Dear Richard Madeley: We took in my newly divorced brother-in-law – but five years on, he’s still here

He puts his reluctance to move down to money
He puts his reluctance to move down to money - Ron Number
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Dear Richard,

In the summer of 2019, my brother-in-law (my wife’s brother) separated from his wife of some 20-plus years. We offered him a place in our home in London, until he was on his feet. I was more than happy to help – he’s an affable chap – and I upgraded the attic bedroom into a ‘granny flat’ so he would have a private space. We took him along to dinner parties, went on holiday together and included him in family Christmas plans.

Wind the clock forward to 2024 and he is still with us. There has of course been a pandemic in the meantime, which we all got through OK. He puts his reluctance to move down to money – he is still in work but only took a modest sum from his shared marital estate. There is a plan to retire and go travelling in a camper van, which he has bought and is renovating.

However I can’t see him being able to afford a place of his own again. He does contribute to his keep, and as I say I don’t mind having him around, but I’m not sure him being here on a permanent basis was ever on my agenda – and my wife says it wasn’t really on hers.

Should we put our foot down, or accept it until such time as he lights out on the open road?

— G, London SW19

Dear G,

Time to put your foot down, I’d say. More than time – it’s been five years, for goodness sake! To quote a modern expression: ‘I didn’t sign up for this.’ And you didn’t, G. You didn’t agree to a permanent new domestic living arrangement; three-in-a-house. You kindly offered your brother-in-law a helping hand over a difficult stile in his path through life: a temporary solution to his pressing problems, not a forever fix. Yet that’s what he’s decided to see it as. You must disabuse him.

My proposal is this. Take him aside one evening and quietly tell him you and his sister need to have an important conversation with him about the future. Give him an exact appointment – say at 10am the following morning. If he asks you what it’s about, be polite but firm. ‘We’ll discuss it in the morning.’ I realise this sounds a little distant, but you need to present him with and prepare him for a new discussion platform. So gird yourself, G!

When you do have the conversation, be kind but businesslike. I suggest giving him a deadline to find his own rented accommodation; say, three months. Tell him unequivocally that the two of you want your marital privacy back. You were prepared to surrender it on his behalf for a while, but nothing lasts for ever. It’s time for him to move on – and move out.

I’ll be blunt. He’s taking advantage of your good nature, and his sister’s. To be fair to him, you’ve both connived in that, purely because of your kindly dispositions. But after five years, you must reassert yourselves. It’s time to get your lives (and your privacy) back. Be firm.

You can find more of Richard Madeley’s advice here or submit your own dilemma below.

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