Ask Amy: Depressed guest rules roost, then flies coop

Dear Amy: My wife’s friend has been staying with us for the past four months. She took time off to work on some stressful career issues and deal with her depression.

We welcomed her, never asked for rent and let her borrow our cars, eat our food, use our utilities, etc. We offered our shoulders to cry on. We didn’t expect her to stay so long, with no end date in sight.

We are aware it is our fault for not setting boundaries at the beginning. She has been to only one counseling session but seems well enough to travel several hours for dating and for vacations almost every week.

We feel we are being used, but she very dramatically reminds us of her depression when we try to talk about how her being in our house is starting to wear thin, especially since we are expecting our first child.

My wife and I finally asked for $200 a month to cover some expenses moving forward. She then picked up and left without responding to our request.

I have mixed emotions — one being relief to finally have our lives back, but the other is guilt.

I wish we could have been more supportive, but we were beginning to suffer, too.

At what point should one pull away from someone who is depressed in order to protect one’s own family and sanity?

Amy says: The best way to help someone (depressed or not) who comes to stay is to say at the outset what the parameters are, and then be patient with the houseguest but also certain about your first obligation — which is to your own household.

You should have said, “You can stay with us for eight weeks, to rest, recuperate and then regroup. After that you will have to leave, but we hope you’ll be feeling better by then.”

If you are able, it is best to offer this hospitality free of charge; charging rent can actually make it harder to get someone to leave after she has overstayed her welcome.

Your friend’s ability to drag herself out for dating and miniholidays is an indication that she might be feeling better. As it is, she stormed out over a very reasonable request on your part, with no expression of gratitude, etc. Being depressed doesn’t give her a free pass to be inconsiderate.

Pomp circumstances

Dear Amy: My 21-year-old daughter is due to graduate from college in May. She has expressed that she does not want to participate in the graduation ceremony.

Even though my daughter is old enough to join the military, borrow money, etc., I know the rational part of the brain is not formed until mid-20s.

My sister (her aunt) did not attend her own graduation ceremony some 20-plus years ago, and my daughter throws that in my face. My sister has told her that all the diplomas are mailed anyway and that it is her decision to make (she doesn’t have kids).

Do I let her make this decision and maybe regret it or try to persuade her to attend graduation?

Amy says: I gather that because this issue is surfacing almost a year before the big event that your daughter has identified this as a point of discomfort for you, and your sister might be egging her on.

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