DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been having trouble setting boundaries with my mother-in-law.
Our county is currently under a stay-at-home order. This weekend, she invited her two sisters and two nieces over to my house for a socially distanced al fresco dinner -- one to which I had originally only invited her, her son and her son’s girlfriend (a single household). I found out about the extra guests only a half-hour before they arrived.
I ended up locking myself in my bedroom and refusing to participate. My husband is mad that I did not even come out to say goodbye.
I sent everyone this email:
“Hi Family -- I am glad you enjoyed yourselves on Saturday. I stayed in my room. I was given 30 minutes to come to terms with the idea that the number of the people on my property was going to quintuple. I am an introverted rule-follower, and that is not enough time for me to become comfortable with this idea, especially during the stay-at-home order.
“What I was originally told, and I was given over a week to consider and become comfortable with, is that two to three people would be picnicking in my front yard -- a small, socially distanced group, from one household. This is something I was willing to try as a test run for my mother’s birthday. What I got was more than double the number of guests with only a 30-minute warning.
“(Mother-in-law) is impulsive and unable to consider the consequences of her actions. I do not expect and am not asking that anything change there. The rest of you, however, know this. You also know that (Husband) and I rarely have guests over during normal times, much less during a pandemic.
“So here is what I propose: Next time you are invited to my house and the invitation comes from someone other than me or (Husband) directly, please confirm with us. It could be a simple ‘Hey, what time should I be over on Saturday?’ or ‘Do you want me to bring anything for the party?’ or ‘Can I bring my new boyfriend with me?’
“You all have my email address now. You should have my cell, because I’ve been on a number of text strings, but here it is again. Thank you for your respectful consideration.”
Did I overstep? How can I set boundaries without being rude?
GENTLE READER: Well, you probably won’t be troubled with family visits again soon. While your exasperation is understandable, no good is likely to come from the way you expressed it.
Miss Manners agrees with your husband that locking yourself in was inhospitable, when a wave and apologetic smile, even from behind a glass door, would have softened the edge. And your email could have explained your reaction by saying you were discombobulated by the radically altered plans, and would have welcomed them with advance agreement about guests and precautions.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)