Friend Has Overtaken Home, Relationship

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My partner and I have been together for 6 years now, we have had a good relationship. We have a house together and we have plans for the future. A year ago he agreed to let a friend of his move in with us temporarily because he was injured and could not work. This was only supposed to be for a few months. In the first months with us he lived on welfare and was a slob. I was patient and once he was able to get a job the three of us agreed he was going to pay a modest rent every month. He lost his job shortly afterwards and continued to live with us for basically free for some time until he finally found more work. By that time he owed us quite a bit of money in bills. He would spend his money on booze and video games instead of paying his share of the bills and never put a lot of effort to finding a good job he could support himself on.
I started getting fed up a few months ago and discussed with my spouse several times that his friend needs to smarten up or leave. Every time my spouse would confront his friend about money he owes us or his playing video games all day, he would make stupid excuses or claim that he was trying. He would also try to bring up things I was supposedly doing wrong instead of just admitting he’s done anything wrong himself. I believe he is manipulative and lazy and is just trying to continue to not have any responsibility and get a free ride. He accused me of trying to starve him out recently.

He has now been living with us for a year and two months. He owes us close to a grand in over due bills. Every time I approach my spouse about this he says I’m being selfish and heartless for wanting to get rid of his friend and that im being a nag. He says that he feels equally upset but is trying to do the right thing. Meanwhile he is just being played by someone who is supposed to be his friend. My spouse has actually given his friend several warnings with deadlines and conditions but eventually lets it go. Which is I’m sure why his friend continues to do not follow through.
We had one huge fight about it a few weeks ago after which I let it go for a while because my spouse was having work problems and had additional stress. Since then nothing has changed.

Essentially for the last while I have started to question our relationship. I catch myself thinking about leaving him or what it would be like to be on my own. I’m worried that I have emotionally checked myself out of the relationship and that my spouse does not understand my needs or feelings, or realizes he is being played. It makes me feel like he is more concerned about his friend than about our relationship. Even though I’ve told him many times that I am not okay with our situation. I keep wondering if he is right? Am I being selfish? Am I wrong about this ? I don’t want to lose our relationship. I do love my partner, but I can’t help but thinking that leaving is my only option to get him to wake up. I have not told him I’ve thought about leaving yet. I’m also worried that if I leave he won’t try to reconcile at all. I just don’t know what the right thing to do is. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thank you

A: What a disappointment your partner must be to you at this point. You’re right that the problem is not with the moocher who is living off you. Your problem is in your relationship. The fact that you are worried that if you leave, your boyfriend won’t work to get you back is a huge red flag. Your instincts are that he cares more about the relationship with his friend than he does about your feelings. Either that, or he is so afraid of conflict with anyone except you that he can’t bring himself to deal with the so-called friend who is using you both.

From what you’ve said, you’ve been more than generous in your efforts to help a friend. After over a year of tolerating his behavior, it’s way past time for him to move on – either to be on his own or to go to his family or another friend. You’ve done more than enough. Chances are you will never see what he owes you. It is one of those hard lessons about why boundaries and written contracts are important when loaning other people money.

I suggest you sit your spouse down and tell him clearly that you’re done. If he won’t hear you, there is one other option besides immediately moving out. You can tell him that if he won’t go to a couples counselor to sort things out, you will see a lawyer about how to separate amicably. A couples counselor may be able to help you two figure out what went so wrong and how to reclaim your relationship. If you still love him, it’s at least worth a try.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Feb 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Friend Has Overtaken Home, Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/02/17/friend-has-overtaken-home-relationship/