There are times when you might find yourself with friends or family staying under your roof. Depending on the situation, you might be excited and happy about this–and a bit stressed out.
Look, it’s not normal to spend 24 hours a day with someone. Ok, maybe your partner and/or kids, but it’s not normal to suddenly spend every minute with friends and/or family members for days. Instead of being honest about this, politeness gets in the way and can cause visits to go sour. It can seem rude to say that you need time away from your guests/hosts. But for introverts, it’s just how we are! Sometimes, we even need time away from people we adore and like to be around!
Personally, I can think of two family trips that started out as so much fun!! But after four straight days of being together every moment….inevitably, we all started getting grumpy with each other. That’s because we didn’t have enough time to recharge on our own. It made me so sad that such great trips were marred by too much togetherness. I’m determined not to let it happen again. I learned a lot from those trips.
In my experience, 4 days is a good limit for a visit. Any longer than can feel like too long.
So, this post offers some suggestions for:
- when people are staying with you, and
- when you’re staying with other people.
Remember, all of these suggestions depend on the individual situation and individual person. Every family/friendship is different! These tips won’t work for everyone.
Tips for: When people are staying at your house
- Why not explain to guests that you are an introvert who needs alone time? A lot of people understand being an introvert. Even my in-laws, who are super extroverted, have learned over the years that I’m an introvert who needs to hide away sometimes. (Of course, use your judgment–not everyone will understand being an introvert.) Try this: “I get worn out after doing stuff all day, so I sometimes need a few hours to recharge at home.”
- Before the visit, ask visitors about activities they want to do during the visit. If they say, “We’re fine with anything,” push harder. You can say, “I want to make sure you guys have a great time, so I’d love to know some things you’re interested in doing. I’d hate for you to get here and be bored!” What kind of restaurants do they like/dislike? Which parts of town have they always wanted to visit? Do they enjoy long walks, sports, cultural activities, shopping, watching movies, so on? Give a few suggestions to push them in the right direction. This lets them know that planning is important to you. It also puts a little pressure on them to give you information. Visitors often feel like they “don’t want to be a burden”, so they say they are fine doing “anything”. No! Having suggestions makes planning activities much easier and a leads to a happier experience for everyone.
- Make your guests feel at home. Show them how to use the TV remote and the coffee maker, for example. If they feel comfortable in your home, they be more self-sufficient and won’t need you for every little thing.
- Plan activities with set end times.
- Suggest solo activities for your guests. Example: “I thought you might want to visit the zoo while you’re here. It’s so much fun! I’ve been there a million times, so I wouldn’t be able to join you, but you should really consider checking it out; I think you’d love it.” (As with all of these tips, use your judgment on whether this would be appropriate.) Remember: your guests might be happy to get away from you, too! They might appreciate the chance to do something on their own.
- Every day during the visit, let your guests know your plans for the day. Maybe at breakfast, you say, “Here’s the plan for today. After breakfast we’ll head to the museum, then get lunch at XYZ restaurant. Then we can come home and just relax for a couple hours to recharge before we go out at night. How does that sound?” If you let them know that downtime is planned, it doesn’t seem like you are sick of them….you are just observing the downtime you planned into your day. (Yes, some guests will just not understand planning downtime…your mileage may vary.)
- Consider this: your guests might want alone time, too! The older I get (and the older my friends/family get), the more I notice that other people like quiet, alone time.
- Take a break while your partner/spouse does the social stuff. When my in-laws are at my house, I don’t feel that bad about recharging in my room for a little while if I know my husband is visiting with them. I remember one time–they were all watching a movie on TV in the living room. I just read a book in my bedroom instead. They probably barely noticed I was gone. I emerged when the movie was over and felt refreshed.
- Before plans are even made, you could suggest that visitors stay at a hotel instead. This, obviously, requires a lot of tact and judgment and the right situation. You might have to offer to pay for the hotel (or use points to redeem free nights.) You might need an excuse–even if it’s a lie. An easy way out would be to say you don’t have space or your extra room is being renovated, etc. etc. I know, I know–most of you are probably rolling your eyes at the impossibility of this suggestion, but in some cases it can work.
Tips for: You are staying at friend’s or family member’s house
- Stay at a hotel instead. This solves lots of problems. It gives you alone time. I don’t think it’s too tough to come up with excuses for this. You can always blame your spouse, too! (if they are ok with it.) Say they have problems sleeping or something. Be creative. 🙂
- Tell your hosts some activities you want to do. Like I mentioned in the previous section, this doesn’t make you high maintenance, it makes you helpful because your hosts don’t have to plan everything. Of course you don’t want to suggest a dozen expensive, difficult things–just a few suggestions. Example: “We’d love to check out the XYZ neighborhood, maybe go to the museum and the beach, and eat [local specialty]!” It’s pretty simple–If you tell your host what you want to do, you’re more likely to enjoy your time there!
- Plan solo activities, if it seems appropriate. If you are going to be with your hosts several days, everyone is probably ok with separating a bit.
- If you require downtime, don’t be afraid to say it! Saying something like this to your host doesn’t sound too crazy: “I like having some downtime after a long day because I get worn out.” A lot of people understand this. But, if your hosts are the type of people who go-go-go and never seem to get tired, you may have to either suck it up and keep up with them…or explain to them that you just don’t have as much energy as they do. If you TELL them how you feel, they won’t be left wondering what’s going on with you.
- Opt out of some activities. For example, if everyone is going to party at a club one night, it might be ok if you decide to stay home. “I think I’m gonna skip the club–I’m really tired, and chilling at home tonight sounds nice. But I hope you guys have an awesome time!”
But most importantly, regardless of the situation…
Acknowledge and accept that you are going to be out of your comfort zone.
While friends and family might drive us crazy sometimes, we are lucky to have them; it can be challenging to see that sometimes. Having people who care about you is one of the most important things in life. Try to see the good things and enjoy your time together. You may have to suffer though some discomfort, but you’ll get through it. And it might be more fun than you imagined.
Excellent WIN-WIN suggestions, Kelly. You model a self-care style that also puts others at ease.
I visited my family over the holidays and the first week was not too bad because they were still working. Second week (particularly when they decided that they had to leave at “XX time to go to church early because it was Christmas and it would be crowded”. It was not crowded and I became a bit “unglued”. I should have stayed home and watched it online and it would have been better. Lessons learned – speak up for what you need and not let someone else question that.
The first week… second week…
Ugh. I don’t know how you could visit for more than a few days.
Thank you so much! This really helped me! I love your blog!!
You mentioned 5 days is a good limit for houseguests. Well, even the thought that drives me mad! Even one night is a torture for me! Ok, it depends on the guests, too, but especially a family with three kids (my partner´s daughters family) makes so much noise and they seem to be able to occupy the whole house so that I have absolutely nowhere to hide and I´m totally worn out in a couple of hours already! They are all super sociable and don´t seem to need any privacy at all 🙁
I think this article is good, but for those of us who are extremely highly sensitive, or highly sensitive and struggling with depression, some of these suggestions are still too much. 5 days is excessively long, especially if you don’t have a lot of space (but even if you do) — I have a two night limit for friends, and a three night limit for family members. I also won’t do more than one (reasonably long) activity a day with people, although I often bum around the house with them after that. But two meals out and a museum trip? A recipe for total burn out!
I totally agree with you regardinfg the time limit of 5 days.
How do you handle the 3/2 days limit, i.e. do you tell people openly? I have an old friend from school who wants to visit us this year. She is very extrovert (also very kind) and I would preferrably have her here for 2 nights only. The issue is that she lives 5 hours drive from our place and does not have that much money. So for her 2 nights might seem very short. As well she probably does not know about my introversion (although we know each other for quite some time). If you want I would be happy to receive any feedback from your experience. Thank you.
We live with my mother in law and it is hard. I feel like the eternal guest.
I’m so glad I found this post. My 88 year old mother in law and 39 year old son are visiting us for SEVEN days . This is day 2 and it is Christmas. I feel absolutely done with waiting on her hand and foot and listening to her boss everyone else around. I feel like such a hypocrite because I’m so fed up. Then after dinner and cleaning the kitchen I retreated to my bedroom and realized I’m just needing time away.
My pregnant niece has taken over my home. I haven’t had a day if quiet since she’s been here. She was only supposed to stay until her mother moved back to the area and now that’s not going to happen. I can’t exactly kick her out but I want my home back.
oh my gosh I love this blog! I’m finally accepting I’m an HSP. I have a houseguest for 6 WEEKS! I finally sat down with my husband and made an agreement about ground rules for houseguests, and that helped a little. But now his sister and 84 year old dad with cancer are coming on Wednesday! I love my father in law but they use our home as an air B and B. I’m already dreading thanksgiving, when only once in 10 years have we stayed at a hotel. We have a 7 year old, so my focus is her, whether we have guests or not. But that means I can’t just take off and do a yoga retreat when guests come. Thanks for being here! I’m going to send my husband the article about HSP parenting too, to help him understand me.
This is great, unfortunately my husband is very rude and ignores all members of my lovely,friendly and polite family. He actually makes every family party or meal I organize very uncomfortable as he either doesn’t speak at all and puts the tv on and sits and watches sport the entire time. He even did this at our daughter’s 10th family birthday get together. Or he will go outside and mow the field on a sit on lawn mower and only come in once they’ve gone. He does this with his own family as well. Any suggestions? As I cannot give in and not invite anyone over.
Lol. Clearly your husband is a GROWN MAN, who doesn’t NEED or WANT to be around other people other than YOU. YOU are who he cares about and wants to be with; not HIS family, not YOUR family.
I don’t understand why this is such a hard thing for spouses (particularly wives) to understand. I married YOU. Not your friends. Not your parents. You didn’t marry my parents. Not your sister. YOU.
I seem to get quite ill no matter how long or short the visit is or who they are or how much down time I schedule. Part of it is that I have chronic illness to begin with and when people come my entire routine is thrown off and the foods are thrown off no matter how hard I try to maintain the routine. Then I have a week of migraines and a week of digestive illness after they leave. Even when they are people I fully enjoy and have fun with. Does anyone else get ill like this after any kind of guests?
Wow, exactly how I feel each time I have guests, even if it is just for coffee. I get IBS attacts during or right after the visit. I have MS and fibromyalgia, so could be part of it. One time I took my guests to the Farmers Market and had to run around looking for a bathroom the whole time. 2 days ago I was awake all night, and it was just morning coffee with 2 people !
Yes! This is so me. No matter how short the stay is, I get thrown off track and it takes weeks to get back on track with diet, exercise, etc.. I usually get migraines and stomach issues. The problem is that my in-laws come several times a month to stay for a couple days because they have doctor’s appointments. For whatever reason, they don’t want to get doctors where they moved to several months ago, so they use our house as a hotel when they have appointments. The other thing is, they only live an hour away, but somehow it’s too difficult to drive up from their own house to go to the appointments. They have to come stay for days. And I work at home, so there’s no getting away from them. My health has been legitimately impacted to the point where I bought my own house (let my mom live in it) and I’m considering moving in there. At least it’s just my own mother and there wouldn’t be house guests 5-10 days a month.
Yes! I work on a covid unit and I am in a masters program. To ice the cake my 17 year old had been sick with mono for three weeks. My 24 year old daughter lives at home snd she invited a friend for two weeks so they could see all the Florida sites. They barely spoke to me or my son and now my daughter says I did not make the friend welcome. I am sick and upset that I have to face all this for a vacation of her internet friend that I ne Er seen before. I don’t e dm want to speak to daughter for raining this stress on us she has made me sick I am unable to eat and running to bathroom.
In-laws watching movie together and me alone in another room is considered disrespectful. From where I come,it’s highly culturally disrespectful for me and my husband to live separately from the in-laws even if it’s living next door.
You are expected to play host for the rest of your life to the in laws. And downtime and introversion are just “negative habits” that need to be shunned.
And mothers are more keen on having their sons find for themselves wives who are chirpy and social and always available for everyone anytime..
With so less awareness and acceptance for introversion, older people find it difficult to understand people like us. And no matter how hard you try to reason, they just keep getting offended.
And all of this is toxic.
It takes away control on your self and put it in the hands of others making sure you’re upsetting no one while all the time you’re hurting inside.
I mistakenly told my two friends they could stay anytime with us in Florida between Jan 3 and Jan 18 without specifying the number of days. They mistakenly thought I was inviting them for the entire two weeks and therefore stayed the entire 2 weeks. My husband and I are introverts and they are extroverts. It was horrible. On day two the guy started telling me what to do with a project that I didn’t want his advice on and I told him so. He got angry and things went down hill from there. They barely contributed to the food they ate, complained about everything we suggested they do to entertain themselves when we couldn’t entertain them, behaved badly, and left their space a mess. They threw comforters on the floor, left the bathroom filthy (urine all around the toilet on the floor, and when I lifted the toilet seat to clean, urine ran down all over the toilet and floor. Disgusting. I am no ones maid! Never again!
If I ever told my mother-in-law that I am an introvert who needs some space/downtime, she would cry and tell every other member of the family, behind my back, that I just don’t like her. My anxiety when people stay at my house is real, and I am on edge from the minute I know someone is coming until the minute they are gone. I just can’t help it, and no one understands. I try to be a gracious host nonetheless and just keep counting down the hours until it is over, but if I ever retreat for a few minutes my MIL takes it personally and cries and puts my husband in the middle of it all. I honestly cannot win, and it has caused a lot of stress within my family.
Email her your thoughts. Write rationally, logically and truthfully. Explain as best you can, it’s not her, (or any other guest), necessarily. Tell her it’s who you are. Tell her that you’re happy she understands as you would never want to hurt her feelings but nor can you continue as though things are fine. Because as an introvert, having house guests is too stressful for you. And blind copy (BCC) the other family members she might run to.
One night of anyone outside of my nuclear family is enough for me. I don’t want to “pile-in” on anyone and I don’t really want anyone or everybody “piling-in” on me. It is a recipe to create some kind of friction. Why would you even want to spoil the joy of visiting someone when it cultivates stress? Some people are so damn cheap that they see lodging as a waste of money, even when they can certainly afford to stay in a hotel/motel.
TBH, I can’t stand having people in my home. I never offer to take someone in. I’ll never accept an invitation to stay with someone else.
I don’t like others, I don’t play well with others, and I’ve done my best to intentionally destroy acquaintenances with people who think that “visiting” my house is a requirement to friendship. We can meet someone for a meal. We can go together to some “other” place; but not my home… not anyone’s home.
My in-laws came out 15 days last year and stayed. All while my husband was going to work each day during the day, it was absolutely awful. They took over my house. They are planning on coming again soon too. Who stays that long and why?, this time they’ll be here right when school starts for our sons. They aren’t helpful and they act like my husband is some type of god. I feel like Cinderella
Russel, I am a sixty year old Australian woman and I agree with everything you have written wholeheartedly.I could have written it myself.I thought I was the only one to think like this.I’m glad I’m not.Thank you.
My wife’s sister and her husband are staying with us for 2 weeks and we enjoy playing games and watching movies with them. However, her sister doesn’t seem to care at all about our house rules such as not eating or making messy crafts in the living room and now there’s all this crap stuck in our nice rug. She also doesn’t offer to help clean or prepare meals and I even heard her complain about the noise when my wife was doing the dishes. She made me sick, too, because she’s sick yet keeps licking her fingers and blowing her nose then touches things without washing her hands. I don’t understand how people think this sort of behaviour is acceptible.
How will I tell my 3 week house guests that my husband and would like 2 evenings (dinner) alone?
As a budget traveler from a family of budget travelers I have always been taught the etiquette of visiting someone’s home as a houseguest namely to leave the space cleaner than you found it, be self sufficient, spend time out of the house and if a longer stay is necessary (such as in the case of an overseas visit), to plan day or even overnight trips in the area so that you are not with your host 24/7 during your visit. I think these basic rules can help alleviate a lot of the strain on the host and I am not sure why these rules are not more commonly applied. My husband’s sister is staying with us right now for 20 days and although I like her a lot I am really losing my mind. We moved from one state to another on Dec 1st and she wanted to come on Nov 30th! Thankfully in the end she did not arrive until a few days later but I was already so stressed about the move, we had boxes everywhere, the place was a mess – it was just really bad timing to host a houseguest but she wanted to come for her birthday. She is sleeping on our couch in the middle of the living room and we are both working from home all day (while my husband is at work). The stress of being in a new area, settling into a new apartment, switching to work from home plus having no where to relax is giving me so much anxiety but I am also racked with guilt over not being more welcoming.
I should of read this prior to having a houseguest stay in my studio apt….great article. xo
MIL is visiting us from out of the country for 3.5 weeks. She has been here for 6 days already and I’m exhausted. They say guests and fish start to smell after 3 days and I believe that. I feel like every thing I do is being watched and she’ll give her opinion of how I should do things when I don’t ask. Like I shouldn’t have to defend my actions in my own home. I don’t do that when we visit her. I’ve started spending time in the bedroom just to have my space but the sound of her shrill voice makes me roll my eyes unconsciously. Let the countdown begin.
Wow! This post and all these comments resonate so much. We have had my husband’s daughter and her 2 year old toddler living with us for eight weeks and four days (yes, I am counting!). She is re-settling in this country and we thought we’d be kind and helpful and offer a place to stay while she sorted herself out.
We made all the classic mistakes – not setting a time-frame, not setting boundaries for eating, time alone, contribution etc., I have slipped into depression during her stay and am exhausted, down, stressed, anxious and weeping. On top of that, I’m supposed to try and be the nice hostess. She never cooks, had to be asked to contribute to food/electricity/water and had to be told that her child needed to be put to bed before 10.00pm and not allowed to run around our home like a wild thing. I have to bite my tongue about her appalling parenting and my husband avoids conflict so finds it difficult to set boundaries and expectations.
Frankly, I just need it to be over. I’m considering staying with a friend until she goes, but then I’d be imposing on them…..
We have friends coming in July
I’m here to say that I can barely even cope with 3 hours let alone 5 days. I hate people coming into my home and it’s taken me until my 40s to accept that it’s ok. I am pretty sure sitting around other people’s homes is some sort of Victorian construct. NOTHING about it feels fun or even natural. I always secretly think everyone is hating it and no-one is willing to say, so we all just keep doing it the world over. If you think about it, we all used to live in small communities and would never have had to go through the artificial weirdness of staying in each others home just to spend time together. Time together would have been incidental, small amounts of time, daily and absorbed into the general community. There is literally NOTHING more cringe-worthy than having guests sitting round your lounge, all drinking cups of tea and thinking of small talk to exchange. Beam me up Scotty!! If you don’t want to EVER do it – you’re not alone or a freak. We’re the normal ones!!!
I couldn’t agree more! I work from
Home in my basement. I have a gym down there as well and having people over makes me feel like I’m inconveniencing them with noise so I am forced to leave and go to a gym and make my work phone calls later so I don’t wake them. I’m miserable from the moment I hear people are coming to visit/stay. My husband doesn’t understand and we argue about it. There’s so much tension every time we have his family coming over because the cause of it is the fact that it’s always his family and friends staying with us. No one will pay for a hotel and they use us like a hotel. We cook, clean, do the laundry for other people on top of my family of 5! We have a pool and people enjoy my pool more than I do because I’m running around cleaning and serving so they feel welcome. No one even brings in a meal, cooks a meal, or does the laundry! I counted the amount of time I am forced to live with other people, mainly his mother and friends and it amounted to 3-4 months a year! I don’t think this is acceptable and he won’t listen. He doesn’t even ask if I’m ok with it. He just makes plans and people show up and I don’t even know how long they’re staying or what dates! On top of that, he wants to host huge bbq’s with over 80 people coming. We pay for all of the food and booze and always end up with houseguests before, during and after the bbq. I have refused to do that for the last 3 years and he’s pushing to do one again and I’m horrified! As I type this, my mother in law is here for a week after having his brother-in-law, niece and nephew here for the weekend. They were all just here in February for a weekend and his mother was just here in April for 10 days! It feels like a never ending nightmare and I don’t know how to make it stop.
Oh my gosh! Not only was this article the thing I really needed to read, but all of these comments are great too. I am in the process of learning some things about myself… I’m definitely a highly sensitive introvert… and I struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. I absolutely cannot stand having guests among other things, and have always been made to feel bad about it, like I’m the weird one. My brother in law called last night and pretty much just informed my husband that he’ll be coming to stay at our house with his girlfriend for four days next week. My husband’s relationship with his brother has been strained so he really wants to accommodate him and I can understand that, but at the same time it sent me into a total spiral of panic and anxiety. I’ve been trying to working through my emotions all morning and I have to say this article and website just made me feel so much more in control of the situation. Next week still won’t be great for me, in anyway, but at least I think I can face it now. Thank you! And if anybody has tips on how to mange their children’s friends invading their home I’d love to hear them. My son rarely has friends over because I’m a mess about it, but I’d like to be more accommodating to his needs.