate, it's unreasonable and unrealistic. He's not your husband, and not your boy's dad....although it's wonderful that he's such a great male figure for your son. I think you're now at a place where you are taking unreasonable advantage of your BIL generosity and family feeling, partialy because his presence has meant that you don't actually need to feel the entire loss of your husband and his total support of his family...your BIL has been a stand in dad and husband, and you don't like the idea of losing that or of facing the big, bad world as a widow, single woman and mother. Those things are difficult, but the sooner you face them, the sooner you can start living your life, your future, standing up as a strong adult woman who takes care of herself and her son. I'm not saying that you need to lose the emotional support of your son's uncle, or his influence as a strong male figure, but you definately need to start taking care of yourself and facing life, moving on. I'm willing to bet that you haven't dealt with all of the emotional repercussions of losing you husband, and facing the future without him. It's way past time for you to get past the "I want..." and realize that life with other people is about much more than just what "I want". And if you want a very specific model for your son, and that model isn't what you're getting with his uncle, then the option, the reasonable option, is to make your own home, your own model, your own, your own boundaries. take care
BiWife BiWife 4 years
Like you said, he has a right to a sex life. you are living in HIS home. you are living off of HIS financial support. he is free to have whomever he likes over at his home. you're extremely lucky that you've had him providing for you financially, emotionally, etc, for so long. You can stop washing his laundry if it grosses you out to think someone had sex on them, I mean that's a *really* simple problem to fix. You should talk to your BIL about this like an adult and let him know that you're offended by and/or jealous of his romantic life. You say he's been a "stand in husband", does this include any romantic/sexual situations? If you guys are "involved", then there's a whole other can of worms to deal with, but presuming he's only been romantic with his girlfriends, it sounds like you are just insanely jealous at this point that he has a sex life and you don't. I'm curious why you say that you would replace him with a boyfriend and move in with that boyfriend... Why do you have to go bouncing from man to man to man? You have a degree, go get out on your own two feet and provide for yourself and your son. Your son isn't going to turn into a serial killer just because there was a time in his life when there was not an adult man living in the same house.
juliedeki23 juliedeki23 4 years
I don't want to move out since he is acting as a surrogate father to my son and stand in husband to me and if I were to replace that by getting a boyfriend and moving in with him I would end up facing even more problems. We could still see each other if we didn't live together but it is not the same. Maybe I am needy but I still don't want to be alone. I just don't want him bringing a girlfriend home, but I know how selfish it would be to expect him to be celibate for three or four years.
Aquadave Aquadave 4 years
Tough one! It is his place but he has no respect or understanding of impressionable minds. you and your son need your own place.You really have no say so over his life. find a place quick
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