Since I am a frequent visitor to your site, I know I need a polite spine for this situation (often a struggle for me, I’ll admit). My uncertainty comes from when and how to address issues pertaining to a guest who will be moving into my home.
My friend, Beth, is a lovely person. She is warm and generous and very outgoing. She loves to plan get-togethers with friends, and spends most of her spare time and money traveling the world. I very much enjoy her company, but it is usually in small doses.
Several months ago, Beth decided she was not contented with her life here and decided to move across the country. Since I had a large vehicle at the time, she asked for my help with moving furniture and packing boxes for storage. She sold most of her minor possessions in preparation for her move. After a short time, she realized that this new town did not agree with her at all. She was incredibly unhappy, and was unable to find reasonable employment. She decided once again to move to another city, halfway back across the country again. Another month goes by and she still has no job and no prospects and has depleted her savings. I spent many hours talking with her over skype or texting, listening to her situation and giving what little advice I could. I was also going through a very difficult time, having recently left an abusive marriage, but in a way I found helping Beth made me forget about my own problems.
This week I got a message from Beth, giving me the details, and saying that she has no choice but to come back. Stories from Beth are always full of grand detail and embellishment, and she painted a grim picture of how desperate things are for her – no home, no savings, nowhere to turn. I felt the pressure. I told her that if she needed a place to stay until she got back on her feet, I wouldn’t see her stuck. She was incredibly grateful, and I’m happy to help a friend in need.
My issue is this: In the few months since Beth’s departure, the economy here has taken a downturn. People are losing their jobs, and the cost of living has risen. I am currently in the process of finalizing my divorce and it has been messy and stressful. While I live alone some of the time, I also have joint custody of my young children. I have a house, and a job, but with the economic downturn I will be counting my pennies as well. When I thought Beth’s stay here would be just for a week or two it was fine. Since she has no job and no savings, I have no idea how long Beth will need a place to stay. While I’m happy to help a friend in need, I am not looking for a roommate.
I am also unsure how etiquette demands I handle my personal schedule. If I am invited out by a friend, am I required to invite Beth along? Or if I have someone over to visit, is it rude to ask for privacy? Cooking meals is another worry, as I’m not sure if I’m required to cook for Beth (she is a very picky eater, and has some dietary restrictions as well). Beth also has two cats, who will be moving in with her. I love cats, but I’m not sure how this will work out in my small home. Is it best to address these things if and when they arise, or should I be upfront with Beth before they become a problem? Help! 0417-16
Don’t be doormat. Establish the boundaries upfront and be firm because if you are not, you could have a permanent house guest who contributes little to nothing to the operation of your home. Your offer of hospitality should have limits and if she has not found a job in a month, she needs to make arrangements to move elsewhere because you are not a welfare office.
You cook for Beth? How about Beth cooks and cleans the house as a condition of her staying there? Why on earth do you think you need to feed her like one of your kids? She’s an adult woman who can feed herself. Do not cook for her, do not clean for her. Her cats need to be restricted to her room only and the kitty litter box routinely cleaned. You do not want to create an environment where Beth has little or no incentive to leave. If she gets a room, board for her cats, free food, the house cleaned after her AND a free social life, why would she want to go back to having to work hard for everything she has?