Should I host this houseguest again?
March 10, 2019 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I offered to let an acquaintance stay at my place. I was left a bit uncomfortable/annoyed. Should I offer to let them stay with me again?

A coworker/acquaintance, "James," who is very friendly and kind, and whom I have met a couple of times, has a long commute (2 hours each way). He is also from another country and does not have any friends or family here. Meanwhile, my home is very close to our workplace. I offered to let him stay with me periodically to cut down on his commute. But after the first night, I was left annoyed and a bit uncomfortable. Now, I feel guilty rescinding my offer to let him to stay with me again because of his long commute, and because I think he understandably appreciates our friendship when he is on his own out here. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

While staying with me, he kept taking on tasks that I preferred to do myself (washing dishes, putting the sheets away) and wouldn't take no for an answer, even when I told him that I was uncomfortable with guests doing these things. He inquired repeatedly about my SO and kept calling him "a very lucky man" (which made me particularly uncomfortable, as I am a young woman who lives alone). He asked how much I make per year (not an unreasonable question for our specific job titles, but not something I want to share with an acquaintance) and how much I pay in rent. I explained that I had a lot of work to do that night, but he wanted to chat (I have a small rental and I had nowhere else to go for privacy). I found his personality friendly but off-putting - he talked himself up and tried to give me a lot of unwanted advice.

He was overall very polite, but in a way that I would call Aggressively Polite - his insistence on doing things that he considered polite in fact made me uncomfortable.

At work the next day, he kept coming by to chat, which I appreciated from a friendship standpoint, but which also frustrated me, because I was At Work.

My natural tendency is to be exceedingly helpful, and sometimes, I don't pick up on red flags about people's behavior quickly enough. Sometimes, I find it difficult to set boundaries. Despite these traits, I am pretty sure that I do not want to host him anymore, but I feel guilty about this, given his situation.

My question isn't whether I can reasonably decline to host him in My Own Home, it's whether I am overreacting to his attempts at politeness and whether my discomfort is justified, especially since a lot of this may just be cultural differences. If you were in my shoes, would you feel guilty about rescinding your offer?

Thank you everyone for your help.
posted by aquamvidam to Human Relations (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Turn him down.

Anyone who does not take "no" for an answer, especially, in your own space, does not get to share your space with you ever again. Pushing on simple boundaries is how people predict your response to pushing on larger and large boundaries. And time and again, this person didn't read your signs/signals/verbal requests to step infringing on your privacy/space.

You don't need to give a reason, you just say "that won't be possible."
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:16 PM on March 10, 2019 [65 favorites]

Your feelings are your own and you do yourself a disservice to ignore or minimize them. Trust yourself here. He made you uncomfortable and that is all that matters. No amount of analysis is going to make you feel better about this so why not chalk it up to being a learning experience about yourself, rescind the offer with that justification (or none) and then move on.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

And, no, I would not feel guilty. Younger me might but that was internalized nonsense that I now ignore. If someone or something makes me uncomfortable I don’t feel the need to twist myself into knots to somehow become more comfortable with it/them unless it is something I can’t avoid (public transit, for example). I certainly wouldn’t feel the need to do so in my own home while doing someone a favor.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:22 PM on March 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

I would not feel guilty about turning him down. Also I know I'm old and stuffy but I would never have invited a male co-worker who I barely know to spend the night at my home as a single woman. Maybe don't do that again?
posted by hazyjane at 12:23 PM on March 10, 2019 [56 favorites]

Well it can be a cultural difference and still make you uncomfortable. Cultural differences aren‘t a magic ingredient that means you are required to put up with the behaviour in your own home.

Besides, the deal breaker to me would be that he didn‘t take your „soft no“ seriously and continued with his polite behaviour.

That said: I think if you really WANT to make this work, you need to be a lot more explicit: „No, you are not allowed to do the dishes. No, I am not available for talking anymore, I am working. You need to go somewhere else.“

In fact, I recommend being this harsh at work. You‘ve been socialised to consider this rude. That‘s why oblivious, rude people waltz right past your boundaries. Clarity is not rude. „Right, I have five minutes to chat, then I have to get back to work. Okay, I need to throw you out now. Laters.“

But at home? No way. that sounds no fun at all, having to push past your own discomfort to NOPE this guy every time he bothers you. Home is supposed to be a refuge for you where you recharge, not a place where you repeatedly have to host an incorrigible mansplainer.

In short, I feel you and validate your annoyedness.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:25 PM on March 10, 2019 [13 favorites]

Say no and don't feel guilty.

It sounds like you were pretty clear about several things (uncomfortable with guests doing certain tasks, needing time to do work) and he ignored that while he was in your house while you were doing him a favor. Maybe some things are different in his culture but you told him what you needed and he ignored direct requests from you and cultural differences don't excuse that.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:25 PM on March 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

So my rule of thumb for this kind of thing is that if you’re ambivalent enough to have to ask, the answer is probably no. He chose to be where he is, commute and all. It is up to him to solve that, if it is a problem.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:26 PM on March 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

You're totally justified. I'd have no qualms about not letting a colleague into my home after they called my significant other "lucky" and asked a lot of questions about them. That alone is enough for me. The other stuff is routine minor boundary pushing that paves the way for boundary bulldozing in the future, in almost every case I've experienced it.

Also, your discomfort is enough. It doesn't need to be rationalized and explained logically in order to be "enough" of a justification for you to do something. Your thoughts and feelings about things are enough.
posted by sockermom at 12:26 PM on March 10, 2019 [20 favorites]

If you need an excuse you could say that your landlord stopped by to fix something, you briefly mentioned James staying there and the landlord noted that such an arrangement was not allowed on the lease, so you can't do it anymore.
posted by k8t at 12:29 PM on March 10, 2019 [28 favorites]

Yeah, if I didn’t think he could be reformed from this behavior I’d say no to future stays, but given his interest in your SO I’d probably lie and blame it on them. “Hey James, I thought it would be fine, but it turns out my SO is uncomfortable with our arrangement. I’m sorry, I know you have a long commute. But I’m sure you understand.”
posted by hungrytiger at 12:43 PM on March 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

Also, I don’t think you have to justify your discomfort, it’s your house and your life. If you were hosting a person and it turned out you just felt uncomfortable with them for ANY reason you would be justified in not offering them your home. That said, if someone didn’t give me space in my own home after I’d said I needed to work, I would not invite them back again. Getting space in one’s own home is paramount.
posted by hungrytiger at 12:47 PM on March 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Another Old Lady who would not invite a man to stay overnight, or advise her adult daughters to do so.

Different culture... pushing boundaries... comments about boyfriend... too friendly afterwards.
This is a hard no.

Be prepared for pushback... you misunderstood (it's you, not him)... it won't happen again (asking for a second favor)... women in his culture are different....

Exactly. Don't second-guess your instincts.
posted by TrishaU at 12:49 PM on March 10, 2019 [11 favorites]

If you need an excuse, a good one is that you have absolutely no obligation to let someone else stay in your space.
posted by aubilenon at 12:52 PM on March 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

I don't blame you for trying to be nice, but I agree that he likely has more-than-platonic feelings and possibly intentions. If he's from a culture where men and women typically do not platonically sleep at each other's houses (most of the non-Western world) then this would be an unusual arrangement for him and he could be interpreting it as romantic/sexual interest on your part (not that he has a RIGHT to do that, but it could just be how he sees it, making things more complicated).

I would go with the excuse of your SO being uncomfortable, if you don't want to be direct. It serves a double purpose of reminding him of your SO, and also coming up with a convenient excuse. If he pushes back, let him know that YOU are also uncomfortable.
posted by bearette at 12:54 PM on March 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

It's also sad but typical of our current society that responders are finding an anonymous "other" to blame/justify saying no to a man. But do what you gotta do.
You are compassionate. Don't let someone take advantage.
posted by TrishaU at 12:58 PM on March 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thank you so much, everyone! You have given me a lot of great advice and reassurance.

I feel much better about turning him down. I agree about potential boundary-pushing in the future - it is better to handle things at the outset instead of letting them spiral out of control.

I also appreciate the advice about excuses. I don't like using my SO as an excuse. I don't want hide behind, and potentially reinforce, a false support of traditional, misogynistic gender norms. I'll just tell him that my workload doesn't permit house guests.

Thank you again, everyone, for encouraging me to go with my gut. Your advice is very much appreciated.
posted by aquamvidam at 1:01 PM on March 10, 2019 [26 favorites]

1. you have no obligations to let anyone use your home for any reason

2. boundary pushing behavior = correctly alarming to you

3. even in the US it is a fairly standard cultural norm that women don't invite men with whom they're not intimate to sleep over in their homes. It was very kind of you to have tried ignoring this norm, but it is, in itself, such unusual behavior that he almost certainly does think you are either romantically interested (most likely) or wanting to be his best friend.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:02 PM on March 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

Oh my god, this sounds so uncomfortable. You are not overreacting and you should not feel guilty. If it were the middle of a natural disaster or something and there was literally no way for him to get to his home safely, that might be different. But just because he chooses to live far away and his commute is inconvenient? Nope nope nope. And after all that boundary pushing, I would be colder to him at work too.
posted by beandip at 1:03 PM on March 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

This is your home. He makes you feel unsafe. You are allowed to change your mind about whether or not he can stay there.

I prefer the AskMe classic response, "My situation has changed and it is no longer possible [for me to host you at my home]." It shuts the door on questions like, "But, couldn't you still... ?" and other forms of push-back with which he may respond. He may still try to push-back, but you're not giving him any information that he can use against you in those efforts. If he pushes back, just keep politely reiterating, "It's no longer possible." You can cushion it a little tiny bit (without offering unnecessary details) by adding, "I wanted to let you know ASAP so that you can find new accommodations. Thank you for understanding!"
posted by nightrecordings at 1:05 PM on March 10, 2019 [15 favorites]

Agreed with everyone above who said that you are absolutely not overreacting. I would caution you, however, to not offer someone like this a reason why you can’t host him. If you say that your workload is too much, he will point out times when you have a lighter load. If you say that it’s because you can’t stay up late, he will say that he’ll let you go to bed earlier next time. It will never end.

You don’t owe him an explanation. You don’t have to justify yourself to him. Just saying “that won’t be possible” is sufficient.
posted by corey flood at 1:05 PM on March 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

Also - I truly appreciate everyone's concern about my letting a male acquaintance stay with me. I just want to reassure everyone that this is not something I take lightly. In our line of work, coworkers with our shared job title tend to share a unique sense of camaraderie. My offer might seem unusually friendly, but it is not terribly uncommon in our line of work. So, please keep comments to the original question instead of commenting on whether this was a good idea in the first place. Still, I appreciate everyone's concern.

Done threadsitting!
posted by aquamvidam at 1:07 PM on March 10, 2019 [21 favorites]

I agree with a lot of the above, and I do think you can and should say no to future stays, but I don't think it would necessarily be a bad thing in this particular case to give him a bit of an explanation. You absolutely don't have to, of course, but it does sound like it might actually be useful info that he just doesn't grok because of his background. I know it goes against the received wisdom around these parts but I have done things like this once or twice and I don't regret it. (If you do go this route, of course any future boundary-crossing on his part can and should be shut down hard.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:13 PM on March 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

While I think showbiz_liz has a point, dude is described as a mansplainer. History has shown how amenable this type of person is to feedback and advice, particularly from a woman who has rejected his friendly advances.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:44 PM on March 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

Obviously you have the right to do whatever you want with your house but you did something really weird socially: you did a relatively large favor for someone of equal status, then you refused to let them pay it back and also got annoyed when they tried to escalate the friendship. What exactly were you expecting? That you would do him a favor but it wouldn't change your relationship at all? That kind of favor is more like charity you do for a social inferior who's not supposed to presume.

In other words, don't do favors for people if you aren't comfortable with them doing you one in return (and since you describe yourself as a helpful person, this is probably where you should go first, rather than "can I manage to do this favor?")
posted by inkyz at 1:51 PM on March 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

No. Please don't. Do not let this man back in your home. Huge red flags. He has learned that no means; keep pushing until you get to do what you want. I can't see this ending well for either of you.
Tell him no, I find that I'm just not comfortable with you there.
It was worth a try, but no, it doesn't work for me.
Still not comfortable, no, you'll have to make other arrangements.
Do not fell guilty, this is how we learn. He gets to learn what no means, and you get to learn how to deal with someone who won't take no for an answer.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:16 PM on March 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

Lol no, you aren’t obligated to let anyone in your house but a police officer with a warrant.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 3:15 PM on March 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was left a bit uncomfortable/annoyed. Should I offer to let them stay with me again?

Stopped reading after this. Obviously the answer is no. You don't need any other reason.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:40 PM on March 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Your home is your safe, personal space and anyone making you uncomfortable doesn't get invited back. He is a grownup who can get an AirBnB or make other arrangements regarding his long commute. It was very kind of you to offer, it didn't work out. I hope there's no awkwardness. You can just say you need your privacy; that's accurate.
posted by theora55 at 3:55 PM on March 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Thank you again everyone.

I messaged him to explain, gently, that I could not host him because of work obligations that were overwhelming me. As many of you astutely predicted, he did not take this well. Over the course of the next few hours, he sent several text messages (and called, though I did not answer) to ask for the real reason. He also asked me to give his regards to my SO, whom he has never met.

I finally had to tell him firmly to stop asking and that he was making me uncomfortable. He apologized and did not press the issue further.

I am grateful for everyone's support, because I really think I dodged a bullet here. He is someone who does not respect boundaries and who cannot take "no" for an answer. Since we still work together, I will be vigilant for any worrisome behavior.
posted by aquamvidam at 6:43 PM on March 10, 2019 [39 favorites]

Good for you, it's crappy that you had to be blunt with this tool, but you should be proud of yourself that you did. And by all means save all communications that you have with him, just in case.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:38 PM on March 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

If he keeps pushing, do you have a MALE coworker who you can ask to step in and offer to host? Or another coworker to back you up?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:40 PM on March 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding what 5_13_23_42_69_666 said about keeping all correspondence. Hopefully the same human resources department that obliquely encourages coworkers to help each other out also has a policy for when misunderstandings arise.
Sounds like an h.r. nightmare waiting to happen.
posted by TrishaU at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree with what everyone else says here. I agree that he sounds like he is interested in you romantically and that he views your kind offer to stay as interest in him. I would be concerned about him creeping into your bed at some point and not taking no for an answer then either. He sounds like a rape risk to me.
posted by 3491again at 4:40 AM on March 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I would not host, I would feel some guilt because I'm like you but I would remind myself that the initial offer was way above and beyond a workplace acquaintance.

I think there are red flags but agree that reciprocity and the newness and escalation of the relationship between you could explain some of his behavior (not the red flag behavior). Some people talk more early on, he is likely lonely like you said, trying to gather valuable information (re: rent and salary). The not cool is the romantic overtones and ignoring your boundaries, full stop.
posted by lafemma at 5:35 AM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Whether or not you feel uncomfortable using your SO as an excuse, sometimes that is the only thing that men like this will respect. Not your feelings, but the feelings of the man who "owns" you. So go forth and use your SO as an excuse with a clear conscience if necessary to get this man to back off.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:55 AM on March 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

He also asked me to give his regards to my SO, whom he has never met.

Ugh, how infuriating! I don't have the self-restraint necessary to not correct his obvious idea that he is being disinvited because your SO forbids it. You are a better woman than I, OP, for resisting this impossible impulse.
posted by MiraK at 8:38 AM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I messaged him to explain, gently, that I could not host him because of work obligations that were overwhelming me. As many of you astutely predicted, he did not take this well. Over the course of the next few hours, he sent several text messages (and called, though I did not answer) to ask for the real reason.

I'm sorry I didn't see this ask yesterday. It is better to say "I'm sorry but this is no longer possible" than to add an excuse--especially an excuse that's a lie! He was never going to take it well, but the "workload" thing is so obviously, transparently a lie that now he's added it to the pile of whatever he's got going on that you lied to him, and he knows it (hence the several texts asking you to tell the truth). The very first answer to this question says not to give a reason, and you marked it a best answer.

I'm glad he apologized and backed off, but I don't believe for a minute that this never comes back again. When a lie isn't necessary, we shouldn't lie, and they're almost never necessary. It almost always makes the situation worse in the long run. I agree with the person above who said to keep all documentation (emails, texts, any voicemails you have) because this could become a real problem for you. I'm sorry this happened.
posted by tzikeh at 10:12 AM on March 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

He also asked me to give his regards to my SO, whom he has never met.

this is an aggressive/hostile statement. keep an eye on this guy.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:53 AM on March 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

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