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Social Etiquette and Good Manners/How often should I stay at my future-in-laws place?


My boyfriend and I bought a house near the city, closer to where we both work and have been living there for 4 months. We both work 8-6pm, with an hour commute and I'm also writing a thesis. We are twenty-five and keen to start our life together. His parents live one hour away, in a coastal town. My problem is his mum would like us to stay at their place over the weekend, 'we're welcome anytime...often (?)'. I'm not sure how often she would like us there, but I'm getting the impression its more than I'd like. My ideal would be to have dinner with them once a week/fortnight and drive back home after, and if they could come to ours instead of us going traveling to their place every so often that would be nice. Its not that I don't like spending time with them, I do.

Before we moved in together, my boyfriend and I both lived with our parents. He would stay at my parentís place, which was closer to where he worked, 2-3 nights during the week and on weekends we would drive down to his parents place.

Staying at his parents place meant that he could go surfing. He'd leave at 8am and come back after midday. So I'd try to study while he was surfing, but invariably end up talking to his mum about his twin sisterís latest crisis. This meant I'd miss out on Friday/Saturday nights with my friends, wouldn't be close to my gym/shops etc and have to pack/unpack every weekend. For a long while, I didn't mind because I got to spend time with my boyfriend. But after a while I started to not want to go down, because I felt like I was stuck there all weekend, especially as we would only take one car.

The only time I'd have to unwind was usually spent talking to his mum in their kitchen. He couldn't understand because it was near the beach and my families place, was in the suburbs. But his families place wasn't my place/space, and when I tried treating it as such, I sensed his mum got put out. What I mean is, a few times when he left to go surfing, and I'd stay in his bedroom plug in my laptop and start working, that way I would get some work done before Iíd get stuck talking. It sounds mean, but I knew I'd lose half a day if I got talking to her.

I start to look forward to a time when my boyfriend and I would have our own space, when we could plan our days and do our own thing. Now that we have moved out, I want to spend the weekend in our place. So I tell my boyfriend go to his parents on his own and 'I'll study', and I'm a little delighted when the surf is bad, because my boyfriend stays up at ours. I know his parents aren't keen on this, even his grandmother passed not so subtle hints when we went down for dinner last week. But my life is really busy at the moment, and I want to enjoy being 25. I'm concerned they think I'm being stuck up, or that I don't want to see them.

I was filled with resentment when his grandmother said 'you should stay at your holiday house (meaning my boyfriends parents place) more often...If it was me I'd be down here every weekend'. It offended me on so many levels, firstly because I spent so much time down there over the last five years, my study suffered, by social life suffered, I barely got to my gym and I rarely saw my own family. I spent more time talking to his mum than my own. I lost count of the number of times I was late to work on Monday mornings, because I stayed at their place the night before. His mum would want me to stay for dinner on Sunday, but it was never served before 10:30pm and I end up staying there because it was too late to drive home. This particular night, when his grandmother said this to me, I had only been back in the country for 1 1/2 weeks, after a month overseas for work and that was the first night I had taken off work since I got back. Secondly, I've never thought of their house as a holiday home, because it was their home, I've only swam in their pool three times. Ofcourse, I've always said their house is lovely, how great to have a pool, how nice to be close to the beach and how lucky we are to be able to stay there, but I always felt I had to entertain while I was there.  And ofcourse I've told my boyfriend, that I kind of want us to do our own thing..., but we aren't near any surf, and 'his mum really likes seeing us'.

He has a twin sister, but she doesn't have the same work hours or study, lives 5 mins away at his parents investment property, comes home often for clean clothes, food, groceries, etc. I don't think what suits his sister suits us.

What's normal? Am I being mean? When I said goodbye to his mum last time, she said she doesn't see me much now, I mentioned we loved to have them to our place for dinner... she said 'no no youíre too busy, wait until after you've finished all your work'. ???

Dear Clara,
Thank you for taking the time to write such a lengthy question. I apologize for not returning an answer to you earlier. This is a rather complicated set of dynamics, but what you must first do is to release all feelings of resentment and discord. You alone have the ability to control your level of happiness and to make the decisions you need to make your life as you want it. You must have a chat with your boyfriend and explain your feelings. Then you must make a plan together to avoid any further conflict. Then you must simply explain to all parties involved exactly where you stand on all fronts and move forward with no regrets.

You have no need to worry about what is "normal". There is no such thing. You are not being mean. Your intentions are not mean-spirited. You simply want some privacy in your life without any feelings of guilt. As long as your intentions are clear, and your feelings are understood, things should improve. Above all, you must take full responsibility for any feelings of yours arising from this situation. Blaming others for your predicament is not appropriate. Showing respect for yourself and for your privacy is a big step in allowing others to make the right decision and respect your privacy, too. I hope this helps.

My best,

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Jay Remer


I am happy to answer any questions about social or corporate etiquette as well as questions regarding international protocol. It is important to practice civility. It is contagious.


I am certified by the Protocol School of Washington as a consultant for corporate etiquette and international protocol. I have been entertaining and giving advise on entertaining for over 40 years.

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Graduate of Protocol School of Washington

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