There's no place like home
December 30, 2021 8:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm seeing relatives for the holidays and I really really want to just go home. Can I do that? Would I be a complete asshole?

I'm here at my relatives' house and it feels like they don't want to see me. They go to bed at 7 or 8 pm, plus naps, and I'm just sitting here alone playing with my phone. These are not old people -- early 30s. They just don't want to spend much time with me, apparently. But I know they would feel terrible if I asked about that. They're not unkind to me, just... in their room most of the time. Tomorrow afternoon they are getting a long-awaited puppy, and I went in on that gift. But I just want to go home asap, and I could leave for a flight at 10:30 am tomorrow. I don't want to pretend everything's cool another entire day, let alone till Monday when I was supposed to leave originally. But that would probably add an unpleasant note to Happy Puppy Day. Can I just leave, or am I obligated, because I care about these people, to stick it out until after the puppy comes? Surely I am not obligated to stick it out until my original departure date?
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Human Relations (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go home. Getting on a 10:30am flight may feel a bit sudden if booked after they’ve already gone to bed though. But sometime tomorrow is fine. Just say a work thing came up or you’re worried about flights back with COVID and all the cancellations.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:41 PM on December 30, 2021 [16 favorites]

I don't think it would be wrong to tell a white lie & say you're not saying well. Or you're just feeling a little fatigued. It sounds like you all want the same thing with a minimum of drama and this would be the easiest thing for everyone.
posted by bleep at 8:49 PM on December 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry. How strange, and it sounds painful, too. Maybe they're going through something they're not able to explain. Or maybe it's the thing where nobody knows how to behave anymore because we've all been isolated so long. Anyway, you've got the right idea. Flee! Flee with all possible speed! I hope it feels wonderful when the plane takes off and you know that you're on the way home.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:52 PM on December 30, 2021 [17 favorites]

Hell yeah you can bounce. Internet stranger here giving you all the permission to leave them a note saying something came up after they went to bed, you didn’t want to wake them, what a shame sorry see you soon and peace on out of there immediately. Life’s too short.
posted by corvine at 8:54 PM on December 30, 2021 [7 favorites]

I would stick it out at least until your puppy present is gifted and a change of plans can be discussed with them, but honestly I'd probably stick it out until the original departure date and just note this discomfort for future plans - but that's me and has to do with expense as well as expectations. I think leaving late tomorrow or the day after is a potential plan, maybe bundling in some commentary post-gift-arrival about how upon reflection you want to give them time to bond with the pup without additional distractions.

Switching gears - is there something you could do or buy that could help you get through the rest of the week? I arrange to do a variety of craft projects and some solo exercise time when visiting family; what is it you'd do at your own home and could you replicate it at all while there?
posted by vegartanipla at 9:02 PM on December 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

It would be helpful to know more about how this trip was planned. Did they invite you? Are you younger than them or the same age? What were the expectations when the trip was agreed upon.

I agree that if they are just checking out, it's okay for you to check out. It might even be a relief, who knows? But it's hard to understand the situation fully with just the information you provided.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 9:17 PM on December 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

You should go, life is difficult enough without the added strain. I have been stuck multiple times in weird family bullshit. If you can, you should go. Do you need to make an excuse? "Got an email from work, there's an emergency." I'm sorry your family time has turned out unsatisfactory. Not only are you not obligated to stick around, you're not even obligated to ease any guilt they may have for being awful hosts.
posted by evilDoug at 9:23 PM on December 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would stick it out to post-puppy mostly because (and granted I don't know where you are or how much certainty you have) the idea of rocking up to a last minute flight right now feels unreliable at best.

I think it's hard to judge the situation without knowing more details, but while I do not think one is obligated to stick to a plan that makes them unhappy/uncomfortable, I also think that it's possible that your hosts aren't aware of your expectations or that they are making you feel unwelcome. Whether that is food for thought for future visits or a conversation is up to you.
posted by sm1tten at 9:30 PM on December 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think you should go as soon as you can get a flight.

I would not worry about disappointing them. It sounds like they aren't up for hosting, for whatever reason - don't take it personally, it sounds like they care about you enough to have invited you, but now they're finding that they need more privacy than they anticipated and they don't have the spoons for hosting.

When they're trying to integrate a new puppy they'll have even fewer spoons.

Make up an excuse - "it's been wonderful seeing you, but there's a situation I need to deal with at home, too complicated to go into, love you, happy new year, enjoy the dog, send me pics, bye" - and go. They'll be relieved.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:40 PM on December 30, 2021 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Alaska Airlines isn't charging for changes, so it worked out better than I thought. I'm going to tell them I don't feel well (because I don't) and dip tomorrow morning.

As far as how this happened, I had been talking with them about moving to their city, so maybe that doesn't work for them and they don't know how to tell me, or set my expectations and protect their boundaries as a couple. Or maybe there's trouble between the two of them they're trying to hide/deal with. Or maybe we're just not as close anymore as I thought. Whatever it is, they'll probably feel guilty for a bit but be relieved to not have to hide in their room anymore, at least. I'm not closing the door to whatever relationship they want to have with me in the future, but thanks for reassuring me that I don't have to stay here for this.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:43 PM on December 30, 2021 [15 favorites]

Ugh, you have my sympathies. Reading this is bringing back memories of forced holiday vacations at my sibling's, where they insisted that I come but then made it clear they had no interest in hanging out with me. When I look back on those visits, I'm amazed that it took me so many of them to realize that I should not go back. In fact, I wonder why I never bailed mid-visit. So this internet stranger gives you full permission to bail in any way you need to. Your own mental health has to come first.

But... given that you seem to like these people and want to preserve a relationship with them, I think it would be worth it to hold off until after the puppy arrives. Once that happens, you can then make an excuse--work, not feeling well, whatever works--and get the heck outta there. The puppy will give you all something else to focus on for the remaining time, and I think you will feel better about the way you handled it, and about your relationship with these family members, if you can hold off until post-puppy.
posted by rpfields at 9:44 PM on December 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

It is a shame to miss out on puppy kisses, but well done.
posted by Windopaene at 9:46 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I posted without seeing your update--sounds like you have made the right decision for you under the circumstances, hope you enjoy your time at home.
posted by rpfields at 9:47 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

For sure you can. I hope you get the space and rest you need.

Unsolicited advice: the people I see who enforce boundaries most successfully are those who seem to do it to make themselves a priority. For example, my partner often turns down invitations from close friends for important events, but with such grace that no one stops inviting him. He doesn’t have a special way of saying no - it is just crystal-clear that there is nothing personal in his refusal, and that he loves the people who invite him and the idea of spending time with them is something he definitely wants - just not now.

If this were me, I would try to focus the choice to leave on reestablishing my comfort and happiness, both internally and in conversation with them. Focusing on leaving as an act of self-love would help me spend as little energy as possible judging, blaming, or rejecting, either myself or my relatives - helping me protect my love for them from whatever is going on right now, and my perceptions of whatever is going on right now. (This isn’t to say that I think it’s bad or not useful to judge confusing/hurtful situations - just that the analysis tends to be more helpful after I have some time and physical/emotional distance.)
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:49 PM on December 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

Good on you! Safe journey home.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:51 PM on December 30, 2021

Different people have very different ideas of what visits (family, friends, whatever) look like, including differing expectations of whether a multi-day houseguest should be pampered or should offer to help with housework, how much the hosts are responsible for providing entertainment and an itinerary versus not overwhelming their guest and just giving the person time to chill, etc. Eg. your relatives sound like exactly the sort of hosts I would appreciate, but it’s also perfectly reasonable that it’s not your preference or the sort of visit that you enjoy. It sounds like you and your relatives didn’t talk about how this would go ahead of time and had different expectations. Without additional context, I wouldn’t chalk it up to them not wanting you there or not liking you or anything personal like that. Do take this as a learning experience and discuss expectations before similar visits with anyone else in the future.
posted by eviemath at 10:10 PM on December 30, 2021 [17 favorites]

Sounds like you’ve already found a solution but I wanted to say sorry you’re feeling unwanted by your hosts! That’s awful. Obviously I don’t know what’s going on here, but fwiw every time I’ve felt this way around a couple. it was definitely a Them thing I found out about later. In fact I’m sure I was half of a couple who made an adored relative feel like a third wheel because we were barely hanging on as a couple and couldn’t hide it as well as we thought.
posted by kapers at 12:43 AM on December 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Or maybe we're just not as close anymore as I thought.

Are you sure that there's something going on under the surface and this isn't just their normal pattern? Visiting my parents was like that (though they were older) - they were massively introverted to the point that visiting them involved maybe 90-120 minutes of actual interaction and then them going to bed at 8 and wanting the house to be quiet. Just the way they were.
posted by Candleman at 1:06 AM on December 31, 2021 [8 favorites]

You've found a solution which is great, but please don't assume this experience has anything to do with you and your relationship with your hosts. You seem to have drawn a lot of conclusions which just aren't supported by the very limited evidence that you have. Maybe you can find a way to talk to them about it at some point because it would be a real shame to let this affect what sounds like a very good relationship going forward.
posted by hazyjane at 2:20 AM on December 31, 2021 [5 favorites]

I’d probably stay and turn my phone off, since too much phone browsing in itself can make me feel depressed and weird, there’s better perspective without it. Do they have any books, writing materials, games of any sort you could amuse yourself with?
posted by acantha at 4:43 AM on December 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't know if you've visited before or what they're normally like, but I'd reassure you that it probably isn't personal.

Under normal conditions, I'd love a houseguest from a far-flung place over a holiday, to catch up and bond. I'd need naps and time to myself, but I'd be happy to cook meals together and see the sights. How cozy and fun!

But it feels like the world skyrocketed to shit all over again and spoons are low. People in my space is a lot. I'm zapped, my husband is zapped, we're just sort of grunting and zonking. We rally for the kid.

Hosting energy isn't there.

They're probably just overwhelmed. They could handle it better and communicate, but it's not personal.
posted by champers at 5:13 AM on December 31, 2021 [9 favorites]

Or maybe there's trouble between the two of them they're trying to hide/deal with.

The time after my first husband and I knew we were ending our marriage but we were ready to disclose it was just an endless fucking gulf of awkwardness and crossed wires and poor communication with people that I loved. It's just a weird, hard time. Maybe this is something else entirely, but it's definitely about them and between them and doesn't involve you at all. I'm so glad you were able to get an earlier flight home, and I hope you have a restful weekend at home.
posted by kate blank at 6:36 AM on December 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’m glad you’ve found a solution - safe travels, and enjoy being home!

But I did want to add that unless you know this is different than their usual style, I wouldn’t assume it’s anything to do with you. This is just how some folks like to host or be hosted, and they may not realize you’re uncomfortable.

Head on home, have a relaxing few days to yourself, and get them to send you puppy pictures you can bond over from afar.
posted by Stacey at 9:52 AM on December 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just want to add to the chorus that this isn’t about you! My daughter who I literally adore is home, and I am mostly giving her space and seeing her for about an hour or two a day, and I’m fine with that because she seems to mostly want that and is on her phone a bunch. Your post reminds me to check in and make sure that is what she still wants, but it might well be that they expect since you’re planning to move that you will be exploring the city.
posted by corb at 11:03 AM on December 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

Just popping in to say that when I had this experience with a friend and his wife, it was...because they had been having marital problems and split up a few months later.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:23 PM on December 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had been talking with them about moving to their city, so maybe that doesn't work for them and they don't know how to tell me

If I was inviting someone to stay with me because they were thinking about moving to my city, I would assume that they would have their own things to do, and continue living my life as usual without expecting that we would be spending a great deal of time together when visiting.

It's not unheard of for people in their 30's to go to bed very early, and if that's what they are used to it would be likely they wouldn't be sleeping well if they changed their schedule just because of having a guest. There really are people out there who get up extremely early and have an early morning routine that they are very attached to. Some people are also more introverted and need time to themselves.

I would not assume that they were unhappy with having you there, and I would not assume that it doesn't work for them for you to move to their city. At the same time, nothing wrong with leaving earlier than you had initially planned.
posted by yohko at 11:07 PM on January 1

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