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.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been dating my boyfriend for a year now. He is a nice man with a good heart, but he hasn’t had a job for the whole time that we have been together. At first, that didn’t seem like such a big deal since he had savings. He was creative and figured out ways to make fun without spending a lot of money. Now, it’s getting old. I have a decent job with a consistent paycheck, and I find myself picking up the tab almost all the time. I’m not totally old-fashioned, but I also don’t think it’s right for the woman to have to pay all the time -- or the man, for that matter. How do I bring this up with my boyfriend? I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I know he feels bad that he has limited resources, but if we are going to keep going, we need to address our money issues head-on. How do I bring it up? -- Facing Our Stuff
DEAR FACING OUR STUFF: Your relationship is at a reality check point. It is time for you two to talk frankly about where you are and where you are headed. Ask your boyfriend to join you for a serious conversation. Tell him that you need to figure out your financial situation because things are getting bad. Be honest and tell him you don’t feel comfortable picking up the tab all the time, and you can’t afford it. Press him to talk about his financial plans for the year.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)