Gatekeepers

5 Feb

Dear LetterBalm: Our son is 26, works full-time and lives at home. His girlfriend of six months is a graduate student, and he brings her home a few times a month. Without greeting us, they go immediately to his room and stay there until they leave, usually the next day. They order their meals in and keep the bedroom door closed. She ignores my wife and me and never says anything to us, including hello and goodbye. It’s unnerving and rude. Our son tolerates this behavior, which isn’t how he was raised. I think my wife and I should confront him. We want him to move out and take her with him. How can we get him to leave?

–Pop and Mom 

It’s clear you and your son have different ideas of his home life. He thinks of his bedroom as his apartment, and you think of it as … well, his bedroom in the family home. This misunderstanding has spawned a spectrum of behaviors, and, since he’s working full-time, he believes he’s entitled to live as an adult under your roof. Unfortunately, it also means he and his girlfriend are rude – they regard you and your wife as little more than apartment building managers. You and your son aren’t communicating. Ms. L.B. believes it will be disastrous if you suddenly confront him about his girlfriend and his living arrangement, since you haven’t even discussed whether he’s ready to leave home. You and your wife request a private sit-down with your son when he has time and isn’t distracted (his girlfriend shouldn’t be there). Be calm and civil, but be firm. This is your house, after all. You need to “out” him: call him out on his bad manners and find out when he plans to move out:

Darryl, we’re overdue for a good talk because some miscommunication has occurred. We’re a little concerned about Jennifer. She certainly is an intelligent young woman, but she doesn’t greet us or talk with us while she’s here. Is there a reason for this? Is she shy? Have we done something to offend her? You and she spend your time in your room with your door closed. I know you and Jennifer don’t intend this, but it comes across as rudeness, and that’s not how you were raised. You were never a disrespectful person, and your mother and I insist that you and your guests treat us with respect, talk to us and be cordial. Maybe the confusion is because you have a different idea of your living arrangement here, which we need to clarify. You’re still living at home in your room, not in an apartment building where you’ll have more freedom. You asked us if you could live at home, work full-time and contribute to your board while you saved money for your own place. Do you still have those plans on the horizon? Can you give us an idea of when that might be? What can we do to help?

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