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Miss Manners: My houseguests are bringing guests of their own, and it’s getting to be too much

Dear Miss Manners: My wife and I moved to a small town along the coast. Our three-bedroom, two-bath home can comfortably accommodate a total of about eight people, including us.

Here is the rub: We have some close friends who occasionally come to visit with their preteen children. On one previous visit, they announced at dinner that a close friend of theirs would be “dropping by” the following day. Because their friend would have to drive several hours to get here, and there are no hotels within a few miles of our home, I was skeptical about her “dropping by.” But I did not make an issue of it, because our friends’ visits make my wife happy.

The following morning, their friend showed up with her two children, her older sister and her dog in tow. It was obvious they intended to stay with us, because they dragged in overnight bags and pillows from their car.

My wife, being the accommodating type, gave me the side-eye and welcomed them with open arms. We then set about trying to find space for more people, many of whom slept on the floor or the living room couch. This brought the number of people from seven to 11, plus an additional dog.

When everyone left at the end of the three-day weekend, my wife and I sat down and had a long discussion about what had happened and what we would do about it. We agreed that our friends took advantage of our hospitality without asking us, and we resolved to change the visiting rules.

The next time our friends wanted to visit, they again stated that their friend would be “dropping by.” This time we said no, and we were very firm. We let them know that, from now on, we were limiting the number of people staying over, and we were no longer welcoming other pets.

As a result, their visits are less frequent, which makes my wife unhappy. She wants to throw the new rules out. I totally disagree.

Calling your and your wife’s agreement a rule appeared to put it beyond appeal. But as you know, you are, for the sake of family harmony, going to have to reopen the discussion.

Miss Manners has a suggestion. She worries — without making any accusations — that the newly implemented rules, and their announcement, were ungracious. It is not that you do not welcome guests, including friends of friends — even, occasionally, dogs and preteens. It is that you intend to be wonderful hosts to all your guests, and to accomplish that, you must be the ones issuing the invitations.

If your friends want another friend included (note the singular), they should tell you, and you will see whether that request can be accommodated. You can then issue a limited invitation — or, with apologies, decline to do so.

This should appear to your wife as a welcome relaxing of the rules. And although it will require the very thing you were hoping to avoid — adjudicating each request and visit separately — your wife and her friend will soon grow tired of it, too.

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©2022, by Judith Martin