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 to deal with her depression. We welcomed her, never asked for rent and allowed her to borrow our cars, eat our food, 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. We regret not putting down more concrete agreements and feel we are being used, but feel guilty asking. 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, especially since we are expecting our first child. My wife and I finally asked for $200 a month to cover some expenses moving forward. 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. I wish we could have been more supportive, but we were beginning to suffer, too. 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 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."
Your friend's ability to drag herself out for dating and miniholidays is an indication she is feeling better. As it is, she stormed out over a reasonable request on your part, with no expression of gratitude. Being depressed doesn't give her a free pass to be inconsiderate.