The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Accepting a live-in girlfriend


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I am a traditional person and believe couples should marry before living together. My son has a live-in girlfriend. How do I respect their choice without condoning it? I do not want them to be an example to younger members of the family of how things are done. Should the live-in be invited to family gatherings, be viewed as “part of the family,” etc.? Or should we be cordial and polite but not so inclusive as to blur the lines between real family and pseudo-family?


I think you should try to rewrite that question with a little more contempt. “Pseudo-family”?

If you hope to have any kind of relationship with your son, treat the girlfriend as you would any girlfriend. “Condoning” isn’t up to you since, presumably, they are adults making choices for their own lives.

Re: Condoning:

The problem is, you’ve just given Mom permission to leave the live-in girlfriend out of family photos; possibly to exclude her from family weddings, depending on how strict family is about inviting only fiance(e)s and spouses as guests.

I think this will endanger her relationship with her son and the girlfriend. She doesn’t have to allow bedroom-sharing in her own house, but even that starts to seem kind of silly.

Anonymous 2

Agreed. If her approach is to exclude girlfriends and boyfriends of the nonresident variety as “pseudo-family” as well, then, yes, she’s going to alienate this one fast. If her approach is to receive her children’s loved ones warmly as her guests — which is the assumption you caught me in, thanks — then that’s what she needs to continue to do.

Either way, she needs to take her son’s girlfriend as seriously as he takes her.

Dear Carolyn:

Love your columns and chats; however, I disagree with your sporadic jabs and diatribes at women who find ways to incentivize their men to stay (a la baby). I hope you are honest enough with yourself to acknowledge that guys play their own “games” too. We are all just trying to survive and be happy in this world.

Incentives to Stay

Of course guys play their own “games.” I’ve done crappy, manipulative stuff, too. I don’t applaud any of it.

Are you seriously suggesting that because “guys” play “games,” we’re all justified in behaving like children? In being anything other than straightforward?

And are you seriously suggesting it’s okay to try to get pregnant in hopes of forcing a man to stay with you?

It’s not only immoral to “incentivize a la baby,” it’s impractical. I hope you’re honest enough with yourself to acknowledge that plenty of times the father leaves anyway, if not right away then a few (or many) years into the coerced commitment.

So, no, I’m not budging on this, except to redouble my efforts to distribute jabs without regard for the gender of the game-player.

There’s also no defense for using “incentivize” in a sentence, though the punishment for scorching eyeballs is lighter than for using human life for your own selfish ends.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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