Update On: The Homeless In-Laws
What ended up happening was totally an accident on my husband’s part. I refuse to give him real credit for it. My husband and I were texting each other (heh, from two different rooms in the house. Please, someone tell me that’s actually normal?) We were, of course, talking about the in-laws inability to find a place to live, since that’s basically all we talked about for a good six weeks. A few of the text messages went a little astray… he sent them to his own mother by accident. I am not entirely sure what he wrote, and because we’re all raging conflict-avoidance personality types, I’ll probably never find out.
BUT! The mis-sent text messages seemed to light a fire. Suddenly there was a 15 hour drive planned to the boyfriend’s family, with the intent of finding a place to live in that state, where rent is cheaper and the houses much, much larger. Tours of houses *were actually taken*. They did stick us with one last ‘wtf, you jerks!’ moment: they left behind their dogs, turtle and snake. This time, I really did put my foot down. The dogs were to go to the local shelter within a week; a local reptile society was lined up to pick the reptiles up and re-home the first week of September. …AND THEN THEY CAME BACK.
The second time was a little different, though. They came back to get their belongings and move to their newly-leased house with the girls’ aunt and cousin. From discussions with the older of the teens and my MIL, we figured out quite quickly who had done the legwork – the teen, who just had her 16th birthday. She was absolutely amazing – she had observed my calculate/call/email strategy, and she applied that knowledge. She got her aunt’s and cousin’s income values and worked out what they could afford all together. She made calls, arranged tours and filled out the application for the house she liked best. She even wrote a letter to the new landlord, who had a no pets rule, explaining how important it was for her to keep her dog in a time of really hard transitions. Girl is AMAZING. And… yeah. Notice who still didn’t do the grown-up work of finding their family a place to live? I’m working on remembering it’s officially Not My Problem anymore.
But then, 5 days of getting their stuff stretched to 8, then 10, then two weeks… the girls missed their respective school registrations, orientations and school picture days. They waited for a family member with “connections” to book them a free u-haul, then realized they had to book it themselves – the offer was only to pay for the truck, not book it for them. The boyfriend attempted to guilt my husband into driving the moving truck for them after all his local friends declined. My husband’s asking price was too steep, though, what with them getting us a babysitter and him a plane ticket home. I have no idea how they ended up getting their stuff to the new house in the end, and, to be honest, I don’t really care.
Things are still shaky at our house. Mixed into my son’s clean laundry, I found the boyfriend’s clothing, including his boxers. I mean, I’d washed it all already, but man, I was still sooo pissed. Seriously, have I been doing his laundry the entire time?!? And mixed in with the clothing I wash special because my toddler has skin issues! I don’t buy this special soap to wash his stinky man-clothes! The water bill arrived, at twice the amount we normally expect, and my husband has yet to make the effort to ask his mother for monetary help with that. We won’t even see a utility bill until November. All this puts strains on my relationship with my husband. We’re working through it, but it’s tough going.
Amy, I am really glad you called my attention to the dismissing I was doing of my own desires and feelings. I’m on the autism spectrum. I’ve been told my whole life that I lack empathy; that I need to work extra hard on that to get to the place where ‘normal’ people are in relation to the feelings of others. I heard this from my parents and from my therapists as a kid. Now I rely on trusted others to tell me when I’m not being compassionate in personal situations. When I complained about his family, my husband said I lacked compassion, that I wasn’t thinking about how hard their situation was, that I was mean to complain about it, since his mother had offered me shelter when I was a homeless teen. I believed him. I dismissed my own concerns as being overboard, as you saw in my letter. My husband is officially off the ‘trusted others’ list for deciding what compassion looks like. Actually, I’ve jokingly suggested twice now he go get tested for being on the spectrum, since he seems to lack any compassion for his wife.
My sister, on the other hand, should be nominated for a sainthood – last weekend she took my kids to a local waterpark, then offered free babysitting for the evening and a gift certificate to a restaurant. My husband and I had a whole day to spend together, to catch up on all the things we didn’t talk about when we were stressing about his mother. We’re not entirely at a level of normal, but we have our house back and our lives back, and we can start to move on from this together, as a family unit.
Not Overcrowded Anymore
Hooray! Thank you for updating us. So after six weeks’ occupation and then a somewhat painfully protracted moving-out period, yes, I can understand that a level of normalcy will take some time. I know quite a few commenters on the original post were pretty harsh on your husband/marriage, but I could definitely sympathize with him as well: This whole situation was hard on EVERYBODY, especially for two serial conflict-avoiders, especially because FAMILY.
(Although I bet it was a grand ol’ vacation for Boxer Shorts I Don’t Do Bathrooms Boyfriend, ugh.)
Your paragraph about being on the Spectrum has stuck with me, though. Because there was CLEAR empathy and compassion in your first letter and I’m sorry you’ve had it over-hammered into your psyche that you lack both. While my own Spectrum kid might not always react and interact with others in a “typical” way, the idea that he isn’t a compassionate, empathetic person downright ridiculous. And after reading your letter I realize I need to make sure he knows that about himself, before he gets in a situation where his attempts to self-advocate get shouted down as selfish or tone-deaf.
And speaking of self-advocating, I suppose one big silver lining is the staggering number of critical life skills you (yes, YOU) were able to teach your husband’s younger sister. Who still sadly has a few more years before independence and being able to exit her family’s chaos, so she’s really REALLY going to need those skills. So while your home was clearly not suited to be their permanent landing pad/kennel, at least someone really benefited from having you around as an example.
I hope you get more peaceful times as a family ahead, and don’t be afraid to non-jokingly suggest a little couple’s counseling, if only to work on communication during conflicts. Because hey, it’s marriage. There will be more conflict. And while this one was accidentally solved by furtive texting from separate rooms, that might not be the best way to work through the next one.