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Let's brush up on marriage etiquette...

Etiquette for Married Couples

etiquette advice for married couplesMeet our resident etiquette expert on StageofLife.com

Stage of Life is pleased to introduce etiquette expert, Jay Remer, to its team.  Below you will find tips, advice and articles from Jay on important etiquette topics specifically tailored to married couples.

But wait...

Ask Jay a wedding etiquette question ...ask us a etiquette question now.  If you're married and have an etiquette question, contact us and we'll post your question and Jay's reply here.

Read below for real-life etiquette advice submissions from our married members, and don't forget to check out all 10 of our etiquette advice pages for the other stages of life.

Etiquette Tips and Articles for Married Couples

Wife Not Happy About Ex-Relative's Relationship with Husband

Is it okay of me to argue with my husband about my brother-in-law's ex-wife spending time with him and buying him gifts? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's brother was recently divorced.  His ex wife WAS a good friend of mine, but a few years ago, decided I am no longer fun enough and hangs out, instead, with an alcoholic whore.

Right before she left my brother-in-law, she used to go visit my husband at work and take him a large sweet tea and vent about his brother. I find that really inappropriate.  My husband is not and should not be her sounding board.  After the split, she still is friends with her ex and now they go shopping and out to eat, etc.  Recently he had a girlfriend and still went out with HER!  It's weird!  My husband and I both agreed it was strange and a little shady.

Today, he comes home with a big YETI cup. The $60.00 kind. He tells me SHE gave it to him. REALLY??? I went off! I told him she had no right to buy him a gift. Especially because he's been out of work for a few months and I can't buy him anything, but he accepts her gift.  OUT OF LINE!  When I told him this, he dismissed it like EWW, no I'd never be with her, which I know he wouldn’t, but I think she's after him.  I don't like this and I want to say something. He recently did some repair work for her (he does this as a business now) and she paid him, so a gift is unnecessary.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:This is an unclear question, but the tone makes it sound as if you are harboring some anger, which is not healthy. “Going off” on your husband is never appropriate and how the woman spends her money is her choice, not yours. I do recommend that you really figure out where your anger is rooted and share this with your husband. Ask him to reconsider accepting future gifts from this person and perhaps he might want to limit his time with her if it makes you feel uncomfortable. 

In an ideal world, you would not be bothered as you trust your husband to be loyal. You need to have compassion for her, as she has her own back story, to which you are not privy - nor is anyone. Have compassion for yourself for allowing anger to overtake you and do what you can to find forgiveness for any perceived errors she may have made. Be kind; don’t judge; trust your relationship; refrain from interacting with her. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

"Getting to Know" Another Man Might Not Be Okay with Husband

If I'm not doing anything wrong, is it improper to have dinner at another man's house without telling my husband? 

Dear Jay,
Is it okay to go to dinner at a friend's apartment without telling my husband?

During my travels, I met a divorced gentleman at the airport and we hit it off. We exchanged contact information and have communicated via text or e-mail every couple of days in the past 3 weeks since we've met.

He invited me over to cook dinner for me on a day when I could hide it in my schedule.

My husband is an absolute gem. But, sometimes I just want to get to know other people. Is it improper to accept this (or similar) invitations, even if I'm not doing anything wrong?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: If you’re not doing anything wrong, there is no reason not to let your husband know of your plans. In this case, red flags will go up however - and should have for you, too! If you have an open relationship with your husband, you can come and go as you please. Most conventional marriages are not this open. From what you have written here, you are sneaking around and being dishonest. I do not condone that behavior and suggest you reconsider your motives, his motives, and how your husband would feel were he to find out. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Husband Throws His Own Birthday on Wife's Work Day

Should my husband have waited to throw his birthday party on a day that worked in my schedule as well? 

Dear Jay,
Should I be sad and or disappointed that my husband invited 15 guests over for his birthday on a day that I am working?

His birthday was on a Thursday, but he decided to throw a bbq on Sunday to celebrate his birthday. The only problem is that I am working and he is fully aware of this. After my 12 hour shift, I do not feel like cleaning up or entertaining guests. We actually could have done it 2 weeks later, but my husband just did not wanted to.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your husband is inconsiderate and disrespectful of your feelings. Apparently his friends and his birthday celebration are more important to him than you are. You need to make your feelings heard loud and clear. I feel bad for you, and can only wish that he had been taught to be more respectful at an earlier age. Best of luck. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Third Wheel Mother-in-Law Always Tagging Along

Do I need to invite my future mother-in-law to all family functions or is okay not to invite her? 

Dear Jay,
My future husband and I were invited to spend Father’s Day with my dad and grandfather at my grandfather’s house. My future husband asked his mother to come without even consulting with me. His father passed a few years ago, but does that mean I have to invite my mother in law to every family event I go to? She comes to Thanksgiving, Christmas and other family events, but I didn't think I would have to invite her for Father's Day. Is it wrong of me to want it to be just me and my fiancé sharing time with my family alone for certain things or should I always be open to his mother tagging along?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Father's Day may have more significance to your future MIL than you realize. I suggest being as inclusive as possible with her. She is likely very lonely and welcomes the bonding. You certainly could ask your boyfriend to ask you first if she may be included. That is only proper, but do try to include her whenever possible. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Wife Wants Family Visit Reprieve

Is it wrong for me to want my husband to visit his family without me from time to time? 

Dear Jay,
My husband will not go visit his family without me. In the past, I have had to change my schedule to accommodate him and looking back I think I have made 90% of all visits since our marriage. However, there are times that I would prefer to not always have to see his parents-Is it wrong for me to ask (once in a while-depending on my schedule) for him to go visit his parents on his own?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is not wrong at all. If you can’t go, maybe he won’t go either, but you should not be expected to alter your plans to suit his visits. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Husband Isn't Interested in Wife's Friends

Am I wrong to be hurt that my husband takes no interest in my friends even though I take an interest in his? 

Dear Jay,
I am 60 and my husband is 55 years old.  We married 3 1/2 years ago and we were both previously married.  My husband and I have known each other for 6 1/2 years. Whenever we are around his old friends, I take an interest in them. I ask questions whether about their work, family or anything else. I need to point out that whether I've seen them once or 10 plus times, I treat them the same.

Here's my question:  My husband doesn't take an interest in my old friends and it is embarrassing, hurtful and upsets me.  We were at my son's surprise birthday party last night and some old friends of mine that I've known for 43 years were there also.  My husband has seen them 6 other times before.  He sits with our other friends and takes no interest to get up and talk to my old friends. I have a long history with this couple. I listen to all his old stories when I'm around his friends and he doesn't give me the same respect.  This causes arguments and friction in our marriage because he says he hasn't seen them enough. My husband doesn't remember their names or any stories I have ever told him about us.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You and your husband are not going to connect with people in the same ways. If you are expecting him to conform to your wishes, you may be in for sad disappointment. Let him form relationships with people in his own way and in his own time. His way is no better or worse than your way or anyone else’s. This is not about respecting you; this about you respecting him. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Wife wants to know husband's whereabouts

Am I being jealous when I ask my husband to let me know when he will be out with his best friend (who just happens to be a female)? 

Dear Jay,
Am I being unreasonable in expecting my husband to discuss plans he makes with a female friend? My husband's best friend happens to be a female, which I'm OK with. However, what does bother me is that he will make plans to hang out with her and not discuss them with me until afterwards. I get angry and he tells me I'm just being insecure and jealous, even though I keep telling him I find it inconsiderate and disrespectful.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Learning to communicate without getting angry is really important. I do, however, understand your frustration. The fact it upsets you and that his reaction to that is dismissive feeds right into your argument. He is being disrespectful. Knowing where each other is throughout the day can be very important. I don’t think details need to be shared, but I do think some sort of schedule is appropriate and reasonable. Your upset is likely based in one of two fears. The first, which you state it is not, is trust. The second is safety. Somewhere deep down you feel safer knowing where one or more people with whom you feel safe are. In the case of husband and wife, one another is as it should be. So, if you explain to him that you take full responsibility for your reaction because not knowing where he is causes you to be uneasy, then maybe he’ll readjust his thinking. Remember that you must take full responsibility for your feelings and your actions. You have been blaming him. He must take responsibility too. If he hurt your feelings, he owes you an apology. You may need to point that out to him, but he does. Moving forward, please make a special effort to speak to one another with kindness and compassion, especially when the chips are down. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

No dogs allowed in new home

Is it an unreasonable request for us to not allow our friends to bring their dogs to our new home? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I take possession of our brand new home in two days and we had invited a couple in our family to come stay with us to see our new place and spend some time. The arrangements were set and they were going to come stay for 3 nights over the weekend. My friend assumed it would be OK to bring their 3 dogs or possibly leave 1 behind and take 2 dogs.

We allowed them to bring their dogs to our last place, but this house is brand spanking new and I know this sounds pathetic, but the carpets are upgraded and so nice and fluffy, not to mention very light in color so they would stain so easily. The dogs would randomly do their business in our last place and we're worried they'll do it in our new one as well.
I told my friend that unfortunately we just can't have their dogs come, and asked her if she understands where I'm coming from. She didn't seem to understand and seemed offended. I told her it's nothing against her dogs and nothing against them, it's just that this is a brand new home. Am I being unreasonable with this request? They sure make me feel like I am.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You are not being unreasonable at all. You can establish whatever house rules you want. Your home is your castle. Your friend knows perfectly well the reason. If she didn’t, she does now. Your mistake came in asking her if she understood your train of thought or line of reasoning. She’s not a psychic. You don’t really need to explain, but if this is a new rule, which it sort of is, then you need to explain the obvious. Do not take this personally. This is about them, from their perspective, not about you. Everyone needs to be responsible for their own feelings. No guilt trips! I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Vacation Interlopers Driving Woman Insane

What can I do now that my friends have decided to vacation at the exact same spot that my husband and I vacation?

Dear Jay,
Three years ago my husband invited casual friends on vacation with us. We were staying at a new condo and after our trip we decided to buy this particular condo. The following year the same casual friends took it upon themselves to rent a condo in the same complex and did so without letting us know. My husband and I have been frequenting this particular vacation spot for over 20 years. 

Last year was the third time they rented, yet again in our complex, the same time we were there. I had a sit down with the wife explaining that it was a special place that my husband and I found and would prefer if they rented somewhere else in the area. I must add that this couple also purchased our old beach home and live on the same block as we do during the summers on the East Coast. I am not particularly fond of having people around me all summer and now during the winter months. I asked very nicely to please find another area as I said and ...once again...year four, they are back at the condo renting again. 

The beach area is small, we have no choice but to see them. I explained that I felt invaded and still, they are back. I love this condo and don't want to move. But this woman and her husband did not take my request and reasons into consideration and continue to be "in my space". I am uncomfortable. Now what do we do now that the discussion I had with the wife obviously was ignored.?? We initially invited them and they since have made it their spot as well. Please help from the interlopers.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I’m afraid you don’t have a leg to stand on here. People can rent vacation condos wherever they wish. You have no right suggesting otherwise. They are not interlopers. I know this is not the answer you were expecting, and I wish I could help you, but you are completely off base. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Wife's Male Guests an Issue with Husband

Is it proper for my wife to have male guests at our home?

Dear Jay,
Is it poor etiquette for a wife to have a male friend over the house when nobody else is home?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I would not say it is poor etiquette. I would not read anything into visits between friends, not only those of the same sex. If this ‘wife’ is yours and you feel uncomfortable, you should have a discussion about this. Your feelings are valid. If on the other hand, this ‘wife’ is not yours, my advice it stay well out of it. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Intimidated by Husband's Family

Is it wrong of me to decline invitations from my husband's large family even if they intimidate me? 

Dear Jay,
My husband has a very large extended family comprised of many cousins (some who are closer to him than others). Occasionally I receive invitations to baby and wedding showers from then. I feel intimidated by these people and they certainly don't know me. Is it in bad taste to not go to the showers?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It is not in bad taste to regret any invitation. However, hopefully you have a long life ahead of you with this family, and getting to know them gradually will be a benefit. I suggest you speak with your husband about these feelings of intimidation and perhaps he can introduce you to the “easiest” ones first. Getting to know people can be challenging. Take baby steps. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Wife's Abusive Behavior Needs to End

Am I overreacting or does my wife really treat me with as much disrespect as I perceive? 

Dear Jay,
My wife ignores me when we are alone in any room and buries her nose endlessly in "smut" books. Should I be upset?

My wife also takes every opportunity to invite her friend's husband over for dinner whenever she is away on business. It feels really awkward that the three of us end up sitting at the dinner table and she and him ended up chatting endlessly, almost forcing me out of the conversation. Is this appropriate for her to invite him over or am I just being a prude?

Finally, my wife continually makes plans first and the tells me about them second. Sometimes these plans include me. Sometimes they don’t, but they still impact me as I must take care of things when she is away. For 20 years I've asked to her consult with me first, her response is always the same - it's her house and her life and she doesn't have to consult with me. I need a reality check here. Am I being unreasonable in asking for her to let me know in advance?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I am sorry it took you twenty years to ask this series of questions. You have allowed your wife's behavior to go unchecked for far too long. Your wife, quite simply, is a bully who has lost respect for you. The fact of the matter is that is your house every bit as much as it is hers. She does not understand that concept. You need to learn to stand up for yourself. This is not going to be easy and may well require a psychotherapist to assist. Even if your wife does agree to counseling, I highly recommend it for you. Without some help, you are doomed. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Giving Gifts or Skipping It?

How do I save for gifts at Christmas time on a single family income especially when my wife doesn't want to do a gift exchange with me? 

Dear Jay,
My wife and I been married for 26 years. We are a single income family and I'm the breadwinner. It's always been a struggle for Christmas and birthdays and gift giving. Every gift I've given her she told me to take it back and that she doesn't have any money to give me a gift. I've offered to give her money so she can go buy me a gift, and I also have a limited budget and I give her on a monthly basis to pay for food and things. The question is how do I get over the hurdle of gift giving around Christmas in a single income family?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: In my experience, people who do not give (anything) are not grateful themselves for what they have. 26 years is a long time - a very long time - for this ‘tradition’ to have gone unchecked. Perhaps your wife could get a job and be able to participate in a gift exchange. Perhaps she is suffering from some form of depression and needs professional help. In the short term, I would simply skip the whole gift giving process. Consider making a donation to a worthy charity where some gratitude will balance the equation. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Bachelor Party or Birthday?

Should my husband go to a 5 day cruise bachelor party and leave me alone on my birthday? 

Dear Jay,
My husband was invited on a 5 day cruise for a bachelor party of which he would be paying his own way. The problem is that my birthday falls on the date of the cruise. My husband nor any of the other guests were asked about dates that worked for them, just told the dates three months in advance. I don't want him to miss out, but it's a long trip and I don't want to be alone for my birthday. What should we do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Celebrate your birthday before he goes on the cruise. Be happy for him. You will survive being alone on your birthday. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Dad Won't Let Them Stay Because of Dogs

Is it appropriate for me to be resentful towards my dad because he won't let us stay with him even after we drive 21 hours because of my dogs? 

Dear Jay,
I have two small Italian Greyhounds and 1 small Sheba Enu. We don't board our dogs when we travel; we rent a car and find pet friendly hotels. We drive 21 hours every year to visit my aging dad and mom. Our first choice on that trip is to stay with them in their home. It’s the home I grew up in and always had pets. My bedroom as a teenager is a huge room upstairs where we could keep the dogs when necessary. They won't let us stay in the home because they detest my Italian Greyhounds. My Dad is a dog lover, but not a lover of my Italian Greyhounds. We have to stay in a hotel because of this. I am resentful, because we drive a very long distance to visit for a mere 4 days.  We would much rather stay with them. Our dogs are well behaved, and I think my dad should at least give it a try.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your father gets to call the shots here. He is “hosting” you, or would be. A man’s home is his castle. Your resentfulness is inappropriate and disrespectful of him. It’s his house, not yours. Being a former international dog show judge, I understand your view about boarding dogs. It may be worth considering hiring a dog sitter and save yourself a whole lot of aggravation. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Husband's Choice Irks Wife

Am I overreacting that my husband chose a single room for us and his friend for our upcoming vacation without consulting me? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I are planning to go on a vacation with one of his good girl friends who is visiting us from Asia. When he booked the hotel, he chose a single room with two beds rather than choosing one with two bedrooms (without discussing it with me, but that is his nature with every decision). Also, I am meeting this lady for the first time. I have never even talked to her. He told me he chose the single room to cut costs and he thinks it will be more fun. His friend is also fine with all sleeping in the same room. I trust their friendship, but I am really offended with this idea. Am I over-reacting?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You are not over reacting at all! As you point out, this decision was made without consulting you. That’s the first mistake, and it is a big one. If you are uncomfortable with the idea, you won’t enjoy the vacation, which completely defeats the purpose of going on vacation in the first place. Trusting their friendship is not the issue here. Making joint decisions with your husband is the issue. You need to have a discussion with him about this and let him know how his actions make you feel. He is being disrespectful of you. Perhaps he is modeling his own father, but that does not make it acceptable. Sharing in making decisions may be new to him and may take some adjusting, but it will be easier than adjusting to a new wife. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

One Bedroom Apartment Not Good for Guests

Should I go back on my invitation for my friends to stay with us or should I convince my husband that they should stay with us? 

Dear Jay,
My good college friend and her husband are visiting the city for New Years and staying for 3 days to see the city. My husband never met her or her husband.

As much as I want to have them stay over at my place, my husband says that we only have a one bedroom apartment and he doesn't want to wait to use the bathroom after three people finish. He explained that it’s a new year starting, and I agree that it’s understandable.

But I remember mentioning to my friends casually that I will host them if they come to the city. Now, I am stuck between allowing them stay with us by convincing my husband or making them stay in a hotel even though I mentioned they could stay with us.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  The important piece of the puzzle here is that you and your husband need to come to an agreement. I think three days of sharing one bathroom can be a challenge, and I can understand why your husband would resist this. Perhaps before you invite people to share your apartment with you, you should clear it first with your husband. It’s his apartment, too. I suggest that your friends stay elsewhere. Invite them over for a meal if you want, but hosting them in a one BR apartment is not likely to be comfortable for you or for them. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

License-less Friend Becoming a Bother

How do I tell my friend who lost her license that she isn't welcome to stay all weekend and expect rides everywhere from me? 

Dear Jay,
I have a friend that lost her license. On the weekends when we are out, we always run into her. She has lately been inviting herself over since she can't drive, and ends up staying all weekend. There is a party this weekend that I know she is going to, but so are my husband and I. How do I politely tell her, she needs to find another way to and from, and we don't want a weekend houseguest?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Wait until she asks the question and then politely tell her you want to be on your own schedule and have privacy this weekend. Repeat as needed. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Getting Served

Who do I serve first? 

Dear Jay,
Would you offer your husband a snack or coffee before a guest?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Always the guest. I hope this helps.

-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

In-law's Thanksgiving Intrusion Frustrating

Why do I feel so offended that my in-laws decided to visit us over Thanksgiving and cook the meal for my husband? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I just moved to a new house in another state. His parents invited themselves for Thanksgiving and fully plan on cooking for him. Why do I feel so offended?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  There could be any number of reasons, but I’m going with lack of respect on the part of his folks, and frankly on your husband’s part as well. Even seemingly small decisions like cooking a meal should be discussed and agreed upon before plans are set, especially when the situation is so “new”. You both need to discuss this and make it clear to his folks that you will be cooking the meal. Or, that you look forward to spending time and preparing the meal together. Or, thank you so much for offering to cook the meal. I look forward to learning some tricks to cooking a delicious turkey. 

You have choices, all of which depend on your situation. The bottom line is that you do not want to play second fiddle, and you are well within your rights to be included in decisions. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

In-Law's Last Minute Trip Unwelcome

What can I do about the fact that my in-laws will be coming to visit with very little notice? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's family lives out of state. I was told on a Wednesday that they were coming in from out of town on that Friday or Saturday and would like to stay at our house for the weekend. Am I wrong for being frustrated with such a short notice?

Before answering this question, please note that this was not an emergency, nor a last-minute trip.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  For many people, short notice is frustrating, and understandably so. If your husband delivered the news, and it was fresh news to him, then he wouldn’t have had any choice. If he knew about this impending visit for some time, you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You may want him to let his family know that such short term invasions are unwelcome if this is their way of going and is likely to happen again. I also think it’s best for such arrangements to be made in agreement before signing on by either one of you. This can form the basis for a more respectful relationship. I hope this helps.
-Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

What Can I Bring?

Is asking "what can I bring?" just a silly gesture? 

Dear Jay,
Am I expected to ask "what can I bring?” when invited to dinner at a friend’s home?  My husband and I have friends over for dinner and they most always ask if they can bring something and I always say "thanks but just bring yourselves". I ask the same when invited to friends for dinner and get the same answer, "just bring yourselves". It only takes a minute to ask, but I find it useless as most people, including me have taken the time to organize and prepare a nice meal. Another dish or desert is not really wanted. I might mention that we do always bring wine and perhaps flowers or candy. This may be trivial, but I'm curious.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: The rhetorical question in question here is more a force of habit than a real request. It’s really a kindness, and yes, it’s a waste of time if that’s what kindness can be reduced to, which would be sad. So, not trivial at all. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Uncomfortable Around Brother-in-law

How do I get my husband to understand how uncomfortable I am around his brother? 

Dear Jay,
My husband announced to me that his brother is coming to visit from out of town.  Because I feel uncomfortable around his brother, we had an agreement that my husband would go visit his brother any time he wants but his brother would not come here. This went out the window when his brother announced he wanted to come. I am not allowed to tell the brother how I feel about this or even discuss why I feel uncomfortable around him without my husband getting angry.  

I FINALLY accepted the fact he was coming, but have been distressed to the point of distraction. My husband says he doesn't understand this, but is sticking to his guns. I finally said 3 days, and he agreed, but when the brother in law told him he was staying for 5 days it became law. What is the etiquette for this type of situation?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You and your husband have a very serious problem. Your husband is a bully and has no respect for you. I don’t know what your issue is with your BIL; it doesn’t matter. Your feelings are valid and need to be both respected and understood. Without this, your relationship is going to continue to be very one-sided, and will likely only become more challenging. You may want to consider seeking professional  counseling if you cannot resolve this through open honest communication. I hope this helps..
-Jay

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No Couch for Me, Please

Who should get the bedroom and who should get the couch when multiple guests are visiting from out of town? 

Dear Jay,
I'm 21 years old and married. My husband and I are in town on a year long planned vacation. We are staying at my parents’ house in my old room. My husband will be leaving to go home ahead of me in a few days and then my uncle will be flying into town for a family wedding. We have three bedrooms in my parents’ house - my parents’, my sister’s, and my old room. I really don't want to sleep on the floor of my sister’s room or the couch since my family stays up late and I'm the total opposite.

I'm assuming I'll get kicked out of my room since my uncle is coming. Is that fair? I know I'm younger, but I'm also a female, and we planned our stay at my parents’ long before my uncle did. Does gender or age matter? Who should get the couch?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  A year long planned vacation? Seriously? Not a bad gig at 21. You are still a guest in your parents’ house. They’ll let you know where you’ll be sleeping. Be grateful. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Girls' Weekend Permission

Would it be okay for me to go on a girls' weekend even though my husband is going through hip replacement surgery on the Thursday before I go? 

Dear Jay,
I was asked to go on a girls’ weekend.  On Thursday my husband is having hip replacement surgery and he will be released from the hospital on Monday. Is it proper for me to go away on Friday, Saturday and Sunday?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Absolutely not! Your husband will be undergoing major surgery and will be under anesthesia. This is no laughing matter. You should be at the hospital with him. Abandoning him at this point would be a rotten thing to do. Remember The Golden Rule. I hope this helps.

 -Jay

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My New Husband's Family is Always in Our New Home

How can I get my new husband to establish boundaries with his family for when they can and can't come to our new home? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I just bought our first home in April and we have been married a month tomorrow. His family is always here. We lived together for three years in an apartment, and during that time we never saw his family. I am so mad and it's making me not want to come home.  His brother lives near us and he is always at our house. His mother lives 8 hours away, but comes in every two months and stays for 3 weeks. We were married for 2 weeks and she came in again. I know this is going to cause some friction between my husband and his family for him to address it, but it has to be done. I kind of wish I still had my apartment because at least I had my privacy then. Isn't it okay to expect my new husband to put some boundaries in place with his family?  If not, we are definitely going to have some major issues.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You are absolutely correct! Your home is your castle and you and your husband must agree on the house rules. He must speak with his family and make it abundantly clear that they are no longer welcome without either asking or being invited. No just showing up unannounced. They are demonstrating that they have no respect for you or your husband - or themselves for that matter. By laying down the law you will be showing that you have respect for yourselves. They may come to realize that this is an important part of maintaining healthy family relationships. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Husband Always Wants Wife By His Side

Is there a formula for how much time a person can spend with their family versus with their spouse? 

Dear Jay,
I've been married for 9 years. This is a second marriage for both of us (I was married for 4 years while he had been married for 23). My husband has very few friends, while I have still maintain friendships from grade school friends, college and past work colleagues. He is not particularly close to his siblings, 2 are out of state and 2 are local. One of his local sisters he no longer talks to. We do host a annual family reunion on his side that includes all his father's side. I have 8 siblings and my twin sister and I are the youngest.

Here's my problem, he says I spend way too much time with my family. How much time is too much? During the summer, I take Fridays off and travel down to the beach to my sister's cottage for the day. I generally come home around dinner time so it doesn't interfere with our plans. I have asked him to join me, but he really doesn't like to sit at the beach. He feels bored and restless. The few times we have gone down for the weekend, he's gone, but you can tell he's not happy so I go back to the cottage with him so he won't sulk. He also doesn't care for my brother-in-law. Recently, my brother was moving some items out of his house; he is going through a separation, and I offered to help. It turned into more than just a few things and I was gone longer than anticipated. My husband was mad at me because my brother doesn't really do anything for me, yet I drop everything for him. I do help out anyone that asks (within reason); this is my personality. But he hates it. He's always looks at it as “whats in it for him” and that's just not me.

So I guess I wanted to know if there was any formula I should use on spending time with family or friends and time with my husband. Don't get me wrong, my husband and I get along great, have a good marriage for the most part, but he always wants me right by his side. A perfect example is if he has a side job, he wants me to go with him, regardless of if I can help him or not. If I go, he's happy, if I don't, I've let him down.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Even in the best of marriages, communication can be a challenge. You seem to be very sensitive to your husband’s needs, likes, etc. Perhaps he does not fully appreciate how his behavior makes you feel. I think that if you are willing to support him when he needs you, you are well within your rights to have your own personal time with your family. Why don’t you discuss this with him and come to an arrangement that includes a degree of independence for each of you, and without judgment. Respecting one another’s individual needs and preferences is important. Marriage does not always mean being attached at the hip. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Husband Disappears at Social Event

Is it wrong for my husband to wander away from me at a social gathering and disappear for an hour without telling me where he is going? 

Dear Jay,
Am I out of line for being upset at my husband for wandering off at a social event for almost an hour? He said he was showing a friend something on the computer, but he didn't inform me of this and just took off. He tends to do this often when we are at gatherings. I just think that it is rude to not inform your spouse of where you are going. He says I'm just being a baby and need to grow up. Am I out of line?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your husband is being disrespectful, and you are not communicating your feelings clearly. Leaving a social gathering for an hour is disrespectful of the host, and is inappropriate whether he informs you or not, but doing so without letting you know is doubly wrong. It is he who is the baby and needs to grow up. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Offended by No Gifts

Am I right to be offended that my in-laws did not send a gift or come visit when I was struggling with cancer? 

Dear Jay,
Hello. I was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer before Christmas. As it turns out, I was told that I was in remission before Dec.25. My mother-in-law and her husband sent me a get well card. They did not visit or send flowers (or even a plant). They live 2 and a half hours away. Should I be offended?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “You cannot be offended without your permission.” This means that your feelings are your responsibility fully. Blaming others for feeling offended is inappropriate. I am very happy to hear that your are in remission and that you remain that way. You can further relieve yourself of stress by dropping expectations about how others should behave. And, be grateful for the get well card. You have much to be grateful for. If you want some flowers, go to a flower shop and buy some. If you want them to come for a visit, invite them. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Husband's Greeting Not Enough

Am I old school for my belief that my husband should greet me right when he gets home from work? 

Dear Jay,
I'd like to know whether it's proper for my husband to greet me or my guest first. When he gets home from work, as soon as he walks in the door, now understand, he ONLY does this when I have my friend over, but he says, "Hey!" Then he goes and sets his things down, and THEN he comes to me and greets me. Maybe I'm wrong, or I'm still old-school, but I thought a man was supposed to greet his wife first.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I see nothing wrong with your husband putting his things down before making any formal greeting. He should greet you before your friend, but saying ‘hey’ is hardly an infraction. In the big scheme of things, this is a very trivial matter. If a small matter like this raises red flags, I wish you luck when something serious happens in your lives. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Wife's Disinterested Hello Irks Traveling Husband

How can I tell my wife how wrong she is for her half-hearted hello to me after I had been away on business? 

Dear Jay,
I came home from a 3 day business trip in Orlando and arrived home at approximately 11:15pm. I came into the house and the T.V. was on, my wife was lying down on the couch under a blanket all cozy and just turned her head to me, smiled and nicely said, “Hey baby, welcome back" and pretty much continued watching and laughing along with her movie.

Here's my problem:

I believe once she heard the door lock turn she should have gotten up and made her way to the door. I don’t need her to run and jump at me, but I do expect more than a twist of the head and sweet hello.

Please help me prove to her that what she did was wrong. 

Jay's ANSWER...
A: She did nothing wrong other than to annoy you for not fulfilling some story going around in your head about how things should be. You are blaming her for your feeling of being annoyed. Yet you know she is not psychic. Have you ever been in the reverse situation? Did you pop up when she comes in? Does she know how her behavior makes you feel? These thoughts need to be communicated clearly, otherwise there will be a constant stream of missed expectations and unnecessary grief. Have compassion for yourself and for your wife. Establish a better communication system. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Uneasy about Foreign Family Members Taking Over Home

Am I being unreasonable by not wanting my sister-in-law (whom I've never met) taking over my home while I am out of the country? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I live in a country that isn't our birthplace. He is from one country in South Asia, I'm from another in Latin America and now we live in this new one.

His niece (from his birth country) has gotten the opportunity to come to our city to study and I agreed to let her stay at our place because I felt it was the right thing to do. We both are very lucky to be in a first world country and have so many opportunities, so I felt it wasn't fair for me to deny it. She is planning to stay for maybe a few years (yikes!).

The niece is coming, but now I got the news that her mom (my husband's sister-in-law) is coming to accompany her for a bit and help her settle (which I understood), but not only that; we are planning to go to HIS home country (which I've never been) after a month of the niece coming here, and now the plan is for the 'mom' to stay until we return from our trip, so the daughter doesn't stay alone.

The thing is I feel so uneasy about it. I don't want anybody to be in charge of my place, and even more a person I don't know. The girl will be busy, but the mom? What is she going to do all day in my house? She speaks not much English, doesn't know anything about this country and doesn't drive. Am I supposed to be OK with them staying here while I'm away? I'm really picky when it comes to my things and it makes me feel uneasy to leave my house in the hands of someone I don't even know! My husband says I'm being unreasonable, and when I bring up the topic of changing the trip for another time he says it’s not up for debate.

Am I really being that unreasonable?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Since this is your husband’s family, naturally he is going to be perturbed that they are not welcome, whether you know them or not. I suggest that you let them come and just see how it goes. You and your husband must lay down some house rules that you can both agree upon. Your guests must understand these rules and agree to follow them before they even get on the plane to come visit. You will both need to give in on this or the situation is going to be very stressful. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Dinner Guests Stay Too Late

How do I tell my dinner guests it's time to leave without sounding rude? 

Dear Jay,
My friends love to visit me. We sometimes cook in the house and have dinner together, but they stayed longer in the house until late  at night which annoyed my husband. How can tell my friends without hurting their feelings to leave the house after 2 to 3 hours? I always have an arguments with my husband regarding this matter. He wants to spend time with me and wants his privacy.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Communication is very important in any relationship. You need to simply tell your friends that you need to wind things down. You might also consider letting them know ahead of time that tonight is going to be an early night. Remember that your husband’s feelings are valid, and arguments are not necessary. Your friends’ feelings won’t be hurt because you are not placing any responsibility on them. The invitation, in whatever form it may be delivered, will let them know ahead of time what the time parameters are. Real friends should understand your need for private time. remember the Golden Rule. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Husband and Friend Need a Different Hang Out Time

Am I right to be angry that my husband invites his friend to our home at 11pm at night? 

Dear Jay,
I have a husband who invited a guest to our house around 11pm for two consecutive days. He left around 2 in the morning. I find it it rude for the guest knowing that I talked to him and told him that it’s super late, and I wanted him to leave. I should have been sleeping with my husband because it’s past our bedtime. 

My husband wants to hang out more even though it’s easy for them to see or hangout with each other during the day. I just find it so disrespectful for his friend to stay late in our house. I tried talking to both of them that what they’re doing is wrong. He said that my husband invited him over and that he believes that he has the right to stay. Am I wrong to be angry?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  The fault is not with your husband’s guest, but with you and your husband. You would do well to speak with him about how these late night visits make you feel. In this case, your husband is the host. Perhaps you need to convince him not to issue these late night invitations. Communication is one of the most important ways we connect with other people. It’s never too late to hone this skill. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Husband Grieving For Ex-Father-in-Law

Is it wrong for me to be hurt by my husband wanting to spend time with his sons and ex-wife at his ex father-in-law's hospital bedside? 

Dear Jay,
Should I feel hurt that my husband is spending the day at the hospital with his two sons (32 and 30) and his ex-wife and her family as her father is not expected to live past today? My husband and I have been married for 12 years and his first marriage dissolved due to his ex-wife choosing to leave well before I ever met him.

I felt very hurt that my husband feels the need to spend time at the hospital instead of passing along his expression of sympathy through his sons. I have no issue with him attending his ex-father-in-laws' funeral as long as he does not attend as part of his extended family.

What is the appropriate etiquette? Am I wrong to feel hurt?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your husband’s relationship with anyone, including his former father-in-law is a personal matter - one that you do not need to be involved with. Your feelings of hurt stem from an insecurity you may have been harboring for a very long time. Perhaps your husband wants to support his sons. Perhaps he has a strong bond with his former father-in-law. The story does not really matter. What matters is that people should be allowed to grieve in their own private way. Allow him to do that. This has nothing to do with you. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Feeling Undervalued and Not Being Able to Communicate

Am I being unreasonable to feel slighted by my husband's uneven jewelry gift giving and how do I communicate with him about gift giving? 

Dear Jay,
My husband got jewelry for one of his good girl friends. It was from a a diamond store where he also bought another diamond set for his niece. At the same  time I had my birthday and he bought a pair of diamond earnings from Costco which I felt were not as valuable as the other jewelry gifts. 

It's not because I was jealous, but my husband has never given any custom made jewelry to me. I'm disappointed by this - am I being reasonable or overreacting?

Another question I have is this: I am stay at home mum. I would like to give presents to my parents and siblings on their birthdays, but I don't know how to ask my husband about this. Whenever his family has birthdays we give them gifts, but when it comes to my family he doesn't care or once I ask him to buys things that I don’t think are okay. I don't know how to deal with this.  Please give your ideas? Even though I want to tell this, I don't know to put it in a nice way. I don't want to hurt him.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  As to your first question, I suggest that you be grateful for his generous gift. Costco sells some excellent jewelry at great prices, so don’t be petty. Your feelings of self worth come from deep inside you, and not from some outside source. Gratitude builds self-esteem. Practice it daily. As to your second question, I strongly suggest you sit down with your husband and explain how this inequity makes you feel. Ask him for a small gift allowance that would allow you to select gifts for your family. Alternatively, you might consider finding an income stream for yourself. Many stay at home moms have part time jobs. Again, be grateful. But also, communicate with your husband. This is a critically important skill to master. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Imposing on Sister-in-law's Space

What should we do now that my sister-in-law doesn't want us in her space anymore even though we are in a dire financial situation? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I have been struggling financially and it has affected our marriage. I lost my car. I left my job and went to my parent's for a month and then reconciled with husband to work on our marriage. We have been evicted over a year and are working on finding jobs. We've asked my husband's sister if we can pay $800 to stay at her apartment until we find a place and get back on our feet. We have 2 dogs and 2 cats, and our luggage. 

She agreed to let us stay with her, and we offered to pay $400 the first week and $400 at the end of the month. I've clean and maintained her apartment, and I keep the air conditioner off when we are gone. We’re usually there in the mornings and gone in the afternoons and evenings.

The situation after we have been there for 1 week is that she feels like we have taken her space. She seems annoyed and is now staying at her significant other's apartment.

What do I do? Is there anything I should say?

We have explained that it's difficult for us to find a place that will work with a past eviction or extended stay that allows pets. My only family lives in Utah and we live in Phoenix, AZ.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Apologies usually go a long way to mending unpleasant situations. Taking full responsibility for yourselves is important. Imposing on anyone by moving in with two dogs and two cats is inappropriate. Your sister-in-law likely had no idea what the impact of this would be. I suggest you find other accommodations. You may need to consider finding homes for your pets, as you really are not in a position to afford them at the moment. You are in an unfortunate position, and you need to both get jobs and stabilize your living situation. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Not Comfortable with Too Many Houseguests

Am I being a jerk because I don't want my partner's brother inviting extra people to come and stay at our new home? 

Dear Jay,
We have lived in our 2 bedroom 1 bathroom 1920s home for 8 months and have been busy with many renovations. My partner’s brother has asked if his girlfriend, himself and her brother and girlfriend can come and stay with us in a month. I have never met his girlfriend or her brother or girlfriend. This feels awkward and uncomfortable (not to mention 6 people sharing a home with ONE bathroom). We have to go out and buy a bedroom set for our ONE other bedroom and then possibly set something up in my art studio in the basement which is in complete disarray. 

Am I being a jerk? It has been suggested that they stay in a nearby "motel" we live in a small rural town and it was expressed that the brother may not think those accommodations are acceptable. They live in San Fran, if those accommodations aren't to his "liking" my basement certainly won't be. I think it is rude of his brother to ask to bring 3 people to our home we have never met for a weekend. Just asking for another opinion in the event I am being irrational.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your home is your castle. Plain and simple. Your house rules are the ones everyone follows. You and your husband need to establish these guidelines, and he can explain them to his brother. You are absolutely not being irrational. Remember that the host does the inviting, not the guest. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Husband Furious at Lack of Greeting

How do you greet a guest that is already in your house when you arrive home? 

Dear Jay,
What is the proper etiquette for greeting guests you come home to?  My husband invited a friend over to watch the NBA finals. Before his guest arrived I left the house to spend the day with friends. When I came home they were deep into the game on t.v. and I scuttled through the room. My husband was furious I did not immediately greet his guest when I came home. Is it rude to not immediately greet guests before you've even had a chance to set your things down and collect yourself?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Furious is a very strong word. Surely you can come in, take off your coat and put down your bags before saying hello to anyone! Remember that your feelings count, and being able to exercise how you behave in your own house is more than reasonable. Is your husband going through some challenges at the moment that might explain his actions? They indicate possible self esteem issues. There’s more to this than meets the eye. I would sit down with him and see how he’s doing in all of his arenas. He may be in a lonely space at the moment. Have compassion for him and for yourself. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Texting on Girls Night Out

What are the rules for texting to check in with my spouse when she is out with friends? 

Dear Jay,
What is appropriate communication with my spouse when she is out with her friends? I like to text and check in to see what is happening.  She feels like it's bothersome. Example:  Last night she went out. We texted at 7pm and I didn't text her again until 10:30pm. She was very upset that I texted.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: When your spouse is out with her friends, you need not bother texting her. It annoys her. You know that. She wants to have fun with her friends without being interrupted. Allow her that freedom. Follow The Golden Rule. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Texting Etiquette

Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill about the way my husband addresses me in texts? 

Dear Jay,
When my husband responds or sends me a text has a tendency to greet me as "Hi" "Hello" and I take offense to these because it seems so impersonal and makes the body of the texts meaningless. My preference is that he address me as "Hello Mary" or "Hi Mary". Am I being to picky or making a mountain out of a mole hill?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: We all have our preferences. On the scale of 1-10, I’d say this one would be a 1. Have you tried asking him to change his greeting? I’d say that’s a place to start. If he has difficulty breaking this annoying (to you) habit, have compassion and be grateful he’s in your life at all. So no mountain building, please! I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Husband's "Friend" Corrupting the Marriage

Am I being unreasonable by not wanting my husband and a woman that he is "friends" with stay together at my home? 

Dear Jay,
My husband of 14 years has been chatting to a friend of 15 years he met only for two weeks. He said they just click as friends and they never dated or slept together. 

I have never met her, but once about five years ago she was going to come to visit her brother and my husband. My husband and I were not getting along and I had planned to go away for a short break. He said if I left it would be over, so I never took that short break and she never came down. 

I have never spoken to her until recently. My husband and I were not getting along again and my mom was ill so I took a break and went and visited her. He was cold on the phone when I called and when I said I missed him he did't reciprocate. When I got back a few weeks later his lady friend texted him to say she was coming down and wanted to stay with us for a few days because she didn’t want to stay with her brother. I said I felt uncomfortable and suggested a she stay in a B&B. He became angry. We discussed it several times and and I never said we couldn't meet up and do stuff, I just didn't want to watch them flirting with each other. 

Later I learned he contacted her while I was away. This got me thinking it was more than a friend coming to stay. We then decided to do video chat and then she said she wanted to stay with us for five days and hinted at coming back to us near the end of her visit so she could get a ride to the airport. She even said she was leaving the rest of her visit with other people free so she could change her plans. Later I told my husband I did not want her to stay. He said I was being unreasonable and that he was not going to lose a friend over me. My mother is very ill and by the time this friend comes down she could have died. I tried to explain to both of them, but they don't understand it is a difficult time. I don't know if I am being difficult or unreasonable


Jay's ANSWER...
A: You are not being unreasonable. However, your relationship with your husband is in serious trouble. It is with him that you need to be concerned. I strongly suggest counseling. Otherwise your marriage may be in jeopardy. My advice is to go stay with your mother. She needs you right now. See where things are once you return. If your relationship with your husband hasn’t improved, seek counseling, live unhappily with him, or move out. Those are the option as I see them. I hope this helps.
 
Jay

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Sister-in-law overstepping her sibling bonds

What should I do about my sister-in-law's invasion of my bedroom and house? 

Dear Jay,
I am in my second year of marriage. My husband is the last born and the only boy. In our first year of marriage his eldest sister (42 years old - unmarried) was at our house every day of the weekend. She would arrive at 7am in the morning while we were sleeping and leave after midnight (every weekend), and my husband would say nothing.

She moved to another country for work, but came back to work for a project for a week. Her company paid for her hotel during this time, but she opted to stay with us the whole time. In this 1 week she let me do all the cooking and chores and never helped.

The most confusing part is that while we had set up the spare bedroom for her, she one night chose to sleep in our bed with us (me and my husband). I found this very uncomfortable as it didn't seem right. My husband still did not see anything wrong with it. Since he did not say anything I chose to not say anything either, but I am still not happy about it.

On other occasions my husband and I would be in bed watching a movie on a laptop and she would jump into bed and join us, or while we are in bed she’d come into our room and use our dressing mirror and other stuff. Is this normal? Shouldn't she respect our matrimonial bed/home?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is unusual, but not unheard of. If it has reached its tolerance for you, speak with your husband. His sister has some serious issues. He will need to deliver the news to her that your privacy needs to be respected. It’s best that way. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Toilet Lid Etiquette

Should the toilet lid be left up or down? 

Dear Jay,
What is the proper etiquette regarding whether or not a commode lid should be up or down when not in use?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Seat and lid should both be down when not in use. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Mother's Day Invite Dilemma

Am I obligated to go to an annual Mother's Day event even if my husband won't be there? 

Dear Jay,
Every year on Mother's Day we go out to breakfast with my husband's mother and the rest of his family.  This year, however, my husband will be out of town over Mother's Day.  Am I still obligated to go to breakfast with his family?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: No, you are never obligated to accept any invitation. If you don’t want to go out, give your regrets. It’s perfectly fine. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Lazy In-Laws Wore Out Welcome

How do I tell my husband that I don't like his mother and brother visiting because they are so lazy without hurting his feelings? 

Dear Jay,
My mother-in-law and brother-in-law live out of state. They come to our home for a weekend about every other month to see our girls. The problem with this is they do not do anything but sleep and sit on the couch and play on their phones. They do not clean up after themselves and they do not pay for any food or anything. My daughter has 3 activities coming up at the end of May/early June - onne being on Memorial Day weekend. I want them to be a part of the girls lives, but they wear out their welcome so quickly. I can't afford to feed them 3 meals a day for 2 weekends in a row, one being a 3 day weekend. How can I speak with my husband without hurting his feelings to ask them not to stay more than one night?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You need to be able to communicate with your husband without fear of hurting his feelings. This should have been worked out long ago! You must begin by laying out the facts for him and then stating how this makes you feel. Perhaps suggest to your MIL that she be responsible for a dinner (from shopping to mopping) while she is staying with you. Be honest with her and let her know you cannot afford to sustain them without some help on their part. You may even want to suggest that your husband play a more active role and speak to his mother himself! Whatever happens, don’t judge the situation as being bad. It is what it is. I think honesty is the best policy. If these visits are going to continue, ground rules need to be laid down. These rules need to be discussed and agreed to by you and your husband, and then followed! Showing respect for your house will encourage others to do the same. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Unexpected Husband Visits

How do I handle my husband not understanding that I don't like when he shows up unannounced during the day with people from work? 

Dear Jay,
My husband occasionally stops by the house during the day with people from work without calling me first.  Most of the time I am in my pajamas because I was working from home and not expecting anyone.  Besides me not being dressed, he also decides to give them tours of the house to show them work he has done to it.  Sometimes I may be in the middle of doing laundry or the house isn't at its neatest and it’s very embarrassing!  After this happened twice, I told my husband that it I would like him to call me first and let me know if he is stopping by with someone so that I have some time to get dressed or do whatever I may need to do before they show up. He got angry and accused me of being bossy and didn't seem to understand why it was such a big deal. He also didn't seem to understand how it's embarrassing for me when someone comes over unexpectedly and I'm not dressed and the house is not neat.

What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You have a couple of choices as I see it. The first is to expect unexpected visitors and be dressed and keep a clean house at all times. This is not unreasonable. The second is to seriously look at marriage counseling. If your husband gets angry when you share your feelings with him, you have some serious problems to address (definitely before you begin a family, if that’s in the plans). Being disrespected is inappropriate and unacceptable. You need to remember that this is your house, too. Of course he should let you know when he’s bringing someone over. Learning to communicate in a civil way is essential to all relationships. If you are both grateful to be in the relationship, you can make this work. Equal partners - humility - is the foundation for any solid marriage. I hope this helps.

Jay

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50/50 fairness for visiting families

Even if we don't enjoy visiting my husband's family, he insists that we still need to be fair and visit each side of the family equally.  Should I agree with him? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I don't get along with his family, but my husband says we still need to split holidays 50/50 between my family and his to be fair. My in-laws live far away and expect us to rent a car or take a cab when we fly to come visit them. I find this rude as we barely see them, I'd expect them to want to spend time with us and it is very expensive.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The issue here revolves around the comment on fairness. To whom are you being fair? Certainly not yourselves. I think you need to reset your priorities. If neither of you want to spend time with his parents, you are under no obligation to do so. Who knows, maybe they’d rather see less of you two also. This is not an issue about time and money. It is an issue about respect. You are not showing yourselves the respect you should. As a result, no one else will either. My advice is to remove the mantel of being a victim and start calling your own shots. Being resentful of people you do not like is a waste of energy; spending time with them is a waste of time. Not all families get along, nor do they have to. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Initiating contact to go to the movies

Who should follow up after an initial attempt to get together to go to the movies with another couple? 

Dear Jay,
We invited a couple for a movie. They suggested that the following weekend would be better.  We said okay.  Who should initiate the next contact?  I thought the hosting party should issue the follow-up invitation, but am told the other couple should initiate contact to demonstrate that they really had an interest in getting together for a movie.  Your thoughts?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The hosting party issues the follow-up also. Whoever gave you the alternative suggestion is mistaken, in my opinion. I hope this helps.
Jay

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In-law's visits hurting marriage

Am I being unreasonable when I want to end my in-law's 1-2 week visits every 2-3 months? 

Dear Jay,
I've been married for 9 years and I have to deal with my in-laws coming to our house every 2-3 months to stay for 1 week to 2 weeks without them asking. It is causing a problem with me and my husband because he does not know why they can't come here whenever they like as he pays the bills. I am a private person, and I do not like houseguests because they make messes and are just generally in my space. How do I get this to stop? Am I being a difficult person by not wanting to accommodate his intruding parents?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your husband needs to grow up. Just because he pays the bills, that has nothing to do with how your household is run. You need to agree on guidelines for guests and other issues. If your husband does not agree to accept and understand your feelings you have a problem that may require professional counseling. You are not being unreasonable. I wish I could help you more. I hope this helps at least a little bit.

Jay

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Fending Off Flirting

How do I let men who make advances know that I am newly engaged? 

Dear Jay,

I am newly engaged and struggling to find an appropriate and effective way to fend off men who make advances. I try very hard to always be kind, knowing that the men who make advances are putting their hearts and egos on the line when they do so. However, I encounter these situations quite often, and my sweet fiancé has expressed some distress over this. Is it appropriate to treat these men in a friendly manner and try to let them down gently, or should I be more cold and direct in order to placate my fiancé?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Without knowing the nature of the advances, it is difficult to give you a definitive answer. However, no real advances are appropriate and by simply stating, “Please don’t do that”, they should get the message. If they persist, be more clear and introduce them to your fiancé. Do not think of this as placating. It’s the right thing to do in a committed relationship. If you’re worried about bruising egos and breaking hearts, you need to give your head a shake. Hearts and egos are not your responsibility. Respect for your fiancé’s feelings comes first. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Name Not on the Invite

Whose name should appear on an invitation? 

Dear Jay,

I do not know if it is just me. I am married and whenever my husband gets an invitation to an event from his friends, the invitation only has his name on it. These friends know that he is married but always do this--a perfect example would be when he got invited to a friend's wedding, and it was only addressed to him. I told him to ask the individual if the invite is only for him or is his family invited as well--the host responded the invitation is for him and his family. I am very irritated by this, and I just wanted to know as a married couple is it rude of people to send out invitations with only one spouse name on it?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This bizarre practice is not so much rude as it is simply wrong. It would be rude if it were intentional. Everyone who is invited to the party should be included on the envelope. If it’s the whole family it could be simply addressed to “The Smith Family” unless for a formal invitation in which case the name of each person should be included: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, followed on the next line with the eldest child and so on, line after line. Boys are addressed as Master until after the age of 10, after which they are Mr. Girls are addressed as Miss until they become adults and can shift to Ms. if they so wish, or once married can take on Mrs. This correct information is readily available in any etiquette book.  I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Etiquette's Purpose

Do we really need etiquette in our modern world? 

Dear Jay,

I am very curious to know, as you answer so many of these questions, do you believe that social etiquette is necessary? I personally do not. I believe it is a part of a stupid never ending game in which people lie, cheat, and loot. As an example I have seen that many people do not appreciate directness, preferring what, I don't know. I believe that if you wish to communicate it should be directly, without paying attention to how the person may feel.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I do believe that social etiquette is necessary. What I hear in your question is a great deal of anger. I do believe in being direct, but not rude. Learning to communicate in a respectful way has helped me to form deeper and more meaningful relationships with my friends, family, and business associates. Developing such skills can require professional help. I hope you can find a way to release your anger. Perhaps then you may begin to shift your perspective.

 My best,

Jay

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Unannounced Visitors

Do I owe an apology to my husband's friends because I told them it was time to leave when they showed up unexpectedly? 

Dear Jay,

My husband's friends invited themselves over unannounced recently and stayed for the entire evening. Our apartment isn't very large, so I was unable to excuse myself to another room and my husband never initiated a goodbye though I had told him in private when they arrived that I wasn't up for having guests. As it neared midnight I'm ashamed to say I insisted that they leave and I came off as very rude.
Should I call and apologize or expect them to leave it in the past?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You do not owe them an apology. Your husband owes you one though! Remember that even rude guests (I have a pet peeve about unannounced visitors - I think of them as intruders) are not psychic. Next time this occurs, if it does, let them know that it’s not a good time for a visit and reschedule, or let them know that you’ll need to make an early evening of it. Your husband needs to take some initiative here as well and let them know when you (both) are about to turn into pumpkins. I hope this helps!

 My best,

Jay

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Questionable Party Weather

How do I alert my party guests about bad weather and party cancellations? 

Dear Jay,

I'm helping my boss host a Holiday party for our department on Saturday at her house.  The weather is going to be questionable and we would like to send the guest some words on "please use your best judgement about the weather." Should we have them call us beforehand?  What is the best way to handle questionable weather.  Our guests' safety is most important, but weather may or may not be a factor.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You and the host should decide in the morning whether to hold the event or not. Giving your guests tasks or asking them to make arbitrary judgement calls is unfair. It's your party. If you need to have a rain date, so be it, but you make the decision and any required phone calls. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Rude Brothers-In-Law

How do I make my rude brothers-in-law respect my house rules? 

Dear Jay,

I want to know if I'm wrong or not!! I have two brothers-in-law and whenever they come to visit they think that they can do whatever they want like going in our fridge and cabinets and eating or drinking anything without even asking if it's ok or not. They say that since they are family that they don't have to ask. They don't even clean up after themselves. I have told them that it's not right that they do that and that they need to ask first before anything. Am I wrong? If I ever went over to a family member's house I would never do any of that. I would first ask if it was ok, and I sure enough would clean up after myself! I have told them over and over that it's not right what they are doing, but they say that since they are family they can get away with doing whatever they want!! Please help me!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: From my perspective, your mother-in-law gets the blame for her ill-mannered sons - including your own husband. Where is he in all of this? One's house is one's castle. You are well within your rights to have house rules. If your brothers-in-law disrespect them, then they should be banished - at least from the kitchen. You and your husband must discuss this matter as it is upsetting to you. You must be united in your stance. If this is a non-starter, then consider filling half the fridge with the munchies they like and just throw in the towel. This second alternative is not recommended however, as next thing you know, they'll be moving in and you'll be doing their laundry! Stand your ground!

 My best,

Jay

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Uncomfortable Guest

How much information is required from the host when they invite guests to an event?  

Dear Jay,

What is proper etiquette when inviting someone over to your house? Do you have to tell them if it's a party, dinner, drinks. If you are inviting others, etc.?

An acquaintance invited my spouse and I to their home recently. "We'd like you to come over to our place and meet our new baby."  They didn't tell us if kids were invited; we assumed not as to keep it simple for the new baby and mom.We were expecting it to be casual as per the tone in the email. We brought flowers for them and a gift for the baby. When we get there we were surprised to see 10 other couples, including their family. There was dinner and cake for a family member's birthday even. We didn't know any of the people there except for the couple that invited us.  We felt so uneasy.

Is this proper etiquette? I thought it was distasteful. I feel rude, but next time I will be asking if it's just the four of us getting together because I felt very uneasy at their last event.

Thank you,
Moe


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Some people just don't like surprises. You are one of those people. So am I!

But what better way is there to meet new people than at a party celebrating new life? If you are uneasy in the company of strangers, then yes - do ask the next time. I would hope that you will work to overcome this shyness though as this is at the real crux of the matter.

From an etiquette point of view, the invitation was appropriate. Kids were not invited and therefore would not have been expected. You also acted appropriately with beautiful flowers and a gift. Sounds like the making for a very different experience to me. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Invitation for one only

How do I tell a last minute Thanksgiving guest that the invitation to dinner was for her only?  

Dear Jay,

My husband and I host Thanksgiving every year, and we usually include a few solo adults from our social circle who would otherwise be alone.  This year my neighbor indicated she didn't have anywhere to go and would probably eat at home, and I invited her.

My husband just ran into her in the street and her male "friend" (never been introduced as partner/boyfriend, so the relationship has been ambiguous) said, "Thanks for the invitation for Thanksgiving, we can't wait to come!"

We certainly didn't invite him, we didn't offer to invite her "and guest", and she didn't call us and ask if she could bring him.  Our table cannot squeeze any more than 8, and we have already had to spend a couple of hundred dollars on increasing our china and crystal table settings from 7 to 8 (our wedding registry list wasn't quite filled) to accommodate her.

To be honest, if she had indicated she had somebody to spend Thanksgiving with, I wouldn't have even invited her. I'm not prepared to go over 8 for the dinner, and I'm very cranky she invited somebody without checking with us.

How do I communicate to her that the invitation was for her only?
Thanks!


Jay's ANSWER...

A:  I understand your irritation, but let's assume she just doesn't know any better. Many Thanksgiving dinners are larger and room for a stray can usually be found. I am not fond of intruders,though, and am on your side here. You have two choices that come immediately to mind. In your best uncranky tone, call and tell her how surprised you were when your husband said you had become two. "Unfortunately I only have a table for eight people and I had not figured on a plus one from you. I feel awkward even discussing this, but the invitation was really extended to you alone." Another choice is to add a chair to the table and learn to mix and match different dishes if necessary. Is suggesting that you are already spending hundreds of dollars just to accommodate her wise?
The choice is yours. Perhaps there are even more ideas. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Hiking and Hosting

Can I request that someone else hosts a dinner to save the drive time?

Dear Jay,

We are having a dinner party at our home for three couples, and we are considering doing a hike with the six of us much closer to one of the other couple's home. Is it appropriate to ask the couple living closer to the trail head if they would be willing to have the dinner at their home to avoid having them drive approximately 40 miles round trip back to our house for dinner? Neither of the two other couples know each other well at all, and we're doing this to break the ice because we're going on vacation together next year. 

Please help resolve this conflict between us !!

Much appreciated,
Heather and Dave


Jay's ANSWER...

A: In short, no. If you are hosting a dinner party, you should have it at your house or host it at a restaurant. To impose this burden on someone else is inappropriate. Consider changing the hike or perhaps co-hosting the dinner. A good rule of thumb is to avoid giving other people jobs to do. A joint effort might be a healthy compromise. I don't consider 40 miles round trip to be much of a trek really. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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No t.v., No company

Can I tell my guest that I would rather be alone than hang out?

Dear Jay,

My husband and I were talking with friends the other day about television shows. We invited them all to come over and watch a particular program each week. I do not watch it, so thought I would be able to be upstairs in another room doing other tasks while they watched downstairs. After the first viewing, the wife of one of the couples mentioned she's not interested in watching the program anymore and will just come over next week and hang out with me. This means I'm now actively hosting and chatting for a couple of unexpected hours as well as needing to prepare a second space to "company ready" status. Since we invited them into our home, do I need to be a good sport and go along with the change of plans or is there a nice way of saying "The invite was for the t.v. show, not to hang out"?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I'm on your team with this one. However, your friends are not psychics, right? They will not know if you do not tell them how you feel. You simply need to explain that you have carved out this bit of time as "me time" and you really need this personal time alone. These guests were invited for TV, period. Perhaps you might consider arranging time with this guest every other or every third time, unless of course you really do need this time alone, which is perfectly fine! I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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No Loving Welcome

Should my spouse greet me when I return from out of town?    

Dear Jay-
How should you address your spouse?
I travel occasionally for work. These trips often consist of a two night stay away from home. Should my spouse quit what they are doing (if possible) or get off the couch to come and welcome me home? Or should I seek my spouse out?  It is obvious that I have returned because my little girls often scream and run to greet me.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I side with you on this one. I was always taught to get up and greet anyone (no one is excluded from the 'everyone' category) with a smile and either a handshake or a kiss - certainly a welcome greeting of some sort. Sloths that cannot get off their tushes to get up are lazy and disrespectful. The sad part is this is likely how they feel about themselves, so compassion is needed. Sit with them and explain how coming home to an 'absent' spouse makes you feel. Perhaps lonely or unappreciated? The worst part of this scenario is it sends a terrible message to the children. Time to straighten this one out. But you will get further if you take some of the responsibility. I hope this helps.

My best,
Jay


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Proper Dinner Party Etiquette

What should I bring to a dinner party when I don't know the hosts very well?     

Q: Dear Jay,
I am a twenty-one year old college student on my way to medical school. I have a boyfriend of six years that I label as my husband. (Seeing as the only reason we are not married yet is because of the expenses of living.) We have recently been invited to a couple's house to eat and visit. This was initiated by my 'husband' and the other male who are acquaintances but seem to have hit it off very well. The couple are older than us by 6 years, and I have only met the guy my 'husband' has befriended a total of 3 times. My question is in concerns with the etiquette that must be displayed here. I have been raised in the south were it's proper to bring a gift to a dinner gathering. First, what would be a good gift to bring? Wine? A cake? And second, am I missing any other extremely important etiquette?
Thank you for your time,
Mandy


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are absolutely correct. A hostess gift is always appreciated and shows kindness and gratitude on your part. Wine is a good choice - but don't expect the host to open it, although he might. Chocolates, a small flower arrangement (never loose flowers unarranged!), or perhaps a jam or other preserve you might have made or is one of your favorite things. I would definitely not take a cake or any food unless asked. It gives the impression you may doubt the hostess's abilities. I hope this helps.

My best,
Jay


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Cutting Comment to Clean Up

How should I take my husband's cutting remarks about my housecleaning?

Q: Dear Jay,
How do I handle a dinner guest telling me to that I need to do my dishes? My house is spotless, minus dishes from the dinner in the sink, when my husband added their dishes, one toppled over and broke. His cutting remark as I swept up the plate really hurt my feelings but I feel that it was beyond inappropriate.

- Mrs. Fox


Jay's ANSWER...

A:Dear Mrs. Fox,
Not knowing what the cutting remark was makes it difficult to give a full answer. However, there is never any good excuse for criticizing one's spouse in front of others (I assume it was your husband who is the offender and not the guest). I have written entire columns about this dreadful inconsiderate behaviour. That said, such embarrassment is usually short lived. However, I would suggest letting your husband know that his remark did hurt your feelings and that if he feels it necessary to comment on your faults to please do so in private. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Declining a Friend's Dirty Apartment

How do I tell my good friends I'd rather stay in a hotel than their dirty apartment?

Q: Dear Jay,
I'm going to visit friends who have a 2-year old child.  My long-time  university friend has never been the most prolific of cleaners and her flat is often untidy and chaotic, which I don't mind enormously.  When we were younger, we would stay in each others flats all the time (I've lived in a few tourist towns) and we'd crash out on sofa beds and air beds but now that I'm getting older I just don't want the hassle of the untidiness, the quite strange husband and of course, a noisy baby.

The guest room in their relatively new flat has always been full of boxes or detritus and so is not set up for visitors (and besides, the cat was using the carpet as a new kitty litter box opportunity), which means staying in the dining room/kitchen on a futon which is probably as old as I am!

Last time I stayed it was miserable: no heating. I'm clearly cold blooded in comparison, lumpy futon and terrible bathroom.  I know that they're going to be a bit hurt if I say that I'm going to stay in a hotel but I don't think I can manage 2 or 3 days with them.  I still live in a tourist town and I'm always amazed that friends want to stay in my living room on my, admittedly comfortable, sofa bed...but I do appreciate when friends tell me that they'll be staying in a hotel nearby, which is what I plan to do. Advice, please!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Honesty is the best policy, but you need not offer any lengthy explanation. Simply state that you have come to appreciate the privacy of hotels and prefer to stay in one and leave it at that! I have found that it is often dangerous to second guess what others may think or how they may feel. They may be relieved in a way, but you will enjoy your stay better. If they question you, stand your ground and insist. Offer to take them out to dinner. They need to come to the realization that guests don't always like staying with friends, but often prefer a hotel. I rarely stay with friends, and prefer a hotel because I have a morning routine which involved meditation and yoga and a busy household isn't a good fit. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Freeloading Brother

How do I get my brother out of my house and into his own?

Q: Dear Jay,

I got married about 8 months ago and my husband and I are enjoying living as newlyweds.  Two months ago my brother and his girlfriend told me that they are planning on moving to the city where my husband and I live.  Two weeks ago my brother told me that he and his girlfriend have not found a place to live so they will be moving in with my husband and me until they find a home.  Now my brother is living with me and I'm not sure how long he is planning on staying.

I am happy to help my brother but I am frustrated that he did not plan his move in a more responsible way.  I am also irritated that he did not ask if he could move in but instead assumed it was ok.  Additionally, my brother and his girlfriend have not been making an effort to move out.  They both have jobs (they transfered with their companies so there was not an impact to their income) but won't start work for a couple of weeks so they have plenty of time to househunt, however they seem to spend their time sleeping in and touring their new city.

I don't want to hurt my brother's  feelings however I miss living alone with my new husband.  What can I do to encourage my brother to move out without impacting the relationship?

- New wife


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Dear New Wife,

Your generosity has  gotten the better of you. You first need to share your feelings with your husband, so you and he are on the same page. Then you need to sit down with your brother and explain that he and his girlfriend will have to move in a week. The fact that you let them move in to begin with is puzzling since you want to start your new married life together without any extra responsibilities. Your brother needs to be given the facts and let him know your feelings. He is likely unaware and will understand once he is informed. Your brother's feelings are not your responsibility; your home is your castle. You and your husband need to have house rules. Now is a good time to set some and stick with them. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Family Issues

How to get my parents to treat my husband with respect?

Dear Jay,

I'm in an unpleasant situation. My parents have appeared to like my husband to whom I've been married to for five years; just recently, though, we ran into a problem when I asked my spouse to go pick up our son from my parents house. I was in the hospital in observation due to a risk pregnancy and my parents who were supposed to bring our son didn't, so my husband went to get him. They do not call to see how we are but expect me to always call them. They do not drive to our house to see their grandchildren but instead call asking if we are on the way to their house. My mom is now ignoring my husband completely. She doesn't say "hi" to him and won't even come near our kids when they are beside him. This upsets me very much. We have been avoiding them because it's becoming uncomfortable to be stuck in the middle. What should we do about this? I believe they are being ugly about the entire thing.

Thank you Jay.



Jay's ANSWER...

The first thing you must do is to stop thinking you are stuck in the middle. You and your husband are a united team! But this does not have to be adversarial with your parents. You must sit down with your mother and explain how her behaviour makes you feel. She may be of the old school where children do take the initiative to place the phone call, call for a visit, etc. Allow her that. Just explain to her in a non-confrontational way that if she cannot be polite in front of her own grandchildren and recognize their father as an integral part of the family, your visits will be greatly reduced. You do not want to raise children who will mimic rude behaviour - so don't. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Bragging Rights

How to get my sister to stop tooting her own horn?

Dear Jay,

My question is regarding my adult older sister in her early 50s who has been widowed for four years now.  She had to study for a financial company during her husband's illness and take tests to get her exams passed.  She now has an office.  I, in no way, would trade places for what she has gone through in the past years with his illness which was four years in misery until he died.  Now it's been four more years since he died.  The issue is with family get togethers where all four siblings are together with all their teen/young adult children and our parents in their 70s she talks and talks and talks about her business.  She goes on and on about how she met her numbers, how she got this award and that award and how she was given another advisers clients.  Being the oldest child and the whole birth order thing, there, in my opinion, has to come a point where it's not about her.  On my husband's 50th birthday, she asked to come along (small dinner with my parents, my husband and I, and my widowed sister).  She dominated the entire dinner and talked about where she was in her journey.  It spoiled the dinner.  Weird thing is my parents are oblivous to it.  They wouldn't want to go through what she is going through either. She toots her own horn at family gatherings to the point where I wish she wouldn't be there.

Four years later, how much listening to her should we put up with? What exactly are the words we should use as it could cause a division in the family.  It doesn't matter whose house it's at, she makes a point of making it a "look what I've done."  I'm at the point where I feel for her but don't really care or want to hear any more of it. What words should be said?



Jay's ANSWER...

Your question is unusually common. Your sister is basically a bully. And because she is allowed to get away with this inappropriate behaviour, she will continue on until someone stops her. Your parents likely taught her this charming habit, given that they don't seem to even recognize it. You must take her aside and privately explain how her actions make you and others feel. Let her know that this is no longer acceptable in your house (or when you are hosting a party). How she behaves elsewhere is not your responsibility, but having planted the seed, she will perhaps modify her ways. You might also consider having a private chat with your mother about this. It is clear that communications can improve easily with some slight effort. Take the high road and initiate this important change! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Last Minute Cancellations

Who is to blame on a last minute cancellation?

Dear Jay,

Two months ago we decided to take a week long vacation and spend time with my brother for his birthday.  I realized this would take us right by my best friend's house, exactly half way.  I asked my friend if we could spend the night on two nights, one on the way up and one on the way back.  We both were excited and she even told me of her plans to cook us dinner on the first night.

Tonight at 10pm, I am informed by text that she cannot accommodate us.  We are leaving in two days and now need to make hotel arrangements, including for our pet.

Am I wrong in assuming she should at least offer to put us up for a night in a modest hotel room?  I'm in shock and don't know what I can do, other than revise our trip budget and book hotel rooms for both nights.  It's a shame and disappointment since this is our summer vacation and we won't be traveling again until the holidays.


--Sheridan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Sheridan,

I am afraid the responsibility for this situation rests squarely in your lap. Your assumption is wrong. Your friend's life has obviously taken a turn that required her to change her plans and her ability to host you. That's just life. Perhaps she needs some compassion. Your travel plans are in no way your friend's responsibility. You will need to revisit your travel budget. And resist laying any guilt trips anywhere. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Getting to Know Us

Honest is the Best Policy

Dear Jay,

My siblings (4) and I have an aunt that comes to visit from another state for six to eight weeks, two times a year. The first time is June-July and November-January. These dates have changed through the years because of vacation plans (mom, sister, aunt and me went on a couple of two week trips, etc.). She started coming to visit after my grandmother passed away (ten years ago). She is planning on moving here within the next couple of years (she says). She started visiting to "get to know us". She stays two weeks or longer in three homes.  Most of us work and she stays at the house all day watching television, playing games by herself, etc. She does entertain herself. When we come home, there she sits. We have to make dinner arrangements then go to bed and start all over again the next day! One sister lives with me, one sister is married and another recently became a widow. Another sister out of state is married, but my aunt has only visited with them one time and they said they weren't "keeping her". Three of us agree that "she has gotten to know us!" We fret over each visit, and she has made the comment that she's on "vacation" when she visits and that when grandma was alive (aunt has never been married and lived with her mom), they provided meals for visitors. A couple of times, she has taken us out to dinner and last year helped buy groceries at my house. She doesn't ask to visit (she leaves it up to us where and when she makes her visits to each home) and another sister has said that she doesn't have to be entertained. We feel like she does!  Aunt demands that we provide transportation to church, she doesn't ask! She never calls us between visits. We call her when we have a question about a game rule or concern for her during a storm, etc. We don't want to hurt her feelings and just want to know how to remedy this situation. A few days at each home would be nice!


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Honeras,

Honesty is the best policy. Unfortunately you and your siblings have been first class enablers in this family dynamic, which has now grown out of control, as such situations are want to do. I recommend that you have a siblings-only family meeting - in personal preferably, but the phone could work too. Come up with a plan that you can all agree to. One of you meets with the aunt - again face-to-face is ideal, and simply explain how you all feel. She is not psychic and probably does not want to be the colossal inconvenience she has become. This discussion should not be confrontational or stressful. State the facts and leave the emotions alone. This situation is not going to fix itself or go away, so it is time for you to take the bull by the horns and make that plan come to light! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Just Droppin' By

Is it rude to drop by unannounced?

Dear Jay,

Is it rude for someone to just drop by unannounced if you've only met them once or twice, and they are not a close relative?

--Ms. Johnson



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Ms. Johnson,

Frankly, I think it's rude for anyone, close relative or the traveling salesman, to drop by unannounced. I wouldn't have daren't do so with my own mother!

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Splitting the Cost

Should a married couple count as one?

Dear Jay,

My sister received a phone call from her friend.  My sister is single, and her friend is married.  The friend asked my sister and another friend to take a road trip with her and her husband.  The married friend thinks that they should split things three ways; since her and her husband are paying out of the same account, they count as one. I think since there are four people they should be splitting things four ways.

What's the proper way to split the costs? Does the married couple count as one, or is her friend trying to take advantage?



Jay's ANSWER...

There is no way two people can count as one. Four people divide the bills by four. That's common sense and the right thing to do. Good Heavens, what were they thinking?!!

I hope this is clear--and helps

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Who Gets the King Bed?

Should a married couple get the king bed on vacation?

Dear Jay,

My son and I are going to Fiji for a holiday. I am a single parent and we have a two bedroom apartment booked and paid for. The apartment has a king bed in one room and two single beds in the other. 

Today, my sister told me she and her husband are going to come with us. Do I have to give them the king bed, even though I have paid for the accommodation? My son and I can share the king bed and still be more comfortable than in a single bed each.


--Nicole



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Nicole,

Thanks for asking this excellent question! Technically, no - if you are paying the bill, the choice is yours. However, logic would dictate that a married couple would be offered the king bed. They may well prefer to have the twin accommodation or better yet, they may ask which you prefer. In any event, the hotel may be able to make a change for you, such as joining the two twin beds together for you and your son, thus creating exactly the same sleeping space as a king.

Try to always take the high road when dealing with such situations. Since your sister and her husband are your guests - presumably you had some choice in this matter - then putting them first is the correct thing for a host to do, but not to the detriment of your own needs. I hope this is more of a help than a hindrance.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Disrespectful Visitors

What is the polite way to tell adult married children they are rude and disrespectful?

Dear Jay,

We have an adult daughter and her husband who request overnight visits with either parents or a grandfather.  Yet the there is no social visit.  These children merely want a free bed and no interaction. They make separate plans or stay locked up in a guest room all hours.

And do not thank their hosts.  Ever.


What is the polite way to tell adult married children they are rude and disrespectful to their parents and grandparents?

--Edgar


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Edgar,

Good manners are learned at home.  Somewhere along the line some of these seem to have slipped through the cracks. My advice at this stage of the game is to have a chat with your daughter and explain your feelings.  Lay down a few rules of respect, as you thought they had been already understood.

You are fully within your rights to have house rules.  Lack of gratitude is another basic principle gone missing. It's never too late to teach these important life skills either to your children or to theirs as they come along.

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Guest Visiting Etiquette

How do we handle a guest who over extends his visit?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband's uncle frequently comes to town to stay with us or my husband's mom (who is his uncle's sister). We are all to the point where we dread his visits. My father-in-law even volunteered to work during his vacation just to get away from him for a while. He's decent about communicating when he's planning to arrive. But he never gives us an exact end date, and he always has an excuse as to why he has to stay longer.

He lives several states away and he drives quite a distance to get here, which also means he's not locked into departure date because he drives vs flies here.   If he comes for the holidays, he stays well after the holidays are over, even though we all have to go back to work and are trying to get back to our daily routines.

We drop numerous hints and ask several times when he plans to leave and we never get a straight answer or an exact end time. We love him very much and don't want to hurt his feelings or make him feel unwelcome but we are to the point of misery.

Please help!

--Toni



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Toni,

How annoying it is when guests become intruders! You must stand your ground. Your house is your castle and you set the rules, including when you will be receiving guests. Obviously you have allowed this disrespectful behavior to go for many years and therefore as a result, you have actually endorsed it.

You can reverse this process, however, and just explain a few simple ground rules. Do this before your guests arrive, therefore no surprises. You could issue an apology for not having been clearer in the past, but due to changing schedules and personal obligations, these are the new rules.

This will take a little getting used to, especially on your part. Stand united with your husband on this new plan of action. It will easier than you think.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Doormat Friend

How do I tell my friend I'm not going to help pay for their birthday party?

Dear Stage of Life,

I've got what feels to be a big embarrassing mess on my hands.  My out of town friend makes a big deal of her birthday every year. She lives in another city and is very "social". For the past several years she has decided to celebrate her birthday to coincide with a social event in the city where I live, organizing dinners & activities where others end up paying the bill (this often happens in many places - she "organizes" and in turn expects to be comped).

This year she has managed to get two other women that I don't know very well involved - one of them is the "host" on the evite and the other owns the penthouse where the party will be held.

My friend suggested I contact these ladies to "help" (I'm the volunteering type aka fool), and she sent me their numbers. I phoned the host and she indicated that she wasn't doing much other than recommending a caterer and perhaps I should call the owner of the venue who would be doing most of the work. I was later copied by my friend on an email to the host indicating what beverages she thought were needed (case of red, case of white, case of "good" champagne, etc.) and that I could be of help because I have many contacts.  Now, mind you, the co-hosts are extremely well connected affluent women who entertain a great deal in high profile businesses. 

My husband and I are unemployed and live our lives as simply as possible and my husband is fed up with my friend's habitual impositions.  I suddenly began to feel set up and quickly emailed my "friend" that my husband and I would bring a case of white wine (after a horrible disagreement with my husband over this).  But several hours later the owner of the venue left me a message to phone her.  I'm afraid that she ( and maybe the other woman, too ) is under the impression that I will "help" by sharing other expenses for my "friend's" birthday which I'm certain will run thousands of dollars. 

Unfortunately the answer to my question is obvious - I should confront my friend about this - the question is "how"? 

This is extremely embarrassing for all (except for her, and I assure you she is not going to change nor will she accept any responsibility or criticism without a fight ).  Any suggestions on what to say and to whom???  Thank you for your consideration!


--Olga


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Olga,

The time has come for clear communication.

I can see a pattern developing here, and you are the only one to change it. The tipping point came when you and your husband had a 'horrible disagreement'. Your 'out-of-town friend' needs to be set straight, lest you face this 'mess' again. Volunteering to help with a party does not mean underwriting it, or as you so eloquently described the role as being a 'fool'.

My advice at this stage of the game is to email each of the women involved separately, explaining that through no fault of theirs, there has perhaps been a misunderstanding, and that you want to be clear what you are able to assist with. No need to explain what you won't assist with or why! People are known to go blithely through life unaware of their surroundings. Your socialite friend seems to fit into that category rather nicely. Don't allow yourself to be swept up in this bullying dynamic. Stand by your husband here and stop being a doormat.

Taking back your power can be as challenging as it is invigorating, and it sounds as though you have no other choice. If she puts up a fight or acts uncivilly, perhaps it's time to edit her from your list of circle of friends.

Remember though to always take the high road and resist fighting fire with fire.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Visiting Out of Town Friends

Am I responsible for a guest's pets if my guests are staying overnight?

Dear Stage of Life,

Is it rude to make dinner plans of your own when you are visiting friends who live out of town, but you are staying in your own rented property (not a house guest) while in town? 

We would include them in an invitation, and would love for them to join us, but since we've never visited their town (beach resort), we would like to take advantage of what the area has to offer.

--Teresalma


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Teresalma,

No, it is not at all rude. There should be no reason to take all of your meals with your friends. I would imagine your friends feel the same way. You may want to discuss this with them once you arrive. If you are staying a week, plan on dinner with them 4 nights - the other 3 are your "date" nights.

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,

Jay

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Wine Etiquette

What is the etiquette regarding serving drinks?

Dear Stage of Life,

When someone comes over to your home for dinner, and say, they bring: a champagne bottle, a bottle of red and a bottle of liqueur.

What is the etiquette regarding drinks (alcohol)?

Thank you!

Em



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Em,

How clever of you to invite such generous guests!

If the bottles were intended as a hostess present, you would be under no obligation to serve them that evening. If, however they were brought as an offering to share for the evening and you did not already have a firm wine service in mind, then confer with the guest and ask if he or she has a preference of when they were served.

The champagne could go first as a before dinner drink, or it could saved and served with dessert. In either case, the red wine should be served with the dinner.

Liqueurs are traditionally poured after dinner, with coffee in many cases.

You may want to suggest opening and decanting the red wine for it to have a chance to breathe before dinner. Or you want to suggest storing the champagne in the fridge until dessert. Everyone will be so thrilled to be the recipients of such largesse, whichever order is selected, it will be perfect!

I hope this has been of some help.

Kind regards,


Jay

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In-Law Etiquette

What is the protocol when entertaining your out-of-town in-laws for the first time?

Dear Stage of Life,

I would like to know what are the etiquette rules when inviting your in-laws for the first time to your home?


If they are not from the same city where I live, and it was agreed that I will receive them at my home first, then can you answer these questions..

  • Should I take them out to dinner in a restaurant?
  • Or...should I serve them at home...and if so...what should I serve them when they first arrive?
  • What kind of beverages should I serve?  Does it differ according to the weather (winter or summer)?
  • And when it comes to the restaurant, should I ask them what is their favorite restaurant or pick a local favorite and surprise them with my choice?
Thank you very much for your consideration.

Sincerely,


-R



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear R,

How excited you must be to welcome your in-laws to your home.  Remember first and foremost that it is your home. Be welcoming. If they drink Champagne, that would be a nice drink to offer them, but be prepared for them to perhaps like a cup of tea.


Winter or summer makes no difference; perhaps in the hot summer iced tea or lemonade might be nice, but people rarely turn down a celebratory class of champagne.


You should choose the restaurant yourself and plan to pay the bill. Pick a restaurant you think they would enjoy and that you can afford. You are the host. Do so with conviction and grace.


Kind regards,


Jay


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To call or not call?

Should you walk into a friend's or family member's home without first announcing your visit?

Dear StageofLife.com,

I was brought up to always call family or friends if I wished to visit, to see if it would be convenient for them.  I have, in fact, taught this practice to my own children.

However, I seem to be in the minority here and my friends think I am super strange.  Many times I have been at the home of a friend or neighbor (either having coffee or watching a movie), only to have their family or friends just walk into the house unannounced.  Often I find this extremely uncomfortable and cannot wait to leave.  I find it super rude.  My friends do not.

The mother of my son-in-law walks into their house any time as well.  My daughter hates it.  Locking the door doesn't work with her either, because she has a key, and uses it.  The key was given to her to use in case of emergency.

To me, my home is my haven, where I can kick back and relax with no worries about anyone walking in.  Am I wrong??

--Jan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Jan,

You and I were brought up identically.  You are absolutely 100% correct, no question about it.  Now...how each of us chooses to run our households is personal obviously, but I can assure you that if someone were to arrive at my doorstep unannounced, they would likely not do it a second time. It is the height of rudeness.

Stick by your guns!

Kind regards,
Jay

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Rude younger sister or inconsiderate older brother?

Protocol for entering a room - it's your responsibility to announce your arrival...

Dear StageofLife.com,

Almost two years ago my husband and I were visiting with his younger brother and his wife at their home.  We had been visiting almost a half-hour when their younger sister comes in, walks right past my husband (oldest brother) and begins speaking with her other brother and his wife about some computer/internet problems she is having. 

We sat there another 10 minutes and she still did not acknowledge her oldest brother.  We finally said our goodbyes and left.

When we went to visit again, we now found out we have become the outcasts for not speaking to her.  This scenario has continued and we didn't even say anything to the rest of the family about her lack of consideration for her older brother.  It is not our aim to make her look bad, we just felt it was totally bad manners to treat her brother that way.

My question is were we lacking in manners or was it his sister lack of manners?

-The Outcasts


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Outcast,

Technically speaking, the younger sister is at fault for not announcing her entrance in some way, such as saying hello to everyone assembled.  She has no social graces, nor does the rest of the family for not recognizing this sister's inappropriate behavior and suggesting she apologize.  If it isn't your aim to make her look bad, I suggest you have an honest, private, non-confrontational chat.  This is hardly a skirmish worth risking family relationships over.

Kind regards, Jay.

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Is texting a married man at 3am appropriate?

Etiquette involving married couples

Dear StageofLife.com,

I feel like these days, not many people are aware of the etiquette involving a married couple.  What I mean is that not many people seem to know the way they should act around married people. 

To me, it's intuitive that a single woman should not be calling a married man at 3am in the morning or texting him constantly throughout the day.  She shouldn't be in contact with him constantly or at odd hours.  The same goes for a single man and a married woman. 

Some, however, seem to think that this is perfectly okay.  Am I seriously overreacting, or have the rules changed in this respect?

A marriage is a sacred thing that it should be respected by everybody.  I seem to be alone in believing this.  Can you explain to us any guidelines that people should follow around married individuals?

Anonymous



Jay's ANSWER...

The question posed about appropriate communications between single and married people is one which many people are afraid to ask, but is quite a common problem.

Essentially, if one is going to express unusual sentiments or emotions to another person, they need to be sure this is okay with the other person prior to acting.  Phone calls at 3am are inappropriate unless an emergency arises.  Respecting the privacy of married couples is important and has not changed.

This is a two-way street, however and the responsibility falls on both parties' shoulders. Common sense comes in handy when considering these kinds of situations. Under usual circumstances, erring on the side of caution is always advisable. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and the answer may be clearer.

I hope this helps! Jay


Contact UsIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

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Lack of Awareness

Look Around You and Be Polite

This may sound like an exercise akin to patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but I am quite serious about this seemingly simple concept. A reader recently sent me this note illustrating the lack of awareness and kindness towards others. Perhaps we can all learn from this reader’s questions.

“I really enjoy your column. Thanks for the great suggestions for the New Year, which I intend to use. One thing that maybe you could consider writing about is the following: It really bothers me that many people today seem to just live in their own world and have little consideration for others who are around them. Often I have walked into a building right after someone who does not appear to know that I am there and drops the door on me.

“Another beef that I have is people shopping in grocery store aisles, often with a number of family members, who run into someone that they know and proceed to block the aisle as they carry on a conversation.

“I think the one that bothers me the most is when you get behind someone at the local drugstore or convenience store who insists on making their purchase, get their air mile points, pay all their utilities, and both check all their lotto tickets and buy new ones while others are waiting behind them! There just seems to be a general inconsideration for others demonstrated here. I used to buy my gas at a convenience store in the Fredericton area where the owner had a policy that customers could not do prolonged lotto ticket transactions if others were waiting. More than once I have just put my purchases down and walked out!

“I know that I sound like the complainer here but it really does bother me! Happy New Year and looking forward to reading you in 2012.”

The scenarios outlined above are ones to which we can all relate. No one likes having a door surprisingly slammed in his or her face. But it does happen frequently! People just do not look behind them to see if someone is coming and politely hold the door open for that next person. What we need to practice is  being polite by taking just seconds to be aware of those around us. I find that when I experience these annoying situations, a bit of self-reflection often reveals a need to slow down and be more aware of what I am doing.

In grocery stores or any store with narrow aisles and shopping carts, it is helpful to look around and try not to inconvenience others. I am not suggesting that a good ‘gossip’ isn’t appropriate quietly in the store, but most customers are not there for social purposes. They need to get in and get out. The lesson here is to consider putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. The Golden Rule comes in handy frequently. This is another call to slow down and be aware of those around you, even putting them and their feelings before yours upon occasion.
 
The multi-tasker at the super market or at the bank or even at the ticket counter can really be annoying. We have become accustomed to one-stop shopping and find accomplishing a number of chores at one place very satisfying. However, if there is a line of people behind you watching you wind through your list of lottery tickets or other time-consuming tasks, I recommend coming back at a time when the lines may be shorter. This is akin to going through a busy grocery line with a full cart of purchases without helping to bag them. We all know how annoying it is when it happens to us. This is a two-way street. It is inconsiderate and disrespectful.

Let the New Year allow you to start off with a clean slate in one important way. Slow down and pay more attention to exactly what is going on around us. As we interact with other people, whether they are fellow shoppers, clerks, or friends and family, becoming more aware of how our actions affect other people will make for a more civil society. And don’t forget to smile often. We never know how our smile can brighten someone else’s day. It happens often!

--Jay
Standing your ground with visitors

Self-invited house guests

Dear Jay/StageofLife.com,

Three times now, a couple I know only fairly well and like only moderately have invited themselves to stay with me for several days. I suspect that their main reason is that I live in a very pleasant seaside town. They give me a lot of advance notice of their visit, so it's difficult to claim that I have previous engagements so far in advance, and they now know that I have a spare room.

In truth, I don't like having people to stay and only ever invite those really dear to me - my sister, brother and other dear friends and relations who live far away.I live alone and work full-time as a translator from home, without any domestic help.

This couple expect me to be available to entertain them, accompany them on outings and feed them. The man is diabetic, with special dietary requirements, and grumbles a lot about the wet Cornish weather. They do offer to "help", but the main help I need is for them to get out of the kitchen when I'm trying to cook and, anyway, their "help" is useless because they don't know where anything is or how anything works. They leave me feeling completely exhausted mentally and physically.

When they leave they always "invite me back", but they live in a distant town I'm never likely to want to visit or pass through. How can I get myself out of this Wunwanted guest trap" I've allowed myself to fall into? Your advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

Jenny



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Jenny,

Thanks for taking the time to ask this very good question. I am glad to see that you are taking responsibility for having "fallen into this trap". You just need to learn how to say 'no'. You are in fact being bullied by these folks, albeit unintentionally (I hope). This is a case of separating facts and feelings.

When you next speak with them simply explain the fact that you do not want any house guests at this time. You live alone for a reason and you need not feel obliged to share that reason with anyone. "I just do not want house guests" should suffice.

Think of it this way. When someone does something to you that you don't like, you say "Please don't do that." They should respect that. If they don't, they are being disrespectful and hurtful, which is unacceptable behavior.You may have to speak in a louder voice to make clear that your boundaries are not to be crossed.

Standing up for one's self is not easy, especially after you've been somewhat of an enabler in the situation. But this is what you need to do.

I hope this helps. Jay


If you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

--StageofLife.com

Planet Etiquette

Recycling, Trash, and General Caring For Our Planet Etiquette

How is our etiquette concerning the planet on which we live?

I try to be mindful of taking care of our delicate planet on a daily basis. I am serious about recycling as is my partner.  All of the wine and beer bottles, cans, newspapers, cardboard, plastic bags and vegetable scrapings are all recycled.  We use to recycle over 2000 pounds of vegetable scrapings every year when operating the Windsor House. Our garden has good soil as a result, although a ton doesn’t really make as much difference as it sounds. However, every ton of waste not put into the landfill is to the good of the planet.

It amazes me how reckless people are today about the garbage they produce. Coffee cups are strewn along the highway. There are some people who I see regularly picking up discarded pop cans from the roadside as supplemental income, there are so many. The highways in the US and Canada capture so much litter that there are now laws in place to combat offenders. We should know better.

And to those of us who smoke, it is hard to believe how cavalier we have become of making the streets our own personal ashtray. Nothing could be more disrespectful to our visitors and fellow citizens. The town of St. Andrews actually employs someone to pick up cigarette butts as a summer job. How pathetic is that?  This reflects so badly on our beautiful town and on the self esteem of our residents who feel it is their right to use the streets as a trash bin. And the sad fact is that no one can point a finger at any one group. I have witnessed this behavior from young and old and all socio-economic classes. It is arrogance at its very worst.

Before I come across as too self righteous, I admit to contributing to this total disregard for the fragility of our planet. I waste water like there is no tomorrow. I don’t turn off lights as I might when not in use. I don’t follow through on certain excellent suggestions from the Department of Energy on ways to use less electricity and conserve natural resources. I drive too much, although I must admit to ‘using’ other gas guzzlers to pick up and drop off my mail.

So, what do we do?  What do I do?

Here we are living in one of the most ‘happening’ places on the planet as far as energy goes and we treat it with little respect. We take it for granted. We don’t want to see our streets littered with cigarette butts, yet we constantly flick them away. We’re not doing that consciously because we know someone needs employment to pick them up. We do it unconsciously. It’s like spitting or swearing or wearing clothes that don’t fit, or bullying or beating our children or spouses. It has become a way of life and it must stop. It soils our surroundings in such a negative way.

I can remember a time when there were no leash laws and there were no ‘pooper scooper’ laws. Walking down the streets of Paris or New York was a bit of a mine field. Suddenly people decided to end this horrible and lazy disrespectful behavior. Today, even in our small seaside tourist town, there are leash laws and special dispensers of plastic bags. For the most part, everyone with a dog is careful to follow these regulations. That is considered real progress. And fortunately no one is inconvenienced.

It’s time to take the next step.

We have made a major step forward by banning herbicides and pesticides in our small town. And a local company is testing organic fertilizer. The province provides home energy analyses for practically nothing, with incentives to improve energy efficiency. There are recycle centers which are constantly improving. There are many chances for us to all make a smaller footprint on the planet. What is keeping us from taking advantage of them?

In my opinion, these values must be taught at home and reinforced in the school system. Given the high cost of ‘deposit’ fees, this should be pretty easy when it comes to bottles and cans. Newspapers are trickier because you actually have to stack them up and take them to the recycle bin, and you get no cash in return. What a pity! Do it anyway. I find that every trip I take to the recycle bins gives me a sense of doing the right thing and it feels good. But maybe that’s just me. So many people feel the same way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all did?

Reader Question: Holiday Etiquette

Travel Etiquette for the Holidays

Jay,

This will be my first holiday season in my own apartment with my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years. As excited as I am to decorate, bake and enjoy the holidays as an adult, I am a little concerned about how to handle some of the holiday activites.

We are going to see our entire family (his & mine) on Thanksgiving. Is it wrong of us to want to spend Christmas Day in our own home this year instead of hiking from house 1, house 2, etc.? My family has a bit of an old mentality, and expects us to be there since we are 1) not married yet and 2) are not hosting the holidays ourselves.

Should we suck it up and travel all day during Christmas, or enjoy a couple's Christmas in the place we worked so hard to obtain?

Thanks,

Laurel


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Laurel,

Thanks for asking this really good question. I have found myself in this position both as a single person with a significant other and as a married person.

My experience tells me that parents usually do want their children to make the trek, sometimes even if they are burdened with kids, but I can totally identify with your position of wanting to spend Christmas in your home with your beloved.

My advice is to be as compassionate to yourselves and to your families as possible. This means being accommodating when possible, yet protecting your private time as well and without feelings of guilt. I think family traditions become traditions because most of the time they work well. If you step and back and look at the big picture, you in fact may be the most flexible; in which case you would be appropriately expected to bend more. 

This in no way diminishes your desire to spend a quiet private Christmas in your own home. The symbolism which surrounds that is very strong and important. It is also resilient. My advice is to follow your instincts and "suck it up".  Be grateful that you have two families to visit on such an important holiday.

I hope this helps, Jay

Don't Ignore an RSVP Request

RSVP Etiquette

I have noticed that the RSVP on invitations in certain instances is ignored. Most invitations ask that the recipient RSVP. This is a simple but very important request. The translation of RSVP, the French expression ‘Respondez s'il vous plais’, is simply ‘please respond’ or ‘please reply’.  The RSVP is the means for the host to gather essential information to complete the party or function arrangements. The RSVP clearly indicates how many people will or will not attend the event. It lets the host/hostess proceed with ordering food and beverages, creating a seating plan, hiring the correct number of wait staff and other obvious considerations in planning a successful occasion.

I have noticed that most people do in fact reply to private party invitations. Once you decide to accept an invitation, it really is important to show up, especially if a sit down meal is being prepared and served. Last minutes cancellations with a very legitimate excuse are acceptable. But ‘no-shows’ are inappropriate and extremely rude. Likewise, last minute replies are thoroughly disrespectful. If you are so late in replying that the host/hostess phones you to see if you are planning to attend a function, you ought to realize your gaff immediately, and apologize for your faux pas and any inconvenience which may have resulted. Apply the adage of walking in someone else's shoes and imagine yourself in the position of hosting a party without a clue to the number of people who will be attending.

For public or institutional affairs it is equally important to reply to invitations. These events require a lot of planning and a head count is crucial. Many times, people think RSVP means ‘regrets only’. It does not. If I am invited to an opening at a museum and there is an RSVP, I call immediately to let them know one way or the other. And, I might add, that no one is exempt from replying. Many times public figures are invited to special events as a sign of respect and courtesy. They must reply to such invitations for exactly the same reasons everyone else must.

At these large public gatherings, if you have not replied to the invitation, do not just show up thinking your host will be thrilled to see you. I have been to many such events where there is a list of who has replied. If you’re not on that list, you may well not be admitted. You are less likely to be turned away at the door for a non-profit group. Because these organizations cannot afford to offend anyone, protocol is broken or stretched. But keep in mind that you are still a guest and ought to return the courtesy of the invitation and hospitality that has been extended to you. Be prepared for a solicitation for a donation or request for volunteer help with various projects. These are some of the ways non-profits remain in existence doing good for the community.

There are various schedules one follows when mailing invitations depending on the kind of event or party. However, one should reply within 48 hours of receiving any invitation if possible. Unless otherwise stated on the invitation, replies should be in writing. In today’s fast paced society, most invitations have telephone numbers or emails for quick reply. Some contain a reply card to indicate the number of people attending and perhaps a card for choosing an entrée. Whatever the method of reply, do it promptly. Always put yourself in the position of the host or hostess.

Invitations are very clearly addressed. If the invitation is addressed to Mr. John Doe and Guest, then he is invited to bring along a guest – any guest of his choice. I heard recently of a wedding invitation where a gentleman was invited to bring a guest. The bride found out who the guest was and announced that the guest in question wouldn't be welcome. The bride did not want to be upstaged by the extraordinary beauty of the lady who was to accompany the invited guest.  Once you have sent an invitation there is no taking it back-that just does not happen in polite society. Once a person RSVPs, the host/hostess accepts whatever decision the guest has made without further stipulation or regulation.  How ludicrous! What a peculiar and cruel way for a bride to behave. That was a first for me.

If the invitation is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and Family, that refers to immediate family, i.e. children. If the invitation does not state “and family”, do not ask if you may bring the children or others. Your asking this of a host/hostess puts him/her in an awkward position and makes you look foolish. However, in the case of an informal party, such as a pool party, as it’s a family kind of affair, it is acceptable to call and explain that you have house guests and ask if they might be included. More often than not extra guests are welcome.

RSVPs are one of the most essential parts of an invitation. Please respect them and respond as quickly as possible. This is one way that you as the guest can contribute to the success of the party and help ensure less stress for the host or hostess. This small gesture is always a winner.

Meet Stage of Life's Etiquette Coach

Meet Jay Remer - etiquette expert on StageofLife.comOur Etiquette Expert

Why Jay?  It's simple...Jay knows etiquette. 

For years Jay has planned and managed royal, corporate, political and social events and parties, some of them for up to 500 people.  As a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, he offers workshops on business, social and dining etiquette, as well as international protocol for a variety of audiences.  From teenage students to corporate clients, Jay teaches everything from the basics of a handshake to the subtleties of developing a business relationship during a networking dinner.  His course on self-esteem in youth, in particular, has been encouraged by Dr. Piet Forni, founder of the Civility institute at Johns Hopkins University.  Originally from Delaware, Jay now lives in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada  where he has written a weekly etiquette column in the National Post and is a current columnist in New Brunswick’s Telegraph Journal.  He is a Social Etiquette and Good Manners expert on allexperts.com and has answered over 1,000 questions from people around the world...and he's now ready to answer your questions here on Stage of Life. 

Just let us know your question, your stage of life, and we'll post your question and Jay's official etiquette response on this page.

Ask Jay a Question

You can read more about Jay on his website, EtiquetteGuy.com

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