Dear Margo: No Need for a Hostage Situation

Margo-Howard_tall10Margo Howard’s advice

No Need for a Hostage Situation

Dear Margo: I have a delicate situation with my husband. His 24-year-old daughter is living with us — and our two young sons — and I want her out of our house, but he doesn’t want to be the bad guy and tell her to leave. I’m beginning to get angry and am starting to resent his passivity.

We have a dicey history with her. Her parents divorced when she was 11, and her mother got custody. Her father and I met when his daughter was 13, and we married a year later. She never wanted to live with us full time, because her mother let her do whatever she wanted, but she’d come to us when she was angry at her mother or stepfather and then go back when she got angry at us for enforcing rules and requiring small chores.

As a teenager, she often wouldn’t talk to us unless she wanted her dad to buy her something. When she graduated from high school, she stayed with us for a month, and it was a tense, drama-filled time that ended with her storming out and moving back in with her mother and my husband telling her she would not be allowed to live with us again. The relationship was repaired after that.

Six months ago, she went to my husband and asked to move in with us for a month or two while she purchased a house. My husband told her he would talk to me about it — instead of saying no right away, which I wish he had done. Since it was going to be for a short time, I agreed. Well, apparently, the house she’s trying to buy is a short sale that is taking a very long time to process. It has now been six months, and “the guest” is lazy and self-centered and barely speaks to us. I’m afraid if I insist on her moving out, he will resent me later, but I don’t know how long I can put on a happy face and just deal with it. Should I continue to wait it out, or should I insist that she leave? — Frustrated in Wash.

Dear Frus: It sounds as though your husband shares your views but cannot get it together to tell her to leave. Because you’ve been caught in a repetitious cycle with this kid, I’m pretty sure this is the end of the line. I suggest you offer to be “the bad guy” and tell the young woman to get a roommate or make other arrangements because her “month or two” is up. The healthiest thing for your marriage, as well as your young children, is to reclaim your household. There can be no better motivator for this girl to get her act together than her father saying “basta,” even if you are the messenger. — Margo, resolutely

Re: “No Gifts, Please”  

Dear Margo: I’m going to a wedding of an older couple soon. The invitation says, “No gifts, please,” but I would like to give them one anyway. My choices are a charitable donation (a few friends did not care for that one), a check for the amount I would have spent on a present or a gift certificate for dinner at a good restaurant. I would appreciate guidance. — Bella

Dear Bel: I, like you, sometimes override the stipulation of “no gifts, please.” Truly, no one ever minds. In this situation, I think the most celebratory thing to give is a gift certificate for a dinner a deux. And mail the card to the residence, as opposed to bringing it to the wedding. Ain’t love grand? — Margo, festively

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

52 comments so far.

  1. avatar OrlGal says:

    I like that someone asked if this woman had ever tried to connect with the daughter. Often in familial situations there are no “one on one” relationships at all (same in work relationships).

    Taking the daughter out to lunch and asking her questions (not confronting her) could lead to a resolution. Asking things like… What are your goals in life. We’re happy to try and help you achieve them but I admit we are feeling like we are being taken advantage of here. If you were in our shoes, what do you think would be fair so that we are all contributing equally to this arrangement? Your Dad and I have agreed that something needs to change here because none of us, including you, seem to be happy with how things are going, what do you think? Your Dad and I recognize that we are not perfect people and know that we can all do things, however accidentally, that annoy others. Please be honest with me and let me know what you feel we could be doing better, or differently… We are willing to try harder if you are.

    Is it possible that the girl isn’t really lazy, but just doesn’t know what to do to contribute to the family? Perhaps the parents are control freaks and everytime she tries to clean the house, do something, it’s never “right” so she has given up trying.

    A girls lunch out could be a great way to get on the same page and form a bond just between the two women. I’ve tried this approach with “problem” employees and it’s almost always successful.

    • avatar River Song says:

      perhaps you should read how the actual LW handled it… and how it turned out for her.

  2. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) Boot her out now, unless her demeanor improves within 24 hours. If it does, then tell her she’s got two months to find interim housing. Short sales can go on forever, and then can fall through.

    LW2) Great idea — mail a gift certificte or gift card to a great area restaurant.