Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I recently moved back in with my parents. Trust me, this would not have been my first choice, but I haven’t been able to find a great paying job, I’ve got a ton of bills and student loans, and this is my reality.
I’m very grateful to them for letting me stay with them, for free too. I try to help out around the house, I pick up groceries, and do things like that to do my part. But they’ve told me they want me to focus on paying off debt so I can get my own place. I just turned 28 and I hope to be on my own by age 30.
Recently I started dating someone. She’s awesome, and we have a ton in common — including the fact she also lives at home. Her situation is almost identical to mine. She went to college, has a lot of debt, and doesn’t make enough to live on her own right now.
The problem is, now that we’ve been together a few months, I’d like to have more overnights together, but on her end, her mom has told her she absolutely cannot have guys at their place overnight, that it’s “too weird.” Which leaves my place, and let’s just say my parents are also not into it. They haven’t outright said no, to never do it, but my dad pulled me aside and we had a super awkward conversation about not making my mom “uncomfortable” and respecting the home and all that.
I don’t know what to do about this. Obviously we can’t afford hotels and also obviously at a certain point a relationship becomes more serious and you want to spend time together. Advice?
Even as we grow into young adults, and actual adults, and middle-aged adults, we will always be our parents’ babies, which is why it would indeed be incredibly awkward for your mom (and dad) to overhear their little boy engaging in after-hours intimacies. Honestly, even if you cranked up the music and were as quiet as could be, they’d no doubt be distractedly squeamish with suspicion and unbidden visions of their kiddo in amorous entanglement. Seriously, even if you and your girlfriend were just sleeping, and nothing else, your parents would probably feel freaked out.
Is all lost? I don’t think so. I bet you can work your way toward overnighters with your gal, but it’s a big leap and you’ve got to start slow. Begin by inviting her over for dinner, or to watch a movie. Let her form her own relationship with your parents, and as they come to know her, they’ll realize she isn’t a teenage prom date, but a fully formed woman and educated professional at that.
By having her around more and establishing her as a more familiar part of the household, her presence will begin to feel more normal and less taboo. And maybe, in time, the relationship between the four of you will develop to a point that her staying overnight is more of a natural progression and a given, versus something taboo and strange.
Added bonus: Spending nights in watching Netflix and eating Mom’s food is way cheaper than nights out on the town. You’ll be able to afford your own place before you know it.
Wanda’s got you going down the right trail: by making your girlfriend’s presence in your parents’ home more frequent, more routine, more normal, it won’t feel so abrupt or awkward when you inevitably ask if she can stay over on a late, snowy night, “So she doesn’t have to drive home on those dark and dangerous icy roads with all those crazy drivers out there!” And if you’re good kids and don’t have an all-night full-volume freak fest, she should be able to stay over more often moving forward.
Until then, remember: It’s their house and their rules, buddy. And you’re living rent free, so your gravy train is already riding on thin ice. Tread very, very carefully here. Don’t demand anything, don’t argue with them. Remain respectful and thankful, and always consider the alternative: living in a slum with three other poor dudes fighting over who stole the last pack of Top Ramen. Good times.
However, I do think you have an ally in your dad. Next time you’re getting some father-son time, talk about your girlfriend and your relationship, how serious you two are getting, how much you love her, how excited you are about your future together. Don’t press or even broach the “spend the night” issue; just let him know what she means to you. That should soften him up, which in turn will make the transition smoother when she does start hanging out more with your ‘rents.
In the meantime, get into camping, find a tent and plan on pitching it. A lot.