Dude, Can I Crash On Your Couch?

How to Draw Boundaries with Unexpected Houseguests

Young adult male sleeping on a couch

So you have a friend or relative who’s been down on their luck. As an act of kindness you’re letting them crash on your couch for a while. But you’re no multi-millionaire, and you don’t have the resources to let them stay with you forever. Here’s how to set ground rules so your guest doesn’t overstay their welcome:

Be Honest About Your Financial Situation

You know when you’re on an airplane, and the flight attendants give a big talk about what to do in case of an emergency? You’re advised to put your oxygen mask first, before helping others. Well, money works the same way. You can’t help others with their finances unless you are in a good place. Be honest with yourself as to how much you can help your friend or relative without jeopardizing your own goals. You don’t want to take on more than you can handle.

Set Houseguest Boundaries

Setting houseguest boundaries will help make sure your best interests are looked after, which can help keep peace in the relationship. You can make this more of a discussion than a lecture or ultimatum. Just make sure to be clear with how long the person can stay or what you can afford in terms of helping them out. Leave feelings of guilt or obligation at the door. At the end of the day, you need to do what’s best for you. Setting houseguest boundaries doesn’t make you a cold-hearted person. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t let them stay with you in the first place.

Work Out a Houseguest Agreement

Have a heart-to-heart with your houseguest to see how they feel about their situation and what they plan to do to get out of their rut. Work out a houseguest agreement where both parties can win. If money is a limited resource for your guest and you’re hurting for time, you could work out some sort of swap. For instance, depending on their situation, by letting them stay rent-free, maybe they can help out with chores, do the grocery shopping, or watch your kids. You can even help them with a job or apartment hunt if that’s something you feel comfortable doing.

Don’t Back Down On Your Houseguest Ground Rules

Once you and your houseguest agree on ground rules and a plan, don’t back down. It is easy to allow your boundaries to shift because you care about the person, but it also is important to stand your ground when you make an agreement. Obviously, there always are unique circumstances to every situation, so use your best judgment. Just be sure you are not sacrificing your own well-being in the process of helping someone else.