Relationships

How To Politely Tell A Guest They've Overstayed Their Welcome

Don't let family and friends take advantage of your hospitality.
Here's how to create some healthy boundaries with houseguests who stay too long. 
Here's how to create some healthy boundaries with houseguests who stay too long. 

The old adage still rings true: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

Though having friends and family at your house may be fun at first, it can quickly sour once they’ve worn out their welcome. Your desire to have your living space all to yourself again and get back into your normal routine is perfectly reasonable.

So how do you broach this uncomfortable situation without coming off as a rude host? We asked an etiquette expert and a therapist to weigh in.

Ideally, solidify the details before — not during — the visit.

“Having a houseguest can be a positive experience for all involved, providing both are considerate and that the parameters are established right up front,” etiquette expert Thomas P. Farley, aka Mister Manners, told HuffPost

That means, hopefully, you and your houseguests will agree upon the dates and duration of their visit and other pertinent details prior to their arrival.

“Open-ended visits are problematic and can be trying for even the most gracious of hosts,” Farley said. “Be upfront about what you can and cannot accommodate in terms of where in your home the guests will be staying, what your availability will be for them while they’re there and the use of your vehicle.”

Direct conversations like these can be a bit awkward, especially for people-pleasers, but “it’s much better to choose short-term discomfort over long-term resentment,” clinical psychologist Nicole Cook told Stuff.co.nz.

If it’s too late for that, start dropping hints now.

So you made the mistake of not hammering out the details before your guests’ visit and now you feel like a prisoner in your own home. What can you do now? Start dropping some subtle hints that the visit is winding down; hopefully your guests will catch on.

For example, say, “It has been so lovely having you stay with us,” Farley suggested.

“Open-ended visits are problematic and can be trying for even the most gracious of hosts.”

- Thomas P. Farley, etiquette expert

If your guests don’t seem to be getting the message, a little white lie may be necessary.

“More drastic measures, such as the pending arrival of another houseguest — real or imaginary — may be required to usher the guest along,” Farley said.

Next time, set clearer boundaries from the start.

Establishing healthy boundaries with loved ones is essential. That means they should ask your permission to stay with you, not just assume they can. Make it clear that you need advanced notice, too — no last-minute surprise visits. And if the dates they suggest don’t work for you, say so.

“If family want to stay, and you have other family members nearby, ask them to take some of the burden of houseguests,” said psychotherapist Tina Tessina, author of “It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction.” “You are not a hotel. They are not paying for the room. You don’t have to be gracious if the stay is inconvenient.”

During a visit, encourage houseguests to do some stuff on their own. Let them know they’re welcome to grab a snack when they’re hungry, make themselves a cup of coffee or leave the house when they please. It empowers them to be self-sufficient — and you get a breather, too.

“You are not a hotel. They are not paying for the room. You don’t have to be gracious if the stay is inconvenient.”

- Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist

“The more you enable them to feel enabled — whether to use the stove to make breakfast or to head to the local museum to take in an exhibit — the happier you both will be and the greater your chances of emerging from their stay-with-you-cation with your friendship fully intact,” Farley said.