I live with my partner and we have a lodger (H). W has a friend who lives abroad (M). M is an alcoholic with a coke problem (not addressed). He has just lost his licence for driving drunk which has also lost him work as he is a self employed builder. M is from same BigCity that W and I live in and M’s mother (also an alcoholic with lots of health problems) is going into hospital at Christmas, so M is coming home to BigCity for the holidays. W, H and I all had a conversation months ago where (I thought) we agreed that it was ridiculous for him to come and stay on our couch when he can stay at his own family home while in BigCity but that of course we would see him while he is in the country.
Fast forward to last week. I am working up until the Friday before Christmas. W tells me (on Wednesday) M is arriving in the country and will stop by to see us Thursday. Great! I get home from work Thursday and M is there. With his bags. M is staying ‘for a couple of days’. I am upset. W and I talk, I use my words to say Christmas is important to me, I wanted to spend it just us together and M has to be gone by Christmas Eve. When I get home from work on Friday, M is gone. Yay! I used my words and problem solved. Except…
M arrived on the 27th. M is only going to stay ‘a couple of days’ by which he means 3rd Jan. And M is only leaving then because his dad (just outside BigCity) has offered him a weeks work but M plans to return to us the following weekend. M has no return ticket to his country. I found all this out when M was already sitting in my front room. In fact, when he arrived I still didn’t know how long he was planning to stay (because a couple of days to me is two days) and it only became clear when he mentioned New Years.
I do not want to spend New Years with this man. I do not want him in my home. M has already in one day drunk all the wine in our house. I had planned to take the first week of January off for a much needed break. I have been working a stressful full time job at the same time as finishing my PhD which I only just submitted last month. At the same time W and H decided this would be the perfect time to start home renovation project which has been ongoing and very disruptive since the summer (sanding, painting, moving furniture boxes stuff everywhere). This year has been loooooooong. Now I’m thinking I should just go back to the office and not waste my leave with M in the house.
W thinks I said I did not want house guests over Christmas, meaning literally the 24th and 25th so he has not done anything wrong and I am being unreasonable, asking M to leave now is really rude and how come W is not allowed to have people stay when last year I had my friend stay for New Years so how is this different (she stayed two days, it was planned beforehand, I ASKED him if it would be alright), and M is his best friend. M is now making sad noises that if he’s in the way he can go stay all alone at his moms place while she is hospital. H is happy with him staying because M can help out with home improvement project, so I am on my own. How do I get W to understand why I am upset? Am I being unreasonable? How do I get M to leave?
Unhappy Party Pooper (She/her)
Dear Party Pooper:
Here is my 100% honest first recommendation:
- If you are financially able and it is possible, book yourself (solo!) into a hotel or a flat-share like AirBNB for the coming week of vacation & rest. Expensive? Yes. Possible for everyone? No. And yet, sometimes the cheapest way to pay for anything is with money. If you’ve got the money and the idea of not really having some downtime right now is killing you, this is not a frivolous expense.
- Tell W. that you are going to get a real break to celebrate the New Year and finishing your PhD (that’s huge and amazing, btw, congratulations!).
- You’ll be back at your house on (date) and you expect that M. will be gone for good and the renovations will be completed.* After (date) your expectation is 100% that M will stay at his Mom’s house for the duration of his time back in your country, and that if W. wants to hang out he can go there. You have no more “just a few days” in you, period when it comes to hosting M.
- It sounds like it means a lot to W. to be able to “be there” for M. right now. Okay? You don’t want to fight or be rude to M. or put W. in an awkward position, you just want the rest you were very avidly looking forward to and that you avidly need. You realize that W. doesn’t get to see his friend much and you’re making room for that to happen while also taking care of your own needs.
- Pack a stack of books and movies and whatever else relaxes you and go have a nice week off. Shut off your phone for long periods of time.
- When the week is up and you come back, you and W. will have a talk about guests & boundaries and rework how you deal with all that stuff. In the middle of a renovation project AND an international visitor AND substance abuse/major health/family issues it’s all too much to deal with right now.
It’s not a perfect solution – it means you most likely won’t ring in the New Year with W. and whatever disappointments & hurt feelings result from that – but it does give you some space & quiet & recovery time that you desperately need and it does put a very clear period on M.’s visit.
If it is not possible for you to clear out for the next week, then:
- Probably go to work and take your vacation when it can be a real vacation. Work is the place that when you have to go there, M. is not drinking all your booze and no one is making sawdust be on anything.
- Your script: “W., M. has a free place to stay here in the city. It’s time for him to go there. You can see him there whenever you like, or meet him out. I have reached my limit of having him here.”
- Become a broken record for when W. pushes back and becomes a rules lawyer: “But you’re being rude!” “Okay, I’m being rude. I still want him out.” “But your friend stayed last year, it’s not fair that my friend can’t stay!” “Okay, I’m being unfair. I still want him out.” “But his mom is sick and it’s mean to kick him out!” “Okay, I’m mean. I still want him out.” “But he wasn’t here Dec. 24 and 25. How was I to know what ‘over the holidays’ meant to you?” “Okay, I should have defined The Holidays as the month of December through early January. That said, I still want him out.” “I didn’t do anything wrong here and you’re being unreasonable!” (You’re not being unreasonable btw, but stay the “broken record” course)”Okay. I want M. out, today. Now.”
- Once M. is out, it’s time for that talk about how you handle hosting people in the future. How much notice do you all need? How/when can one person exercise veto power? What do the “family” or “emergency” exceptions look like? If you’ve never spelled all of this out before, it’s time, since it’s clear you have some different expectations and values around this. Maybe M. has already burned up all your 2017 houseguest energies and you can make a joint agreement that nobody stays with you until 2018.
- Happy(?) New Year?
*P.S. It’s probably cheaper to pay M. (or, better yet, someone else) for renovation help with money than as “help” or worse, “repayment” for staying with you.