The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Grown stepdaughter’s fridge-raiding has really gotten old

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
NaN min

Dear Carolyn: I own a house with my wife, and we split the payment. She has two older children. The younger lives with us and just graduated from college, which I am cool with. The older bought a house 14 months ago and is engaged. Even during the pandemic, she would come over after work and on weekends to chat and make wedding plans. As the summer wedding date gets closer, she is coming over more frequently. Every time she comes over, she helps herself to a can of pop and often one for the road. She raids the pantry and helps herself to a half can of cashews, half a bag of chips, or fixes herself a sandwich. Arriving at dinnertime, announced or unannounced, she helps herself even though I made just enough for the three of us or extra for my lunch the next day.

I do the grocery shopping and buy the groceries. Since she has moved out, we have never been invited over for a cookout or a bowl of chili or to watch a football game. She invades, helps herself. I have never said anything to my wife, but this is getting old.

— Respect OUR Home

Respect OUR Home: This is a mom at a milestone point with her grown daughter, and you’re in a knot over 46 cents?

Thirty-ish if you brave a warehouse store.

That's the price of a can of Coke right now. So, less than a buck even when you include the roadie.

Barring significant dysfunction, I want my home always to be my grown children's home as well. I want them to feel welcome to raid the pantry. I want them to fix themselves a sandwich and invite me into their plans.

I am using my own perspective here to underscore how deeply I'd not be “cool with” a partner's nickel-and-diming something as fundamental to my happiness as this, the homeyness of my home.

About which you haven't said anything, by the way — the warmth of the conversation, the closeness of the connections, the gratification your wife feels at this easy intimacy with her kids. Have you got anything? Hunches, observations? Does your wife relish these visits? Encourage them, surrender to them, discourage them to no avail?

Her comfort in her home is half of everything.

The other half is that it's obviously your home, too — but not because you pay half. That's utterly missing the point at your own expense this time. It's your home because you live there, and if you don't like the open-door policy because you're an introvert or your wife ignores you around guests or you just want the kitchen to yourself sometimes, then you do have standing, absolutely, to discuss it with your wife to figure out if there's a compromise you both can embrace.

But please take advantage of the fact that you ran this by me first, and allow me to stop you from tromping in with complaints about unacceptable levels of cashew consumption. (More like three bucks, but still.) You will only sound petty and cheap.

Don't bring up the reciprocation thing, either — which will be valid if it persists, but it might not persist. It's early yet, and she has a lot going on that she's new to.

If the daughter's snacking you into financial difficulty, then that, too, is valid.

But if it's just that you see boundaries differently from your wife — or you're wired to count beans — then I urge you, please, to try on her perspective for a while. You married her; you must see some benefit to an open fridge, open door, open heart way of life. And if you tried and absolutely can't get there, then at least wait till after the wedding; see what that version of normal looks like before you start agitating to change it.

Dear Carolyn: My wife of 10 years recently asked me for an open marriage. I don’t love the idea, but I think I could be okay with it so long as it’s open on both sides.

She only wants to open it up on her end, and has accused me of being selfish, saying, “If you truly love someone, you want the best for them even if it’s not with you,” basically arguing that I should stay monogamous because that would make her happy. I understand the beauty of selfless love, but it also doesn’t make sense to me. Is my stance unreasonable?

— B.

B.: =:-0

If your stance is to believe your wife is acting in good faith and your marriage is one of equals, then, yes, it's completely unreasonable.

Your wife is manipulating you — gaslighting, to be specific. “Selfless love”?! That’s so perfectly, accidentally precise: Loving her means she gets to have a self, but you don’t. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE, for a second opinion. Then open up the door, wide open, and get yourself out.