This was a very interesting note that I received yesterday that I felt deserved some discussion:
My husband’s brother moved into our apartment complex recently. At first I was happy to have him here, but now he spends all of his waking time when he’s not at work at our place. He raids our fridge and drinks all of our beer (not cheap stuff) and wine. Its costing us a lot of money. What can I do?
This is a very common problem – and one that can cause major financial problems. Even worse, if it’s not handled well, it can trigger a cascade of emotional and relationship problems as well. I once had a female friend who came very close to reaching this threshold of overstaying her welcome – eating multiple meals a day with us without being invited and so forth. It can be very painful to fix – and very costly if you don’t fix it sooner rather than later.
Here are seven techniques for handling situations such as these. Note that not all of these tips will work for every relationship – you should unquestionably pick and choose among these.
Directly ask for financial assistance for food/household purchases. Saying something like “I’m going to the store to pick up more beer/food/etc. Could you chip in a $20?” is a very clear and concise way of handling this. Unless the person is a complete boor, they will usually cough up the cash without much question. I tend to believe that this is the best technique unless you just want the guest entirely out of your home.
Request private time. Tell the guest that you would like some time alone with your husband/etc. Something like “Tomorrow night, Henry and I are going to have a romantic dinner / watch a romantic movie together / etc. We’re intending it to be just a couple’s night.” This should get the person out of there for at least one night; repetitions of this should help the person begin to fly on their own.
Find stuff for the person to do. This technique works well if they’re new in town. Ask them what they enjoy doing and try to find appropriate activities in your community that match them. If you’re already involved in the community, take this guest to as many community activities as possible.
Be boring. Seriously. Many people feel very welcome because you’re putting out extra effort to make them feel welcome. If a guest is overstaying their welcome, sit around and read books with the television off, or spend hours getting your stamp collection in order. It might make this person think you’re boring, but that also means this person won’t be living on your couch.
Ask this person for assistance with household chores. Once a person has been at your place a lot and has eaten a lot of food and so forth, ask them to do things like taking out the trash and so forth. There comes a point where they’ve crossed the line of being a normal guest, so normal guest etiquette doesn’t entirely apply.
Interrupt the flow. Often, guests with daily repetition like this do it because it becomes part of their daily routine. Alter yours a bit so that you’re not home when they normally arrive, interrupting their “flow.”
Buy cheaper things to be raided from the fridge. If you like Sam Adams but the guest downs a six pack of it every night, buy a six pack of MGD instead and save the Sam Adams elsewhere for your own use. This is the technique used by my in-laws in the past.
Ask for replacements. When they go to leave, ask them, “Could you pick up some more insert item here?” That way, they feel obligated to bring something with them when they come again.