Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Q: I recently got married, and days after our wedding, a good friend lost his job. My husband and I were totally willing to let our friend stay with us when he moved to our town to look for a job. Having been in the unemployed boat, I understand how difficult it is to be looking for a job.
Problem is, it doesn't seem like he is actually looking. He also isn't even cleaning up after himself, and I'm starting to feel like a maid in my own house. This morning I stumbled to the bathroom and fell into the toilet (seat was up) and discovered there was no toilet paper left. Ahh!
How do I encourage this friend to get his act together without seeming like a jerk? We aren't asking him to pay for anything. Help!
Carolyn: Oh my goodness. The one who is his original friend, you or your husband, needs to sit down with him and say that you've felt really fortunate that you were in a position to help, but that you need him to do his part, too, which includes cleaning up after himself, doing chores — have him choose a few as part of this conversation — and actively job-hunting.
If he treats you as if you're a jerk for drawing some lines he should never have forced you to draw, then he's the jerk here. This applies not just to your friend but universally — call it the anti-pushover code.
Anonymous: I suspect the friend is depressed. Not an excuse for boorish behavior, but basically you'd be doing him a favor by giving him a gentle kick in the butt. Don't walk on eggshells around him or hide your expectations.
Carolyn: Yep, unemployment and depression are so often a twofer.
Houseguest again: Friend is actually more of my husband's friend than mine, but I know my husband is too nice to approach his friend. I'll have to chat with the husband tonight. This may be a case when I'm willing to be the jerk!
Carolyn: Fair enough, but, since this is my column I can answer a question you didn't ask: Your husband isn't being "nice."
If he truly doesn't care about surprise splashdowns and empty TP rolls, then he's just being his laid-back self.
If he thinks the friend is taking advantage and just doesn't want to look like the bad guy, then he's being spineless.
If he's not bothered by the slovenliness or freeloading because he has left you, wittingly or un-, to absorb all the inconvenience for him, then he's being disrespectful or obtuse, depending on where he falls on the awareness spectrum.
If he has begun to think the friend is abusing his and your generosity and he's just struggling with whether, when and how to say something so that he doesn't undermine his own effort to help, then he's being human, and you would both do well to talk about this with each other before saying anything to the friend.
So, have that chat, and don't "nice out" on the true depth of your frustration. If you're cheesed, say you're cheesed. (Yes, cheesed.) Then carry some of that honesty to your conversation with your houseguest.
Oh, and I almost forgot — congratulations!