Author Topic: How to enforce house rules with guests?  (Read 5157 times)

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Rockstar420

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How to enforce house rules with guests?
« on: January 04, 2013, 02:52:18 PM »
We're having the in laws coming to stay with us for a few days, and I'm at a real loss as to how to handle the situation. They only come to stay with us a few times a year, but everytime they do, I find it upsetting and exhausting. I recently learned that my husband actually feels the same way, and after they leave we feel really taken advantage of.

Without getting into specific examples, basically his family doesn't follow what (to me) is "common sense etiquette" - I feel like they don't show any respect for us, our home, or our property. I do try to make people feel welcome and at home when they are in our house, but I feel like these guests take it to the extreme and it makes me uncomfortable.  We are treated like a hotel... they come to stay, eat our food, take over our living space, make a mess, and dictate the schedule and entertainment. I don't think that they do this intentionally, but they really don't know any better. There's never been any sort of confrontation, our attitude up until this point was just to allow the behaviour in the name of being hospitable. I also know that they are very sensitive, and if we were even just to mention feeling this way it would be a major blow out and a lot of tears (probably on both sides) But now that my husband also feels uncomfortable with it, I think its time to do something... we can't allow this to continue, I feel like its turning his valued time with his family into something we both dread instead of something that should be a pleasant experience. I don't want him to grow apart from them, but I think it may happen if we can't get past this. It's building a lot of resentment on our end, where they remain oblivious.

What my husband and I have done so far is set our boundaries - so when they come, we will both know exactly what is out of our comfort zone. Previously we didn't have house rules (or we did, but they were just unspoken, common sense things that we knew to do, ie: don't interrupt, no yelling, mind your please and thank yous, don't take things that aren't yours, etc - kindergarten stuff!!) With these guests, there's very much an attitude that anything in our home is theirs and up for grabs for them to use/take/dirty/break. After the last time they visited, we have written down exactly what the rules in our home are. (Just for our own reference  - we aren't rude enough to show this to them!!!  ;)) These need to be followed by our houseguests as well - I understand that with some guests, I can make small concessions to make them more comfortable, but the behaviour I'm taking about is out of my comfort zone.

So how to do I walk the fine line between being a good hostess and being a doormat? How am I suppose to enforce rules upon people who don't live there and that I really have no authority over? I'm going to try some of the e-Hell classic phrases "I'm afraid that's not possible" "Why would I want to do that" and "No!", but I guess I don't really know how to do that when there's no question being asked in the first place. How do you stop people in their tracks, when they never asked to begin with?
I'm also worried about how a change like this will be perceived, since we have allowed them to do whatever they wanted for years. I don't think it's going to go over very well, but at the same time, things can't continue how they are.

JenJay

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2013, 03:11:56 PM »
I might try "dumbing down" the rules you think should be common sense that they don't seem to get, in the hopes that maybe they don't realize they're making things harder on you. It's the same concept as dealing with people when they're being passive aggressive - ignore the bad behavior and react as if they're making an innocent mistake.

So, for example, if they leave dishes lying around, instead of picking them up and fuming about it (understandable) go into the kitchen and holler out to the living room "I'm going to load the dishwasher. Can everyone please bring their dishes to the sink." Discuss it ahead of time with your husband and agree that he'll bring his but not pick up after anyone else. If nobody makes a move to help holler again "MIL, FIL, can you please bring me your dishes? Thanks."

I have a friend who snacks a lot so I don't stock more food than I can afford to go through (taking into consideration that there is an extra person eating, of course). Once the snacks are gone she'll start hinting that this or that would be good and then I'll say "I'd be happy to run you to the store if you'd like to pick up a few things." I never get anything for myself due to once being burned by someone putting their items in with mine and then wandering off when it was time to pay.

If they make a demand such as "We want to go to Tourist Place tomorrow. Set your alarm for 6am so we can leave at 7." you can say "Oh, I'm afraid that's way too early for me. I'd be happy to take you at 8:30 or I can get the phone book so you can find a cab company."

Are there some specific things they do you need tips for?

Mikayla

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2013, 03:14:19 PM »
What my husband and I have done so far is set our boundaries - so when they come, we will both know exactly what is out of our comfort zone.

The problem here is you're setting boundaries with the wrong people.  In fact, this isn't really setting boundaries.  It's just you and your DH discussing what bothers you and what doesn't.  The boundaries need to be set by your DH to his parents, and it's never rude to do this.  In fact, it's the ultimate anti-doormat vaccine!

Beyond that, it's hard to say much else without knowing specifics.  If there are behaviors in your home that are flat out wrong, like using things from your medicine cabinet, then these are things he would put on a list that he would either e-mail or use as talking points to explain to them what isn't ok in your home.

When you mention things like dictating the schedule, I'm not sure what this means, or even if it can be handled ahead of time. 

mj

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2013, 03:21:01 PM »
You have to speak up, in the exact moment something is happening.  It's good for you and DH to come to agreements on boundaries, then the key is implementing them.  Which means speaking up when something happens that crosses the boundary.  You don't have to state your boundaries explicitly (and I'm glad you're not giving them a list of rules!), but you do have to enforce them for yourself.  Jenjay, gave really good examples on how to speak up in the moment.

Rockstar420

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2013, 03:50:46 PM »
Good suggestions so far! That's what I was thinking about "dumbing it down" for them. Basically if they are going to act like children, I guess that I'll have to treat them that way.

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.
-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
-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!!)
-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
- 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!  ::))
- 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
- 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.
-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

Rockstar420

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2013, 03:54:53 PM »
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.

JenJay

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2013, 04:15:22 PM »
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
« Last Edit: January 04, 2013, 04:18:27 PM by JenJay »

Rockstar420

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2013, 04:33:08 PM »
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!!!)

JenJay

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2013, 04:36:29 PM »
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!

Lynn2000

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2013, 04:56:52 PM »
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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buvezdevin

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2013, 05:24:13 PM »
For the shampoo and toiletry stuff, would it be possible to put a "guest basket" of some basics in the guest room, which is a lovely gesture, and then - if you, as I do - have a specific shampoo or toiletries you prefer not be used by other, take those in and out of any shared bathroom as needed?

For the schedule during their visit, maybe a sheet of paper listing each day, any planned shared activities, *and* any things you have scheduled that preclude shared activities.  Maybe your husband can list some time as shared activity for "visiting (no television), board games optional".

Best wishes!
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mj

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2013, 05:41:38 PM »
I think you need to insist on start and leave times for your guests.  If they do show up unannounced and you do not feel up to turning them away just yet, I think you are well within your rights to say that they need to leave at a certain time.  Insist, act like you *know* they are leaving when you say.

Put locks on doors and other places that you do not want rifled through, seriously.  Make them ask for what they want.

As time goes on, you'll feel better speaking up.  Take one step at a time and keep on chugging.  Hopefully, it will get to a point where you can insist on a hotel. 

It might be a good idea for DH to contact them soon to explain/insist that he needs to know start and leave dates, they need to pass their ideas through him to get an answer, they cannot just show up.

Lynn2000

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2013, 05:54:27 PM »
Yeah, one step at a time, and if you have to outright tell them no, do it very cheerfully with a big smile. Or, if you want to say "sorry" while telling them no, that could be okay too, as long as you keep saying no and don't give in on something else to "make up for it." (Some people feel strongly that they shouldn't apologize when they shouldn't have to, but if that doesn't bother you, it might make the first steps go easier.)

I like the idea of locks on things and physically removing stuff from easy access, since they have a history of not respecting boundaries.

Since your DH is on board, maybe you can make plans like getting up and leaving the room if they turn the TV up too loud, or that you'll stop talking and eventually leave the room if they keep interrupting you. For the marathon TV watching, I understand that's disappointing; but I don't think you have to sit there with them, right? Maybe go do something else fun around the house or yard, so you don't resent the time so much, and you're available if they want to do something with you.

My dad "watches" a ton of TV, or rather has the TV on while he relaxes in his recliner, and often falls asleep. I picture him doing that quite often if he ever came to visit me for several days. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a medical issue with him, but it might be getting there as he gets older, and is just more tired these days. Also he tends to be very passive about "what should we do now" questions--many times he drives me and my mom somewhere, then sits in the car waiting for us to finish shopping or whatever. He seems perfectly happy doing this and feels like this is what he's doing for us, and my mom and I are used to it. I could see someone who didn't grow up with that thinking it was pretty bizarre, though. Of course if his parents are irritating your DH, too, that's obviously a different situation.
~Lynn2000

LazyDaisy

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2013, 06:20:33 PM »
For the start and leave times/days I wouldn't leave it up to them at all. A guest does not decide when they are invited, the host does. Head them off, instead of asking when they plan on arriving/leaving, tell them the days and times that you are able to host them. About a month (or more if you need that time to make your plans) call them up and say something like "MIL I'm just calling to let you know that we are able to have you stay with us between Monday the 3rd and Saturday the 8th. I just need to know what time you think you will arrive so that someone can be home to welcome you. Just so you can plan accordingly, dinner is served at 6:00, but if you arrive after that, there are X restaurants that deliver until 11:00pm." and I would make follow up calls repeating the days that they are invited.
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Rockstar420

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Re: How to enforce house rules with guests?
« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2013, 06:21:51 PM »
Regarding the guest toiletries - the basket thing is absolutely something I would normally do and have out. However, on that specific visit, we had just moved to a brand new house and they came to stay only a few weeks after we moved in... frankly, guest soaps weren't top of my priority list.  :-\ Then when they saw we didn't have any, they got quite indignant. So now I'm conflicted between doing what I wanted to in the first place (setting up a proper guest bath with lotions, shampoos, etc) or standing my ground. Now if set up guest toiletries (which I agree is lovely!), am I caving to demands?

I like the stalling technique... but they're going to start wondering why I'm in the bathroom so much!  ;) I've suggested the hotel before but I don't think DH is going to go for that. It's also not that I don't WANT them to stay with us, I just want them to be gracious guests, just as I try to be a gracious hostess. Of course, I can only control my own behaviour.

mj - the idea of them going through my stuff and encountering locks cracks me up!! What I've tried so far is when they start going through things - I'll ask if there's something specific they're looking for. No luck with that approach so far - too subtle I think. Maybe I need to make some of these faces too-->  :o ??? :-\

Lynn - that does sound exactly like FIL. I think what's frustrating to my husband is that is how it is and always has been. Agree about watching TV - if that starts up (and my remote concealment techniques fail), we'll just go do something else more fun and hope they decide to join us.

Husband has started contacting them and asking for firm dates for visits, but that takes multiple conversations, and often plans change every few days. Better than nothing I suppose. Baby steps.