#564: I’m dreading the prospect of a summer houseguest, but I feel like I can’t say no.

Dear Captain,

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.






52 thoughts on “#564: I’m dreading the prospect of a summer houseguest, but I feel like I can’t say no.

  1. I see potential too for combining two of the problems (summer houseguest and $25,000 fee): it seems reasonable that if Bill is living with you all summer while earning a full-time wage, that he would contribute financially to the household; that money would make only a small dent in $25,000, but even a small dent might feel good.

    1. Co-signed. I was going to say the same thing. And if he comes, don’t think of him as “houseguest” and all the extra work that implies. Think of him as “temporary roommate” and “we expect him to pitch in around the house like any rooommate should do”. Bill’s stay should not require extra cleaning and cooking – it should require less, because there are now 3 people to take on those chores.

      Also, super agreement on scheduled evenings out – for you and for the guys. Say one night per week you go out and have time to yourself or with friends (gaming, hobbies, library, whatever) and 1 night per week Bill goes out (leaving you and Jack alone), 1 night both Jack and Bill go out, 1 night you and Jack go out – suddenly that’s 4/7 evenings that you don’t have to think about Bill in your space, guaranteed time alone with your husband, and 2 nights of guaranteed alone time for you to do whatever you want.

      I say all this as someone who had her teenaged sister move in with her last August so that she could finish high school. It’s been quite a bit of adjustment for us. We are quiet homebodies, normally, and the teen is a drama llama. The Cap is right though – teens like to hide from Olds. And at least Bill’s arrival won’t include 2 guinea pigs and a couple of rabbits!

    2. DING. Cut him a deal on rent for the area, and have an explicit “the deal comes with the understanding that what you save in rent costs you make up for in cleaning/yardwork/whatever/other.” It makes him into a grownup, which is nice for him and necessary for you.

      Can you ask him to bring some/ buy some basic stuff? You pay for cable, but they bring their TV or whatever? They have to get a futon?

      Also, if he has a job lined up, can your husband offer to help him find a sublet? A student going home and looking to rent out space in their apartment or shared house? University housing? Close by you guys, but far enough away? Your husband can make An Evening of hanging out with his bro once or twice a week? Brother in Law is invited for Sunday dinner every week so he knows you like him, even if you can’t share a house?

      But you know, if you can’t manage this? It’s okay. Brother in Law might be hoping for a deal but be aware that staying with you might not work out. He can learn the lesson that you can love someone even when you can’t help them as much as you would like to have them help you.

    3. I don’t agree with this because the LW and her husband would now have two stressors (Bill’s extended stay and dunning Bill for money) instead of one..

  2. I’m actually pretty surprised at the Captain’s advice on this one, because my initial reaction was no way! Talking about it in counseling is a good idea. From my perspective, a time when you’re working on your marriage and under financial stress is not ideal for long-term visitors. I don’t think it would be much fun for your brother-in-law, either, to be around a couple going through a rough patch. Plus, as the Captain mentioned, teenagers do tend to eat a lot– can you really afford to feed this kid?

    If he has a full-time job or internship set up, has a lot of friends in your town, and is really only going to be crashing at your place at night, it might not be so bad. Otherwise, I’d only offer to host him for a week so that he and your husband can spend some time together. If he’s as young as you say then it sounds like you’ll have other opportunities to host him for a summer while he’s still in school. Another thing to keep in mind is that college kids have a lot of opportunities when it comes to their summers– most major cities have low-cost student housing options, and there are also work/travel programs, opportunities to stay on campus and work with professors, etc. You shouldn’t see your house as his ONLY option.

    1. You make great points. And if the LW reads all the “it might not be so bad” stuff here and thinks “And yet? I just don’t want an extra dude in my house this summer!” stick with “Hell no!”

    2. Yeah! Maybe the LW and hubby could act as an occasional touchpoint for Bill — and hubby could still spend time with him — while he is staying at a university dorm. Also (cynically speaking) if Bill is paying for his accommodations, I suspect he will be much more inclined to be dedicated in his search for summer jobs/internships.

    3. I was in sort of this position for a month, and it sucked enough for me to bail early. In my case, I couldnt even leave the house for my activities. I had been used to being independent, mobile, and was suddenly trapped in a suburb with a shared car, shared computer!, and they couldn’t stop fighting to take me to the subway. The in law refused to be considerate with shoes on the hardwood (sound goes to the basement), and so I couldn’t find escape by staying up late and being on a different schedule. I neither wanted to be in the middle of their fights, take sides, or be a pawn, but I don’t know the in law well enough to understand hir POV. I went out of my way to find chores to help – dinner for all, in law’s job applications, lawn work – and in law upended the only belongings I put in public area. 15 years later, my relationship with this in law is cordial at best.

      On the other side, I had a month long house guest imposed on me with little warning. I had my own ton of personal and work to do, where the guest was bored and expected a sleepover party. I tried to be sociable, but she didn’t share my hobbies nor did I want to bare my soul, and I don’t remember her as having other friends or distractions.

      tl;dr version, think about chores but also whether you like this person as a person. if you dread every social encounter, the intruder on your home cannot pay enough rent. If you enjoy his company or can relate to his struggles, this can be a long term deposit in the good will of your husband and family.

  3. LW I am feeling a lot of the feels you are feeling. My boyfriend and I will likely be putting up some good friends with a new born baby for a few months this summer, for various moving house reasons. My boyfriend’s mum died in January and so this year has not been easy so far, for obvious reasons, and the thought of it puts dread in my stomach.

    I absolutely agree with what the captain said. I would emphasise that being a team about this is really important and how your conversations with your husband go will tell you a lot. If your mind is not put to rest by them I think I would advise saying no and being honest about why.

    Whatever you decide – good luck. I hope you find some time for you this summer.

    1. Oh my goodness, a newborn! My advice to you is to get yourself some earplugs, so if the baby isn’t sleeping through the night it won’t affect your sleep.

  4. Continuing on from Swistle’s comment, if he is working and you live in a place with significant post secondary educational institutions, Summer student sublets are often pretty cheap as many students are not in town.

    Could you host him for a shorter length of time while he finds a place of his own to stay in town? He’d still be close enough to hang out regularly with your husband, just not right in your space.

    1. If you go that route. make him come with a list of places to visit on arrival. He’s got to find a place within a week or two or it could turn into perpetual looking houseguest, and never leaving houseguest.

  5. Also, has the family looked into a summer sublease? If there is a university in the area, often there are apartments or rooms in apartments available very cheaply for 3 months. (I once rented a room in a frat house for a month while I waited for my lease to start. Cheap AND hilarious. Craigslist!) He would still be nearby, so able to spend time with his brother and you’d be there if he needed you, but he wouldn’t be as in your space.

    Other question, who is responsible for feeding the teenage male? (’cause omg.) This should definitely be worked out before he arrives, and every other detail, in order to prevent hurt feelings etc.

  6. I’m sorry you are under so much stress right now, LW, and I hope you find a resolution that relieves some of it.

    I agree with the Captain that you should talk with Jack about the extra stress you’re feeling around this proposed visit. There may be a third option for Bill, also – do you and Jack know someone in town who would be willing to host Bill for part or all of the summer? That way you get some alone time and Jack still gets family time with his brother. The reason I suggest this option is because I’m from a have-not province, like Jack and Bill are, and have seen many from this area move to far-away booming province for work opportunities. It’s not at all unusual for newcomers to booming province to be hosted by family members or friends who are already established – the culture here is very much one of help-your-neighbour. A simple explanation along the lines of “We want Bill to have this opportunity but this is not a good time to host” would be sufficient for a willing friend to step in.

  7. Sicne you are having marriage/therapy issues also ask yourself how often you tend to fight, bicker, or have tense discussions. Once you start doing this in front of one family member, word will surely spread. You and Spouse should talk about the extent to which you want the rest of your family to be privy to your health and marital issues – especially if a lot of your extended family are the kind to want to “help” or offer “advice” or flat out gossip.

    Also, since he’s young, you might also want to have a clear line in the sand as to how often/how many guests your bro-in-law can have over, including overnight bed buddies. I know for me the constant presence of people I don’t know in my home, especially overnight guests, would drive me batty.

  8. LW – there’s a bunch of great advice here, both in the post and in the comments. I’d first talk with Jack and let him know how you feel. If Jack’s intent on having Bill come out, I’d suggest the subletting alternatives that several commenters have mentioned above. Many cities with booming economies have universities and lots of cheap rooms available over the summer (unless you’re somewhere like one of the oil boom cities, in which case, not so much). Also, if he does stay with you and has a job, I’d definitely have him kick in some rent and, especially, cover his own food costs (bc yikes!).

    But, in case you do end up having Bill stay with you, I do want to second CA’s comment about young males not wanting to interact with Olds. I’m an Old (41yo woman) sharing an apartment with a Young Male (25), and he pretty much lives in either his room or the TV room, when he’s not out with his friends. I was nervous about him moving in beforehand – especially for reasons around personal space and cleanliness – but we had a Cleaning Talk his first week and he’s (mostly) kept up his end of the bargain. It’s worked out really well – I have help with the rent, but still have a clean apartment, and still have my personal space mostly to myself.

  9. My feeling on this (and from own experience) is: Limit the stay to two weeks. He should make sure he has a job already lined up before he comes surfing on your couch. Then he come a week early, catch up with Jack, then get a room somewhere. Because if he has a job, he can get a room, too. He could be welcome on the weekends, and another week of vacation when his job is over. Would that work?

    I have made the mistake to say “yes” or rather not say “no” fast enough to someone who invited themselves over for an extended stay and I found myself counting the days and wishing they would leave. It’s not a good place to be.

    1. Problem with that is, if it’s just a summer job, or one that doesn’t need particularly skilled labor (like a lot of entry level jobs) he may not be able to secure one before he shows up…. If that’s even a normal thing in the LW’s country at all. Where I live is not generally done unless you are very very good at what you do – and I doubt that’s the case for a teenager whose probably just starting out.

      I do agree about having a time limit though.

  10. Hi letter writer- I think all of the advice here is great, but I wanted to chip in as someone who has hosted a family member over a summer and survived. My brother came to stay with me and my roommate one summer so that he could finish up some coursework at the nearby college and graduate on time. At the time I was working 2 jobs and lived in a 600ish sq. foot, single-bath apartment without central AC. The potential for disaster was high. Here’s what I did that kept everyone happy and that you may find helpful as you make your decision:

    1. I talked to my roommate first and we discussed what the expectations were of my brother while he stayed with us. I made sure that she was 100% okay with him staying with us and told her that all she had to do is say no (and I would absolutely respect her feelings if she did. It’s just as much her home as mine.) We are good friends and care about each other, so we are able to have these discussions.

    2. Once we had discussed our expectations of a long term houseguest, I shared them with my brother and explained that they were the conditions of staying with us. I put them in writing and had him sign the informal “contract.” Part of this was specifying the exact amount of time (with dates) that he would be staying.

    3. I did not charge him rent because it wasn’t costing us anything extra for him to stay, but I did ask him to help out with utilities (since we would have to run the air conditioning more with him there during times my roommate and I generally weren’t, higher water bill, etc.) I also made clear that he was expected to help out around the house and clean up after himself. I was very clear and specific about this, and there were zero problems. He also bought all of his own food and other necessities. He was an amazing houseguest.

    4. Even though our apartment was small and adding a third person didn’t really help matters, he didn’t really spend very much time at home. Between his classes and spending time with his friends in the area, he had plenty to occupy his time. He had his bike and a car to get around, and he was completely respectful of mine and my roommate’s need for quiet time at home. We also hung a “privacy blanket” between the living area (where he was sleeping on the couch) and the bedrooms in the back of the house so that everyone felt like they had their own spaces. There was never once an overcrowding problem in our tiny, single bathroom. (I made sure I never asked where he was keeping his wet towel, though.)

    By getting this stuff taken care of very explicitly, having my brother stay with us really wasn’t as much of a burden as I had anticipated. I enjoyed getting to hang out and reconnect with him. If you do decide to host Bill, it is really okay to be upfront about what you need for your personal wellbeing and make those things part of the conditions of his stay. It’s your home first and you get to decide who you welcome into it, and for how long.

    1. Seconding the privacy blanket. It’s amazing how much good even a thin barrier can do when everyone in the house respects it.

      My best friend/sister came to live with me and my boyfriend (originally for a few months, but then we decided we liked the arrangement). We had one bedroom and a breakfast nook. So we took out the dining table and hung up sheets around the nook. At first I was worried that it would feel crowded in a small apartment with three people, or that Sis would feel like she didn’t have privacy, but we’re all introverts who like our alone time, so sometimes Boyfriend would chill in the bedroom, I would chill on the couch, Sis would chill in her nook, and it would all be, well, chill.

      LW has a basement, which offers even more privacy. So I guess my advice to her is to consider the brother’s personality. Is he all up in your face wanting lots of interaction? Or is he a little more private/willing to have one on one bro time in his basement lair while you relax upstairs?

  11. I’m sure the LW is getting a lot of “but faaaaaamily!” messages, either from ingrained cultural/social messaging or outright from Jack/his family, so I’m not going to outline that aspect here as it’s the implied counterpoint to the Captain’s wonderful self-care advice.

    But I did just want to mention that, in some cases, “…but it’s family” does hold weight, and I think the LW should spend some time doing introspection as to what sort of weight it holds for her. While the concept of “family” is often used as a manipulative club to bash your empathy points into submitting to some bullshit, it can also be a core value. Only the LW knows how strongly the concept of helping someone out because they’re family holds sway in this particular situation.

    I only bring this up because I’m in the midst of helping out a brother-in-law to some significant emotional/physical-space detriment to myself, and I came to the decision to be in this situation because my answer to “how would you feel if something happened to him and you hadn’t helped?” was “feel way shittier than I would putting up with this situation for a while”. If the situation was less dire, and my own BIL was just needing a place to crash while building a resume, then the answer to that question would be different.

    But I do think it’s a question the LW should ask herself, and weigh against “how will I feel if he’s here and it’s just as awful as I think it might be?”

    1. Well, in such cases I also think it’s okay to say “how much do my family believe in caring for me in rough patches?” Because if I were bro-in-law and learned that sis-in-law had had health trouble and was stressed and such, I would think “out of love for this couple, I would really rather not be up in their faces this summer, as much as a cheap place to stay and easy access to my family would make my life easy.”

      There has to be parity, I guess is what I am saying.

    2. as long as everyone remembers that LW is family too! I see a lot that one person is expected to take on the “it’s faaaamily!” burden w/o getting that same consideration for their needs

  12. I think I know where LW lives, and if my avatar is familiar to her then it might not be possible for the BIL to find a room. I know families living out of their cars who can’t find a room they can afford, even with both adults working full time.

    That said, the Captain’s advice is good. Your mental and marital health have to come first.

    1. I was going to say, I think I know where the LW is as well, and I don’t think he’s going to find a summer sublet either.

      BUT there are a ton of young men in this city, and if he is at all social, I would be surprised if he’s home much at all once he gets in the swing of things.

      If he’s not social, I agree with the Captain that he will probably hole up in his basement lair and internet. When I was a teen and home from university for the summers, hanging out with Olds was incredibly low on my priority list.

      Finally, if the LW is in the same city as Charlene and I, your BIL is probably going to be making some decent cash, even in an entry level position. I agree with the poster above who suggested that you have him pay some rent to cover his food and utilities and chip a little bit of a hole in that $25,000.

    2. Yeeah, I was gonna say. Sometimes the best hope for temporary housing is a job that comes with a billet in a work camp, but the BIL might not even work in a relevant sector. It sucks when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

      Hoooowever, 1) it’s amazing how many “can’t”s of this nature resolve themselves when you put your foot down and refuse to help someone fix their problem; the solution they find for themselves is often less easy and convenient for them than just letting you do all the work but it’s still livable; and 2) it’s easier to find a place for a single working man to sleep at night for the summer than it is to house an entire family.

  13. Awesome advice as always, Captain. LW–I wanted to draw bright red arrows around this part of what the Captain says—> “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.”<—- This is something I'm still learning because for a long time I thought solving a problem (in a relationship, at work, etc.) meant having no resentment about it at all anymore and I would view any such internal thoughts as my own failure. I was always censoring myself with myself, which is not an awesome way to deal with resentment, obviously. I thought, once I agreed to something, I couldn't be annoyed about it any more because that wasn't "fair." I think a lot of us people pleasers fall into this trap. But learning to view that residual annoyance with the neutral attitude it deserves has helped me so much. Some things are just annoying full stop.

    If you decide to let Brother stay with you, no matter how perfectly Husband and Brother act, there will be moments when you resent the situation. The Captain is right that, having gone into this eyes open, you can't take that out on Husband or Bro, but you are still allowed to feel the resentment. Maybe that's super obvious to many people, but if anyone else grew up on the idea that you should always be happy to do anything for family no matter what, it's a revelatory idea. Loving your family may mean bending over backwards for them on occasion. It doesn't mean pretending (to yourself! to your partner!) you didn't pull a bunch of muscles when you did it.

    The guilt you're describing about your feelings of doubt makes me think you might be susceptible to this family-love myth as well. OF COURSE having a teenager stay with you for 3 months is an inconvenience. OF COURSE it's not how you imagined your summer. That would be true of anyone regardless of any other outside factors. You don't need "reasons" to find that disruptive. If the way Husband talks about these things suggests otherwise or that the only "correct" reaction on your part is unilateral enthusiasm, then he has unreasonable and unfair expectations. The Captain's script for this discussion is great because it will make Husband's expectations as explicit as your own. And if he thinks it's "not cool" that you want 2 nights a week to yourself, then you know what your answer needs to be in terms of the whole visit. If he reacts to your requests for parameters and support with any kind of shade-throwing or side eye, I would not trust that he will follow through on whatever you agree to. It doesn't really sound like your husband is going to react that way (as Captain said, asking you first is a good sign), but pay attention. If he isn't willing to acknowledge that this is a big favor for a lot of reasons, that's a red flag.

    1. Oh. I think I never realized that I do that before. ” I thought solving a problem (in a relationship, at work, etc.) meant having no resentment about it at all anymore and I would view any such internal thoughts as my own failure.”
      Thank you for pointing out that that’s a thing, and that it’s not a bad thing to still resent the problem, even if solved.

    2. …I know I’m late to this but… holy shit. Just holy shit. I … thank you so much for addressing this. It just opened my eyes to a lot of Stuff And Things.

  14. I don’t know about that Charlene. A quick search on the local Craigslist alternative pulls up thousands of ads for people seeking housemates with what appear to be reasonable rents. The situation may be different for families and is almost certainly depends on the city, but looking for alternative housing may be worth a try in any case.

    1. I don’t know what city it is, but I’ve had lots of friends looking at Craigslist for housing lately and SO MANY postings are scams now. Just because there are tons of postings doesn’t mean those rooms exist anymore, sadly.

    2. It also depends SO MUCH on where you’re looking. In Canada, for example, you could find a decent room in a part of town with good transit accessibility (important if Bill won’t have a car) in most of the prairies or the Maritimes for <$500. Vancouver/Victoria, you're looking at more like $700. Fort McMurray, you're talking upwards of $1000, easy. The bigger the boom, the more expensive the rent.

  15. I know you’re probably keeping it sort for the sake of the post, LW, but to me it sounds like you’re in a position of having to say yes or no to something with very little idea of what it’ll be like, which is an impossible task without provoking some major anxiety. You can’t reasonably be expected to agree to someone staying with you for an extended period of time without knowing how much they’re going to be around, who’s going to take care of the responsibilities of having a guest, what happens if X, Y, Z becomes an issue, how much time are you going to have with your husband…there’s a thousand questions that I would worry about the answers to, and would want to answers to before I decided.

    I know some people aren’t like that, but I think I might be coming from a place similar to you, with mental health issues and a NEED for space. My partner and I have very different “acceptable levels” when it comes to things like that – he can happily be around people 24 hours a day and his family is the same. I (and the rest of my family) tend to need some down time after a few hours of company. So when my partner’s family comes to visit in our quite small flat, I set up a few requests of things I need, like “can you please handle having them out of the house at X times so I’ve got the place to myself for a bit before my shift?” and “can you let them know that I will be sleeping due to [whatever] reason and not to disturb me/make plans including me?” or “can we go to bed an hour early tonight so we can get some time just us?”

    My concern with having guests like this is always whether I will seem rude, because I know what my needs are and I will prioritise them. Personally, I think passing it to your partner to explain is a pretty reasonable way of avoiding the anxiety about rudeness as well as he can arrange activities or say it in the “right” way which the guest(s) will get.

    Essentially, if you do agree to this or any version of this, you need to know that your husband is going to have your back and if you say “I need this time just me” or “I need us to hang out alone tonight” he’s going to respect that and help make it happen, rather than being resentful or leaving it all on you. I wouldn’t agree to this proposition unless you think your relationship is in a place where you’ll get that

  16. Dear LW:

    I feel that hosting the brother-in-law for months is too much.

    The situation is yours, though, not mine. That being said, I agree with the Captain that broaching your discomfort in couples therapy is a good idea.

    Also, the two of you will probably be least unhappy if you can come to a decision that you both (or at least you singular) won’t resent.

    I might add to the Captain’s script that your husband is responsible not only for telling his brother the rules, but for enforcing them. If not, then there’s the likelihood you’ll be cast as Harsh Parent. That’s a thankless role, and it won’t help your marriage.

    I wish you luck, and can’t reiterate loudly or often enough: it’s ok to NOT have a guest for three months

  17. LW that sounds extremely stressful. 😦

    When deciding if you want to go ahead with this, or just say no, consider how your marriage difficulties apply. Because if they’re relevant, having a house guest is going to be a pretty major test of the progress you’ve made in counselling.

    For example – do you think your husband respects your opinions and takes care of your feelings and needs when making decisions? Or is that part of the problem? Because if it’s part of the problem, you can be pretty sure he won’t actually be careful about what you need when deciding what, when and how things are done re: his brother. Right when you need him to be carefully managing how having his brother stay impacts you. No matter what he says going in.

    Is part of the problem that your husband doesn’t do an equal share of the housework? Do you trust him to not dump all the extra work of having a houseguest on you? Do you trust him to be in charge of making sure Bill does his share? Keep in mind that Bill comes from the same family and is highly likely to have the exact same habits and beliefs about who does what when it comes to household chores and the work of entertaining and hospitality.

    Do you trust your husband to share your concerns about money? Or are you going to find him one day unloading the new guest bed he bought for his brother to use, and then respond to your concerns about the cost by trying to guilt you about his brother sleeping on an air bed?

    Does he dump the emotional work of shared relationships on you, leaving you to remember birthdays and arrange parties and so forth? Because if he does you can be sure he’ll just do what he normally does while you either feel really guilty about leaving a teenager utterly to his own devices in a new city or just pick up the work of helping him out with that and thinking about what he might need to get settled in.

    What I’m saying, basically, is if you don’t trust your husband to actually stick to agreements you make as per the Captain’s excellent advice above, just don’t do it. If he says the right things it might feel like maybe you can make it work, but you’re the one who knows whether he’s likely to follow through. Perhaps even if these things have been issues for you in the past, he’s made fantastic progress in counselling – even then, be aware that this will be a major test of that progress and it might all fall apart in the face of his brother’s presence. And that might be a useful test and good to know, except you’re already suffering from depression and massive exhaustion and huge financial stress so maybe now is not the time make your life more difficult than it already is.

    I’ve gone into challenging situations before thinking a terrible destructive partner would step up when things were more serious, that his failings would vanish when the chips were actually down. I kind of want to laugh hysterically at that right now. No. When the chips were down, that guy was still the same guy, only the consequences of his failings were way, way worse. If your issues with your husband don’t revolve around any of the stuff relevant to managing a house guest while you’re stressed out of your brain and desperate for a break, then perhaps you can proceed. If they *do* seem relevant, then for all that it will create drama to refuse, I would suggest it will be less miserable than three months of finding out via destructive testing just how much progress you have or have not made in counselling.

    1. Commenting mostly to highlight the above comment. This is a really, really important perspective to consider. Your husband’s desire to be closer to his brother does not obligate you to take on the additional emotional/financial/physical cost of hosting someone.

      Also seconding the idea of hammering out the details with husband if you decide to go ahead, and getting them in writing. A contract that clearly outlines expectations and responsibilities will be less stress in the long run, even if you’re met with “but faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamily” pushback at first.

  18. Unfortunately most of my teenage-boy acquaintances and even early-20s-boy acquaintances have been on the “barely competent – mommy comes over to clean his apartment -> disgusting hovel – doesn’t move when dog poos in the living room” side of the scale so the prospect of having to share housing with one makes me dance with anxiety.

    I think “2-3 week stay to find a sublet summer apartment + pays for own food” is the best solution that won’t have the LW seething in resentment and possibly pressganged into playing “Nag Lady Parent” to the spouse’s “Fun Guy Parent”.

  19. I wonder if it would help if LW and her husband could set up some sort of code or something for when she really needs time alone. Like, time alone NOW rather than time alone that is regularly scheduled.
    I had a roomie at one point and it was understood between us that at any time we could have the other leave the apartment for a few hours. The catch was that the one asking the other to leave would also give the other a few dollars to cover a drink and/or snack at a coffee shop or something. It was wonderful. I met her at the door a couple times with $5 and a request for a few hours alone and she would grab a book and head out. I did the same at her request.
    So maybe if LW had a prearranged option to just let the husband know that she needed an hour or two of empty house right that moment, and he had a plan or some sort of what to do with himself in that time, maybe that would be good. Even just knowing you have the emergency button available can help manage the anxiety of being cooped up with people you don’t want to be cooped up with.
    It would be great, too, if this could be managed honestly but not negatively. Husband says to the brother, “LW needs some time alone so we’re going to go out for coffee/a long walk/grocery shopping/whatever and give her that time.” Rather than a “women eh? hormones eh?” kind of thing. Honest and supportive in front of LW and behind her as well.
    This is in the case that the summer stay is still on of course.

    1. Looking back I see that LW doesn’t specify a gender. My apologies for the assumptive use of she/her. I was working off the word “hag” since it’s generally a female-coded term but it may not be the case.

    2. That (re: giving your roomie some $ in exchange for them giving you some hours alone) is a brilliant idea!!

  20. LW: Is it possible for Bill to come to your town and work even if you and your husband don’t host him? I think that’s the real question here. If he lives somewhere else in your area, he can still bond with your husband, and still get a job–he just doesn’t have to use your shower while he does it. I think that’s a pretty important option to explore before concluding that not hosting him for three months is the same as ruining everyone’s fun forever.

  21. Dear LW,

    The comment above about whether you trust him to keep your agreements and not put all the work on you is excellent. I would also like to add my own question.

    Given your marriage difficulties, which under the financial pressure and schedule from hell that you have been having, is your husband’s want to his brother to stay for such a long visit in any way a distancing thing? I mean, having been so busy, no doubt you haven’t had time alone, and now that you could, he is arranging for that not to happen. Intimacy just isn’t the same with someone else living with you, especially someone who may tell Mom what goes on.

    Please be very careful here, and prioritize your needs first. You don’t own anybody anything to the point that you destroy your health, mental or otherwise.

    All the best.

  22. what bothers me most is the dynamic of having husband’s brother in the house while working on marital issues. Not knowing what those are, and whether I’m over thinking it. At any rate, just thinking that brother will have a bias toward husband and may insert himself in damaging ways. I can’t put my finger on it, super simplified imaginary scene where husband is exasperated and asking, you see? and brother is saying, I don’t know how you put up with it.

  23. I’ve been there. I had a houseguest that didn’t follow any of my rules. I kicked her out before the agreed time she was to leave. You might strike up a compromise with the husband: consider he can stay for a month and take up a hotel for the next two. You need/deserve some time to yourself if you have been working/studying full time. I went to school full time, worked full time, and raised a child. It’s hard, and it takes a long time to be yourself after that. Your husband should understand if you need “you” time because you are going through a very difficult illness (depression). If he wants to see you make a turn for the better, if your health is important to him, he will understand. Likewise, you are respecting his need to see family. After all, I can relate with his needs as well. I am a twin. I set aside no less than two nights a week to see my sister. No and, ifs, or butts, from my man. Good luck to you with whatever you decide.

  24. I was the “Jack” in this situation about two years ago. My younger brother was a recent college grad having no luck with jobs near our dad’s very rural home. So I offered for him to come and stay at my house in The Big(ish) City and see if he couldn’t land something. My then-boyfriend-now-fiance agreed to this plan.

    Unfortunately, Boyfriend was underemployed at the time, as was Brother, obviously, so they A) had a lot of time to be doing nothing but hang around the small house irritating each other and B) both had a lot of esteem issues related to lack of “real” or “good” work, which made both moody, depressed, and competitive with each other. It went well at first, then poorly, then ended okay.

    What I Did Right:

    I asked Boyfriend before making that offer to Brother, and he agreed.

    I told Brother firmly from the outset that he would have to pay us a very fair rate for the room (less than 1/2 of going market rate for a room in a shared house + small share of utilities & food costs)

    I listened to Boyfriend’s complaints about Brother as they happened and spoke to Brother about them myself (Boyfriend also complained directly to Brother, but wanted my support.) At first.

    What I Did Wrong:

    Not have a real “end plan” of Brother’s stay articulated by me to both Brother and Boyfriend. Which meant Boyfriend didn’t have an End Date to look forward to as Brother grated on his nerves, and didn’t instill any sense of urgency in Brother for a plan other than “keep crashing here”.

    Didn’t speak to Brother firmly about behaviors that repeatedly irritated Boyfriend (& me, for that matter). I did voice Boyfriend’s complaints at first, then I got tired of the squabbling and took a “tell him yourself” attitude, which increased Boyfriend’s irritation, since I wasn’t “siding” with him.

    How It Ended:

    Six months in, after more than a few fights between me and Boyfriend about Brother being in the house, Brother and Boyfriend had a verbal fight and Brother left to spend a week at a friend’s house before heading back to my dad’s. I apologized to both for not helping the situation, but both agreed that it was better that way. Brother and Boyfriend were testy about each other for a while, but now feel fine about it. As Boyfriend now says, “I really like your brother, but I don’t ever want to live with him again.”

    It sounds like this plan is “just for the summer”, so at least you have an End Date in mind, but that should be firm and hard Before Bill shows up. It also sounds like money is tight, and nothing is more irritating than a houseguest who doesn’t have to worry about turning off lights or limiting shower time at home, who is unable to adjust. This was one of the major issues when Brother stayed with us, so if you do let Bill stay, make sure Jack lays down clear rules, again BEFORE Bill shows up at the door (“You buy Your Food and we buy Ours and the Twain SHALL NOT Meet” or “You Pay 1/3 of All Grocery Bills” or whatever.)

    Finally, the small shared space was what ultimately tanked Boyfriend/Brother relations. If Bill doesn’t have a Real Plan (internship, part-time job, whatever) to be Out of the House every day for more than a few hours, this probably isn’t going to go well for either of you. At which point, you have to decide if the goodwill you win from Jack, Bill & family is worth what it will cost you emotionally, or if the badwill that will result if you and Bill get into a knock-down-drag-out will be worse than the badwill from turning Bill down to forestall that happening. I don’t know your families. I do know that while it was nice to have Brother around for half a year, it WAS NOT worth the strife it caused between me and Boyfriend or Boyfriend and Brother.

  25. If I were the LW, I think I would insist upon a (two week?) break at the start of the summer with nothing in it – no Bill, no study, no immediate action needed on the condo payment (if possible), and the maximum possible support and calm from Jack. Something for the LW to look forward to as relative downtime. This might help reduce the sense of just one endless thing after another.

    1. Yes, this sounds good. It’s important to have at least some of the looked-forward-to down time. I would also suggest another two weeks or so at the end of the summer before the next thing kicks in to allow some more down time to recover.

  26. I’m 31 and have a 19 year old brother who prefers my house to our mom’s because… I’m not his mom. He’s been a surprisingly good house guest. Mostly he just wants to play computer games. Which, once I insisted he go do it in the basement, is not a problem at all. It had genuinely not occurred to him that playing WOW with a headset, in the living room, might be disruptive.

    He emerges from the basement to eat, and when I want his help. I’ve found (and I think this is true of most teenagers) that asking him to do something on his own is about 50% successful. Doing whatever chore with him is much more successful. So I’ll ask him to dust while I tidy, or wash dishes while I cook dinner. This would not help if you want alone time, but might work for your husband- it’s good bonding time, and gets things done.

    If he was staying for months I’m sure more rules would have to be set. I think alot of what’s important is being up front. “You have to be quiet at X time.” “I need you to be gone two evenings a week.” “Put dishes directly in the dishwasher.” Also, I’ve gotten much farther by making fun of him than lecturing him.

    On the flip side, if I was having relationship problems, having an observer would give me the hives. But just saying that 19 year old boys are not necessarily bad house guests.

  27. I had to emancipate a very close family friend from my one-bedroom apartment that I share with my fiance, who is already frustrated that we downsized from a three-bedroom house.

    She was only supposed to crash on my sofa for a week then find an apartment. The apartment fell through at the last minute so she ended up here for a month. My relationship was already under a heap of stress and having to essentially live in the bedroom since her stuff was sprawled all over the living room was driving us crazy. Plus when she took a phone call, she’d put it on speaker phone. All round just not a good houseguest.

    All this to say, I understand not wanting to feel like the bad guy. I was lucky in that my fiance didn’t want her here either, but regardless of who would perceive me how, I had to be kind but firm with her about leaving by a specific deadline. I even found her the apartment she moved into.

    I’m hoping that your husband understands how important this downtime you were looking forward to is for you and for your relationship. If you feel that the basement still isn’t isolated enough for you to have peace of mind, I think the suggestion to get him cheap accommodation elsewhere is excellent. Your mental well-being comes first and I hope your husband will understand that. Trust him, trust his love and support of you and have your counselor guide you through the conversation.

  28. When my little brother unexpectedly moved in with my husband and I (father was violent in his direction, he had to leave and moved four states to stay with us), my brother was about the same college-ish age. We set up a guest room for him and gave him run of the basement. He was allowed to use our kitchen and our food (though once he got a job, he paid for his own.) We asked him to clean up after himself, like a roommate. And we never saw him. Ever. He had his TV/Computer/Console in the basement and he rarely came out. Once he worked and made friends, he’d do that elsewhere too. I’d talk to him maybe once a week. Part of this might have been attributed to stress and depression, but a lot of it was that that was his usual pattern. My brother and I get along pretty well too, so it wasn’t tension, it was just living separate lives.

    Do what you need to do. But definitely talk to your husband about it, and see if he can address any of your concerns. But as others have said: if he stays for several months, he’s not a house-guest, he’s a roommate. Treat him like a roommate and set out boundaries and expectations that you wouldn’t set for house-guests. But do what you need to do, for real.

  29. LW: If your husband misses family, send him camping with Bill, and have Bill sublet locally to you for the summer. Keep your space. At the end of the summer, go away all three of you, or even back home to Jack’s family, but after you have recovered!


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