Q&A: Visiting their uncle who is cohabitating


My brother and his girlfriend have been living together for four years. He’s wanted our two boys to come over and spend a weekend with them, but because their living arrangement contradicts our values, I’ve been putting him off. My wife disagrees with their living together, but feels we should let them spend the night so they can develop a relationship with their uncle. What are your thoughts?

Answer: Since we share your concerns related to cohabitation, we understand and appreciate your struggle. So what’s the answer?

The first thing you need to make absolutely certain is that you don’t allow this to drive a wedge between you and your wife. As you discuss this question, don’t forget that you’re both on the same team.

Your next step is to identify what your real concerns are. For your wife, it’s that your boys won’t develop a relationship with their uncle. That’s legitimate. We suspect that’s equally important to you, but you’re afraid that by allowing them to spend the weekend with your brother, you’ll be communicating a confusing and compromising message to your children.        

Depending on your boys’ ages and maturity, you might consider allowing them to go, provided you discuss things with them beforehand. Truth is, their values will be challenged and confronted soon enough, and this provides a teachable moment opportunity.

You can start by teaching them the importance differences between marriage and cohabitation. Second, you can help them answer the hard question of, “What do we do when we don’t agree with someone’s choice?” You can do this by helping them understand the difference between “love” and “approval”; that they can love their uncle by spending time with him, without approving of his choices. And though they disapprove of his choices, it doesn’t mean they don’t love him.

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