How to set boundaries with upcoming houseguest
June 26, 2017 9:24 AM   Subscribe

How can I set boundaries with a visiting friend, without coming across as rude or unwelcoming?

A college buddy, Q, of my significant other is coming into town this weekend “for the 4th.”
A is someone I can tolerate for about 36 hours max. I am fine with them crashing on our couch on Saturday night because they are an old friend of my SO.

Q doesn’t seem to pick up on social cues or hints. I am someone who has a hard time setting/ communicating boundaries, then I get grumpy and overwhelmed when my boundaries are crossed.

I’m worried that Q is planning to stay all the way through Tuesday the 4th, and I am looking for a way to communicate that s/he needs to leave on Sunday afternoon. (Or find somewhere else in town to stay, just not on our couch.)

My SO and I both have work on Monday, the 3rd. My SO texted Q a few weeks ago saying something along the lines of “we both have work on Monday, so you’d be hanging out by yourself all day Monday.” To me that is an invitation for them to hang out at our house all day without us, which I am not okay with. (SO isn't really okay with that either, but that was their "hint" to Q that they need to leave on Sunday.)

What can I say (text) to Q ahead of time that makes it super clear that our couch is available Saturday night only, without coming across as rude and unwelcoming?
posted by jschu to Human Relations (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Keep it simple, the more you hint and waffle (or worse, tell a white lie) the more chances someone will be upset.

"You're welcome to stay with us on Saturday but we can't accommodate you after that. We look forward to seeing you and [doing activity]!"
posted by AFABulous at 9:28 AM on June 26, 2017 [12 favorites]


What can I say (text) to Q ahead of time that makes it super clear that our couch is available Saturday night only, without coming across as rude and unwelcoming?

Other than "I'm sorry, that won't be possible," which it kinda looks like your SO messed up, there is nothing that is true that you can say that won't come across as unwelcoming. You are, after all, un-welcoming Q to your home.

So either you're going to have to tell Q "I don't want you around any more than 36 hours" or SO is going to have to step up on your behalf: "Look, I love hanging out with you, but jschu has this thing... you know how it is. I gotta keep the peace, buddy. Can you be gone Sunday morning?"
posted by Etrigan at 9:30 AM on June 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


Your SO didn't even come close to communicating that you'd like the house guest to leave on Sunday. "We both have work on Monday, so you'd be hanging out by yourself all day on Monday" sounds like you're just letting the house guest know they will have to entertain themselves that day. Heck, it doesn't even make it clear that you'd like them to leave on MONDAY, let alone Sunday. There's a difference between "picking up social cues" and "being able to read minds."

You need to let this person know ASAP that you are only hosting them for Saturday night, if they are coming for the holiday weekend, they need a heads up that you are only hosting them for one night.
posted by cakelite at 9:30 AM on June 26, 2017 [99 favorites]


Oh, I've been in your situation before and it's really tough. You can do a Miss Manners thing and say "I'm sorry, but that's not possible", but in my experience, it's really hard to say and enforce this when the person is already staying at your house.

I find that the best option is little white lies. Saying, "So sorry, totally forgot but my mother/ friend/ super important family member is coming on the Monday and I really need back the couch on Monday! Happy to host you on Sat/ Sun night, but would need back our couch on Monday! Hope that's okay."
posted by moiraine at 9:30 AM on June 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


You need to be clear with this person right now. If I was visiting with someone "for the 4th," I would assume that included the 4th!
posted by praemunire at 9:31 AM on June 26, 2017 [56 favorites]


hmmmm. I'm not sure you can, now, without coming across as rude. I agree with you that “we both have work on Monday, so you’d be hanging out by yourself all day Monday.” reads as "it's ok for you to stay over on Sunday night (and possibly Monday night), just be aware that we won't be around Monday during the day."

So Q, a few weeks ago, made their plans on this assumption. I think the best you can do now is say "Sorry, I don't think I was clear in my previous text, but we have pretty crazy schedules starting $TIME so we'll only be able to accommodate you on Sunday."

But yes, it will come off as somewhat rude and unwelcoming (and flaky), because it is! I would also seriously hesitate to do this if your town is the kind of place where hotels book up quickly/get expensive over holiday weekends.
posted by lalex at 9:33 AM on June 26, 2017 [18 favorites]


To me that is an invitation for them to hang out at our house all day without us, which I am not okay with.

This is a boundary issue with your SO, not with the houseguest. At this point the houseguest has an invitation to stay through the day on Monday, at least. Coming into town "for the 4th" includes the 4th. I'm sorry your SO and you seem to not be on the same page (and I sympathize) but the two of you need to, together, work out a plan for this.

I get grumpy and overwhelmed when my boundaries are crossed.

I feel you. So two things need to happen here.

1. SO needs to have some clear non-hinty communication with houseguest of the actual timeline of the visit. Can be along the lines of "Oh shit I made that statement without realizing that offer without realizing that jschu has an early meeting on Monday, so you can stay with us Saturday night but we'll have to find you an AirBnB or something for Sunday night. Sorry man" This is a normal occasional thing for couples, the "Oh hey once I checked with my SO it turns out the plan I made with you is not OK" If your SO is not on board with something like this, your issue is really with them.

2. You and SO need a plan for checking in with each other when Q is visiting. Maybe SO takes Q out for a good chunk of the day and you stay to work on stuff or maybe you can just be like "Hey we're going to take the dog for a walk, back in 15 minutes" and you and SO can check in. But basically you guys have a couples-plan that SO is on board with (even if it's "You guys go out and we come back together for dinner" or whatever) so you can feel like you have boundaries that ARE being respected.

Put another way, this question seems to be asking "Q does not pick up on hints. My SO and I are hinty types. How do we make this work?" and some of the answer is going to include "Stop hinting, all of you"
posted by jessamyn at 9:40 AM on June 26, 2017 [42 favorites]


Just nthing that your SO's "hint" was like... the opposite of a hint to leave - it was a fairly direct invitation to hang out at your house alone on Monday (does your SO not get this?)

You and SO have to use your words like a grown-up. "Hey, just wanted to let you know that because of our work and whatnot, we'll be happy to have you here on Saturday/Saturday night and Sunday, but you'll need to find somewhere else to stay starting Sunday night. See you Saturday! Look forward to it!"

This IS NOT RUDE. It is honest, direct, and done today gives enough time for them to find their next plan. Waiting any longer will be rude, though (and obviously you can't wait until Saturday or something, at which point it will be ridiculously rude).
posted by brainmouse at 9:43 AM on June 26, 2017 [31 favorites]


I just looked back at their text and it says "the weekend before the 4th." So maybe we are more on the same page than I previously thought. Going to send an upbeat text about how we are looking forward to seeing them, they are more than welcome to stay with us on Saturday night, etc. I really appreciate everyone's feedback, especially regarding the dynamic between me & SO. Hinting and expecting mind reading really is the worst, I get that.
posted by jschu at 9:49 AM on June 26, 2017


I think it's too late to meet your "not rude" criteria, especially given that the plans were defined as "visiting through the 4th" and then your SO reinforced that by singling out the 3rd as the day Q would have to amuse his/herself.

This situation is about your relationship with your SO. In the near term, your SO needs to protect you on Sunday by coming up with something to do with Q that doesn't involve you and keeps them out until fairly late Sunday night. That gives you a break, especially if you leave early Monday for work. If that's enough recovery period for you to re-engage on the 4th, great. If not, lather, rinse and repeat.

In the long run, you and your SO need to sit down and discuss how this went awry and what to do in the future. Establish some ground rules about inviting people, committing you as a couple, visiting other people, treatment of non-mutual friends, etc. This is an excellent opportunity to take concrete steps to ensure that neither of you gets similarly trapped in the future. Take advantage of it!
posted by carmicha at 9:54 AM on June 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but that text didn't read to me as a hint that you want them out before Monday. In fact, it reads to me as an outright invitation to stay over at the house on Monday while you're at work.

Send a followup "Sorry, we just found out that Monday won't be possible. It'll be great to see you Sat and Sunday, but you'll need to be off to your new digs at 7pm Sunday."

Being passive aggressive about someone not reading your mind is a horrible thing for a host to do. Overstaying an explicit "leave by" time is a horribly thing for a guest to do. Be a good host, and allow them to be a goost guest. As your "hint" isn't saying what you thought it was (on preview, others seem to agree), perhaps a lot of your other hints are being misread. Be clear; as a guest I love hearing what my hosts boundaries are so I don't need to guess at the grey areas.

Additionally, you and your partner should talk about anythings that this friend has done in the past which helps hit that "36 hours only" thing - perhaps your partner could either text a warning "We'll have some beer on hand, and feel free to bring some yourself, but please no hard alcohol nor getting completely tanked." or he can say once your friend gets there. Ideally advance knowledge either gives your friend a budgetting window (say if the text is "BYOB") and preparation time.
posted by nobeagle at 10:00 AM on June 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


I actually think it will be fine if you just say something like:

"Hey, just spoke with SO and realized we had a communication error. We are actually unable to host you past Sunday, but look forward to seeing you Saturday. Do you prefer red or white with dinner?" (Or some other sort of deflection so they won't feel unwelcome.)
posted by Vaike at 10:01 AM on June 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


Going to send an upbeat text about how we are looking forward to seeing them, they are more than welcome to stay with us on Saturday night, etc. I really appreciate everyon
Nooooo. He does not get social cues. It's on YOU (or actually yourSO) to be direct. "We're so happy to have you on Sat and Sun. What are your plans for Mon? I'm afraid we can't host you on Monday anymore - Let me know if you'd like some hotel recommendations."
posted by Omnomnom at 10:03 AM on June 26, 2017 [8 favorites]


Just nthing that your SO's "hint" was like... the opposite of a hint to leave - it was a fairly direct invitation to hang out at your house alone on Monday (does your SO not get this?)


Not to derail this AskMe, but depending on what cultural background the SO comes from, that isn't a hint at all, it's exactly what the SO thinks it is, a clear statement saying " don't be here on monday". This is exactly the indirect, weird language that the WASPy part of my family uses. if you haven't been around it, you won't decode it properly and your manners will be decried.
posted by Dr. Twist at 10:05 AM on June 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


If he asks: "It's a health thing. I'd rather not talk about it."
And make sure your partner backs you up and doesn't make you the bad guy. ("Well actually I wouldn't have minded but jschu has a bir of a problem with you...")
posted by Omnomnom at 10:06 AM on June 26, 2017


I would ask your guest very clearly what their plans are so you can be good hosts and make appropriate plans - when are they arriving? what time Sunday are they leaving - before or after dinner (or before or after brunch if that makes more sense).

If the guest replies to say they were planning to stay overnight Sunday or even through Tuesday, then you know what they are thinking and you and your SO can decide if you want to accommodate or just apologize, say that isn't possible and offer to help him find another option. Also, if you have to have that conversation, please don't make up fake excuses - it just causes more problems - just say (or better, have your SO say) "I'm so sorry about the misunderstanding but Sunday night won't work for us"
posted by metahawk at 10:17 AM on June 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


I am someone who has a hard time setting/ communicating boundaries, then I get grumpy and overwhelmed when my boundaries are crossed.

Going to send an upbeat text about how we are looking forward to seeing them, they are more than welcome to stay with us on Saturday night, etc.

Look, you know this about yourself, and people are saying that you're doing it again, and here you are doing it again. You can't say that this person is bad at signals when you admit about yourself that you are terrible at actually sending those signals. Use words. You or your partner needs to tell this person, outright, in plain English, what the expectations are. For many people, this is a holiday weekend that is indeed going to run through Tuesday. You can't just think very unwelcoming thoughts at this person and wait for them to get it. Words. Say words.

If you keep on refusing to set and communicate boundaries, then you're going to keep winding up grumpy and overwhelmed. You are going to have to endure the very small discomfort of feeling somewhat rude in order to avoid the much larger discomfort of having this person in your house for the whole holiday weekend. It'll be worth it.
posted by Sequence at 10:56 AM on June 26, 2017 [33 favorites]


Going to send an upbeat text about how we are looking forward to seeing them, they are more than welcome to stay with us on Saturday night, etc.

Your proposed follow-up text sounds pretty wishy-washy and unclear to me.
You are going to modify a previous invitation so you owe them a clear message.
Otherwise, you are going to have to communicate that to them on their arrival and that would personally be very alienating to me if I were in Q's place.

Why not send something like
"Hey Q, looking forward to your visit! I just realized that I miscommunicated with [Your Name] and we'd be able to accomodate you on [Date] and [Date] but for family reasons we cannot keep the couch for you on Monday. So sorry for the mix-up but I hope we can still have a blast on Saturday and Sunday! See you soon :)

Clarify the confusion, apologize for the inconvenience you caused them (because you did, in fact) and move on.
posted by M. at 11:25 AM on June 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


After reading through everything, I am still unclear as to:

1. How many actual guest people you are talking about? Are "A" and "Q" different people? Is "A" staying longer and that is OK, and "Q" is only tolerable for one night?

2. How many actual nights are you saying Q is allowed to stay over? It seems like you are saying "Through Saturday" which means, Q needs to GTFO sometime on Sunday and cannot sleep over any more nights.

No wonder there is confusion....

You need a defined "Check-out time" policy- like a hotel. And good, clear, non-vague reasons to back it up.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:27 PM on June 26, 2017


You and your SO invited folks for the 4th, that means Saturday thru Tuesday in this case. Like, I don't know how you put the toothpaste back in the tube on this one. I also read your SO's text in ANY wording as just info about Monday, not at all as a hint or otherwise to GTFO on Sunday.

Almost anything you communicate at this point will stir up inconvenience and drama. I understand that you are taking some responsibility for your feelings, but in truth this person(s) is likely clueless you hate having them around and rescinding hospitality is going to be a shocker for them to process.

YMMV - I suggest sucking it up this last time. Alternatively, speaking up is likely to douse the friendship with gasoline a little too close to open flames. Like you may get away with this, but they will always secretly distrust you or hold a grudge. You may be OK with this! I don't know! But asking someone "if they need hotel recommendations" after one night when they thought they were staying for four is the equivalent of a face slap. On top of the text your SO already sent, it sounds like you and your SO have been arguing about this visit. The message on that is so strong, I would expect your guests to decline Saturday and change their plans entirely.

Proceed with caution. If it's worth it to you and your SO to potentially burn this bridge, attempt to alter the plans? IDK. I think there is no smooth way to do this now, it just seems like you dislike or distrust these guests. Which you kinda do. Maybe it's time to own this sentiment? Or just suck it up one last time and agree to never ever have them as a houseguest, again. I prefer option #2. You do you!
posted by jbenben at 1:20 PM on June 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


Are you familiar with the concept of Ask vs Guess culture? If not, I really encourage you to read this overview of it as well as the original Ask Metafilter comment by tangerine that put a name to it. As someone raised in Guess Culture, I recognize you and your SO as being of my tribe. But oh lord, does it ever cause problems when trying to communicate with anyone NOT raised in the same way. (And even that is no guarantee when it relies in being able to parse such subtle hints and cues. For example, when I read your SO's follow-up text it was confusing, because it suddenly seemed like it was saying your SO and you expected Q to still be there, but they would just need to fend for themselves that day.)

I think the last part of that AskMe thread (which dealt with a sort-of similar situation around hosting someone) after tangerine's comment might be worth a read for you and your SO so you can get a better idea of how to compose a clear, direct message before your guest arrives. Or if you decide to just suck it up this time, it'll be good prep for when similar situations arrive in future.

Good luck!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:30 PM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


How many actual guest people you are talking about? Are "A" and "Q" different people? Is "A" staying longer and that is OK, and "Q" is only tolerable for one night?

I believe there's only one person, Q, and that "A" is a typo for "Q."
posted by holborne at 2:08 PM on June 26, 2017


Thanks everyone! FWIW, we never actually invited Q to visit. They just kind of let us know they were coming and we all collectively assumed they would stay with us (as they have on past trips). So there was nothing to which I could respond "that won't be possible."

I'm familiar with ask vs. guess, but I don't know what category "invite yourself" falls under! :)

I took the advice to just ask Q what their plans were, and happily they said they were only planning to stay Saturday night. It's all good.

For clarity, this was only 1 person, Q. "A" was a typo and they they/them was an effort to stay gender neutral.
posted by jschu at 3:50 PM on June 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


jschu in the case of people inviting themselves over, where everyone is assuming that they're crashing at your place, then the proper "that won't be possible." deflection to that would be when they first told you reply with something like, "Oh, that's great. We should make plans to meet up some time; where are you staying?" Asking where they're staying forces them to explicitly ask/state their assumption, and you also imply that you *weren't* assuming they would be at your place (hopefully helping for future occurances).

An alternate method if you want to pre-empt a begging session would be an initial reply of, "That sounds like a fun weekend. Sorry, that we can't offer to host you this trip, but hopefully we should be able to find some time and place to all meet up!" When they start asking what's up / why they can't stay, that's where the blanket, "I'm sorry, but that won't be possible." comes up.
posted by nobeagle at 6:57 AM on June 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


If they're bad at taking hints, that's really all the permission you should need to be direct. Otherwise it's like you're speaking a language they don't understand, or whispering to a hard-of-hearing person. You might feel bad about shouting, but they just can't hear you otherwise! It's only polite.
posted by Lady Li at 11:51 AM on June 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


If worst comes to worst, do you have an escape plan? It might not be a bad idea to make one. Find a friend or relative with whom you can stay for the weekend if, say, Q isn't able to find alternative lodging (or just rolls into town without having looked) and your SO caves and lets them stay on.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:35 PM on June 27, 2017


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