General Etiquette > Family and Children

Will you be around this afternoon?

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Coley:
I've seen a number of threads about the unexpected drop-in guest. Often, the unexpected drop-in is the OP's parents or ILs. This post is a twist on that theme: the unexpected drop-in adult children.

BG: DH has three sons from a previous marriage. All are adults living in different cities. The oldest (Rob) is in his early 30s and lives in BigCity two hours away with his wife (Michelle). Rob was born and raised in OurCity, as was Michelle. DH's ex also lives in OurCity. Rob and Michelle were married last summer. They visit OurCity with some frequency. They typically are here a couple of weekends per month. It is unusual for us to have any prior knowledge of their visits OurCity. They usually stay with Michelle's parents at Michelle's childhood home.

Although DH and Rob may converse several times per week by text or phone, Rob never (and I do mean "never") tells us in advance when he and Michelle are planning to be in OurCity. What usually happens is that DH will get a text early on a Saturday or Sunday morning asking, "Will you be around this afternoon?" DH will usually respond with "yes" because he wants to see Rob and Michelle. Then the story unravels: Rob and Michelle were in OurCity for X activity (usually at Michelle's parents' home), and they want to stop by for a few minutes. DH will respond with, "What time do you plan on stopping by?" This question usually doesn't receive a response. We then spend the entire afternoon on pins and needles waiting to find out if/when Rob and Michelle are planning to come by. This often results in DH texting Rob with messages like, "We're going to a movie. Will be home by 4 p.m." "We need to run some errands. Will be back by 3 p.m." "Are you still planning to come by? What time?" You get the idea.

This behavior has been going on for years, and not just with Rob. It happened with DH's other two sons as well. When DH and I were dating, if he knew the boys were in town, he would literally sit by the phone and wait for them to call him. He wouldn't leave his house in case they happened to drop by instead of calling first. There were numerous times when DH cancelled our plans just in case his sons happened to stop by. I felt bad that DH always seemed to wait around for the "crumbs" of time with his sons -- often it was just a few minutes on their way out of town.

Over the years that DH and I have been together, I have helped DH understand that it is not necessary for him to wait around like that. We spent a lot of time talking about how hurt he was by the boys' behavior. And he was often hurt to the point of tears. I knew he felt disregarded based on the quality of the time the boys were giving him. With my encouragement, he sat down with all three boys together and told them how he felt. They all agreed to work harder at giving DH more notice about when they were coming into town and to plan their visits better so DH wasn't left with the "crumbs." The two younger sons have improved considerably. Rob agreed at the time of their talk, but he has seemed unwilling to change his behavior.

Rob's behavior continues to bother DH. I have worked to encourage DH that we can go about our lives, doing what we had planned to do, regardless of Rob's behavior. However, because DH wants to see Rob and Michelle, it does result in him updating Rob repeatedly throughout the day about where we are and what we're doing on the off chance that Rob might respond. As I said above, Rob doesn't respond, although he carries his cell phone in his hand almost constantly. DH and I believe that he doesn't reply to DH's texts because he doesn't want to commit to a time with us until he absolutely has to. It feels PA to us.

On top of that, there is a good chance that even if DH makes the effort at the last minute to try to coordinate with Rob, because Rob doesn't reply to DH, we wind up not seeing them anyway. This happened most recently a few weeks ago when we got the last-minute text from Rob, "Will you be around this afternoon? We are leaving town at X time and want to come by first." We waited around until X time, and Rob and Michelle never showed up. DH texted Rob and got a very irritated reply about how they were still tied up with Y activity at Michelle's parents' house and if we wanted to see them, we would have to wait. Unfortunately, we had plans and couldn't wait. This resulted in more irritated responses from Rob. We had to skip seeing them that time.

That was a lot of BG.

Yesterday was Father's Day. DH and I were planning on having a relaxed day together. I was going to take DH out for lunch and we were going to do a few things together in the afternoon. His youngest son and girlfriend were coming into town later in the afternoon and our plan was to have dinner with them to celebrate the day. Then at about 9 a.m., we got the text from Rob. He and Michelle were at her parents' house for the weekend. "Will you be around this afternoon? We want to stop by on our way out of town." DH said yes. My heart sank. It's Father's Day. Of course, DH would want to see Rob on Father's Day. However, we hadn't planned on having people over, it has been a crazy week, and the house was a wreck. We spent a couple of hours straightening things up. DH sent a text to Rob asking what time he thought they might drop by. No response. I asked DH what he wanted to do for the afternoon. He looked at me blankly. "I don't know," he said. And I knew that he was waiting and worrying about a response from Rob.

The most I could coax DH to do instead of sitting around and waiting for Rob was to go for a walk on a nearby trail. He checked his phone all afternoon to see if Rob had replied. We were back from our walk by about 3:30 p.m. Still no response from Rob. DH texted Rob again. No response.

It was 4:45 when Rob finally replied to DH's texts. They were on their way over. In essence, DH spent nearly all of Father's Day waiting for his oldest son to decide he had time to spend with him. Rob and Michelle were here for 20 minutes. They made an excuse before they left that this was just another one of those "unplanned" trips to OurCity. However, while they were talking with us, Michelle commented that they were here to attend an event that happens annually with her family. Given that, I'm not sure how "unplanned" this visit really was. Then off they went.

From an etiquette standpoint, I think that Rob's behavior is rather rude on several different levels. DH agrees with me that it is rude, and he is increasingly frustrated by it. I haven't said this specifically to DH, but to me this is an example of "we teach people how to treat us." Over time, DH has become more likely to tell Rob "no" when it won't work out, but that's only after we spend a considerable part of the day trying to pin Rob down on the time he plans to stop by. If we have plans for an event with a specific starting time, DH usually won't let Rob infringe on those plans. Still, I know DH struggles with having to say "no" to Rob. 

I'm looking for ideas on how we might handle this better with Rob. The last-minute "Will you be around this afternoon?" is frustrating enough, but our inability to pin Rob down specifically with a time for the visit is even worse.

Thoughts?

SPuck:
You can't change Rob you can only change your own reaction. Stop dropping your plans for these last minute get togethers. When Rob texts your husband all he needs to say "Sorry we have other plans, next time warn us earlier about the visit and we can plan a solid get together time." Either your step son will change his behavior or not. The only reason why your husband is left hanging is because he allow it to happen.

guihong:
You're right; your DH is teaching Rob that no matter what he says, he'll wait for him for hours.  I find it heartbreaking for your DH.

If just saying "No, we won't be in this afternoon" is too nuclear, how's this: When Rob asks "Will you be around?", your DH can say "We will be here until 1:00".  Then, when they haven't shown up by 1:00, leave and do something else.  It's your home and your time, enforce boundaries.

Coley:

--- Quote from: SPuck on June 17, 2013, 09:40:26 AM ---You can't change Rob you can only change your own reaction. Stop dropping your plans for these last minute get togethers. When Rob texts your husband all he needs to say "Sorry we have other plans, next time warn us earlier about the visit and we can plan a solid get together time." Either your step son will change his behavior or not. The only reason why your husband is left hanging is because he allow it to happen.

--- End quote ---

I completely agree that DH is allowing it to happen. (And I am simultaneously sad for DH and frustrated with him about that.) The irony is that DH has zero patience with my family when they do this. And they also do it frequently. I have learned to say no to my family and not feel guilty about it. DH is able to see the irony there, but he's struggling with enforcing the boundary.

I will speak with DH about his willingness to say "no" up front. This will be difficult for him to do. I know he fears even fewer visits with Rob than he has now.

MindsEye:
Does your DH ever specifically invite Rob and Michelle over?  Does he ever try to make specific plans with them, for them to visit him from their home in BigCity or for him to go there to visit them?

I ask because the impression that I get from the OP is that your DH waits to hear that they will happen to be in your town, and then waits around hoping that they will want to see him.  Which may be giving Rob (and his other sons) that their visits are not actually important to your DH... because if they were then your DH would be doing something other than just sitting by the phone...  :-\  (Actions speak louder than words, afterall...)

I think that your DH needs to be proactive and actually take the initiative to contact Rob and make plans to get together, if spending time with Rob is something that is really important to your DH.  Then, if Rob continues to blow off your DH... well, there you go... but at least you will know that you made every effort....

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