Set ground rules for guests in your house to avoid nasty fights

I was chatting with one of my girlfriends who is at her wits end over a certain guest who has overstayed his welcome in her house. This guest is her sister-in-law who came to visit them last year after completing Form Four exams. One year later, the in-law shows no signs of leaving and has been displaying the worst kind of attitude and behaviour to my friend.

As we all know, African socialism demands that we open our hearts and households to all and especially to our relatives. Marriage introduces additional demands where one is expected to accommodate and tolerate (sometimes reluctantly) relatives from the other sides. We also know that these house guests are often a thorn in the flesh especially in today’s world where everything is super expensive and in short supply. So today, I have a few suggestions to offer to those relatives who find themselves having to deal with house guests this holiday season.

In Africa, we are often told the visitors and newborns come with their own unique blessings and with that famous line of sahani yake. That is utter rubbish. Visitors these days come with additional stretch to already strained budgets and resources. We are also always told that we must not ask house guests certain questions like how long they plan to stay. Failure to ask such questions is the reason you find many people (and especially women) in a similar position to that of my girlfriend. So part of the pleasantries for any house guest should be the all-important question-“how long do you plan to stay?” Responses such as “I do not know” or “ I will see” must not be tolerated. It is dangerous to give house guests a blank cheque when it comes to duration of visits.

Reek of entitlement

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When it comes to managing house guests, one must avoid the temptation to operate in a grey area where no rules or conditions apply. It is important to advise house guest on seemingly simple ruleslike for example what are the waking and sleeping times in the household, church going habits, how many times one can consume delicacies such as sausages and ice-cream.

You see, house guestsare often given first class treatment on the first day of arrival- being served the best meals and being allowed certain material comforts. Some house guests become so accustomed to these luxuries that they start displaying manners that reek of entitlement such as hogging the remote, refusing to help in chores or hogging the WiFi. To ensure that such habits do not become a problem in the future, then one must set ground rules. The house guest can choose to comply or to avoid compliance.

One of the most annoying attributes about house guests is their knack for fomenting trouble by becoming an FM channel to report on happenings in their hosts’ house. They will often manufacture and manipulate their reports depending on where their allegiances lie. For example, if they think that they are beholden to the man of the house, then they will often spread tales that make the lady of the house seem like a villain.

They also know which family soil to plant their tales of discord for maximum effect. Hosts must ensure that they keep track of whatever reports these house guest spread back to the village. This might call for certain strict measures like eavesdropping on phone calls, reading text messages and emails. In an ideal world, such reports should be completely discouraged or eliminated.

Hosts must keep a firm handle on the number of house guests they have in their house at any given time. For married couples, it is especially important to pay attention to how many house guestseach side has lest there is an unfair balance of power. For instance, if the wife’s side has more house guests resident in the house, it becomes akin to a hostile takeover where they start manipulating resources to their own benefit.

Sometimes battles emerge when house guests from one side take on house guests from the other side. Such messes can be avoided by keeping a firm handle on numbers or better still ensuring that house guests never get too comfortable.

Finally, once one accepts house guests, one must also be ready for messy drama. House guests are the number one reason for domestic help taking off, house girls getting pregnant and squabbles with neighbours. Once house guests get too comfortable, they like to sow wild oats and seeds of discord which can result to major mayhem in the house.

To avoid all this, the host must walk a fine balance between being a generous host and drawing boundaries while also dealing with the negative backlash that comes when evictions become necessary. December is a sensitive month because when many guests decide to overstay their welcome and become hard to get rid off. So,if you want peace this December, manage the house guest situations. 

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