Boundaries help relationships thrive

Certain members of my husband's family just drop in on us with almost no notice and stay for several days...

I know it’s a little late in the summer to be asking this, but I want to be prepared for next year. My problem is that certain members of my husband’s family just drop in on us with almost no notice and stay for several days during the summer. They seem to think that we have no plans.

My husband doesn’t want to upset them even though he doesn’t like it either, and we are trying to get them to stop this without being rude. So far we have mentioned that they should call in advance, but they don’t. What else can we do short of hiding and not answering the door?

Well, I suppose hiding and not answering the door is one solution, but a hard one to explain if someone discovers you sitting under your kitchen table!

I think there are some alternatives that would meet your test of not being rude while at the same time getting your point across.

In your letter you say that you have mentioned that you would like your husband’s relatives to call in advance, but that they continue to arrive unexpectedly.

The first thing I would suggest is putting your request in writing. It is easy to disregard or forget something that was mentioned in a conversation, but things that arrive by e-mail or in a letter tend to get more attention.

Your written message can be polite and can explain that you would like to be able to plan for their visit and make it more enjoyable for both of you.

If your relatives continue to disregard your request and turn up at your home with little or no notice, then you and your husband will need to have a different strategy. It would be a good idea to talk with your husband ahead of time and agree on how you will handle this situation.

Whatever you agree on saying to your visitors, it will need to reiterate your expectation that they talk with you ahead of time.

Some people would choose at this point to go ahead with whatever plans they already had and fit the relatives in as they are able. Others would suggest a different date that would work for a visit.

Whatever you choose to do, it needs to be very clear that you are not willing to drop everything for houseguests who do not honour your request for advanced notice of their visit.

As you deal with this issue, it is important to keep in mind that you and your husband are not responsible for the relatives’ feelings. You will be doing your best to present your expectations clearly and politely. If this upsets them then they may have a problem, but it is not your problem.

Relationships thrive when boundaries and expectations are clear. I hope you are able to set the stage for an enjoyable visit with your husband’s family next summer.

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.