I have received multiple questions from readers on this topic; this question is a compilation of them.
We have a relative of my spouse's living with us. I agreed to let them stay in the short term, to help them out. This person has not been ideal house guest, though. They make messes and leave them for us to clean. They complain constantly. Now my spouse wants to let them stay longer. When do I put my foot down and stand up for what I want? How can I ask them to leave without making my spouse mad at me? How can I at least get some respect and appreciation for my sacrifice?
It takes a great deal of wisdom to find the balance between giving to others and taking care of yourself. This is something we all struggle with. We want to be kind but we don’t want to be a doormat. Let me answer each of your questions in order.
When do I put my foot down and stand up for what I want?
You have every right to express your feelings to your spouse. You have every right to put your foot down and demand what you want — but it probably won’t go well if you do.
A better approach would be a validating conversation with your spouse.
I recommend you put your feelings aside up front and listen to his first. Ask questions about how he feels and what he thinks. Listening to his feelings without commenting will make him feel validated. He will then be more open to hearing your feelings. Show that you understand and respect his viewpoint.
After you listen, then you may want to ask questions like, “Honey, would you be open to letting me share some of my feelings about this situation with you, even if they are hard to hear?”
Permission questions make people feel respected. They are more likely to respect how you feel when you treat them with respect first. Share how you feel about the situation with kindness and understanding. Together you can work out a compromise.
How can I ask them to leave without making my spouse mad at me?
But you can say something like this to your spouse: “Sweetheart, if I was having a hard time living with your relative and was reaching my breaking point, how could I bring that to you in a way that would still show you how much I love and respect you?”
Then be quiet, because you just did it.
You may want to remember this question, because it works in any situation to help you speak your truth with love.
How can I get some respect and appreciation for my sacrifice?
If you really want respect and appreciation, you are going to have to change your attitude. That’s not what you want to hear, but I’m afraid it’s true.
No one is going to shower you with appreciation when they know you don’t want to do this. People respect and appreciate kindness when you do it for the right reason: love. If you do a loving thing out of guilt or obligation, people don’t feel loved.
You probably let the relative stay because you felt too guilty to say no or because you felt obligated to do it. You did not do it because you wanted to.
You cannot hide your true feelings about this. Your spouse and the relative can feel the resentment and negative energy you are putting off, and it does not encourage respect or appreciation.
You have to decide to do this from a place of love if you want real gratitude. You have to start speaking your truth if you want respect.
You can decide to let them stay because you love your spouse and his family and you want to give this gift to them.
Set some limits and boundaries and speak your truth about them, in a loving way. When problems arise, address them immediately by having validating conversations with the guest. This is a mature, strong, loving way to handle it.
Or, you can decide to have a validating conversation with your spouse and ask the relative to leave because that is honestly how you feel and what you want.
Everything goes better when you choose a response based on honesty.
Either love yourself, speak your truth and ask for what you need, or love them, let the small stuff go, smile and get through it because you honestly want to give them this gift.
If you do it for the right reasons, they will love and appreciate you.
I hope this helps.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.