From a reader named Kathy: My husband died 11 years ago. His brother recently bought a home a few doors down the street from me. He stops in, uninvited, frequently. He has never been married. I have three adult children, two of whom are living with me because of job situations. Sometimes, he lets himself in when no one is home. And he brings his undisciplined dog.
I invite him for Thanksgiving dinner, along with my Mom, aunt and children. I have been inviting him on Christmas Eve too, along with my children, but no one else. I’m tired of it. I do not want him here on Christmas Eve. He recently fell from a ladder and is using crutches. Am I responsible for taking care of him? He has another brother and sister-in-law living nearby. What exactly is my relationship to him? Please help me. I want my freedom, and privacy.
Dr. Gloria Horsley responds: First, may I say I am so sorry about the loss of your husband. It must have been a lot of responsibility raising children on your own for the last 11 years even if they are now adults. On the subject of your brother-in-law and the children’s uncle, you are in a tough situation. I always say, treat others the way you want to be treated, and it sounds like you have really been very kind.
I would first of all like to know why he is able to “let himself in when no one is home.” I would start there and change the locks with the reason being that we all should change our locks on occasion for security reasons. I would then tell him that you have changed the locks and asked the children not to give anyone a key. Not even their uncle. You have the right to have your house be a safe haven.
If you do not plan to have him come on Christmas Eve I would tell him as soon as possible so he can decide if he wants to make other plans. He may be angry or hurt but give yourself the gift of a Merry in-law free Christmas. If you are not available, he will no doubt find other people to “take care” of him. I would guess that his brother or sister-in-law might step up. But it will take some strength on your part to not cave in.
You have the right to set limits. Your kids may not agree with your actions, but they are adults and should be reminded that their relationship with their uncle is up to them. After all, they are the blood relatives, not you. Merry Christmas! Keep us posted. Dr. Gloria
Gloria C. Horsley Ph.D.
National Board Member of The Compassionate Friends