Hostesses With The Mostest > Entertaining and Hospitality

How to enforce house rules with guests?

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and understood that my "setting boundaries" plan doesn't help if only my husabnd and I know about it! We just wrote them down so that it was clear and we were in agreement on what's ok and what isn't. It's the communication of this that is making my stomach turn. I don't think this could be presented in a written list form without it causing major chaos and hurt feelings. I don't want to damage any relationships, but the current state is damaging, even if they don't know about it.

Some ideas...

To get into specifics, they'll do things like:
-not tell us when they are coming, how long they are staying, when they plan on leaving - they just show up and expect us to accommodate. Getting this information is like pulling teeth.
I would have DH call them and tell them it doesn't work for you guys to have them just show up and you need at least 48 hours notice (or whatever works for you). If they do it again and you're not comfortable turning them away (I'd fake not being home - yes, really!!) at least don't go to any trouble. Don't run to the store for snacks, hand them the sheets for the spare bed, point them to the nearest McDonald's for dinner, have plans that saturday afternoon for a few hours and gosh, it's so unfortunate that you don't have an extra ticket so they can accompany you, etc. Don't make it pleasant for them to have inconvenienced you.

-rummage through our pantry/fridge, looking for and taking food without asking - when there is other food available to them, its just not what they want. MIL often takes it upon herself to prepare meals when she's there, which I feel is presumptuous, but of course I often don't have anything planned, because I never know when they are coming and if they will want to eat (see point 1) There are also some picky eaters in the bunch, so if they don't like the food that has been prepared for everyone, they will just make themselves something else
Don't worry about being your usual kind of host, let them fend for themselves so you don't end up wasting food and resenting it. If you're going to cook announce "I'm going to fix X. How many people will be eating?" Whoever doesn't want any can make a sandwich.

-turn on the TV really loud when we are visiting.. to programs that neither husband or I want to watch. If it was one show they really just don't want to miss, I understand, but they'll watch reruns for hours instead of spending time with DH. I can tell it upsets my husband that his family would rather watch TV than spend quality time together as a family, especially because they don't see each other very often. (I'll hide the remote this time - at least make it a little harder!!)
That would be really frustrating. Why come see you just to watch tv? Hiding the remote is good but better yet - keep it on you. Turn down the volume as needed. Change the channel or even shut the tv off. If someone point-blank asks you for the remote say something like "I'd like to watch this."

-interrupt me or my husband (or each other!) when speaking - they have a habit of just yelling over each other until it just gets louder and louder and I just give up on speaking all together because I don't want to participate in a screaming match
I have this problem around a couple of specific people. When they interrupt me I just stop talking, period. If they've interrupted me to speak to someone else I might even get up and leave the room. It still irritates me but not as much as trying to continue.

- criticize my decisions, life choices, home, preferences, etc - all under the guise of "being helpful". (I can let this one slide.. I think that just comes with the joys of in-laws!  ::))
That's where the phrases "How kind of you to take an interest.", "Thank you but I've got it under control.", etc. come in handy.

- funny you say about the medicine cabinet - yes!! they totally do that! last time they stole my shampoo out of the shower  :o Frankly I don't care if they need to use it, but a) ask b) put it back! Not fun to be soaking wet in the shower trying to get ready for work and realizing you have no shampoo. lol
That's just crazy pants. I think I'd wrap a towel around myself, open the bathroom door, and holler out "Will whoever took the shampoo please bring it back. Now!"

- when they stay, seems things to get damaged frequently. I often don't see until after they are gone. There's never an acknowledgement or apology. It's not that these are fancy or expensive items, but they are ours and I don't think I should have to replace/fix multiple items after every visit.
I don't have anything for this. That's terrible. I'd be dying to suggest they stay at a hotel.  :-\

-expecting us to provide toiletries and specific food items (even things we simply don't use and never have) - they seem surprised/offended when we don't have something, and I have been asked to "run out and pick up xyz because you are out"... of course we are out! We have no use for it! That time I did go get some, because I was at the store anyways, but it annoyed me that they feel they are entitled to it and because they are staying with us I need to provide all food and personal items free of charge. I'd say we are treated like a hotel, but hotels get paid! ha ha
"See, this is why we ask you to let us know when you're coming, so we can prepare. I'm afraid I don't have any extra cash for that right now. If you want I'll run you to the store and you can pick one up.  >:D

Aw JenJay, you're the best!! Fantastic suggestions!  ;D Now I just need to find the spine to follow through. It's reassuring to know that I'm not completely nuts. Sometimes I feel like there must be something wrong with me, because they just go about all this like it's perfectly normal. I give myself little pep talks about how I'll react when they behave a certain way.. and then something totally comes from left field and I'm so dumbfounded I can't react at all. I guess the real challenge is going to be to expect the unexpected and have a response ready.
At the very least, now that we've been married for a while, my husband is starting to see things from point of view. Up until very recently, he didn't see the problem so I was trying to deal with this alone - which is near impossible when I'm saying no and he's saying it's fine (Goodness help us if we ever have kids!!!)

Being active on eHell helps so much! I used to be extremely non-confrontational. I'll still avoid it if I can, but now when certain things happen I think "If I posted this on eHell they'd tell me to..." so I do it and I don't feel guilty!  ;D

Worst case scenario fake a headache or tummy bug and hide out in your room for a few hours with your own tv, a good book, a hobby, etc.. It's a lifesaver!

Great suggestions so far! I know it can be difficult when you're blindsided by something, especially when the other person acts like they're doing something perfectly reasonable.

Another more general thing to think about is letting your surprise/discomfort show more. Sometimes I feel like we are trained to immediately smooth things over and act like the other person hasn't hurt our feelings or taken us by surprise, when they have, and quickly agreeing to go along with it. And also, don't feel you have to respond to something they say right away--start training yourself to say, "Hold on, let me think about that for a minute." Or say you'll discuss it in a minute after you get back from the bathroom, to buy yourself some time to think of a response.

So maybe say, "Oh, you wanted to go to the aquarium today? Oh, I had no idea that was in your plans. Let me think about this for a minute. Well, it's going to take three hours to get there, and it's 3pm now. So we'll get there around 6pm, and I think they close at 7pm, and then we wouldn't get home until 10pm. I'm afraid that's too late for us to be out. Why don't we plan on going tomorrow morning, instead?" So instead of immediately agreeing, and resenting it, you're laying out a reasonable counterargument, and giving yourself strength to hold your ground if they object ("You can just drive faster!")

Also, maybe having them stay in a hotel would help you a lot, if there are any decent ones near you. I know some people expect to stay with family and would be insulted to be sent elsewhere, but you could come up with an excuse like redecorating (move some extra furniture into the guest room, making it impassable) or an ant infestation or something. In some ways it's a bit silly to have to go through such contortions; but if you try it once, and it really helps you, maybe you can use that as a springboard to send them to a hotel next time, without elaborate excuses.


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