Ask Amy

Monday, March 8, 2010 at 10:45pm

DEAR AMY: Recently I visited my parents and my 27-year-old brother, who is living with them. He earned a dual degree in business and marketing in May and has been unemployed ever since.

I asked him how he pays his bills with no job, and he told me "the magic bill-paying fairies" take care of it. Not only have my parents been paying all of his bills, but they also make excuses for why he doesn't have a job. They do not understand that they are stunting his growth as an individual by eclipsing his responsibilities.

This is not new behavior for them. They have always made special excuses for why it is OK for my brother to fail. He's perfectly capable. He's just lazy and would rather play video games and get high than apply himself.

I believe that my parents are enabling his failure by sanctioning his excuses and continuing to pay his bills.

They handed me my bills at age 21. I got a job I hated, then went on to do great things motivated by the fact that I didn't want to live paycheck to paycheck.

I feel as if he should be given his bills, so that he can experience what it's like and, in essence, grow up.

What steps should I take to address this with my parents?

— Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Helping is when you do something for someone that they cannot do for themselves. Enabling is when you do something for someone that they can do for themselves.

Your parents are firmly in the enabler category. They are probably turning themselves inside out to "assist" your brother, so that he can sit on the couch, play video games, get high and insult them by referring to them as "the bill-paying fairies."

You might start your conversation by quoting your brother's insult. After you've gotten their attention, you could present them with the book "The Enabler: When Helping Hurts the One You Love" by Angelyn Miller (Wheatmark, 2001).

Unfortunately, even after learning that they are contributing to your brother's problems, your folks may still find it impossible to break the cycle by behaving differently.

And that's when you will have to face your own tough realization: You can't "fix" your parents, just as they can't "fix" your brother.


DEAR AMY: Four months ago I moved into a new apartment with a friend. My roommate is easy to get along with. It is a nice apartment, and I am saving money.

My roommate is planning a trip to Europe next summer for three months and wants to sublet her room to a girl she works with, someone I have never met.

She assures me that the girl is nice and that I will meet her, but I am still apprehensive.

I am not interested in living with someone I don't know, or have only met once.

Please tell me the best way to broach this topic with my roommate. The more I think about it, the more upset I get.

— Brian

DEAR BRIAN: Your roommate should not agree to any sublet until you have met and approved the person.

Many leases don't permit sublets because they can create an unstable living situation that has a negative impact on the rental unit (and neighbors). Moving into a home only to find that a stranger will replace the person you are living with puts you in a vulnerable position.

Take your roomie out for a cup of coffee and say you want to have a "house meeting."

If you can't talk your friend out of subletting her room, perhaps you could team up with her to find someone suitable. If she involves you more in the process, you'll feel more comfortable.


DEAR AMY: I wanted to comment on your advice telling a woman in a 41-year abusive marriage to get out. I lived the same horrible life for 10 years. My self-esteem was at such a low point from my upbringing that I actually chose to marry a man who treated me with complete disdain.

I didn't know anything else. I finally got up the guts to leave the creep. It was the happiest day of my life.

I applaud you on your advice to her. We all deserve so much better than that.

— Cheryl

DEAR CHERYL: I agree. We all deserve better.
 

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