By Gina B.
Tis the season to be visiting. The holiday season is abuzz with annual family gatherings. Sounds like fun, but a visit from the in-laws (or outlaws) can be a big strain on a relationship.
Depending on your relationship, it can be very taxing to have your significant other’s family call to announce that they’re visiting and staying for a week. You don’t want to say no . . .yet you really, really do. You love spending time with the relatives, but an ENTIRE freakin’ WEEK of entertaining?? Sheesh!
Granted, there are certain people who are the consummate entertainers and live to receive company. They have elaborate bedrooms permanently set up in anticipation of their guest’s every comfort, and are more than willing to alter their schedules to accommodate such visitors. And if you are that person, this article is not for you.
It’s more for people like me.
Personally, I’m not a houseguest person. I prefer hotels when I travel, not because I don't love the person that I'm visiting and don't appreciate their offer for hospitality. It's because I have weird habits. I wake up early. I stay up late. I’m on a schedule. I need special food. I like to come and go – sometimes at strange hours of the night. I lay around in my underwear. It would be simply unfair to expect anyone else to deal with that. Hotels are more expensive, but I’ll pay that price to preserve my relationships.
Fortunately, I tend to attract friends who operate much like myself and typically enjoy having an excuse to stay in trendy hotels. (This is a good thing because my “guest room” has been claimed by my cat, and is primarily used to house my books, workout equipment and off-season wardrobe.)
Family tends to be more invasive. Likely because they feel it’s within reason, as a family member, to stay in your house for as many days as their hearts desire, just because there’s a bloodline.
Everyone’s tolerant of their own family members (to a degree), but if you’re the unrelated live-in significant other of the host, you’re dragged along for the ride. And what a ride it can be.
You don’t feel the same nostalgic warmth for your husband’s Aunt Betty, who plans two week visits and would prefer you give up your bedroom for her comfort. You begin to resent your boyfriend for agreeing with his mother, who is openly dissatisfied with everything and keeps resetting the thermostat to a temperature that is 10 degrees higher than is comfortable or affordable.
Also, your man probably hates your brother Sam, who travels without his own money and has a penchant for partying all night and having his own overnight visitors in your home. Your husband is also secretly plotting the murder of your sister, who travels unapologetically with her wild toddler triplets who scream all day, demolish your home and render every surface stickier than flypaper.
Next thing you know, you and your sig other are having hurtful arguments about how you were clearly raised by wolves, and how he is a great big mama’s boy.
My friend David had several such hellish experiences with his and his partner’s family that resulted in infernal arguments which led to the invention of the Three Day Rule.
I learned this when I announced that I was visiting Los Angeles and David invited me to stay with them . . . for exactly three days. I laughed (largely because I’d already booked myself into a hotel) but he was completely serious. In their home, the Three Day Rule is a hard and fast rule that applies to friends and family. There are no exceptions.
He and his partner determined that a three day visit is about the right amount of time to enjoy their visitors and catch up. It’s also right on the cusp of too much togetherness before everyone forgets their party manners.
Three days isn’t so much of a life disruption. After a three day visit, the time spent is remembered as a pleasant experience, rather than having the memory of how you were counting the minutes until you could drop them off at the airport. There are few things that can’t be tolerated for three days.
Rather than argue in anticipation of a pending visit and the bloodbath that would ensue, they blame each other when they tell their respective family members, apologetically, that they will only be permitted to stay for exactly three days and two nights. They're armed with a list of preferred hotels identified for guests who would like to stay in the region for a longer amount of time.
Bold, yes, and obviously there are pushy relatives who simply won’t accept the Three Day Rule. But if you can get away with it, I guarantee you’ll have a much easier holiday and happier relationship.