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Carolyn Hax: An expat invited friends to visit, then friends invited the world

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: My family lives as expats every few years. We have lived in odd locations in the past and our loved ones have been reluctant to come see us. This time, our location is more desirable. I extended several invitations to friends and family to visit us. Some accepted, while others declined.

Two friends have now invited several family members. When I invited friends to come see us, in my mind I had invited just the people I communicated with initially, not the family members they invited. I never indicated my invitation extended to the entire family.

My friends, I believe, think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see another country with their loved ones and stay with us free. While I am glad to have the company, I am also a little irritated at all the secondary invitations. Was it unreasonable of me to invite friends without expecting them to invite family members? Is there a polite way to limit visit time or visitors under these circumstances?

— Exasperated Expat

Exasperated Expat: Was it unreasonable for you to be reasonable, you mean? I guess we can’t rule that out.

This is asymmetrical social warfare: The guests in question clearly feel no obligation to be polite.

It's still a noble goal, so be courteous throughout, yes — but don't confuse that with having to host everyone your rude guests presume to invite to your home. Be clear and kind and don't budge: “There must have been some misunderstanding — our invitation was for just you, not for other family members.” Then wait in silence for them to process this.

The only unblockheaded and/or unentitled response to that gentle correction is, “Oh my gosh, I am sorry I was so presumptuous and put you on the spot like that, I will come on my own as you intended, thank you again for your invitation.” Actual prostration optional.

If you get anything different — any form of pushback — then respond with, “I understand if you don't want to come on your own, though we'll miss you. Maybe next time.” Nice as pie.

Full disclosure: If I could avoid 100 percent of the awkward-but-necessary conversations the average lifetime serves up, I'd be overjoyed. I advise them here, I script them, I feel better for them in the end … but every single one I have is in defiance of my natural social flight instinct.

This one, though? Drawing the line on international houseguests I didn’t invite? I want to have at it myself. Because, damn.

In the event of “they’ve already bought their nonrefundable tickets!” or other intrusive wrinkles you can’t control, you always have this: “Hm, that’s unfortunate. I’m happy to give them names of a few good hotels.”

Dear Carolyn: Can I request a quick shake? Broke up with an increasingly distant boyfriend and am realizing I was romanticizing his potential, rather than looking at what he was doing. My faith in my judgment is a little wobbly today.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: I’d rather give you a quick compliment. It appears your judgment did exactly what it was supposed to, when it was good and ready. That’s really all you can ask of it.

Maybe it's not enough that you're smarter for having gone through this; maybe you wanted that insight sooner and less painfully? If so, then welcome to the club of every person on earth.

Dear Carolyn: I am going through a divorce. Our divorce is not finalized. My husband stopped wearing his wedding band in November, when he said he wanted a divorce.

I am just curious, when is the proper time to stop wearing one’s wedding band?

— Divorcing

Divorcing: There isn’t one. Even people in loving, enduring, faithful marriages can stop wearing their rings for any number of reasons. Discomfort, weight fluctuations, changing tastes, frequent hand-washing, and of course, in some professions and hobbies, risk of snagging, since rings aren’t worth losing a hand for.

What I see through your question is that you’re reaching for some way to say, “No, stop, what you’re doing is wrong,” or, “Slow down!” or, “Hey, I matter, stop erasing me!” That’s normal and wrenching and understandable, so if that’s how you feel? Then there’s nothing wrong with that.

But it’s important not to act on those feelings. He has made his choice and you can’t stop him. Therefore, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is to let go of the idea you can control his actions now or get satisfaction from them, whether they involve his rings or what he tells people or whether and when he starts dating or whatever else. Concentrate on yourself, that’s it. What will you do with your ring, when, and why? What will you say? How will you heal? Will you date? These are the relevant questions.

Even when it involves the business of the divorce, focus on your needs, your available options, your next good decision. Take your best care of you.