Ask Mrs. Riches: How to Deal With a Freeloader

Dear Mrs. Riches:
Have you seen the movie You, Me, and Dupree? Though it may make for a good comedy, my wife is no longer laughing about our 250-lb, hairy houseguest. He's a buddy of mine from college who has stuck with me through a couple of rough patches - a bad divorce from my ex and a rocky time when I lost my job - so it doesn't feel right just to kick him out. But it's getting on her nerves that he eats our food, expects her to clean up after him, and rarely contributes a dime to the house. I've tried talking to him and he'll pack up and leave for a while, only to return a few months later as if nothing happened. She's furious that I've let it happen again, especially after she put her foot down the last time. Any words of wisdom to spare?
Friend of the Real Dupree

Dear Friend:
You'd better hope your wife gets a stronger foot to put down before she uses it to walk out the door. It's either that or you decide on your own that your marital vows take precedence over your buddy's need for a free crash pad, maid, and cook.

Seriously, is there a question in your mind about where your loyalties should lie? By failing to listen to your wife's objections, you've not so subtly sided with the Duprees of the world rather than honoring that not-insignificant promise to honor her all the days of your life.

The question is why? Why do you see your wife's happiness as less important than your friend's? The explanation that he's seen you through hard times simply doesn't cut it. Who's seen you through more than a spouse?

Since your letter doesn't offer me much about your background, bear with me while I speculate: Could it be that you have a fear of romantic intimacy? The real kind, not the kind that comes from sharing a toothbrush holder. Ignoring your wife's needs is a surefire way to keep a deep level of closeness at bay, while fanning anger and resentment. Not to mention that having an uninvited guest can wreak havoc on any hopes for romance.

There are alternative explanations, of course -- that you may be somewhat clueless about women, that you truly do value your buddy over your wife, that you lack assertiveness and are a target of manipulation -- but none of them changes the simple fact that your wife's feelings should be the most paramount concern. Again, those pesky vows (remember "for richer, for poorer," etc.?) trump all.

So you've now accumulated the following compelling objections to this situation:

  1. Your wife hates it.
  2. It flies in the face of your lifelong promise to honor your spouse.
  3. Your wife hates it.
  4. Feeding and housing any 250-lb. creature is bound to cost a bundle.
  5. Privacy? What privacy?
  6. Allowing your buddy to freeload encourages freeloading, a decidedly unattractive quality.
  7. Did I mention your wife hates it?

It's time to deal with the situation in a way that assures her that you have listened, that you understand, and that you will act definitively to get this guy out of your house. But how will you approach this with your friend? By resorting to honesty.

Tell your Dupree the truth: You value your relationship with your wife so much that you don't want anything to get in the way of it. If it turns out that he was using you to get to the wife's lasagna, you can present him with a bill the next time he plans to stay, complete with your nightly rate for room and board. That ought to convince him it's time to move on to another sucker.

If he's a good friend, he'll move on to someone else's couch, preferably in a bachelor pad where he'll have to learn to cook or order takeout like everyone else. When he comes to visit at your house, he gets to knock, stay a respectable number of hours, and leave. Better yet, tell him you'd love to hang out at his place for a change.

Want more guidance about how to handle tricky money situations? Give The Motley Fool's personal finance service, GreenLight, a try. It'll get you on the road to financial harmony in no time.

If you're interested in hearing more from Mrs. Riches, try:

Fool contributorElizabeth Brokampis a licensed professional counselor who regularly talks money with her honey, Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool'sRule Your Retirementnewsletter. To get your money and relationship questions answered, send her anemail.

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