You and your spouse have had some serious talks concerning your shared household. After all, you managed to get married, which usually doesn’t happen without a heart-to-heart conversation or two. One sticking point that many newlyweds don’t discuss until after the wedding is the topic of long-term visitors and houseguests in your home. Everyone has a vastly different experience with hosting visitors, and this can lead to conflicting expectations.
Since the two of you are creating a new home together, it’s important to have a discussion about guests whenever a new visitor or guest might be planning to come and stay.
Roommates and Housemates
Different people have different perceptions of what home life will be like after marriage, but a common societal construct is that spouses will move into their own home together, be it in a shared home, an apartment, or a single family dwelling. If it makes sense financially and socially to have a roommate, it is certainly a convenient and practical option.
It is important to talk through the pros and cons of having a roommate. Ask questions such as: “Are we helping this person out, or is this just for rental income?”, “How long is he or she likely to stay?”, or “Is he or she going to help with any of the bills or chores?”
There are many important questions to ask up front in order to avoid conflicting expectations that lead to frustration and resentment. If the roommate you’ve chosen will interact with you frequently, it may contrast with the expectation of having newlywed time to yourselves. While not a bad idea financially, especially after spending money on a wedding, roommates need to be thoroughly considered before you move anyone into the spare room of your love nest.
Friend Who Needs the Couch
A less-formalized relationship than roommates would be the hard-to-pin-down “friend who needs the couch.” This is not a person who stays for a weekend, but rather a person who indefinitely comes to stay with you, while living in a common space of your home. Rather than just being a person who wants a place to stay, this friend is often down on his or her luck. Depending on whether they are your friend or your spouse’s friend, there needs to be a clear communication about how long such a stay will last, and what will be done if this person does not choose to leave after the agreed time.
The reason this kind of visitor can be challenging is that most of us want to be helpful and kind, but we can also experience fatigue when we don’t get time alone. When there is someone staying in your common space, it is important at the very least, to find times of day when you can be on your own if you need to recharge. In the long run, your act of kindness toward your friend can make a big difference in his or her life, and hopefully he or she will appreciate your gesture of goodwill and not take advantage of the situation.
Family Visits to Your Home
Family visitors can run the gamut, from a friendly cousin visiting for a week or two, to a long strings of siblings, aunts, and uncles. They may or may not be long-term house guests, but sharing an understanding about having family over in your home should be quite clear between you and your new spouse, since everyone expects a different amounts of family time. If your spouse expects every weekend to be poker night or a big family sleepover in a small apartment, it is good for you to know that in advance.
One way to ease the potential tension of misaligned family-visit expectations is to talk about how visitors were received in your home when you were growing up. If your childhoods looked different in terms of house guests, you should have a discussion about how the more-social and less-social of you two can work together to make family visits work.
Perhaps one of you chooses to do more of the logistics for hosting: washing sheets for the beds, finding sleeping bags, or preparing food. The other person takes on more of the work of entertaining and hosting the guests. Make sure that you don’t lock your new spouse into an agreement to have a houseful of long-term guests until you’ve tried a few experiences of hosting and make sure it is working for you both.
Elderly Parents or Grandparents
One of the hardest and most long-term sets of visitors are elderly parents or grandparents who need to live under the care of someone else. They are elderly family members who do not wish to go, or cannot go to a nursing home. This is the kind of care that can be some of the kindest acts that a child or grandchild can give. At the same time, all the above advice is still true. Talk through your expectations about the stay, and perhaps try it on a trial basis. Split up the household tasks to play to each of your strengths and skills.
Remember that sometimes the new household additions, like an elderly parent, necessitate actually moving to a different home if you need configurations of the living space be compatible with mobility issues. Being willing to be flexible with the care of an elderly relative of your spouse can be a very special gift to give to your spouse.
While these conversations are inevitably serious, it is helpful reach a consensus with a spouse regarding long-term house guests. With proper planning, you can find joy in a house full of friends and family rather than being overwhelmed by visitors.