Hi Rene:

Though I’m not a mother, I do like your approach to issues so I thought I’d drop you a line. My boyfriend and I met a couple of years ago and he moved in with me at the end of last year. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. You see my mother lives with me and has for more than a decade (I’m 38 now). In that time we have developed a nice routine between us; she cooks and cleans while I take care of the bills. I knew when he moved in there would be an adjustment phase, now I’m not sure we’re going to go the distance.

See, I don’t cook and I have no interest in learning. When I told my boyfriend that after we got together, he wasn’t thrilled but he didn’t say much about it then. But now his teenage daughter from his first marriage has been coming around regularly and he told me the other day, not only does he expect her to eat, he expects me to be the one to do the cooking. He says that’s what all men expect.

He won’t even entertain the idea of a compromise where by I cook a little but let my mom do the lion’s share.

Needless to say, this issue is bleeding over into other areas of our life together. The situation is not helped by the fact that his daughter is with us about once a week and because of his erratic work schedule, when he’s gone, I’m responsible for her.

Rene, I do care for my boyfriend but I’m really not sure if I can do this. What is my role in the relationship with regard to his daughter? And the cooking thing? Agh! What would you do if you were me?

Feeling walked on in Washington

Hi Walked On:

Hang on a minute (taking a big gulp from my wine glass). Now, don’t take this the wrong way but you asked me and I am obligated to give you my honest answer. I would tell you to lace up your tennis shoes and RUN! Don’t look back! Okay that might be a bit drastic but if there ever was a relationship with serious warning signs, I would say this is it. Your boyfriend, in subtle ways (at least now) is showing a blatant disregard for your wishes (not wanting to learn to cook) and a disrespect for your time (uh, hello? You have a job too!). Against that backdrop here’s what I would do:

*TALK ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP AND YOUR FUTURE: Here’s the deal; when you first start dating someone, everything they do is adorable. The way their lip curls in the corner, the way they furrow their brow when they’re angry, the way they fart while the two of you are cuddled on the couch, oh it’s just all so adorable. Before you know it you’re rushing headlong into a living arrangement without having had the big discussion as in, where are we going with this? That needs to happen RIGHT NOW with you and Mr. Man.

Now, I’m gonna give you a cheat sheet here. The only acceptable answer is, “Well. Baby, I want to make you my wife” (insert time here). Red flags are anything that sounds like, “Let’s take it day by day” or “Let’s not rush into anything” or “Let’s just keep things as they are”. If he does give the acceptable answer, proceed to the next step.

*SET BOUNDARIES WITH HIS DAUGHTER AND YOUR TIME: Have you ever heard that saying “Familiarity breeds contempt”? Basically the more you know someone the more likely it is that you will take advantage of him or her. I don’t think we mean to; it’s just human nature. If you guys have only been together a few years and he’s already treating you with this kind of disregard, I shudder to think of what the future will look like. You are going to have to tell him what you will and won’t do with his daughter. You need to tell him you cannot be expected to juggle your schedule because it’s his week with her and he’s got to go to work. He’s either going to have to let you in on his schedule or find another job with regular hours. But the fact is she is HIS daughter not yours and while you will help when you can, I do think it’s wholly unfair of him to expect you to be her mother. Now that doesn’t mean you won’t be nice and develop your own relationship with her; it just means you have to also be good to you.

* TELL HIM YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LEARN TO COOK: I nearly choked on my Pinot Noir when I read this part of your letter. This would be the proverbially “line in the sand” and it’s not just about your lack of love for pots and pans. It’s laughable that he said he expects his daughter to eat; of course we all EXPECT her to eat and us too. But  where that food comes from is the issue.

If this was me, I’d point him right to number Eight on my Ten From GEM list (Good food can come from a can) and keep on steppin’. But the thing that worries me is his unwillingness to compromise. Your mother lives with you. She likes to cook and is good at it and yet your boyfriend wants you to learn because “that’s what every man expects.”  Hahahahahahahhaha. Whoo weee.. Every woman expects a diamond necklace under her pillow but that doesn’t happen either. If you cave to his demand here and learn to cook because HE wants you to NOT you, you will grow to resent it and him. That will be the death of the relationship. Trust me.

I know I’ve given you a lot to think about but before I go, just one more thing. You know what you need? You need a Buff , someone who likes cooking but more than that, likes you enough to respect you and your time. I wish you the best but seriously, keep the tennis shoes handy and the car gassed up in the event you need to run and run fast!

Do you have a question for Rene? She has an answer. Click here and fire away!