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Freeloaders Will Mooch As Long As Allowed

Dear Dr Dave and Dr. Dee,

Ever since my husband and I first got together (18 years ago), we've had his family members "staying" with us. By staying, I mean they show up at the door and move in. We live 3000 miles away from the majority of his family, but this doesn't seem to stop them from showing up unexpectedly.

I did not want relatives coming out here to live with us. A brief visit would be fine, but nothing longer than two weeks. We've had numerous nephews stay with us, plus one of his sisters and her 3 kids, a boyfriend, then her husband. After she left, she sent one of her boys back to stay with us.

About 5 weeks ago I answered the door bell, and lo and behold one of the nephews was at my door (he is 29 years old now). He told me he had rented a room by the week. But, that night he stayed here, and hasn't left. He tried looking for work, but said the pay wasn't good enough. He does help my husband in our shop. But, he doesn't help me with buying groceries, washing clothes, cleaning the kitchen, etc. I don't want to make him uncomfortable, but I don't want him to feel like he has a free home either.

I don't want to upset him, but I would like to know a tactful way to tell him that I think it's time for him to get out and get his own place, job, and life. I am the type who holds it in and lets it build up. If he keeps staying here, I am going to resent him and maybe even dislike him for taking away our family privacy and continuing to stay here.


Stressed aunt

Dear Stressed aunt,

Freeloaders will continue to mooch as long as you let them. Being tactful will not work with moochers, you must be direct.

You and your husband need to have a long talk about setting limits on "visitors." Your husband needs to support you on this, and he should be the one to tell his nephew that it's time to leave. You are not doing your nephew any favors by treating him like a child. He's 29, and needs to be responsible and self-sufficient.

The first rule for setting limits on visitors should be no unexpected company. Visitors must first call or write. If they show up at the door unexpectedly, don't let them stay. Take them to a hotel or back to the bus station. This will be hard for you and your husband to do as you have let his relatives barge in anytime, but you both need to follow through.

Other rules should include helping cook, do the dishes, and their own laundry. You have been too nice and been the "maid" so long that you will feel uncomfortable asking or accepting their help, but you and your husband must stick by the rules. Otherwise, you will again fall into the trap of letting freeloaders have the run of the house.

Keep the visits short. A two week visit is too long. Until these visitors can demonstrate that they will adhere to the new rules, set the visit length to one week or less.

If your relatives become angry at these new rules, it's not your problem. They have been out of line 18 years, and if they decide to no longer visit you and your husband, you have lost nothing but being their doormat.

If your husband won't support you, then set up an appointment to see a marriage counselor to help you both and figure out why your husband allows his side of the family to walk all over him and you.