how can I help save my boyfriend’s family business without losing my mind?

A reader writes:

My boyfriend and I have been together for what will be two years at the end of October. I love him very much. I just wanted to get that out of the way.

However, not long after we met and started dating, his father passed away, leaving him and his mother with a small convenience store family business. After his dad passed, it became my boyfriend, his mom, and me running the store. I offered to work at the store (my mistake, I suppose, I know) so he didn’t have to worry so much.

It’s just his mom and me running the store, for the most part. However, his mother is running the business into the ground as the predominant manager. She has no business skills, she’s stubborn, she does what she wants, and nobody can tell her differently. She is very involved in the money as well. I, however, run things like a relatively tight ship since I’ve worked retail/customer service/stricter jobs before. So whereas I stress being on time and closing on time, she does what she wants and we never open on time. Whereas I stress organization, she puts papers everywhere and never stocks anything. Like…nothing. And then by the time I show up, if things aren’t stocked, people look at me like I’m the one not doing my job.

Apparently the business is tanking. His mother knew this near the beginning of the year and now that the store is hardly making any profit, she decided to reveal that there’s not a lot of money and the business is tanking … but she’s not doing anything to turn things around and is operating as if it’s business as usual. But she wants there to be more money, obviously. So, with whatever business sense I have, I came up with potential marketing plans, events, cost cutting actions, research, etc. Bu these things never get done, and now I’m at a loss.

How do I work under this woman who is my boyfriend’s mother who is also risking the one business that funds everything else and not lose my mind completely in the process? Right now I’ve almost lost 100% of my mind. I’m right at 90%. In order to keep the other 10%, I have to act like I don’t care about a lot of things, and that sucks too.

You need to go find a job somewhere else.

It’s not your job to save this business. It’s very kind that you’ve pitched in and offered to help, but it’s not working. You’ve offered ideas, and they’ve been ignored. Ultimately, how to run the store is up to your boyfriend and his mother, and you cannot save them if they choose to proceed on the track they’re on.

You might feel like you have a higher obligation to stay than you would at another job, because of the personal connection. But you don’t. You can and should move on for you if the situation isn’t good for you, and this one clearly isn’t.

If you’re worried that you’re going to sink them by leaving, realize that you’re not going to. They can hire someone else (and then they can proceed to ignore that person too, if they want).

This isn’t a relationship advice blog, but I have to point out that it’s generally a bad idea to try to “fix” a partner or a partner’s family, particularly once they’ve shown that they’re not leaping to take your advice. You’ll create a dynamic where you’re resentful, frustrated, and nagging and where your partner is resentful and infantilized. This dynamic, no surprise, is Not Good for your relationship and will corrode it and ultimately ruin it if it goes on long enough.

So look at it this way: If you stay, you’ll be prioritizing trying to save the business (a relatively futile attempt, no less) over your relationship with your boyfriend. Is that the choice you really intend to make in all this?

Assuming it’s not, it’s time to move on. Give your boyfriend and his mom plenty of notice, but get out of there and go pursue a job where you’re not mixing work, romance, and family.

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