It’s that time of year again–the season when friends, relatives, and paid caretakers apparently contrive to tromp on the vacation fantasies of their friends, relatives, and employers. The switchboard has been lighting up this week on this topic–read on!
Friends (Annie’s Mailbox, August 8 )
Dear Annie: For several summers, my family has overlapped vacation time with a nice couple we have known for many years. Now I’m not sure I want to keep seeing them.
They bring their two dogs, one of which is high strung and barks constantly. And last year, the husband questioned why we go to church. I like going to Mass with my family, especially in this beautiful small church on the harbor where we vacation. One evening, the four of us stayed up and talked, and I ended up having to defend my more traditional values against his anti-religious and very liberal views.
His first wife was a blonde, and his present wife is a brunette. My wife is a redhead. I’m beginning to think he has designs on her, and that his attempts to start arguments with me mask his true intentions. My wife thinks my suspicions are crazy and is willing to meet up with them regardless of whether I go or not.
The problem is, my opinion on this annual vacation scenario has me coming in a distant fourth. This is our time together, and I don’t want it used to please everyone else. What do you say? — Madness in Maine
Dear Maine: We say you are wildly overreacting. This man’s anti-religious and liberal viewpoints have nothing to do with your wife. And her hair color is irrelevant. Is he making a play for her? Does he try to get her alone? Does he call, text or visit her without your knowledge? If so, you have cause to worry. Otherwise, we don’t see it.
You don’t have to please everyone, but you should try to please your wife. If she likes to socialize with this couple, you might make the effort for her sake. Discussions on religion and politics can engender extreme reactions. We strongly recommend you pick other subjects and see whether you have more in common.
Relatives (Dear Prudence Live Chat, August 9)
Q. Vacation With the In-Laws: My husband and I have had a rough year—changes in my career, buying a new house—and had to cancel our plans for vacation earlier this summer. We decided that we’ll visit his parents down South the week of my birthday late next month. His parents are wonderful people, and staying at their home is like staying at a resort—private pool, three golf courses to choose from, and the beach nearby. About two months ago, his brother and his wife started visiting us every Sunday, for hours on end—sometimes leaving at midnight. While his brother is really funny and his wife is really sweet, I have nothing in common with these people other than a last name, entertaining them has become a chore (afternoon visits should never exceed the length of a typical workday), and my weekends have been hijacked because of their now-expected visits. Well, they caught wind of our vacation plans, and they want to join us. My husband told them, “We’ll see,” but now they have it in their heads that we are definitely driving together (12-plus-hour trip down), and told the parents. When I explained to my husband that we need alone time—we need this to reconnect and relax, he was completely with me, but he refuses to tell his brother that we want to go by ourselves because he thinks it’s a jerk move and it will anger his brother and their parents. Honestly, I can’t bring myself to go on this much-needed vacation. (I haven’t taken time off since last Christmas, and it was an entire week with the in-laws!) Do I make up an excuse to stay home? Was it really that horrible of me to ask my husband to tell his brother no? Do I suck it up and go?
A: Has anyone in your family heard of the hospitality industry? That’s where you pay other people to whom you aren’t related to provide you with rooms, food, and entertainment. It’s fine that your idea of a vacation is hanging with the in-laws, but that means you’re not really in a position to decide which in-laws are going to hang with you. If you don’t want to see your brother- and sister-in-law, then find the money to go somewhere else or have a staycation. And speaking of in-laws and hospitality, what’s up with your brother- and sister-in-law? They sound wacky, but you sound just as wacky in your inability to say, “We can’t do Sunday open house anymore. We love seeing you, but we’ll have to do it at a mutually convenient time, and I’m afraid we’re tied up for the rest of the summer.” If they show up anyway, greet them at the door and say, “I’m sorry, we were just on our way out. We’ll let you know next time we have a free weekend.”
…and paid caretakers (Ask Amy, August 9)
Dear Amy: My husband and I bought a vacation home in another part of the country.
A local couple very generously offered to visit the house periodically (they live a mile away) and let us know if anything needs to be fixed.
We paid the gentleman for necessary repairs. He’s very good at his craft.
We gave them permission to hang out at the house to enjoy the view, and at one time we let them have their son stay there with his family overnight.
It turns out that they have had at least one large party there. They set off lots of fireworks on our property.
The man painted our fountain a color of his choice, even though it didn’t need to be painted and we didn’t approve the color.
Throughout the past year, they invited additional family members to stay at our home without asking us, and some minor damage was incurred.
We requested that they clear it with us first if they wanted to have anyone stay there in the future.
We like this couple and want to keep them as friends, regardless of their actions.
However, they say that since we don’t trust them, they’ve returned the keys to the house.
They haven’t responded to a friendly message.
What is the appropriate action to take at this point?
— NM Bound
Dear Bound: After you change the locks and hire someone to serve as a caretaker of the property, and after you repaint the item you never wanted painted in the first place and repair the damage these people inflicted in your absence, you should sit down and examine the statement they made to you about trust.
You don’t trust them because they haven’t been trustworthy.
Your neighbors left you wide open to theft, damage and the liability you might face if someone was injured on your property. This is an extreme violation of the agreement you made with them.
Chalk this up to an error in judgment on both your parts.
If they are able to acknowledge their violation, then you might be able to move on. Otherwise, unlike the material damage to your property, the damage to your relationship might be irreparable