Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 6:16 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments
  • Print

Sister is a nightmare as houseguest

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax says: “Your home, your call.”


Syndicated columnist

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
I found the first step is the hardest. No. it is an easy word that is hard to say. Practice. Practice. No. No.... MORE

advertising

Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: A relative is hosting a surprise event. My sister lives out of state but is going to drive here for the party. When she comes to visit, she always stays with me.

I go absolutely nuts. She’s extremely opinionated, domineering, over-my-shoulder oppressive. My husband and the rest of my family tell me to just deal with it. I have tried, but nothing has worked. A few years ago I confronted her, and she got so angry she cut me off for four blissful months. Then she forgave me. Rats.

She has not asked yet to stay with me, but I see the telltale signs, innocent emails asking how I’m doing. After I got sideswiped into hosting her last time, I vowed not to answer her emails, which so far I’m holding to. She is capable of doing an end run via another sister.

I’m asking for your permission to close the hotel doors.

— Driven Totally Bonkers

DEAR DRIVEN TOTALLY BONKERS: Your home, your call, no matter what I think.

Ideally you’ll say it straight out — “We are oil and water — not a good idea” — but you can also ignore any disingenuous communications, or invite an out-of-town friend to make your guest room unavailable, or trump up another dodge.

Clearly you need a longer-term solution, though. WHY does this sister inflame you so? Even with the most obnoxious people, we still control the access we give people to our sensitivities. This will be your dilemma in perpetuity unless you identify your buttons and cut the wires that feed them.

RE: SISTER: (1) Tell Sis that, as an extra-special present, you have made reservations for her at Hotel X, which you hear is fantastic; (2) Invite some nice friends to stay with you during that time, so you don’t have the space; (3) Buy a nice rollaway bed and give it to another sister; (4) Stand up for yourself and say, “Sorry, but I can’t host you here.” And don’t cave into pressure to explain.

Not answering calls and emails is silly and leaves you open to reasonable criticism. Good luck.

— Anonymous

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Remember, the emails aren’t direct requests, they’re part of an apparent pattern of manipulation. If so, ignoring isn’t the noblest defense but it’s a valid one.

CAROLYN: Can you elaborate on what you mean by controlling “the access we give people to our sensitivities”? I don’t “give” people like this access to my sensitivities, they just know exactly what they are and how to use them to hurt me. Even if I put on a show like it doesn’t hurt, it still hurts.

— Anonymous 2

DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: I’ll use my experience in reading hostile mail for 16 years, and also in some volatile, now-ex friendships. Both used to upset me deeply, and now the same things barely register. Nothing about the other parties changed, the abuse still comes. What has changed is inside me: I value their (or anyone’s) opinions less; I am more accepting of, less embarrassed by and therefore less defensive about my own shortcomings; and I learned more constructive ways to handle my hard feelings. Combine the three and I am just not as, for a lack of a better word, hurtable as I used to be.

That’s what I mean.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Living

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Seattle Sketcher Book

Seattle Sketcher Book

Take home the Seattle Sketcher's latest book! Available now.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising

The Seattle Times photographs

Seattle space needle and mountains

Purchase The Seattle Times images

Homes -- New Home Showcase

Condo community has resort-like atmosphere

Condo community has resort-like atmosphere


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►