My Family Has Been Nothing But Critical Over Our Choices

As a kid, my family moved from apartment to apartment. We were never allowed any pets. If I tried to even feed a stray cat, my parents would scold me and tell me to stop wasting my money on “creatures.”

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One of the reasons I love my partner is our shared passion for animals: Between us we have two dogs, four cats, and several rabbits. We finally have found and purchased the perfect home for all of us—literally five minutes from the dog park and with a huge screen-in back porch. We already have plans to build an outdoor and indoor hutch for the bunnies and create “cat ways” throughout our entire house. We also plan to convert useless spaces like the front formal living room in places for our passions.

I have heard more and more nasty cat lady jokes from them as our plans have progressed. Especially from my older sister. She has three kids and is stuck in a tiny two-bedroom apartment because of her custody agreement and rising rent prices. She has straight up told me I would be “sorry” when my partner and I have kids because we will have to change everything back (we don’t want kids).

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She got particularly nasty when she asked what we were going to do when the family came to visit. I told we had a sleeper sofa and air mattresses or people could get a hotel room. I have been pretty involved in her kids’ lives since her divorce. My sister called me stupid and selfish for dedicating rooms to our animals but not her kids at least. She expected my partner and I would be taking them on more on weekends since we have the room now. I snapped that her children were not my first priority here.

Now everyone in my family is hounding me. They can’t believe I would be so cruel to my sister and don’t love her kids. I have been accused of being jealous, obsessed, and heartless. This is killing all my joy. My partner thinks we should limit contact with my family. I do love my sister’s kids, but this house is the haven I have been dreaming of since I was 6. Help please.

Your sister and your relatives who are harassing you are being ridiculous. Plenty of families with kids live in “a tiny two-bedroom apartment” (or, gasp, a tiny one-bedroom apartment!). And very few kids have entire bedrooms set aside for their weekends at an aunt or uncle’s home. You deserve to live your dream, and your nieces and nephews will absolutely love to come over and camp out on an air mattress in the middle of your in-home petting zoo whenever you’re able to host them. To the extent you can stomach it, don’t go back and forth with your sister about her unreasonable demands. Be pleasantly dismissive, firmly repeating what you aren’t doing and what you are: “Sorry, that’s not in our plan. But we’d love to have the kids over two weekends from now. Let me know.”

My girlfriend of three years and I have talked about marriage, but she is more than a hundred thousand in debt with her school loans. She makes a decent amount of money, but not enough to live on and pay her loans back. She has lived with me rent free for the entirety of our relationship so she can focus on her debt. That has always been the agreement.

My uncle is selling his older second house and offered me first crack at it. I have the down payment saved up. My mortgage would be a third of what I pay for our downtown apartment. It would be a drive and then a transfer to the local train lines, but it is workable for both our jobs.

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My girlfriend hates the location and the house. I have laid out a spreadsheet and showed her that in the next few years we will be able not only save enough for a wedding but also flip the house for a profit (the area has started to become marketable). She told me she would need her name on the title as a guarantee if she is going to contribute to the flip. I balked because I had been taking care of all our expenses for years and never thought to ever ask the same of her.

You’ve talked about marriage, but you are not married or even engaged to be married. So you’re legally single, and you should do what you want with the house without your girlfriend’s buy-in and without putting her name on the title. If you want her to cat family live with you rent-free because you’re generous or because you enjoy her company, that’s great, but don’t expect to be repaid in any way. And although it would be nice of her to offer, since you’ve paid for her housing for your entire relationship, don’t expect her to help with the flip. It’s just easier to keep things involving money and investments separate when you haven’t made a lifelong commitment to each other.

And I would say something similar to her: You’re talked about marriage, but you are not married or even engaged to be married. So you should live where you want to, but you should not expect to profit from any house-flipping work you agree to do while you’re living rent-free.)

The fact that you’re in a huge fight over this tells me you’re coming from really different places—not just about this particular move, but about larger questions about finances. If you’re able to get past this hump and your conversations about marriage continue, they should focus a lot on money. What are your values about saving, spending, and debt? What do you believe about how each partner should be expected to contribute? How do you feel about temporary sacrifice if it will pay off later? My guess is that you may be pretty far apart on these issues, and whether you can find compromise might help determine whether you choose to be more serious.

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