Dear Dr. Hurd,
My husband and I live in a resort/beach area. We moved here for an early retirement, and overall love it. For some reason, he now feels like we have to play ‘bed and breakfast’ to any and all of our friends and family. I tried to explain that this is our home and not some part-time beach house, but he gets mad and tells me not to be ‘selfish.’ I’m tired of cleaning up after people who feel entitled to free room and board just because we happen to live at the beach.
Dr. Hurd replies,
We do things for self-interested reasons. Some of us love to be hosts, and others don’t. If your husband gets personal gratification out of being a host, then he’s doing it for self-interested reasons. And that’s perfectly OK.
The problem is that he feels one way, and you feel another. Try to understand that he derives pleasure from having guests (assuming he does), but at the same time ask him to consider the attitudes of certain guests. Which ones show more appreciation and which ones show less? And who is (or isn’t) ‘entitled’ to your hospitality?
I’m not talking about reciprocation (i.e., paying you back) as much as appreciation. People who genuinely appreciate their free stay at a popular, expensive resort acknowledge that fact by saying thank you, maybe taking you out to dinner, and by indicating that they know you’re not obliged to do this.
Good guests (and hosts) understand there’s a world of difference between being entitled to something or receiving it as generosity. Showing appreciation and some degree of reciprocity proves recognition of this distinction.
You paid $100 for a theatre or concert ticket? You’re entitled to see the show or concert. A friend or family members happens to live in a desirable location? This entitles you to absolutely nothing. People who don’t get this should not be guests, in my opinion.
Not all guests act or think this way. I live in a summer beach resort area myself, and I’ve heard terrible stories: ‘I don’t hear from so-and-so all year long, but you can sure predict a phone call when summertime rolls around.’
Human behavior is not always pretty. Some people are thoughtful and others are not. A lot of us are afraid to make those distinctions because it seems ‘mean.’ Ridiculous. In fact, it’s mean to the people who ARE nice and considerate to refuse to make those distinctions.
Back to your husband. There’s a universal rule relevant to marriages and relationships: If one member of the couple has a problem, then there’s a problem. If your spouse won’t discuss it and expects you to accept the status quo, then he’s in the wrong. This is just as wrong as you changing the status quo with no reference to him. He’s obligated to compromise and talk with you, negotiating and finding the best possible solution for you both.
If you’re coming across as hostile or defensive, then try to change that. Hostility and anger shut down reason and negotiation. You sound convinced that some guests act in rude ways. Identify them and their obnoxious behaviors and ask your partner how he feels about it.
Ask him if it wouldn’t be fair to you both to set some boundaries and limits. If you’re a victim of ungrateful or ‘entitled’ guests, then so is he.
If he continues to call you ‘selfish,’ don’t be defensive. Wear the label proudly, if it means caring about your property and the manners/attitudes of your guests. Remind your husband that if it’s right of your guests to selfishly make themselves comfortable in your home, it’s at least as right of you to care about how they treat you.
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