How much notice is enough notice?
September 3, 2012 11:50 PM   Subscribe

Ettiquette for inviting people over when cohabiting.

My SO prefers to have the option for spontaneity when inviting his friends over to visit. I would prefer advanced notice so that I can make sure the house is at its best and I am dressed and can plan around the disruption (I work from home). My SO feels that this is unfair and results in not being able to have his friends over as often as he would like, since he is not really a planner.

In my perfect world, he would give me a day's notice when having guests over, but I realize that's unrealistic. In my SO's perfect world, he would not have to let me know at all but could just come over with his friends without worrying that I will be upset. Barring that, he'd prefer to call me when he is en route (about 10 minutes in advance) to let me know he and his friends are coming.

Where is the middle ground? I'd be happy with an hour or two (unless someone will be spending the night, then a bit more so I can arrange linens and bath towels and things) but he finds this limits the chance to spontaneously decide, "hey let's go play games at my place while we wait for the movie to start" etc., which I think has been how he tended to socialize before he and I met.

I don't want to be a wet blanket but the idea of guests descending upon me when I'm not really dressed for the day and may be in the middle of something else is upsetting to me.

We also have a cat, who is a fur-puller, so even though I'm not lax with the vacuuming, if I don't vacuum before guests come over (even if I vacuumed that morning) it looks like a cat exploded in our house, and it seems rude to have people into that kind of situation. (The cat is being treated by a vet, but it's slow going.) Our house is not a sty, but if people are coming over I'd like to run the vacuum and make sure all the dishes are in the dishwasher, that kind of thing. I am the sole cleaner for various reasons, and I think part of the dynamic here is that he thinks I should keep the house ready for guests at any time, which is a nice idea, but I feel is unrealistic.

This came to a head today when I was cooking a big batch of stew and the kitchen was a mess, and he called to tell me he and his friends were coming over and would arrive in 5 to 10 minutes. I hadn't really dressed for the day and I panicked when he called, since I couldn't really finish the stew and make myself presentable at the same time. Now he is angry and I am upset (since due to my reaction, he felt that he had to cancel his plans). There has to be a compromise in here somewhere.

I know every relationship is different, but he feels like I am being totally unrealistic, and I'm starting to feel like I don't know what a realistic arrangement would look like at all.
posted by ZeroDivides to Human Relations (47 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a thing. It bothers you that the house is a mess, but it doesn't bother him, and these are his friends. I would look at why it disturbs you for his friends to see that the house is a mess. There is a tendency for women to feel like the state of the house reflects exclusively on them in boy-girl domestic relationships, and I would encourage you to examine that.

At my house it's OK to say "I don't want your friends to see me in my PJs, I need 10 minutes" but I don't think presenting the house " at its best" is a reasonable benchmark, no.

I am the sole cleaner for various reasons, and I think part of the dynamic here is that he thinks I should keep the house ready for guests at any time, which is a nice idea, but I feel is unrealistic.

Uh, well, that's going to complicate this. Why is that?
posted by DarlingBri at 12:06 AM on September 4, 2012 [41 favorites]

It also has to depend on how well you and he know the people who're coming over. You have to have different standards for very close or mutual friends than you would for people you know less well.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:07 AM on September 4, 2012

I think that if your SO invites people over he's solely responsible for their feeding and care. He is the best judge of whether people are going to be offended or gossip that your kitchen is in use or there is cat hair or whatever and should judiciously invite people based on that. If he wants the place showroom perfect at all times he's mad but if he just has more casual or homey standards for his friends than you do then I think that's reasonable. Most people don't clean the house before having close friends over, the kind you invite on a whim. On the flip side, if I was doing something and my SO invited his friend over I would feel entitled to stick my head out and say hi then go back to whatever I was doing and ignore them or even banish them from the kitchen or TV room whatever room I needed to use so I could keep doing what I was doing. As long as he didn't invite them over when he knew I was coloring my hair or in bed or anything I wouldn't care much if they were in the house.

Then again I generally don't care if people come over and the house has some dog hair or whatever and I don't care if people come over and end up watching me cook. Today some friends stopped by while I was putting vegetables up and the kitchen was full of pots and pans and I worked the whole time I chatted to them. I am not the kind of hostess who brings cold drinks on a tray into the formal living room! The house is probably cleaner than most of our friend's places given day anyway and I am generally dressed at least enough to look presentable for a person who's doing chores or working around the house.
posted by fshgrl at 12:07 AM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Living together is about compromise. It sounds like he's not acknowledging your concerns about the house. It also sounds like you are getting upset over things that he doesn't see as issues. I'm not sure why that is, but I can say that given his apparent expectation of being able to invite people over at any time, his friends aren't probably caring about stuff.

Ultimately you should have a talk about such things. Frankly I think he's being a little unreasonable, inviting people over on a whim without checking in with you.

The problem solving part of me, which admittedly you did not ask for, suggests you define a time or times when you expect him to invite friends over, and have all that stuff done. He can do so, or not, as he wishes.

If he wants friends over at other times, then he has to make the necessary effort, informing you before hand, helping clean etc.

Does he socialize at other people's places?
posted by gryftir at 12:12 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is called consideration and your other half seems to lack it in that it is reasonable that you want more than 5 mins notice before he descends on you with a bunch if people, especially if you work from home. Having said that anybody he brings over should be aware that people cook for example and that pets shed fur. So I am thinking you were brought up in a tradition of gracious hostess who entertains and he was probably happy to tell people to help themselves to drinks...this is where the compromise may be found. Perhaps you could rethink the stew episode along the lines of - totally reasonable to expect your SO not to bring people home without giving you a chance to get decent but cooking a meal and the effect this tends to have on a kitchen is not necessarily something people can't see? Especially a spontaneous easy going crowd?
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:17 AM on September 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

I am an extremely social person with pretty lax housecleaning skills (and very little shame about that). Still, the idea of my SO inviting people over without running it by me fills me with horror (and I am sure he feels the same way). It's not even about having a clean house and being dressed decently - it's about being in the headspace to receive guests and having control over your own living space.

A few hours notice is totally reasonable. More than reasonable, I'd say. That doesn't mean he can't ASK if it's OK to bring people over last minute - but it does mean that he needs to ask YOU before he asks them (it only takes two minutes to duck outside and make the call), and then if you say no, he needs to accept that gracefully. I mean, don't his friends have houses?
posted by cilantro at 12:18 AM on September 4, 2012 [46 favorites]

Are there particular nights that he's more likely to invite people over? Is there any way that you could suggest to him that you designate one or two nights/weekend day as "company" nights and you just assume that you'll have company at those times and prepare accordingly?

If he doesn't bring people home you get a free night in a clean house and maybe fun sexy times as a result?

But I agree with cilantro - is there a reason he can't call you first to see what the situation is on the home front?
posted by FlamingBore at 12:21 AM on September 4, 2012 [8 favorites]

I have never heard of a co-habitation situation in which one person is completely free to tromp into the home dragging guests along with no advance notice. That kind of behavior is simply unacceptable.

I'm honestly having a difficult time even imagining how a functional adult would even consider doing such a thing on a regular basis, especially given that the home is also your workplace, that you're apparently in charge of cleaning and maintaining the place.

It's not even an issue of whether you or your SO consider the condition of the home to be presentable for guests. It's an issue of your SO deciding that his whimsical notions of fun times and last-minute tomfoolery is somehow more important than your comfort and mental well-being. That seriously bugs the hell out of me.

On preview, cilantro has nailed it. Advance notice: reasonable. Friends coming over last minute: Call and ask first. SO's friends hosting last-minute game sessions instead: Yes.
posted by ronofthedead at 12:22 AM on September 4, 2012 [27 favorites]

Well, how bad would it really be if people came over and there was some cat hair? Or saw that you were cooking in the kitchen? Almost no one keeps their house "guest ready" all the time, and if your place is not a total mess, no one who is visiting is going to care. So, assuming that the house is at a normal "lived in but clean" level, I think that's something you could probably let slide. Now, this may not apply if you are having important people over, such as bosses or inlaws or Justin Beiber, but if it's just a couple of his work buddies than I think it's totally reasonable of him to have people over even if the house is not spotless.

Since you work at home, I think it is definitely his responsibility for him to make sure he is not disrupting you, within reason. For example, if it's 1PM, and you're in the middle of a project, he needs to respect that you are working and can't just have a bunch of people over for a lunch break, since that could disturb you and your work. However, if it's 5PM and that's when he and his friends get off of work, I don't think it's unreasonable for him to expect that you are going to at least be dressed and "presentable" (I don't know what that word means to you, but in my world that means wearing clothes that don't look like they were pulled out of a dumpster). If you went over to a friends house and their spouse was in the kitchen cooking, wearing some old jeans and a tee shirt, would you be bothered? If not, than why would your SO's friends care if they saw you in the same situation?

What gets me here is when you say that you do all of the cleaning. I don't know why this dynamic exists, but I think it would be completely fair of you to say that if he wants to invite people over, it is his responsibility to make sure the house is clean (up to a reasonable standard). This would require him making sure that each evening things are tidy (not that he necessarily has to do all of the cleaning, but he can't pawn it all off on you and then insist that you make sure the house is clean enough for guests).

As for him giving you ample warning, this is something you'll need to really hash out, since you're coming from two opposite sides. I don't think it would be unreasonable for you to tell him that you are fine with him giving you 10 minutes notice, as long as he is fine with you having veto power. This way he can do things spontaneously, but if that is going to really interfere with you than you can tell him that tonight isn't going to work, and they'll have to do it another day.

Here's something you could try: Pick 2 days a week in which he can "spontaneously" invite people over after work. On those days the two of you would make sure the house is tidy, and you would make sure to be "presentable" at the time where he would be coming home. He would call you and let you know if people are coming over before he left, so that you at least had a little notice. The other days of the week he would give you at least an hours notice (or whatever you feel is fair). In this situation, though, he would still need to help make sure that the house is clean the night before, so that you aren't doing everything.

On preview of what others said, I think I agree for the most part. Most people, when going to a friends house, don't care if it's a little messy, and won't care if there is someone with a science experiment in the kitchen wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt. It is not unreasonable for him to expect people to be able to come over if the house is relatively clean. However, it is not unreasonable of you to expect some notice before people come over. If he wants to invite people over spontaneously, than he needs to ask you if it's OK. If it isn't for one reason or another, he needs to accept that. I think you both have room for compromise, and it won't be too terribly difficult to figure out something that works for everyone.
posted by markblasco at 12:25 AM on September 4, 2012

I'm completely and totally horrified by the people who feel that this is acceptable, and feeling unbelievably lucky that my partner and I agreed from the beginning that this sort of thing was really not ok. The part that really gets me is that he's calling on his way, with people in tow. It's your home, not just his, and as presented, it reads rather like his home-related needs trump yours, and if they don't, he becomes angry about it.

If you don't feel comfortable having people in the house without first vacuuming/putting on makeup/whatever, he needs to respect that. You're not telling him not to bring friends home, you're telling him that you'd like an hour or two of heads up on it. That's not at all unreasonable, imo. At the absolute minimum, though, he needs to call before they leave (not when they're already on their way) and say "Hey, do you mind?" And if you do, then he needs to say "OK, we'll go to Joe's house instead," no questions, no whinging about it. As a datapoint, I've got a good friend who lives three doors down and will often walk down the street just to say hi or whatever, and I won't even let her into the house until I've spoken to my partner and made sure that he's mentally in a place to deal with having people in the house. Maybe he had a shitty day, or has a headache, or just doesn't feel up to people right then--and because it's his house, too, I respect that, even if I'd love to have visitors. (He, obviously, does the same for me--whomever's feeling more reclusive gets to decide if we have people in or not.)

Refusing to plan ahead is childish and rude. When you live with someone else, you have to accept that the house is for both of you, and that using it to have playtime with the boys isn't always going to fly.

Possibly practical solution to help make this easier for you: Have you considered getting a Roomba or the equivalent? You could set it to run in the living room (or whatever) a couple times a day, which would at least mean that the animal hair issue is kept to a minimum.
posted by MeghanC at 12:57 AM on September 4, 2012 [27 favorites]

I am the sole cleaner for various reasons, and I think part of the dynamic here is that he thinks I should keep the house ready for guests at any time, which is a nice idea, but I feel is unrealistic.

Are you sure he thinks this? It sounds from the rest of what you've said that he probably thinks his friends won't care if they arrive and there is an exploded cat in the living room and a stew all over the kitchen ceiling.

If you have talked to him and he explicitly does think this, then he has a problem of unrealistic expectations.

If you have not talked to him and are guessing/assuming that he thinks this, then you might have a problem of projecting your own expectations onto him.

The WFH bit complicates it a little, but as mentioned above it depends what kind of times he is inviting people over, and also a little on how intrusive it is to have guests over; if you work at the living room table next to the TV and hangout space, then you should absolutely be able to say he can't have anyone over between 9 and 5, or whatever your core work hours are. But if you work in a room at the far end of the house and you're only freaking out because you know the tv area they're in is not clean, then it feels a little less like you should have veto over his guests because you're working.

I also wonder what you mean by 'being dressed/presentable'. If you habitually work in something you can't be seen wearing by anyone but your SO, how long does it take to change into something that is ok to be seen in? Are you thinking of 'ok to be seen in' as the same as 'ok to go out in'?

My boyfriend and I were both the type who would easily spend the whole day in underwear when working at home, but all that would be required to be 'presentable' for guests would be two minutes to throw on a pair of jeans and a tshirt. If your SO has similar standards, then he probably doesn't understand why 5 minutes notice isn't enough to get dressed.

tl:dr; Perhaps you both need to explicitly clarify the standards you wish to hold for 'ready to receive guests' (for both the house and your person), and if they are wildly different, figure out where you will compromise. Perhaps it will never be ok for you to receive guests without having half an hour to wash and dry your hair if necessary, and so half an hour must be the minimum notice he ever gives you [and occasionally that won't be enough because you're also in the middle of deep frying cookies when he calls]. Maybe he can convince you that your hair looks fine unwashed, maybe you can convince him that a half hours notice period can be spent picking up drinks and snacks on his way over. If he's not ok with that, woohoo, you have a big issue. But now you know exactly what you're arguing over and why it's important to each of you.
posted by jacalata at 12:57 AM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

My experience, borne out by the polarizing answers on this thread, is that some people care a lot about the impression their living space makes on guests, and other people don't. People who care a lot assume guests instantly analyze them based on how they keep house, which they probably do if their guests are similar to them... And people who care not-so-much assume no one else cares, which may be true if their guests are similar to them. It's also quite difficult to see the world through the opposing lens.

In my case, I tend to not care too much about my housekeeping skills, nor what others think of them. My spouse is the exact opposite.

You need to impress on your SO that you care about what your house looks like when other people visit, and that while you're open to having guests, he needs to respect your desire to have things presentable when they arrive. It may take some time for this to sink in, and he may at first assume you're just being pedantic as I probably did early on.
posted by Remote Network at 1:06 AM on September 4, 2012

My step-father has his friends/relatives come over with very little if any notice to my mother. She deals with it (if she doesn't feel like company herself) by retreating to her home office or her bedroom. She's kind of a neat freak, so the house is never really that "messy," but I'm sure she also would prefer time to straighten up if she knows people are coming over. So to me this situation is not as odd as other respondents are making it seem. Probably just subcultural difference (like ask vs guess, I suppose).

Do you have space to retreat? I mean, are we talking about a studio apartment or do you at the very least have a separate bedroom? Are the kinds of people your S.O. invites over the kind that you need to impress (his boss, colleagues, people with whom you need to network, his parents)? If he's just bringing over some bros for Xbox before the movie, I think perhaps you should worry less about how dressed you are (more than underwear on? done) and how messy your kitchen is. On the other side of this compromise, he needs to clear people in your home with you more than 10 minutes out, and before they are actually on their way there. An hour is nice. 30 minutes would probably do. And if it's in the middle of your work day, he should probably just consider it a no go. As someone else mentioned, his friends do have their own places they could hang out, no?

Whatever compromises sound reasonable, it's something you need to discuss with him further when you have a little distance from this latest incident.
posted by asciident at 1:06 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is why some people have parlours and guest bathrooms. A room soley used for entertaining (so it doesn't get messy - the cat would be forbidden for example) and with a door that can be closed so guests will not disturb you. Perhaps you should look into moving into a larger place, with more doors that can be closed, an an office for you furthest from the visiting area. Several of my friends that entertain heavily actually have two kitchens precisely for the stew situation you mention. The main floor kitchen is literally never used except for guests.

His expectation that you should keep the house guest-ready is unrealistic unless you have agreed to it. Since you work, perhaps he would be willing to pay to have a maid come by daily to make the house guest-ready? Of course then you would have to accept the guests without complaint so maybe you would prefer to set aside two or three days a week with a four hour window for "spontaneous" guest visits after the cleaning lady has come.

How often is this a problem? It reads to me like it feels to you it happens several times a week; considering you are a couple now do you feel neglected by the amount of time he is socialising without you? Do you feel included when he brings friends over or alienated? Do "your" friends come over too or is most of your couple-time socialising revolving around his spontaneous drop-ins leaving you with little free time to plan ahead your own social life/couple time?

You need a frank discussion about expectations (and more than ten minutes notice is reasonable for a shared space) and how he can contribute to meeting the expectations (like making the house guest-ready) and respecting your work hours. Maybe you need to check in more with each other during the day to become aware of each other's schedules (so you would know he was meeting with friends and he would know you had spent several hours making a stew) and thus be aware there was a chance of him bringing friends by/you being frazzled and the house not guest-ready.
posted by saucysault at 1:12 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think part of the dynamic here is that he thinks I should keep the house ready for guests at any time

I think this is pretty key to the whole thing, and I think you might be right. I wonder if he's using these spontaneous guest visits to change some of your general habits. Setting aside what's right or wrong in what he wants in a partner, this situation can be seen as one that is solved by you being showered and dressed by mid-day and having the house clean at all times. I think maybe he's using this situation to try to address those issues.

If that's the case, the discussion you want to have with him has little to do with how much notice he should give. Instead, it's about who you are and how you want to live, and how you can divide household responsibilities to meet both of your needs. Maybe there's a compromise, like: You will be showered and dressed for the day at roughly the same time he is (even though you work from home), and you will help entertain friends; however, he will run the vacuum twice a week, put his dishes in the dishwasher immediately after using them, and only invite friends over on the vacuum days (other days they go to a local bar or coffee shop).
posted by Houstonian at 1:39 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am wondering if part of this isn't some other problems being expressed in this context. You work from home, he works outside. Do you get up when he does? I know a lot of youngish (20s-30s) couples without kids who have lately been running into these sorts of clashes. One party is getting up at 6am, going off to work. The other gets up at 9 (or 12 or 3), works in pajamas, doesn't have to rush about anything, may still be quite productive. Even where housework isn't otherwise an issue, it seems to breed big resentments, especially when the party working outside makes a lot more money? "I do X, Y, and Z all day, and you can't even get dressed?"

I won't say it's totally unreasonable because, well, I sort of live in my pajamas, myself, and my sleep schedule can be weird. But I don't have a partner in that position. If your SO is already inclined to be feeling like you've got it easy, this might be his way of trying to even the score. Not necessarily to make you do more housework, but to get his free spirit on when you get to exercise yours in other ways?

While things like housework division of labor and all are certainly a big issue, I wonder if he'd be more receptive to providing more notice if he knew you were getting up and dressed at the same time that he was, and that the notice was then about avoiding disruptions to your schedule. If you're relatively young, I do agree that his friends probably don't care about dishes or cat hair, but I think it's totally justified to want more time to get ready. It's just that it might not go over as well if he's hearing it as, "I know you were up at 6am to get ready for work, but twelve hours later, I'm going to need extra warning to do the same thing".
posted by gracedissolved at 1:46 AM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

He's the one being unrealistic.

A compromise is a couple of hours. If he can't give you that, he and his friends have to go somewhere else. There are other places in the world they can go, right?
posted by heyjude at 2:41 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

my partner is kind of a space cadet, very social, and likes to have his friends over on the spur of the moment. I am more introverted, prefer to socialize outside of my house, work weird hours and often from home, and don't do a lot without extensive planning ahead of time. we have resolved this dilemma in the following way:

- i do not get mad as long as my sleep or work is not interrupted
- he does not get mad if i prefer not to socialize

having the house 'presentable' is a different matter entirely and i highly suggest if you're going to have a successful cohabitation you engage in some division of labor. just because you work from home doesn't mean you automatically have time to clean because you're there.
posted by par court at 2:43 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is a derail and I apologise (you have MeMail disabled so I couldn't message you privately). But someone had to think of the kittens!

One of my cats is also a fur-puller and it turned out to be due to stress caused by a thyroid problem. Once this was treated the fur-pulling pretty much stopped. If your vet hasn't looked into that already, you might want to mention it.

/end derail.
posted by rubbish bin night at 3:24 AM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm a lot like your SO -- I like to have people over spontaneously. In my family growing up, "having guests" was this huge stressful ordeal like we were nobility in a Victorian novel. Partly because of that, I really love the ability to have people casually stop by, crash on the couch at night, leave their stuff in the garage, bring over food to cook, and do a bunch of other things that would probably make you cringe. I love having a casual, open house where people can come by and fill the house with joyful energy.

I would advise that you really try to see this from your SO's perspective (and him from yours). Do his friends care at all about cat hair? Or a messy kitchen? Does he care about that? I would approach this from an information gathering perspective -- what would happen for him in an ideal world? How would the house look? Who would come over, when? And why does he like that? If you look at it that way, it's an opportunity to learn more about someone you love, which is awesome.

(Of course, he should do the same... have a think about these questions for yourself. Do you see yourself as a glamorous hostess with just the perfect cupcakes on the perfect platter? Doyenne of stylish dinner parties? What is your perfect world? Can you live in his world too?)

Once you've done this, the compromise might be easier because you can see elements of what you want in his perfect scenario, and vice versa.

Also, you can work together as a TEAM to have the kind of home that makes you both happy.
posted by 3491again at 4:13 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Okay, there are several reasons you mention as to why you dislike SO's spontaneous invitations:
House cleaning (the cat, cleaning and vaccuming, etc.)
Guest preparations (meals, overnight stays, etc.)
Personal appearance
Working from home

Of the four, I'd drop the first two: if SO wants to invite people over with hardly any warning, whether for a couple hours or overnight, then HE is to be responsible for those guests --- he prepares their meals, he preps the guest bed and towels. Don't worry how the place looks: as you say, you're working from home, not SO's full-time housemaid.

But in exchange for you dropping time for cleaning and cooking from the discussion, then he's got to consider your concerns, because it's YOUR home too; he needs to give you enough warning to be sure you're dressed for company (lord knows, we all have our schlumpy doing laundry/not suitable for company outfits!) and it won't disturb that work from home you mentioned. Could you compromise on, say, a minimum of 1-2 hours warning? Hopefully you have a separate office area you can close off for your work, so you can just get dressed for company and then shut yourself in there.
posted by easily confused at 4:21 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

We also have a cat, who is a fur-puller, so even though I'm not lax with the vacuuming, if I don't vacuum before guests come over (even if I vacuumed that morning) it looks like a cat exploded in our house, and it seems rude to have people into that kind of situation.

If he goes out and returns with spontaneous guests a lot, maybe he could get into a routine of vacuuming in the living room right before he leaves the house? Then he could call you in time to hide and dirty dishes, piles of laundry etc.
posted by BibiRose at 4:24 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could he not ask you before offering to his friends, with the expectation that sometimes you will say yes and sometimes you will say no? Because his never being able to bring home friends spontaneously is extreme, but you having to be always ready for company is, too. You are allowed to be in the middle of something and not want to be distracted.

Also, it might help if on some days when he goes out you can tell him in advance you don't mind if people come over, and other days you can tell him that you really don't want company over.

How often is this happening? How big a place do you share? That might also be useful information.
posted by jeather at 4:37 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you're living alone you can invite people over when you want; if you're living together the other person has a veto. It's that simple, especially if one partner is working from home.

Ten minutes notice is way too little, an hour or so is more reasonable, but if you're the one doing all the household chores, it behooves them to take your feelings and considerations into account.

But it's not just about having a little consideration, it's also about the fact that he wants to continue behaving as if he's living alone and not in a relationship and can invite his friends (which are not necessarily your friends) over when he wants and your role is to accept that. But he isn't alone anymore and one of the things that anybody needs to learn in a relationship is that you can't make unilateral decisions like these.

You're not a roommate, you're his partner, but in this case he's not acting like he knows this or wants to accept that.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:56 AM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

As an introvert with shedding cats, a penchant for cooking in PJs, a husband who likes to let his bandmates drop by on a whim, and a Southern social circle raised with the notion the house's state reflects on the woman (bullshit yes!), I feel you! We try to reach a compromise in the following ways: there is a designated "socializing open season/zone" when we agree to always have the house ready (done at the same time every week beforehand, together...cannot emphasize enough the "we prep together since it's his friends, otherwise I get resentful" piece)--for us it happens to be Saturday. He can always invite folks over without notice then (and hence sets aside that time on his mental calendar to schedule with friends) and I always know it's possible so I am dressed and know not to start some messy project in the living room or whatnot. This also works bc if I don't want to socialize with them I always know that'd be a good time to schedule my own stuff out.

This takes some of the pressure off the rest of the time bc since he always at least then every week he doesn't need to spring something unexpected on me much, and it is assumed if he does, he has to ask/let me know with some notice, barring something urgent or whatever.

This compromise allowed him to get in his hosting friends time reliably each week while giving me the notice and help cleaning I wanted.
posted by ifjuly at 5:01 AM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: The division of labor is fine with me, he works a lot more hours than I do and it's important to me that his free time is really free. I don't mind spending a bit of extra time cleaning the house if he wants to have guests (at least, if I'm not in the middle of a super busy time at work or in school). However, since I'm not a straight up housewife, I can't spend quite as much time on the house as maybe he would like, so the house usually has at least one area that could use some attention before I'd feel super comfortable with visitors. I think growing up his mother was something of a wonder woman, keeping the house awesome all the time while working full time and raising three kids as a single mother.

He doesn't do this very often, but he doesn't really actually invite his friends over with notice, either. He doesn't seem to really socialize that way. It's organically or nothing, it seems like, for him. I am a super introvert and I have to be really careful here, too, because I don't want to let my introvertedness take the lead and end up rationalizing all kinds of reasons he can't have people over, ever. I know that I could easily fall into that trap, so that's why I'm asking you guys what is reasonable.

I was blindsided today since he called to have people over at a time when he is usually working (a meeting was cancelled and they had a free hour), and I was deep into doing my own thing and snapped at him instead of rationally explaining my point of view. This has been a point of contention between us in the past as well, so it's really something I think we need to resolve.

Thank you all for your insights, I am reading with interest and trying to keep an open mind.

(The cat is also okay, she has a lot of chronic problems that we're working on actively.)
posted by ZeroDivides at 5:12 AM on September 4, 2012

I am super-uncomfortable that you've taken on the mantle of keeping the house clean so your SO can have his "free time, free." It sounds like you have as much on your plate, if you work and have school as well.

If he's bringing in the bulk of the money, he may be exerting this inequity as a power-play over you and frankly, I'm cringing.

We all make compromises in our relationships. I too am the primary cleaner in the house, but that's because I have the neat-nik issue, not because Husbunny expects me to clean. I'm also 50 and in our cohort, we had some pretty straightforward gender labor division and it's hard to get out of that headspace. You really don't have those excuses.

It also sounds a bit passive-aggressive to me that your SO continues to do this, even though he knows it annoys you.

Personally, if Husbunny wanted to have a bunch of his friends over, he gets what he plans for.

If he tells me in advance, I'll polish the house, have snacks ready and lay in a supply of the beverages I know his friends like. If I get no notice, I'll sequester myself in my room and they can send out for pizza. If there's cat hair on the carpet, garbage under the sink, and a shriveled up lemon in the fridge, hey, that's on him.

It's very hard as a female to realize that a messy house and a messy SO don't necessarily reflect on us. In Yiddish, there's a word, Balabusta, it means "housewife", but like most Yiddish words, there are gradations within that meaning. A Balabusta is a great cook, keeps an immaculate house and has grace and charm and the ability to make everyone comfortable. I strive for that because I was brought up to do so. My mother kept her house that way. She also had a cleaning lady.

I have given myself permission to let it go just a bit. As others have noted, nearly no one I know keeps their house as neat as mine is, and even when I think it's a sty, it's still better than most people's.

When Husbunny went back to school, our deal was that I would work, he would do the cleaning. We agreed on certain tasks being done on certain days. That way the house would be a certain level of clean at all times. Perhaps you can come up with a similar system, and re-set your SO's expectations.

As for him brining folks over on a moment's notice, again, I'll reiterate, He gets what he plans for.

If you're in the kitchen cooking and you look a fright, oh well. When you're darn good and ready you'll emerge, shower, and then repair to your bedroom to rest up from the exertion. He can entertain and feed his guests.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:53 AM on September 4, 2012 [19 favorites]

If you are 100% responsible for house-cleaning, then you get to set the standard of cleanliness you're aspiring to. He doesn't get to both have high expectations and then also not do anything to reach them.

You are working and in school. Those hours count regardless of how much money they bring in, where your work happens, or how much either one of you value your time.

Your first post made me wonder if you had unreasonably high standards for cleanliness and presentability ... but your followup seems to clarify that it's your partner's standards you're anxious about living up to. That's really not fair. He expects white-glove cleanliness and you looking made up and lovely all the time, just in case his friends might come by with no notice to hang out before a movie? Even though you work and go to school. That would definitely not fly in my house.

There is potential for compromise here on various levels: how clean is clean, who does what, which hours are open-house hours and which aren't because you're working, etc. But any compromise depends on both parties stating their needs clearly and respecting the other person's needs as well. It sounds like, in your situation, you both want to accommodate his needs, and neither of you assign much value to your needs.
posted by headnsouth at 6:02 AM on September 4, 2012 [12 favorites]

> This came to a head today when I was cooking a big batch of stew and the kitchen was a mess, and he called to tell me he and his friends were coming over and would arrive in 5 to 10 minutes. I hadn't really dressed for the day and I panicked when he called, since I couldn't really finish the stew and make myself presentable at the same time. Now he is angry and I am upset (since due to my reaction, he felt that he had to cancel his plans). There has to be a compromise in here somewhere.

Here's the thing: he's not calling to ask you if it's okay if he brings a bunch of people through your front door at a completely unexpected time, with five minutes notice. He's calling you to tell you it's happening, right now. He's decided that he's doing whatever he wants, regardless of what works for you, and he also requires you to be happy about it. He's angry at you because he had to 'cancel his plans', but at the moment he's calling you, he shouldn't even have a plan, he should have an idea that he's running by you.

You're willing to reduce the amount of notice you require from a day to a couple of hours, but I don't see a lot of willingness to compromise on his end.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:08 AM on September 4, 2012 [14 favorites]

I have never heard of a co-habitation situation in which one person is completely free to tromp into the home dragging guests along with no advance notice. That kind of behavior is simply unacceptable.

Hi! Ronofthedead, meet my cohabitation situation. Cohabitation situation, this is ronofthedead.

Seriously, neither of us has ever even had a conversation about advance notice of guests (except for people staying for days, obviously). Whoever wants to bring people home is responsible for a) the condition of the house at that moment, and b) all hosting, feeding, and other guest issues. (Because it's totally not fair to bring home people and expect the other person to drop everything to play host.) If the other person isn't feeling social, they are free to go down the hall and close the door, or to say "Oh, how nice to see you! I'd love to hang out, but I'm about to go out. You guys have fun!"

In the ideal world, I'd have a bigger house with good sound-proofing, so that people hanging out in one area wouldn't have any impact on someone in the bedroom or office. We don't, so that means that there's always negotiation, and sometimes hanging out needs to happen in the backyard, or the person with guests needs to send people home earlier than would be organically ideal. This is just what works for us, and I can imagine all kinds of other arrangements working for other people. Personally, I find big pre-planned events really stressful, but it's not at all intrusive to have my partner come in the door with three of her friends; this is where everyone is different and you need an arrangement that works for you.

So anyway, I think that the answer here (as it is so often) is communication and negotiation. You absolutely deserve enough advance warning to have clothes on, period, especially if you tend to be sitting around in pajamas or in your underwear. I also like the idea above of designating days where he can have people over organically with no warning, and days where you need a heads up at least X minutes or hours ahead. It might look like: Thursday through Saturday evenings no warning other than "hey, we're on our way, make sure you are dressed"; Sunday and Monday are "no guests without prior discussion"; and Tuesday-Wednesday and during the day on the weekend guests are ok but with a two-hour minimum notice. I just made that schedule up, but my guess is that a final negotiation is going to look something like that -- days and times that give you full control, times where a short warning is enough, and big blocks of time where he can do things organically.
posted by Forktine at 6:08 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

My husband is a very private person who grew up in a house where "having people over" was an elaborate ordeal. I'm a much more open person who grew up in a house where the house was the primary locus of socializing and it was weird (because I had a big family) when there WASN'T someone over. So obviously we've had to learn to negotiate this. A big, recurring issue for us was that he had very different standards for "at home" and "elsewhere" and I have pretty similar standards -- I wouldn't want to answer the door in my pajamas, per se, but they're presentable if I had to. I use more casual table manners at home, but my husband grew up in a family where when you were at home, you just ate however you wanted. (This was shocking to me. Honestly shocking.) He's more comfortable letting the house descent into total mess and then taking it to total clean; I'm more comfortable keeping it at, say, 80%, so it's always pretty "lived in," but "good enough" for people to visit.

It's hard for me to think of NOT having people over whenever; I guess between (say) 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., I think of the public rooms of the house (living room, kitchen) as fairly public space. Not that I have people "just drop by" a ton, but in theory I could.

I think overnight guests are different, because I feel like that does take more advance planning and cleaning. But I'm wondering if your standards aren't just too high for casual friends dropping by. You don't need to be "dressed for the day" when casual friends drop by; pajama pants and a T-shirt or a strappy top is fine as long as you don't actively smell. So maybe your PJs and loungewear need upgrading so that's not something you have to worry about, and that point of friction can be removed. Depending on the size of the place, the dishes don't all need to be in the dishwasher (if it's a tiny, open-plan apartment, okay; but if there's ANY separation, dishes just in the sink is fine as long as they're not two days old!). I'll take your word about the vacuuming, but you have options there too -- you could drape a couple of (fur-magnet!) fleece blankets over the couch/chairs, and when guests arrive unexpectedly, whip them off and toss them in a corner so the couch itself is fairly hair-free. People don't worry so much about the carpet.

Personally, as long as no naked boobs were hanging out, I would have just finished the stew and when the friends arrived, said, "Sorry I'm such a mess, I just have to get this stew done!" and then ignored them until I was done, and then gone to get cleaned up.

However, if your partner is insisting on a standard higher than 80% for the house, or expects you to look like Donna Reed when people arrive, I think the problem is his (and he certainly needs to be doing housework if he wants the house at 100% all the time).

I think instead of telling him that on Tuesdays and Thursdays he can spontaneously have people over (as that will feel like planning socializing to him), you should tell him you want Monday and Wednesday guaranteed to be your quiet, at-home days/nights, and his spontaneous socializing can be at a sports bar or something. He can tell people, "Oh, man, I have this great X-Box game, but ZeroDivides is studying tonight so we'll have to check it out another time, let's go to $bar!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:14 AM on September 4, 2012 [9 favorites]

The etiquette should generally be"what ever the two people who live together decide on." Seriously, it's your living space too. To draw a analogy, if you're home watching a movie, does he get to come in, and change the channel on the TV because he wants to be spontaneous in his t.v. viewing habits? Of course not. If you were cooking in the kitchen, would you let him come in tell you to move, and start cooking what he wanted, because that's how he always cooked before? No.

He needs to realize it's not just his living space. It's yours too. Hot soup girl, nails that thing that stuck out the most to me. Why is he telling and not asking? You have just as much right to be sitting around buck naked making stew with the expectation of nobody walking in, as he has to have his buddies over to play video games.

It's not HIS house to have HIS friends over, it's both of your house to do what you want. If that's not compatible, well asking for a couple hours of notice so you can change your plans isn't that unreasonable, and neither would occasionally saying "Nope, I can't change these plans."

There are other places in the world to have spontaneous activities. There are very few places you can make stew or walk around in your lounging gear.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:16 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hang on. This:

I was blindsided today since he called to have people over at a time when he is usually working (a meeting was cancelled and they had a free hour), and I was deep into doing my own thing and snapped at him instead of rationally explaining my point of view.

plus this: (I work from home) (punctuation original)

indicates to me that neither of you are taking seriously the fact that you are using your home as a professional workspace. Now, perhaps you don't keep a traditional 9-5 schedule, but certainly there are times that you are usually working. What does he think you do all day when he is at his office? It seems to me that he doesn't fully respect your work/school obligations, and that you allow him to do so. You don't (work from home), you work from home. You have as much right to an uninterrupted work day as he does.
posted by Liesl at 6:23 AM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Although I've never cohabited, it seems reasonable to me that one's S.O. should expect the same standards of courtesy that a roommate would be entitled to - at minimum.

For me, that means that I don't have to give notice to my roommates if I am just having one friend over for a short time (e.g., to have a few beers, pick something up, or play a quick board game). However, if I am having multiple people over, I always mention it a few days in advance. Anything less would just be inconsiderate. This feels like a reasonable guideline to me. It's your space too and his needs don't take precedence over yours.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:24 AM on September 4, 2012

Here’s the thing: everyone (male and female) wants to present themselves to the world in a certain way; everyone has different standards they hold themselves to in order to maintain this projection.

For example, I (male), like to present myself as neat, well dressed (but not dressed up), punctual and organized. Because I value those things and that’s the impression I want people to have of me. Now if the GF has someone stop by without letting me know, I’ll be less than thrilled if I’m wearing torn clothes while I have a project that exploded all over the living room couch and dishes all over the kitchen counter. For starters, I don’t want to be seen dressed that way, no one wants to sit in the middle of my project and I don’t want to even worry that someone might think “wow, their kitchen isn’t clean, I’m never eating at his apartment again”.

It doesn’t matter that the GF’s friend is probably as oblivious to all of these things as my GF is, it bothers me.

I have a right to not feel embarrassed and ashamed in my own home and a significant other who disagrees with that will not live with me very long.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:32 AM on September 4, 2012 [9 favorites]

However, since I'm not a straight up housewife, I can't spend quite as much time on the house as maybe he would like

Ok. My wife IS a housewife and we still strive for 50-50 division of chores.

In the past when I worked from home? 50-50 chores.

In the past when I traveled extensively for work (75-90 hours a week) 50-50 chores or paying for cleaning services.

Because my wife is not my mom.

This division of labor creates the tension you describe.
posted by French Fry at 7:06 AM on September 4, 2012 [29 favorites]

the house usually has at least one area that could use some attention before I'd feel super comfortable with visitors

I agree with the folks who say he's being unreasonable and needs to be willing to give you more notice and honor the workspace element for you. But I also think you might could maybe relax your standards for having informal guests over. You don't need to be "super" comfortable to have people in the house, and should probably expect that they're placing judgment on your cleanliness a lot less harshly, if at all, than you do. (Btw, coming into a house where someone is cooking, with pots and pans all over, just makes the place feel *more* warm and home-like, not less.)

Again, most of the problem seems to be coming from his lack of respect for your wishes, but it might also be true that you could afford to take the "house needs to be perfect so I can be Supercomfortable with guests around" stuff down a notch or three.
posted by mediareport at 7:37 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I skimmed the answers but didn't see "cleaning service" until the very end. This is something you should consider as a financial investment in your relationship if you can afford it. It won't solve last-minute cat fur problems, but it will make it much easier to solve them if everything else is done. It also will give you a schedule for doing other things (e.g., to make sure the house is put away so the cleaning service can clean) which will make the house generally more presentable for visitors.

Also nthing that he should have some share in the work if he's setting the cleanliness standard. You're not his mom and he's not your boss; you're partners. You set and practice the cleanliness standard jointly.
posted by immlass at 7:42 AM on September 4, 2012

This question is very interesting to me because I am more like your SO in terms of how I expect socializing to happen and my boyfriend is more like you. I grew up in a household where people dropped by unexpectedly all the time. It was sometimes annoying -- because I'd be deep in the middle of a book or doing my homework and I'd be called out to come say hi to so-and-so. Still, that was the cultural expectation -- people would just drop by and you would have to entertain them.

How did we manage this? Well the biggest difference is that we had household help -- a maid and a cook. So the house was always 90 % of the way clean, there were always a few snacks and drinks on hand and since we had to interact with the household help we were always completely dressed when we came down the stairs from our bedrooms. We had comfortable lounging around clothes certainly, but no one was sitting around in their pajamas. My mother and I did our makeup when we got dressed for the day. My mother did more of the organization around the house than my did but she didn't do appreciably more chores than he did.

My boyfriend comes from a completely different cultural milieu -- he was primarily raised by his mother as a single parent. They had no household help. His mom and he are both very neat (much neater than me) and he likes things to be very clean before having someone over for dinner. He is horrified at the thought of anyone just dropping by -- at the very least he would need an hour's notice and more often he plans things several days in advance. There's a part of me that really misses the way we socialized when I was in my parents' house. It was nice to have a constant stream of visitors and feel so part of the community.

But my difference from your boyfriend is that I recognize that this is unrealistic. The only reason we were able to manage that is that we had people dedicated to cleaning the house and keeping it in presentable condition. I guess he had a mom who felt so dedicated to being a good hostess that she expended a great deal of effort on that. With both you and your boyfriend working it's not reasonable of him to expect his friends to be able to just drop by. Even if he is comfortable with a lower standard of cleanliness, you need to agree to a mutually agreed upon level that both of you would be comfortable with. I think because you've been doing all of the cleaning he's taking you for granted and not realizing how much work goes into maintaining a house. Don't let him get away with it any more. If he wants to bring people over he needs to do his part to ensure that the house is clean enough. Maybe that will make him realize the unreasonable burden he is placing on you.
posted by peacheater at 7:59 AM on September 4, 2012

I think growing up his mother was something of a wonder woman, keeping the house awesome all the time while working full time and raising three kids as a single mother.

Nthing "you're not his mom". You're supposed to be his partner, not his maid, his mother or his employee. Bringing home someone in the middle of the day without asking, when you're working/cleaning/cooking/doing school work is, IMO, not okay. Period. NO ONE has a perfect home 100% of the time. If he truly believes that your mutual home should be spotless all the time, so that he can just let people barge in whenever, then he should be contributing to its cleanliness. And you should be able to not entertain them. You're not a professional always-on-duty hostess, you're his SO who has work and school to deal with. It doesn't matter if he's making more money, your activities COUNT. So do your wishes. If they don't, then that's another problem in its own right.

You really need to sit down and talk about this.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 8:17 AM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

When my sons were in public school, it was easier to keep the house clean. Once I began homeschooling, they ate lunch at home instead of at school and did their work at home instead of at school. It created additional housework and at some point I realized it wasn't really fair to judge me against women who worked outside the home and whose kids were at school all day. If the house is empty for 40+ hours per week, it is probably getting less mess made in it and it becomes posdible to clean it up and expect it to stay clean for a time because ther will be blocks of time when no one is there messing it up.

So I will suggest that working from home may be creating additional housework in ways which you are more aware of than him. That might be part of the problem. When he lived alone, he could assume that if he showed up with guests, it looked like it had when he left earlier that day. This is no longer true. That also might be an issue with his assumptions from childhood. If his mom worked outside the home and presumably the kids were in school, the house was likely empty for a good part of the week.
posted by Michele in California at 8:31 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Texting is great for this, if part of his "spontaneous" concern involves having his friends see him as spontaneous. He shouldn't be afraid to tell them "sure just let me check with ZeroDivides first", but if he is, an alternative solution could have him texting you first "can I invite people over at (estimated time frame)" and getting the veto or the okay before he invites his friends at all.

He should be asking you, though, and not telling - particularly since he knows unexpected guests bother you. It's your home too, and you should both always have veto power (within reason) if you're not up for entertaining guests. The 1-2 hour compromise is good, but even better would be just asking if you're ok with it before he unilaterally invites his friends to come over.
posted by randomnity at 9:18 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think part of the dynamic here is that he thinks I should keep the house ready for guests at any time, which is a nice idea, but I feel is unrealistic.

Did he really say this, or are you projecting your own worries/preferences/concerns onto him? a piece of the puzzle that, depending on its shape, kinda changes things.
posted by vivid postcard at 10:08 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My SO feels that this is unfair and results in not being able to have his friends over as often as he would like, since he is not really a planner.

He doesn't have to become a "planner," he just has to be willing to plan ahead when his preferences are likely to conflict with your preferences. That's the point of compromise--you don't need compromise when everything just slides along spontaneously; you need it when being spontaneous is going to result in someone feeling frustrated or hurt.

Here are two simple ways he could plan ahead while preserving some spontaneity:
  • During the day, he thinks about his evening plans. If he's doing something with friends, such as seeing a movie, and would like to invite people over before or after the planned activity, or if he just wants to invite people over to hang out, he calls/texts you to ask, "Is it OK with you if I invite some friends over tonight around XYZ time?"
  • He looks over his schedule for the week and sees which evenings have plans, and which evenings he's likely to want to spontaneously invite people over to socialize. He asks you, "Would it be OK with you if I invited some friends over on Tuesday and/or Friday night?" You tell him what day works for you, he invites people over if he feels like it on that day.
I think that, at some point, he needs to decide which he prefers: having friends over infrequently, on those occasions when his spontaneity happens to mesh with your plans/wants; or, having friends over more regularly, but doing the work of communicating with you (and, yes, planning) ahead of time.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:14 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My partner and I had this problem when we moved in. Now he knows if people are going to come over - anyone, doesn't matter who - he has to give me enough time to ensure that, AT THE VERY LEAST, the bathroom, living room, and dining room table are somewhat clean and useable, anything that would be potentially embarrassing is hidden (sex toys air-drying in the bathroom, for example, is common), both bedroom doors are shut, and I have enough time to brush my hair and put on a bra. We call this making the house (and myself) "guest safe." If he's home and I'm not, he has to take care of these few house things. (I make sure bra and hair are in order before I arrive.) If there's more time, more cleaning is done.

After the first disastrous visit from a friend without notice caused me to practically melt down, he understood this is a real THING for me. Even though it isn't all that important to him, he willingly does this stuff now and I don't even have to ask. It makes both our lives much easier and more harmonious.

Come up with a compromise, a bare minimum. If he is unwilling to compromise at all, then you have a problem.
posted by thrasher at 12:30 PM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't care all that much how the house looks (it should be presentable, but doesn't need to be pristine) and it would drive me INSANE if my partner dragged people over at the last minute on any sort of regular basis.

I think there needs to be a minimum amount of notice before bringing people over. One hour, two hours, one day, whatever. Five minutes isn't cutting it. It occurs to me that since you're doing all of the cleaning and he (apparently) hasn't offered to change his behavior, you're doing all the compromising. That's not compromising.
posted by cnc at 3:10 PM on September 4, 2012

Just reading your post has filled me with anxiety - I want 48 hours notice before we have company and the mister is totally on board with that (thank the gods). Also, if your boyfriend wants the place in tip-top shape for company all of the time, he can clean it his own damn self. Just because you work from home and are female doesn't make you the housekeeper no matter how he was raised. And if you don't feel up to his bringing friends home (unshowered, unclothed, just not feeling up to it) you are allowed to hole up in your bedroom with a book and a beverage.
posted by deborah at 9:34 PM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

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