Relative's Visits Are Too Long

Q: My husband's brother is a teacher, so during the summer months he comes to stay with us for an extended period of time—sometimes up to three weeks. The two of them have a great relationship and I'm happy that we can host him, but after a week it feels like an infringement on our time and space. I'm not sure how to set boundaries without hurting someone's feelings. — Katrina, 45

Dr. Susan: The primary relationship is that of you and your husband. Obviously, though, he and his brother are very bonded. You need to ask your husband if he ever thinks his brother stays a little too long. If he immediately gets his hackles up, don't even think of coming between the two of them. What you could do is plan some outings of your own during part of that time. Let your guy know that while you like his brother a lot, sometimes you need your own space. ("Sometimes?" I can hear him say. "We have our own space for 49-50 weeks a year.")

Everyone's boundaries are different, and a visit that lasts more than a week might be seen by many people as a tiny bit trying. Part of a good relationship is brainstorming compromises that work for both you and your husband. Try not to worry too much about hurting feelings. Speak the truth gently, keeping any irritation out of your voice. Just say, "You know, you two have so much to do together, that I figured I might take a week this year to ..." and fill in whatever you can afford, even if it's just a new tennis class or visiting some old girlfriend of your own. Such a minor change might be enough for you.

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