Dear Amy: My wife's friend has been staying with us for the past four months. She took time off to work on some stressful career issues and deal with her depression.
We welcomed her, never asked for rent and allowed her to borrow our cars, eat our food, use our utilities, etc. We offered our shoulders to cry on. We didn't expect her to stay so long, with no end date in sight.
We are aware it is our fault for not setting boundaries at the beginning. She has been to only one counseling session but seems well enough to travel several hours for dating and for vacations almost every week.
She very dramatically reminds us of her depression when we try to talk about how her being in our house is starting to wear thin.
My wife and I finally asked for $200 a month to cover some expenses. She then picked up and left without responding to our request.
I have mixed emotions — one being relief to finally have our lives back, but the other is guilt.
At what point should one pull away from someone who is depressed in order to protect one's own family and sanity?
— Feeling guilty in NY
Dear Guilty: The best way to help someone (depressed or not) who comes to stay is to say at the outset what the parameters are, and then be patient with the houseguest but also certain about your first obligation — which is to your own household.
You should have said, "You can stay with us for eight weeks, to rest, recuperate and then regroup. After that you will have to leave, but we hope you'll be feeling better by then."
If you are able, it is best to offer this hospitality free of charge; charging rent can actually make it harder to get someone to leave after she has overstayed her welcome.
Your friend's ability to drag herself out for dating and miniholidays is an indication that she might be feeling better. As it is, she stormed out over a very reasonable request on your part, with no expression of gratitude, etc. Being depressed doesn't give her a free pass to be inconsiderate.
Dear Amy: Here is what my husband of 50 years said, upon reading the letter from "Jealous Husband," (the husband who was upset and jealous at seeing a 25-year-old photo of his wife and a former boyfriend): "Neener, neener, you had her for this photo, I got her for the rest of her life."
How cool is that?
— Going strong after 50 years
Dear Going Strong: That is waaay cool.