I have a dilemma. I’ve been having a terrible year in 2014 (and 2013 was pretty shit also!) My husband and I have been having a rocky year in our marriage, I have just started an antidepressant to deal with my ongoing and dangerous depression, we have a $25,000 fee to pay to our condo I still don’t know how we’ll finance, and I have been balancing full-time work and full-time school schedule for nine months. Basically, I’m tired to the bone physically and emotionally.
My husband, Jack*, and I are currently in the process of going through some counseling and things on that front seem positive and hopeful. The problem is, he recently asked me if his brother can come stay with us from June to August to work in our town. Jack’s brother, Bill*, along with the rest of his family members, live in a faraway province with little economic action. We live in a booming economy with many jobs, especially in Bill’s area of interest.
I had not been planning to take any courses over the summer and was looking forward to some rare downtime and the chance to recover and feel like myself again. With an air mattress in the basement serving as a “spare room” and only one shower, living area and kitchen, it’s inevitable that Bill would end up encroaching on our space. Although he’s in college now he’s still a teenager, so I’m also concerned about his cleaning ability or lack thereof. Plus, frankly, I just don’t want to deal with a houseguest for the whole summer!
Jack misses his family a great deal. This would be a great chance for him to catch up with his brother and bond, to say nothing of the opportunity for Bill to build work experience in his field. I can’t help but feel like the bad guy if I say no, but I’m already mourning my lost, private summer full of reconnecting with Jack and having plenty of alone time. Should I kibosh the trip and live with the guilt? Say yes and quietly resent every moment? PLEASE SEND HELP.
Houseguest versus Hag
*all names changed
You’ve gotta bring it up with your husband, maybe as part of the counseling you are doing, as directly and clearly as you’ve done with me. And you’ve got to put the onus on him for figuring out a solution that works for you as well as (maybe) his brother.
“Husband, I’m feeling a lot of anxiety about the prospect of having your brother stay with us for the whole summer. Can we talk about it?”
See what he says. There might be some reason that the family really wants Bill to be away this summer, or a reason that Bill particularly needs his big brother that he hasn’t quite told you. Try to tease this out if you can.
Then, state your issues as you told them to us.
-Have you already promised Bill he can stay the whole summer? What if we started with a shorter visit? (My sense is that he asked you if it would be okay with you first, before talking to Bill, in which case, Good Husband! Biscuit! but it’s good to know whether this was an actual question that you get to say no to.)
-Is it your expectation that he’ll be getting a summer job and out working most of the time? I’m worried that if he doesn’t find a job he’s going to be always around. Could we agree that if he hasn’t found a summer job by a certain date (1 month in), back he goes?
-Who will be responsible for making sure he cleans up after himself?
-Tell Jack what you told us: You want him to be close to his family, and you don’t want to be the bad guy, but you’re feeling overwhelmed and it’s hard for you to look forward to the visit right now (so soon after a rough school year, with this big debt hanging over you). What can he tell you to reassure you? What plan can he make to make sure Bill will be a model houseguest?
Give your husband a chance to address and talk through your issues and make a plan. Even if he has already issued an invitation, he and you are allowed to say “we’re having some health and money issues that makes this summer a very bad time for us, and I’m so sorry, but we’ll have to reschedule.” It’s not comfortable or fun, but it is possible to cancel the entire summer visit and change it to a week or 2 for the brothers to connect. See if you can make a deal with him, along the lines of:
“If you can give me this summer to get back on my feet, I promise that we will invite Bill for (future time) and I will host him enthusiastically.”/”If you feel you can’t or really don’t want to cancel on him, I understand and will do my best, but I need you to take care of x, y, and z concern to make things go smoothly.” And part of the deal is, whatever you decide, you present a united front and you don’t constantly revisit the decision or punish the other person. For instance, if you do decide to keep the invitation open, you can resent it quietly all you like in your own head and in your therapist’s office. Taking that resentment out slowly on Jack or Bill will not help you feel better or make the situation better, it will just (depression or no) make you a jerk. So “no” is possible and “yes” is possible but “sure but I will hate the situation and you every minute” should just become no. If you do decide to postpone the visit, your husband isn’t allowed to resent you for “keeping him away from his family” or constantly bring it up. This is the kind of stuff the marriage counselor can help you with, so, use them.
X, Y, and Z could be:
- Making sure that Bill has a bike to get around and plenty to amuse himself with.
- Making sure that at least 2 days or evenings/week Jack will take Bill Somewhere That Is Else so you can have some peace and quiet in your own house with no people in it.
- Jack taking the lead in figuring out how to get that $25,000 fee taken care of so one stressor is off your plate.
- Jack dealing with the extra laundry, cleaning, and food prep that comes with an extra person in the house.
- And Jack telling Bill the truth: You, his Sister-in-Law, have been going through some hard times lately and need a lot of space and time to yourself. I imagine that one anxiety-making aspect of having a houseguest is the thought of having to perform “okayness” for his sake for the entire time that he’s around. Could Jack remove that aspect for you?
As a teacher of college freshmen, my experience with hanging out with teenaged dudepeople is actually pretty copious, so here’s what I can say to reassure you if Bill does visit:
- They mostly don’t want to interact with Olds all day and are pretty self-amusing. Is there an internet connection? Do they have a device that connects to said Internet? Then you’re probably good for large stretches of time.
- A basement air mattress might be more freedom and privacy than he’s used to and you might find him quite grateful for a basement lair to retreat to. Put a second-hand recliner down there and you might never see him except at mealtimes.
- Once he’s working and made a few friends, he might come home only to sleep and eat.
- Their bodies are still growing and they sleep and eat more than you think is possible.
- I can’t speak to this boy, obviously, but as a group I find them to be capable of great hilarity and great compassion.
I hope you can work some of this out so at very least you can feel better, and I hope you get the rest and recovery and freedom from financial worry that you need.