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Dear Mary: I don't know if I can live in partner's 'no rules' home

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The couple never has any time alone

The couple never has any time alone

The couple never has any time alone

I have been in a relationship for four years now with a man who is 20 years my senior. I have a young child from a previous relationship and he has three adult children from a separated marriage - all of whom still live with him. They are three polite and kind young people but I'm finding a lot of issues lately.

We live separately and he has expressed that the only way we can spend time together is if I stay with them at the weekends. However, there are no rules in his house. It's acceptable for them not to have to clean up after themselves and to stay up late making a lot of noise. What is getting to me most of all is how extremely dependent on their father they are, despite being adults. One in particular demands constant attention, and every conversation revolves around them and they are always in our company - we never get any time alone because of it. My partner is happy with this situation.

I have tried to approach these matters as gently as I could but it resulted in hurt feelings and the cold shoulder and has been ignored ever since. We want to live together but I cannot do this if I have to put up and shut up as it's been made clear that nothing will change. If I don't find a solution, then our relationship will break up and he is a truly wonderful man in every respect. Please help if you can as I am desperate for some direction.

Mary replies: You are in a very difficult situation but it is certainly not hopeless. There are a lot of positives - you have a wonderful man, his children are polite and kind and presumably welcoming.

Your problems are twofold. You do not get any time alone together with your man, and the young adults are behaving like… well, like young adults. They stay up late, make lots of noise and feel for the most part that the world revolves around them. They also don't clean up after themselves - a familiar refrain from many parents.

You find yourself in a household where you are not related to anybody and so therefore have very little say in how things are done. In other words, you cannot make any of the rules. As your own child is young, you probably have very little experience of teenagers and how to survive them. So you have been faced with a very steep learning curve, whereas their father has watched them grow and takes the bad with the good.

I don't know what the situation is or was with the children's mother, and how they all feel with regard to you in some way taking their mother's place. I'm sure you have thought about this and have taken steps to become friends with all the siblings. You have to have some alone time, and as they are all young adults, I don't see why you have to be in his home all the time. An occasional meal out, a night away or even a walk in the park should help. Every couple needs some time to be alone together, no matter what the circumstances and he will have to understand this.

I realise that you are naturally dubious about moving in with him when you have been told that nothing will change. But in fact, everything will have changed if you move in. You and your own child will then make it a family of six instead of four and there will have to be some rules laid down to make it work. I hope your own child is happy with this, because this will be a huge consideration for you. Your son or daughter will be going from having you all to themselves to sharing you with four other people, after all.

I would recommend that, having checked with your child, you suggest that you have a meeting all together to see what people are prepared to do in order to have a happy household. Your partner can chair the meeting, have an agenda, and give everybody an allotted time so speak. Things like who does the grocery shopping, the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning and the myriad things that go into making a household function.

Remember that nobody likes things to change, so you may be faced with some opposition. The key is to be positive, emphasise how good things are already and that you only want a smooth transition.

I feel it is important that you are not seen to be coming in with a list of demands, but neither can you be taken for granted. So if something is a deal-breaker for you, then you will have to say it. But remember that they are perfectly entitled to stay up late, and make noise. However, if that noise is preventing you getting to sleep, then some sort of compromise will have to be reached. Also bear in mind that in a few short years, these young adults will probably have left home.

Blended families certainly take some work, but as you are so sure of your feelings for your partner, then it will be worth your while. I hope the blending isn't too difficult for you all.

You can contact Mary O'Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie Alternatively, write to Mary O'Conor, c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence.

Mary O'Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately

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