Shakin' Up Kin


Advice wanted on dealing with a close family member living with someone outside of marriage. My husband’s brother and his fiancé plan to move in together. They plan to marry at the end of next year. They have dated for years, and they attend most every family gathering together. This side of the family is nominally Protestant, but rather secular in their world-view.

A few weeks ago my husband’s parents told us they were helping BIL and his fiance look for an apartment together. His parents clearly support and are encouraging this. We expressed both moral and practical concern regarding living together before marriage to them. Despite knowing our objection, his parents brought up the subject again at a family gathering recently. MIL even asked if my husband and my teenager children would help them move. We raised our objections again, this time also pointing out the bad example it sets for our children since they sought to involve our kids. I think we spoke both charitably yet firmly–this time to the couple too. Our comments were not well recieved. We said enough on the subject and don’t plan to address it any further unless one of them bring it up again. There are obviously other issues with my in-laws which this situation illuminates.

What I’m wondering is how to handle future family get-togethers and how to explain this to my children? We don’t want to shun anyone, but we do not like grandma and grandpa trying to present this situation with uncle as acceptable. We have 7, toddler to teens. We informed our teenagers of the plans, (they overheard part of the discussion), and we made sure they knew we think it’s wrong and why. The younger children are blissfully ignorant for the moment, but I doubt it will remain that way. We see this couple at just about every family get together, and our kids rarely see their grandparents unless these two are also around.


I think that, while this is difficult for you, you are taking the right approach. I believe that talking with you kids and holding strong to your beliefs and values are your greatest assets in this situation.

I know that Dr. Ray was talking about this today on his show and he mentioned to the lady that was talking about this (her daughter was moving in with her boyfriend) that they are not to help her move her belongings, but to still maintain a realtionship with her daughter.

At some point taking that stand is necessary or your in-laws will just keep pushing the issue even going behind you back to talk to your kids. That is why, I think, it is important that your older children are aware of how you (as a family) stand on this. Not necessarily having to go into all the details with them, especially if you feel that they are not ready for that discussion.


Also, months ago Dr. Ray had a caller in a similar situation except it was her own brother. Dr. Ray said not to stay with that brother when visiting (he lived out of town) but to go to the family gatherings. How are you going to be an example for the faith if you “shun” those who are living in sin (living together unmarried and not living as brother and sister)? Don’t be the person that they say, well sil is a Catholic and has been nothing but critical and won’t even associate with us. They’ll hate Catholicism and believe that all practicing Catholics are the same way. You stated your objection, now your job is to love them, not aid them, but to love them. How can you do that if you exclude yourself from the family?


Thank you both for your comments. I love Dr. Ray. Maybe I should listen to him more then I won’t feel the need to hang out the family’s dirty laundry on the internet. :o

I guess we took our stand, yet I fear my MIL will still push the issue. This happens in other areas of faith and morals already, but the “pushing” usually just consists of little jabs here and there. I often let those pass for the sake of family harmony, but when I do defend my beliefs, MIL changes the subject abruptly.

I think it comes to our different definitions of what “love” is. I love them, and I don’t want them to have to go through the ugliness that results when people try shortcutting morality. I thought the girl “just needed a place to live” as they had told us, so we offered her an alternative. This girl has been good for my BIL, and I think their living together without marriage will result in heartbreak for both. I love them, so I spoke up because I realize they will answer to God for their actions, (and I don’t think He will be pleased.) I love my children, and I don’t want any of my children to follow this example for the same reasons.

My MIL and FIL seem to think we’re not “loving” if hubby & kids don’t help them pack and carry the boxes, while I bake the movers a casserole and some cookies. :rolleyes:

[FONT=Arial]I don’t wish to exclude ourselves from the family, but I don’t want to spend lots of time with them either now as I think they will continue push the issue. We had already made plans for spending an upcoming weekend with his parents, and I don’t really know what to do about that. Hubby heard from his dad that MIL’s angry with me now. I think the bigger issue beyond the BIL living with his fiance is MIL doesn’t like the way we live.


Gardenswithkids, please don’t worry too much about airing “dirty laundry” on this forum. Your post was discreet and included only the information necessary so you could get advice/reassurance on how to act most charitably in your situation. I’m guessing many readers have faced or currently face something similar. Looking at one person’s situation can be helpful for countless others.

It’s rare for someone’s entire extended family to be devoutly Catholic, so I try to take comfort in my Catholic “family” (Saints and saintly friends, even online) when I am frustrated with my own kin.

Your posts are some of the most charitable I’ve read on CAF so I would never presume to give you advice, only a vote of confidence. You’re doing the right thing. I understand how difficult and tiring that can be sometimes. “Hate the sin/love the sinner” can be tough to put into action when it comes to family.

God Bless.


I grow more and more convinced that the 9th commandment “do no covet thy neighbor’s house and wife” relates to family, not the brick work or interior decorating. “House”, as in “House of David” meaning family. Afterall, the Israelites were roaming through the desert on their way to the Promised Land when Moses brought down the 10 commandments from the mountain–not building new housing developments in the suburbs. While I do take comfort in the family of God, I also want my in-laws to be fully part of God’s family.

Thank you, that’s kind of you to write. But it’s much easier to be charitable when I can “preview” “edit” and “delete” my words. My poor family usually gets the unedited version. I use this forum and its features to help refine my thoughts, and hopefully charity comes across in the words I speak too. I hope my in-laws see it that way. I do love them. They have many wonderful traits. I think they are motivated out of love for BIL, and BIL clearly seems motivated out of love for his fiance. His love for her really came across in our discussion.


Gardens, I, too, want to encourage you to stay the course. My brother moved in with his girlfriend after the birth of their child 2 years ago. My mom was happy that he was “doing the right thing and being responsible,” and I simply told her that I disagreed with her. I let her know that DH and I could not help him move, nor would we ever be able to visit until they married. She cried and I felt awful for making her cry. I cried with her, and explained that I could not support his decision. I assured her that they were still welcome to come to our house whenever they liked. Unfortunately, I may have to miss my niece’s 2nd birthday party if they host it at their apartment. It’s rotten. My DD is only a toddler, so she won’t understand anything anyway, but DH and I must be cautious of scandal.

My family is not Catholic (well, my dad is, but has spent almost 30 years away from the Church), so no one understands our position. I speak with my brother on the phone once in awhile, and I think for the most part, we both enjoy reestablishing our relationship.

Keep the faith; She’ll keep you ~


I too don’t understand why my parents expectations of proper behavior for my own siblings and nephews/nieces is lowered just to keep the warm and fuzzy going. I remember them speaking of such scandal when others in town were engaged in that kind of behavior, but when my own siblings did it - “Oh, it’s okay, we just want them to be happy and not cause a scene.” Oh really. A lot of good it did them. Of the 3 siblings who cohabitated - only 1 is still with his wife. Folks - you should have raised a stink - it may have prevented a lot of heartache, divorce, and single parent situations. Yet there standards were applied unevenly - that would have been unthinkable for me to do. My expectation of behavior was held to a higher standard. Why?

If they have been dating for years and plan to get married anyway - then get married. Why wait a year? Let them share their love before God properly before the apartment hunting begins. That is not a difficult concept nor an unreasonable expectation of behavior for anyone including Catholics?

You do have to love the people in your family, but you don’t have to condone the behavior. I agree it’s hard and have been many times alone in my reasoning and said so to many a deaf ear. It does make it difficult to raise kids if you have to “raise” your parents at the same time. Good luck and God Bless you and your family.


Yes, what makes this much more difficult is his parents, (my children’s grandparents) condone and even encourage this move! If someone wants their children to be happy, then they need to encourage moral behavior. We already pointed out the higher divorce rate in couples that live together before marriage to his parents. Living together before marriage might ruin their relationship-and I don’t think that would make either of them happy.

If his parents didn’t support it, I wouldn’t be as concerned about the bad moral influence on my own children. For one thing, if my in-laws objected, I doubt that this move would even take place, (I say that in this situation because I know the people, but that isn’t true in all cases.) For another, if they objected I wouldn’t worry about it being presented to my children as a normal and acceptable arrangement.

We don’t plan to attend any family functions at their apartment unless these two are married. But I’m really more worried about events at his parents’ place–particularly, a weekend coming up that we already said we’d go to. Frankly, I don’t want to go, but my husband does. His parents have a place at a popular vacation spot, and it’s been to gather with extended family there. But before this situation even happened, I felt less and less comfortable staying with my in-laws, as my MIL in particular isn’t supportive of us having a large family and already seems stressed when we all stay at her place. I’ve considered for some time that it might be better if we stayed at a hotel, but never pushed that point as my husband doesn’t like that idea. **Any thoughts on that? **


**First of all, does your husband agree with the above (highlighted) statement?

If he does, then ask if he will try the hotel thing this one time and see how it goes. Ask if he will be the one to explain to his mom why you chose to do this (to reduce stress on her etc…)

If he doesn’t see it that way, you could always try again to help him understand your point of view. Maybe he will try the hotel just for you. It’s not like he would miss out on any family activities (unless there are pillow fights at midnight?:p) because the hotel would be just for sleeping and freshening up.



Yes–on both points.

[size=2]Good idea. I probably should let my husband be the one to handle communications with his family for a while. We don’t usually see them that much, maybe once or twice a month. If we didn’t have the trip planned already, it would be easier to avoid having to deal with this whole living together issue. But when staying all together for a few days, I expect the subject will come up again–not neccesarily in front of me, but possibly within earshot of my children. [/size]


I totally agree with this. Whenever there is conflict it is up to the spouse related to the conflicted parties to resolve it. Your job is make sure your DH knows exactly what your concerns are AND that he fully supports that they are valid concerns. It is his family, his job. Communication with in-laws is a fabulous gift, but deep conflict can only be resolved by the one who grew up with them.

In marriage, your concerns are his concerns. Clear communication between you two is the first step. (Which I already know you know, just clarifying for anyone else who might be reading.) The biggest trouble I have ever seen comes from when the related spouse says to parents or siblings, “Well spouse thinks that…” instead of, “We believe…” From what I know, Mr. Gardenswithkids is too smart to fall into the former. :wink:


To give credit where credit is due… :thumbsup: Yup, great advice!


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