Is It Ever Okay to Tell a Houseguest That They Have Overstayed Their Welcome?
More importantly, is there a way to do this politely?
We all know this to be true: It's very possible (if not easy) for houseguests—even our closest friends and most beloved family members—to wear out their welcome. And when that time comes, it can feel uncomfortable to tell them it's time to exit. "A host never wants to embarrass a guest," commiserates Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert, founder of the Protocol School of Texas, and author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life ($9.19, amazon.com). You may worry they'll view you as unwelcoming, unaccommodating, or unsupportive. But if their stay is hindering your budget, reducing your privacy, or disrupting the harmony of your schedule, then it's time to ask your guest to leave, says etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau. Gottsman agrees. "There are times when you must give your guest a little nudge out the door," she says. While it's a testament to the host—you!—that the guest is happy and wants to stay, "the reality is that people want to get on with their lives and daily routines," Gottsman explains.
When it comes time to have that talk, Comeau recommends taking the guest aside for a private conversation. Then, "the rule to remember is to do as little harm as possible to the relationship," says Gottsman. "If you go into the conversation with the goal of being respectful as you deliver the news, it will come across as genuine," no matter your reasons for asking the guest to leave, she notes.
To begin this dialogue, suggests Gottsman, stick to an iteration of this script: "Sara, we really have enjoyed your visit with us. We originally had discussed a time frame of three days, but it's been extended to over a week. I am going to need to get back to my regular routine and the kids are getting antsy for some one-on-one time. Can I help you find a hotel that would be nice and cozy for the duration of your stay?" If you still can't imagine asking a guest to leave—or doing so in such a transparent way—then Gottsman suggests telling your guest that another guest or group of guests is scheduled to arrive soon. "Even if there is not, it's a stretch of the truth meant to alleviate hurt feelings," she says.
For the future, Comeau advises making your expectations clear before houseguests arrive. Their arrival and departure dates and your house rules and food habits should be discussed and agreed upon ahead of time. "Talk about your upcoming plans that indicate that the guest should be out of your home," Comeau recommends. "For example, you might say, 'My mother-in-law is arriving on Saturday,' or 'I am leaving for a business trip on Tuesday.'"