Stop being sucked into this family drama (Ellie)

Question: I’m a postgraduate student with debt, a contract job, who is living with roommates. My boyfriend of two years has been dealing with depression. He’s unable to work, so we can’t live together, but if I could afford to I’d cover his living costs.

Disability payments cover his prescription medications, but he seems stuck in a vicious cycle over money and his family situation.

His widowed mother is supporting four sons at home (three are over 20!), and also feeding two of their girlfriends who are squatting there. There’s tension among the boys and financial havoc — and my boyfriend is stressed by it all.

The boys gave their mother a hard time when she asks for rent, so she stopped. Yet she asks for my boyfriend’s disability money to cover rent, food and her other bills. It’s making his depression worse. I’ve had to lend him money to cover his prescriptions.

His brothers have jobs but spend their wages on themselves and their girlfriends. Their mom threatens to leave or kick people out but never follows through because she doesn’t want to ruin her relationship with her sons.

How can this situation be improved? What should the mom do? What should my boyfriend do? Should he stay or move in with me?

Chaotic Situation

Answer: Take a clear look at your own position in this family’s mess. By lending your boyfriend money for his medication, you’re effectively enabling the situation that’s troubling him at home. He pays Mom, she continues to indulge her freeloaders and your guy’s stress persists.

His mother is, for whatever reasons, weak-willed, lacking the resolve to insist that her sons be responsible. She is a doormat in her own home.

Be careful you don’t take on the role of “rescuer.” Your boyfriend should leave these “users” to their own devices. He should move in with you, but only if you truly believe you love each other and are not just codependents on a lesser scale than his siblings and mother.

Otherwise, he should just move out on his own wherever he can afford. He needs to focus on getting well and having a life. The others will sort themselves out when they don’t have a fall guy. You need to stop being sucked into this opportunistic drama.

Question: A close friend’s boyfriend is verbally and, on one occasion, physically abusive. He’s unemployed and addicted to drugs and alcohol. She’s dated emotionally abusive men before, saying she’s “too ugly and stupid” and getting older (she’s 25) and won’t find someone better.

I’ve suggested she see a therapist, even threatened to call the police if he strikes her again. After he was rough with her he destroyed some of her things. She asked me to ensure she never dated those types again. I was sick when she said he apologized and they were dating again. She believes she can change him if they marry.

Soul Sick

Answer: Stay connected in case of further danger to her, but back off from being her caretaker. Yes, she has terribly low self-esteem and needs counselling. But she currently has you to be caring and soothing, which means she can continue with the same self-delusions about these bad guys and the same self-loathing that makes them acceptable.

Back off, but explain to her why you’re doing so: You care deeply, but only she can change her life, and she needs to recognize that on her own. Give her the name of a therapist and even promise to go to the first appointment with her — but only the first one.


Persistent “rescuing” isn’t a healthy relationship dynamic for either side.

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