*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Having your own home to move into right after you get married is what most couples look forward to in a relationship, but it doesn't always happen that way.
When you can't afford to get your own place but would rather avoid rent so you can save faster for mortgage payments, parents will come to mind. And whether it's your own parents or your in-laws will depend on who's willing to support you. Is it ok for your in-laws to suddenly ask for rent even if you've been living without paying anything other than groceries and bills for over a year?
My friend Anna has been married to her husband Jonas for five years. They had a short engagement and only dated for about three weeks before they decided they wanted to get married. While they were very much in love, they didn't have enough money at the time to get a home of their own in Phoenix, Arizona.
"We couldn't afford to pay the mortgage since our salaries were very low, but we didn't want to keep dating for years until we had the money. A wedding should be about love more than anything, so we made up our minds to keep trying but accept help from our parents for the ceremony and a place to live. My in-laws had a bigger home, so they invited us to stay with them until we could get a new place," Anna said.
As soon as they got married, Anna packed her things and came to live with her mother and father-in-law. Jonas was already living there since he'd been avoiding bills and rent throughout college.
"It felt nice to finally be together, even if we didn't have the whole house to ourselves. That would come in time. And I was willing to wait to have kids until we could go ahead with the mortgage," Anna said.
The first few months under the same roof with Jonas's parents were fine since they both worked and helped them with all the bills and bought groceries for everyone. One year after they got married, Jonas lost his job, so only Anna contributed to the household costs after that time.
He said he would try to find another position as soon as possible, but time passed, and he kept looking for excuses instead of going to interviews and getting hired.
"I encouraged him to look for a good job so we could finally move out, but my flexibility actually made him postpone getting any kind of job because none of them seemed good enough for him. And he always said not to worry about costs since his parents were supporting us all the way," Anna said.
She got along well with her mother-in-law, except for the times when they had to cook together.
"She didn't like the way I cooked and tried to teach me, but I really wasn't that interested. I can't spend hours in the kitchen until I get the right seasoning or make fries the way she likes them. I'm ok with takeouts too, and she got annoyed every time I ordered food," Anna said.
Other than meal time and deciding whether to order or actually make lunch and dinner, Anna talked to her mother-in-law about her job and tried to get her to support her in making her husband more interested in a new job.
Once three years passed and Jonas didn't get a job, his parents began getting uncomfortable with the situation. They knew only Anna was working, but somehow just having their bills and groceries covered didn't seem enough anymore.
They asked her to pay rent for the room and didn't take into account that he was supposed to contribute as well.
"He doesn't work, and his parents want me to pay rent for living with them. Isn't Jonas their child? Why would they want rent and expect me to pay for two people? That makes no sense, and it feels like they're upset with me, and I don't know why," Anna said.
She tried to talk to her in-laws and find out what had changed, but they kept telling her they were getting older and couldn't support them for much longer. And they reminded her they had no particular reason to cover their expenses when they didn't even have grandkids to take care of.
"That was not nice of them. They knew why we were waiting to have kids and that I really wanted to be a mom. And asking for rent as a way to get back at me was beyond anything I expected," Anna said.
She told Jonas what his parents wanted since they didn't mention anything to him, and he was surprised she got upset. To him, it was logical for her to pay rent for both of them, but he didn't feel like he had to hurry and have a job.
"I asked him to find somewhere else because if we paid rent in his home, we still couldn't save more for our home. And in a different place, we would have our space and do what we wanted," Anna said.
Unfortunately, Jonas feels very attached to his mom and dad and doesn't want to leave. He thinks Anna should make an effort and keep working and pay rent for a few months longer until he can get a job he's happy with.
How do you think this situation should be handled? Is it ok for Anna's in-laws to expect her to pay rent for herself and their son even if she's the only one working and already getting groceries and paying the rest of the bills? Should Anna move out and wait for Jonas to come too, rather than argue with her in-laws about who pays for what?
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