DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been living together for 10 years. Both of us had previously been married.
When we decided to live together, I was the one who purchased a home with my money. He moved in and indicated that he could only pay a certain amount of "rent" because he was paying maintenance to his ex-wife.
His maintenance payments lasted for four years; it is now 10 years since he moved in, and he is still paying the same amount of rent.
I am constantly told, "It's your house, not mine," and yet he lives here.
I take care of all the bills, while he pays the minimum. He does help somewhat with the lawn work, but even that is sporadic. Both of us have full-time jobs, and to say that I am getting fed up is an understatement.
How do I get out of this relationship gracefully? Every time I want to discuss these problems, he shuts down and walks away or tries to put everything on my shoulders.
I'm getting angry and frustrated. Please help!
DEAR DROWNING: I can't guarantee that severing this relationship will necessarily be "graceful" because it will involve trying to evict someone from a relationship and a home he has had for 10 years. Though it is your home, to get him out of it you may have to jump through some hoops.
The length of your relationship may put you in "common-law spouse" territory. Several states recognize common-law marriages, and you could find that dissolving this union will be more complicated than it was to form it. Additionally, the fact that he has been paying rent to you and has performed some household maintenance means that he has some rights, and you may have to legally evict him.
Of course, your guy may be happy to mosey along, but you should prepare yourself well by gathering all of your records and conferring with a lawyer.
DEAR AMY: In November, my boss told me that he was having car trouble. I offered to pick him up for work since we both live in the same area.
We have been carpooling ever since.
In all this time he has not offered me any gas money. I drove him to the auto repair shop after he advised me that his car was fixed, so I believe his car is operational.
At this point, he has not offered to drive to work.
What should I do? Was P.T. Barnum right when he said, "There's a sucker born every minute"?
Should I start the meter running and ask him for his half of the fare? What should I do?
— HOV Lane Forever
DEAR HOV LANE: P.T. Barnum was right. But don't think of yourself as a "sucker"; more a kind-hearted (and maybe intimidated) employee. It is unethical for him to put you in this position, and yet, here you are.
Your options are to change jobs and move; hire someone to fake a carjacking and scare him into another carpool; deliberately smash your car into a light pole to take it out of commission; or — yikes — face this by telling the truth.
Start by admitting how awkward this is and get it out of the way quickly, and then state exactly what you want: "Well, this is pretty awkward at this point, but I've been driving you to and from work for six months now, and I
1) would like to negotiate sharing the cost for fuel."
2) would like you to trade off using my car and yours for the commute."
3) would like to go back to driving on my own."
DEAR AMY: Regarding the letter from "Stuck," the person who had difficulty forgiving others, this quote from Mark Twain vividly reminds me of both the power and comfort forgiveness bestows on the forgiver: "Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."
— Rita in Burbank, Calif.
DEAR RITA: I love this quote and will remember it. Thank you.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.