*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Being happy with your relationship partner when you're also parents will mean thinking about what you both want and also making sure your kids get the attention and care they need. And when the place where you live isn't a stable one, different issues can arise.
Would you agree to live with other relatives if your spouse asked you to, or would you insist on having a home of your own since you've started a family and that's the way to go?
How far is too far when trying to have a good connection with the rest of your family, and when would you point out that your marriage and kids should come first?
My friend Christina, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband, Adam, for two years. They have one daughter together, and Christina decided she needed to keep her job so they could be sure of paying all their bills on time.
The couple couldn't afford to buy a home of their own, and they've been renting an apartment together ever since they got engaged.
After becoming parents, Christina insisted more on saving for a house since she wants to have three more kids, and Adam is ok with that. The problem is he's not willing to do overtime, and he recently changed to part-time work.
"He said he felt tired. I understood that, and I could handle him taking a break for two months or so. But that's all I can do. It's not like I'm relaxing. If he doesn't work full-time, I have to work extra so everything is ok and we don't get behind on bills. Our relationship wasn't ever about money, but sometimes I feel like this should be a part of our daily responsibilities. To contribute so we each feel valued," Christina said.
The issue is her husband still didn't feel like going back to his regular work hours after two months had passed, and Christina was getting tired and stressed out. Every day, she thought about bills and ended up arguing with her husband because she felt he didn't respect their relationship enough to know he had to support her and their daughter.
"He can't just live with us, have a relaxing work schedule, and then complain when I bring up bills and rent. Someone has to think about that. A relationship can't be just about love. I still care about him, and I want us to be happy together, but how can I do that when he insists on not being careful about money issues?" Christina said.
The mom got upset and tried to talk to Adam's parents, thinking they might be able to convince her husband that working hard means a lot when you're a parent. And she still wants to have a home instead of living somewhere with rent.
What she didn't expect was the idea her in-laws had to improve their marriage and get rid of the stress related to money. Adam's parents think the couple should move in with Adam's sister since she doesn't have kids and isn't planning on getting married anytime soon.
"I was surprised and didn't know what to make of that. I know Diane isn't interested in marriage right now, but going there with Adam and our daughter is like interfering in her life. She might be annoyed even if our relationship is close and we get along as a family. Besides, she doesn't like kids who make a lot of noise, and she tends to avoid my daughter. I can't really see myself living there," the mom said.
Christina called Diane and told her about her parents' idea. She was also surprised, but after she thought about it for a few days, she said the couple could stay with her for up to a year, but only if they found a solution to make sure their daughter would be quiet while playing and didn't come and ask her questions all the time.
"I don't expect her to look after my daughter; I'm her mom. But having a positive relationship with Diane would mean making my little girl behave in a way she's not used to. I want her to be happy and laugh and look at the flowers or play in the living room. I'm not sure that would happen in Diane's home without noise and fun times," Christina said.
Adam, on the other hand, thinks this is the right way to solve their arguments and move forward with their marriage. He's not interested in full-time work for now, and getting rid of the constant worry about rent would be great for him.
Adam also thinks they could save for a house much faster if they only contributed to monthly bills instead of working a lot to be able to pay rent. He did admit their daughter could cause some issues while playing, but he doesn't think Diane will do anything if she gets noisy after all.
Christina is still considering whether Diane and her little girl can have a close relationship since her sister-in-law never played with her daughter or read a story to her. She's almost sure she dislikes kids and doesn't know if moving in with her will help anyone or end up causing even more disagreements.
"He wants us to live with his sister; her house is bigger, but she dislikes my daughter. She hasn't said that, but I know she can't stand the noise from kids and won't have any stains on the carpet or a mess at the wrong time. If we try and go there and end our lease and it doesn't work out, it will be even more expensive to rent a new place," Christina said.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Adam to expect his wife to agree to move into his sister's home instead of getting back to full-time work? Should he focus more on his job and do all he can to improve his relationship with his wife so they don't have to argue about who earns more and where they should live?