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Large Family Makes for Interesting Relationship Dynamic

Diane Young writes about issues that affect our everyday lives

Q.  My boyfriend lives in one unit of a four-family house.  The other units are occupied by his parents and siblings.  My two-year old son and I recently moved in with him and have lost all privacy.  His family is very close but they have no boundaries.  The doors are always open and everyone feels free to walk into each other’s space at any time.  His family members have occasionally borrowed my clothes and jewelry and I once woke up in the middle of the night and found his sister in our bathroom!  My boyfriend and I have talked about moving into our own place, but that has not happened yet.  How can I handle this invasion of privacy?

A.  This family seems a bit too close for your comfort and you have a right to your privacy especially in your bathroom and with your possessions.  Your boyfriend’s family established their open-door policy long before you entered the picture and it is unlikely that you will change how they interact with each other. 

You must discuss this matter with your boyfriend immediately.  If he cannot establish boundaries now that you and your son are there, then you should seriously reconsider living with him.  If you do find a place of your own, then you must establish your own rules.  Those include whether his family members will have a key to your place, if they can visit without calling first and asking permission to borrow your things.  Your son will benefit from your ability to set boundaries.

In your current situation, you can request privacy, but remember you are in his space.  If he is agreeable, you can put a lock on your door and ask that the others call ahead.  If he is not agreeable, then he is letting you know loud and clear where you stand in his life.  If you both agree to set up boundaries and his family ignores them, then you know what you are in for and you must decide if the relationship can survive the intrusions.

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