Dear Amy: How can I politely say no when friends are passing through town or vacationing here and ask if they can spend a couple of nights with us?
I have never said no to anyone and have always been gracious to anyone staying in our home, but I find I really don’t enjoy it.
I have extreme stress and anxiety days before they arrive, and also while they are here.
My husband doesn’t understand my tirades over this. He welcomes anyone who wants to stay with us.
I just don’t like people here with us 24 hours a day. I like my privacy at night to rest and read or watch television, and the last thing I want is to see faces at the breakfast table when I get up in the morning.
I know this issue will be coming up soon again as one recent guest has already said he plans to be back in town early next year.
Houseguests unsettle me, my lack of privacy is the issue, although I make sure they would never guess how I feel.
I am tired of pretending it is fine that they are staying with us.
How can I suggest that a hotel is a better choice when they ask to stay?
I don’t want to offend anyone, but my mental health is more important to me than sharing my home with out-of-towners.
How do I nicely say sorry, but no?
– Not Saying No
Dear Not Saying: Saying “no” firmly but kindly is an act of clarifying grace and, in your case, essential self-care.
Your husband is the X-factor here, because he chooses not to recognize your extreme challenge, and then undermines you by being an automatic “yes” man.
His behavior is supremely unfair to you, but if you are pretending that everything is OK during a visit, he may believe that you ultimately enjoy hosting.
The first person you need to learn to say “no” to is the man you are sharing your home with. Your pre-visit “tirades” brought on by stress don’t seem to have impressed him.
You could practice a “no” with these next self-invited guests: “You mentioned wanting to visit, but I’m finding it very hard to host lately, so hosting you in our home won’t be possible. I’ve found a number of nearby places you could look at to stay, and I’d be really happy to spend time with you during your time in town.”
If you can’t bring yourself to either confront your husband about this or manage an emailed “no,” you will land with people at your breakfast table.
Perhaps you should consider them to be essentially your husband’s guests.
If so, you could either choose to stay elsewhere, or protect your privacy by spending as much time as possible alone, especially at both ends of the day. This is a change in your expected behavior, but – you must calmly and carefully take care of yourself.
Dear Amy: My husband and I frequently go out for dinner with my brother and sister-in-law.
Sometimes her sister and husband will join us.
They are all drinkers, and we are not. (They usually have more than one drink).
I don’t think it is fair that we pay for their alcohol every time we go out, but my husband and I both feel awkward asking for a separate check.
I did ask once for them to buy their drinks before being seated, but that idea didn’t fly.
Would love your thoughts on this sensitive issue.
Dear Non-Drinker: This isn’t really that sensitive an issue, and you should not shy away from stating your own need and desire to go out, enjoy a meal, and pay for your meal separately.
If the other two couples want to co-mingle their charges and split the cost down the middle, that’s up to them.
You can ask the server directly: “Could you prepare a separate check for the two of us?”
There is no need to dive into the awkwardness or explain this to the other diners. Your friends should accept your choice, resume ordering their meals, and not give it another thought.
Dear Amy: “Exhausted Daughter” did not understand her mother’s life-long emotional distance. Thank you for suggesting that this daughter do some research about neurodivergence.
I faced an analogous situation and receiving a diagnosis really helped everyone to understand that this behavior was not intended as a personal response.
– Been There
Dear Been There: I hope “Exhausted Daughter” can also receive some helpful insight.