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Carolyn Hax: Can they find the right chore balance during boyfriend’s busy season?

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m moving in with my fiance. Unfortunately, it’s at the worst time of the year. His business — which he owns and is trying to keep going during the pandemic — is at its busiest, and he’s working 60-80 hours a week for the next two months. We both knew this was happening, but the right apartment came along.

I fully support his business and understand this situation is temporary. Yet I’m a bit wary that the first few months of living together will be me doing all the cooking, cleaning, chores, etc.

Any suggestions on how I end this precedent? I don’t mind pitching in while times are unusual, but I’m also wary of how to change a trend that starts when I move in.

— Setting a Precedent

Setting a Precedent: What did he do last year during this period, when you were still living apart?

The way to end a precedent is not to set it in the first place. Tell him you’d like to stay close to your normal approach to chores that each of you had while living apart; put a big X on your calendar marking the end of this stretch; and as needed treat this as a time when fewer chores get done.

If you still end up with a major and persistent domestic workload imbalance when it’s all over, then break up and move out. Ultimately the problem would be a partner who’s okay with letting you do all the work, and the solution would be a better person for a partner.

Carolyn: This is his new business. There is no “last year.” I’m asking, is there a good way to invent or put in place a “reset” button that I can push in three months?

— Setting again

Setting again: Okay. I still think the less resetting, the better. If you didn’t move in, then he’d be managing this and his home solo. He just would, because he’d have to.

It's essential not to lose sight of that — or, to put it more plainly from the other side, keep firmly in mind you are not moving in to be his unpaid domestic. Talk to him about a fair division of labor for regular times, then about an adjustment to that for crazy time, then decide if that sounds doable to you. Weigh his attitude carefully. And:

Do not agree to anything you don’t want to live with.

Do not do more than you think is fair.

Do not keep doing anything past the date that he can very well resume doing it for himself.

Do not do anything he would refuse to do for you.

Do not do anything you wouldn’t feel right asking of him.

You are not obligated. Period.

Dear Carolyn: About a month ago my husband and I moved to a new neighborhood. When I was out to take in our trash cans today, I saw our next-door neighbor for the first time. I smiled and said hello. She frowned at me and turned away without responding. I am at a loss. We pick up after our dog. He is never out by himself or off leash. He doesn’t bark. We keep our home and yard well-manicured. We are quiet. What should we do?

— New Neighbor

New Neighbor: Invite them over — or for a pandemic-approved walk. If the frostiness persists, then just ask whether you’ve done something to offend them.

Maybe your dog barks insanely when you’re out? Still — that’s no cause for a snub.