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Context: I'm a 26 years old South American, and up until mid last year I lived with my parents. In June I moved countries (7,000 miles) because of work and now I live alone, and so far I very much enjoy it. My parents visit me every now and then because they can get cheap air tickets. I've also been visited by my sister, who has no intention of coming any time soon, and my aunt.

The only time my aunt came to visit me she stayed 2 weeks in my apartment, and for me it was not a nice experience. My aunt is a widow and she has problems with her only daughter, and this makes her unpredictable. E.g. the first night she stayed she started crying a bit over dinner because she'd have liked her husband to see my home. And I just froze because I never know what to say to comfort her. The whole 2 weeks I was with her I needed to watch my every word because I feared something I said would make her remember her problems with her daughter. It was mentally draining. I never ask her questions about her life because I fear it will spark a tantrum, but she brings up the subject in passing at very random times.

So to summarize, I would very much like for her not to come back, or at least not for two weeks.

Problem: my aunt has made it clear that she wants to come back, and she's already SMS'ed me twice asking 'if we can have a video call". She doesn't want to explain via SMS why she wants to call me, but I'm 99% sure it's because it will be harder for me to say no to her face to face (she is slightly manipulative). So far I've avoided her requests.

I also feel a bit angry that she's "inviting" herself. Granted, when she left the first time, she asked if she could come back and I said yes because I didn't think she'd want to come back (it's an expensive trip). And also because, well, how do I say "no" to her face?

Question: how do I avoid conflict with my aunt when I tell her I don't want my house to become her vacation getaway? She seems to make all these plans around it, like going on a road trip and such, and I've already told her I don't want to do that.

I feel like if I tell her "no"...

  • I'm being awfully selfish, because I would only have to take her for a week, and she looks like she could use some company to distract her from her problems
  • she'd probably resent me
  • she'd be confused as to why my parents can come any time they like and she cannot (it's because I get on well with them)

But at the same time: it's my life and I should be the one to decide who I share my house with.

  • Would you like to make her stop coming forever or just turn the number of visits down to once in a year or two? – A J Apr 17 '18 at 4:31
  • Ideally the former, but I'm guessing that will be incredibly hard to say, so I'm happy with shortening the length of the visit. I know it will be max 1 per year, but since it's a long trip she'd probably want to make it worth it by making it longer.. – Maria Ines Parnisari Apr 17 '18 at 4:34
  • What culture are you and your aunt? In most Anglo cultures there is little expectation that you can impose on family members like this (for a visit of more than a couple of days), but in other cultures that is not the case. – curiousdannii Apr 17 '18 at 6:27
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    @curiousdannii i'm from South America. When my sister lived abroad I stayed at her place multiple times, but her apartment was huge. Mine is rather small. – Maria Ines Parnisari Apr 17 '18 at 6:30
  • Do you work full time? What do you do with your day? When she's here, will you be out all day working/studying or expected to spend time with her? This changes my answer significantly. – user6818 Apr 17 '18 at 7:20
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It's hard to say "no" because you might not know how exactly she will take it. Since she is going through some problems and if you say no, then it might be depressing for her.

Therefore, instead of saying no directly, say something like that you'll love to host her, but you got some stuff to do or maybe you will be out of town due to work.

I'd love to have you at my place, but I got some stuff to do. (pretend that you're busy and cannot be her host).

I said to this one my distant relatives once, when they were coming to visit some historical places in my city, but their presence would have only diverted my concentration and I'd not have completed my project within the deadline during college. They said that it's not a big problem. And they stayed at hotel and I visited them once. So, they were happy that I took time out of my busy schedule and visited them.

There is really no need to give more thoughts on choosing the words, because it'll be breaking news for them no matter how you say it. However, try to have a tone of regret or sympathy, so you don't appear as a rude person.

Also try telling that it's sad that you and she will not be able to stay together. With any luck, she will get a hint that you don't want her to stay at your place. If she still insists, then try saying that you can host her for a few days only. If she wants to stay for more days, I am afraid you will have to be direct this time and say something like,

No, I'm sorry - it's just not possible for you to stay with me.

You may want to avoid lying because if she stays, even for a few days, with you, she might find the truth. Meanwhile, you can try pretending to be nice and suggesting a hotel or a place she can stay. And then say,

I will be really busy during that time. I have made/can make reservations at hotel XYZ which I think you will enjoy.

Edit after the comment:

She's looking for a free place to live since you already said that hotels are really expensive. But if you can recommend a few hotels that might be in her budget, try something like,

I'm afraid you can't stay with me this visit, but I can recommend a few hotels in the area I really love.

Just be firm and don't try to let it be a big deal. If she agrees to stay at hotel, trying having a lunch or meeting her during her stay.

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    The problem of saying "i will be busy" is that she will be able to say "that's okay, i'll pick another time to go". Also, I think that the whole reason she's coming is because she can stay at my place; hotels are expensive here. – Maria Ines Parnisari Apr 17 '18 at 6:25
  • Oh. So telling her that you're busy and arranging a hotel is not an option. What about telling her that it won't be possible for her to stay with you? That'd be hurtful a bit, but she will get the hint. – A J Apr 17 '18 at 6:33
  • I could present the hotel as an option I guess, I could look for cheap ones. What reasons could I give for her not staying? I only thought that my lease expires and I could say that I might move to a different apartment... which is not the case TBH – Maria Ines Parnisari Apr 17 '18 at 6:36
  • May I ask how many rooms you have in your apartment? If there is more than one, are they usually vacant? – A J Apr 17 '18 at 6:46
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    Seriously? two weeks on the couch? Well, you can't really say that there is no room since this is also not an option. Try to remove your couch from there and say that your couch is broken. Also see my latest edit. – A J Apr 17 '18 at 6:50
5

I promise I will get to answering your question directly, but first some things to consider.

I believe you when you say that your aunt can be manipulative, and while that is not a great quality in people, the word brings to mind the idea of someone who hatches evil schemes to manipulate others - and I'm fairly sure that doesn't describe your aunt. She has had some sad things happen in her life, it sounds like this has made her very needy, and perhaps subconsciously she is doing and saying what she has to in order to get the company / attention she needs. I think we are all capable of this at times.

Also, you described her last visit as "mentally draining" and you spent the time trying to avoid talking about her daughter / late husband. Do you think perhaps it could be your behaviour that made the experience mentally draining? Avoiding a subject is full-time work, especially when someone else desperately wants to talk about it! Is it possible these things make her cry because nobody is talking about it and she is bottling it up? You don't go into detail about the problem with her daughter, but certainly when it comes to her being widowed I have heard and read the words of many bereaved people who say they wish people would talk about their deceased loved ones more.

One possible way to tackle this problem inter-personally may be to actually talk with her about her daughter, and her husband. At length. Hash it out once and for all. Some things this approach may achieve:

  1. She may get it out of her system, have a good cry, and move on from it all.
  2. If you open up and give your advice, it may even help her to move on from it.
  3. If I'm wrong and she doesn't want to talk about it then maybe she wont want to come up and visit you after all.

But if that doesn't appeal and you really are set on turning her down then it is just a case of being honest, but fair. You likely have limited vacation time of your own and it's reasonable that you want to use that for yourself, or when your parents visit (they are undeniably closer). Also, you surely have a new life there. You don't go into detail but her visit must interfere with other social activities or your daily routine at the least.

If any of the above are true then you can weave these into your response, but say something along the lines of:

It is a little difficult for me to have anybody stay at the moment, I'm sorry. I have vacations and events booked, I have a routine for work the rest of the time. Can we postpone this for the time being?

If you want to soften it with a concession you could perhaps add:

I could perhaps fit you in for a couple of nights?

Obviously your response should be truthful, and you shouldn't feel bad if you have turned her down for genuine reasons. "Selfish" and "Selfless" are both extremes, and there is middle ground to be found. You must have time to yourself and as you have rightly explained, you have your limits.

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    "and perhaps subconsciously she is doing and saying what she has to in order to get the company / attention she needs." Isn't it still manipulation irrelevant of intent or cause? and this line from the OP "I never ask her questions about her life because I fear it will spark a tantrum" – WendyG Apr 17 '18 at 13:48
  • @WendyG Yes it absolutely is manipulation, just not with evil intent, which is the point I make. Also the OP's fear of a tantrum is not the same as a tantrum. I don't think you've read my answer properly. – Astralbee Apr 18 '18 at 9:22
  • People only fear tantrums from adults after they have experienced them from that person. So i took that line to explain she has been on the receiving end of them more than once. – WendyG Apr 18 '18 at 9:41
  • @WendyG Well rather than assume anything I have covered both possibilities in my answer. I have asked the OP to consider whether he could address the issue by actually talking to her, but I go on to show how he can turn her down in the manner he asks. – Astralbee Apr 18 '18 at 9:45
  • I read your comment as "people see the word manipulative as Evil / Machiavellian, i don't think she is doing it on purpose so don't think she is manipulative". It appears that wasn't what you were saying so we agree. – WendyG Apr 18 '18 at 10:00
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Tell the truth, or at least don't lie.

Right now there isn't any way to avoid that situation. But if you keep lying, that will still be very unconformable for you.

Try one more time. If for some reason she starts crying again, explain her politely that you are under a lot of stress (for different situations, work, college, etc, whatever reason that you want to pick) and this makes you feel very bad, and that she is welcome always to your place but you cannot handle that kind of emotion because it make you feel bad, and you prefer to be alone otherwise.

Try to be as honest as you can.

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I can't provide quotes as reddit is banned on my works pc but please read some threads on this subreddit

https://www.reddit.com/r/JUSTNOMIL/ you will recognise your aunt and her manipulation techniques.

The crying over her husband and daughter, making you afraid to talk or she throws a tantrum, classic manipulation tactics.

she isn't delicate or sensitive she is controling. You just have to send her a message, "I am not sure why you want to skype but just to let you know it really isn't good for you to come visit until (1 year after the last visit) and then only for 1 week".

She will throw a major tantrum about you being heartless and not caring you just need to block her for a few days, until she calms down. if she doesn't calm down respond "I am blocking you for a month Aunt if you can be civil after that I will talk to you then" or some such answer.

I am guessing she will now be crying to others about having trouble with her daughter AND her neice after this.

Do not give any reasons, as reasons can be argued. To quote my fav forum "NO is a complete sentence"

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