Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: I live with my husband in a 750-square-foot apartment in an expensive city. I’m an introvert and I hate having houseguests for more than one or two nights, but my husband has made it clear that his family’s visits are priorities. When his sister and her kids come to visit, we give up our bedroom and sleep on the futon because they can’t fit in our tiny guest room (and a hotel is too expensive).
I’m embarrassed to think I probably come across as peevish and unwelcoming. They only come once a year for four to seven days, so, any tips on how to have a better time during these inevitable visits?
Host: I reflexively balk at “my husband has made it clear that his family’s visits are priorities,” because it’s your home, too.
But: You have priorities, too, yes, which he honors? Which you can think about, mantra-like, during these visits?
And: Once a year! You can do that. I know of introversion, but I also know it doesn’t wipe out all marital obligation to rally when very rarely called upon to rally.
So, is there a line you can walk between the two, where you honor his priorities while also tending to your own needs?
For example: Can you plan to visit your family for part of his family’s stay? Or an old friend, or a place you’ve been wanting to see?
Maybe your husband will take it wrong, but try framing it this way: You like his family just fine, presumably; it’s just the relentlessness of long visits in tight quarters that cramps you. So, enjoy them for the day or two that your invasion-patience holds out, then escape for the rest of it.
Here’s the clincher: Your husband and his immediate family get to enjoy each other without you there. It’s no reflection on you; the opportunity for family-only visits is just so valuable to so many people, even those who love the in-laws, too.
If this isn’t possible, then please just schedule time out of the apartment. Be with everyone for lunch, leave for a few hours to . . . do whatever it is you need to do, then rejoin the group for dinner.
Both of these are measures your husband can graciously support without fear of offending his sister — because you have a life, yes? — in exchange for those four to seven days out of your comfort zone.
Ooh, even better: Save all year, and you two treat yourselves to a hotel while Sis stays at your place.
Re: 750 square feet: In addition to Carolyn’s suggestions, schedule things — age appropriate — to do during the day outside the apartment. They don’t need to be expensive: visit parks, free exhibits, tourist attractions, etc. If the children like trains, visit a train station.
Anonymous: And if you accidentally board one, call them quickly to assure them you’re okay and will be back around bedtime. ish.
Re: Bummed Host: Hubby can plan some day-long treks with the family that she can have some excuse not to attend. Then use that as alone time in the apartment. It’s a solid compromise that lets everyone’s priorities work, including sightseeing for the guests.
— Anonymous 2
Write to Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost....Read more