Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR READERS: Please enjoy this topical “Best Of” column while I am away writing my next book, which is scheduled to be published in the fall. Today’s topic is about boundaries.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I recently moved back to my hometown. My mother, who is known for being at every event in town, now RSVPs for us to all the events she likes to attend. She emails us a calendar of the events that we are to attend each month. The events are fun, mostly, but they are not always things in which my husband and I are interested. My mother makes reservations for us, or buys our tickets to things, without asking. If we say we do not want to go, she gets very upset and pouts, but she continues to schedule our lives anyway. I am already in a high-pressure profession, and the added pressure of having to attend every concert, art show, book signing, auction, benefit, lecture, etc., is too much for me. In fact, I have suffered from depression for years, and the one thing that has the greatest negative impact on my health is to be overstressed and overscheduled. What should I do?
Stressed and Depressed
DEAR STRESSED: If you and your husband don’t get a handle on this now, it will only get worse. You can (and should) present a united front.
You must tell your mother to stop. Tell her that you are worried about your stress level and that these events are taking a toll on you. Say, “I’ve been avoiding telling you this because I don’t want to hurt your feelings, Mom, but Tom and I really can’t keep going at this pace. If you want to tell us about an event, that’s great. But don’t send in RSVPs for us and don’t buy tickets for anything. If you do, we won’t go.”
Your mother should not emotionally manipulate you, but your health is your responsibility. You should do whatever is required to guard it. (December 2006)
DEAR AMY: My husband and I are students, work part time and rent two spare bedrooms in our home to students to supplement our incomes. We live comfortably but frugally and make ends meet by sharing one car, clipping coupons and eating at home. Three years ago I studied abroad for one year. I asked my friend to move in while I was gone to help with expenses. She had recently been kicked out of a friend’s house for not paying rent. She moved in on the condition that she would move out upon my return. It has been two years since I came back and she has failed to leave! In addition, she rarely pays rent and hasn’t paid anything in the past four months. My husband and I are having a difficult time kicking her out, not only because she is a friend and has nowhere to go but also because we remember how much she bad-mouthed the last friend who kicked her out. She spends her money on her own bills and on a new car she purchased. This is putting a lot of stress on us. What is the best way to ask her to leave without making the situation more awkward than it already is?
Just Plain Broke
DEAR BROKE: This friendship is over. All that’s left is for somebody to turn out the lights.
I read your letter to Janet Portman, attorney and author of “Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” (Nolo, 2006) — (new edition published in 2014).
If you can’t manage to ask her to leave, then you should give her a written notice that her tenancy is over. Say that she hasn’t paid the rent in months and that she must move on an exact date. You can add a line such as, “We are so sorry that your choice not to pay the rent we agreed upon has forced us to this decision. We wish you all the best in your next home.”
Let the bad-mouthing begin.
If she won’t leave on her own, you should do some legal research and consider going to court. Information and a variety of strategies can be found at nolo.com.
Whatever you do, don’t just put her stuff on the lawn and change the locks, no matter how tempting. Even the world’s worst tenants have rights.
You can download lease forms from the nolo.com website. If your tenants don’t currently sign leases, you should have them do so. (May 2006)