Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Refusal to Host Family Isn't a Bad Thing

DEAR HARRIETTE: I come from a family that has an open-door policy. Whenever family members want to come to town, my parents and aunts and uncles let them all pile in.

I live in a small apartment with one bedroom. I have no room to accommodate other people in my home, and I can’t afford to feed them. I don’t mean to be rude, but I just can’t do it. I don’t want to be the “bad” family member, but I was just asked by my family down South if they could come up to stay with me for a couple of weeks. How can I say no to them when nobody else has? -- No Room

DEAR NO ROOM: Previous generations of your family have had a different attitude about providing shelter.

Historically, that open-door policy was often used to protect people who needed to escape their circumstances by moving out of poverty, out of dangerous living conditions or simply into the opportunity for making a better life for themselves. The “policy” obviously also applies to family members who are coming to visit one another and choose to stay together rather than spend their nights in a hotel and days in each other’s company.

These days, many people ask to stay at a relative's home during vacation so that they can save money while they are visiting the city where that person lives. That is a different situation altogether, and it sounds like what you are describing. While it may be uncomfortable, tell your family that you live in a tiny place and simply do not have room to accommodate them. Offer to have them over one night for dinner, or take them on a tour of your city when they arrive. Connect with them without agreeing to host them for weeks.