Having guests is a big mitzvah. We learn in the Talmud that it’s one of the few mitzvos that we can enjoy the fruits of in this world, yet the principle is still intact in the World to Come. So it’s kind of a big deal. It can be inspiring, enjoyable, entertaining. But what happens when the guest makes us uncomfortable, insinuates disapproval or outright insults us? What do we do in a situation where one spouse wants to have a guest, but that guest makes us uber uncomfortable, effectively making Shabbos, usually a delight, into a day of tension and stress? When it puts a strain on our marriage?
I ask because a reader contacted me with the following dilemma, and she would love to hear your advice on this tricky situation.
My husband has a good friend who has been single for a long time. He frequently came to stay with us over Shabbos. His visits always made me extremely tense, for a number of reasons. I felt that he looked down on me. He would make comments about the kids, the books, and the food that weren’t outright insulting, but were very critical. As if that weren’t enough, he would monopolize my husband’s attention by only talking about his own interests which led to our young children being ignored. The last straw was an explicit comment he made about my food. I had had enough, and I told my husband not to invite him again.
This man doesn’t have many friends and it’s painfully awkward now when he calls to speak to my husband. Of course I feel terrible, but what can I do? He lives far enough away that he can’t come only for a meal, he has to stay for the whole Shabbos, and I just can’t take it. It’s possible that I could lessen the intensity by inviting other guests, but that doesn’t always work.
I would really appreciate hearing what your readers have to say.
Yikes. That’s a tough situation. Let’s give her some advice that will hopefully be helpful.
What are your thoughts? What advice can you give her? How would you react in such a situation?
13 thoughts on “Having Guests – A Pleasure or a Pain?”
To me, this is a no-brainer. Short of The High Holidays, where no one should be alone, Fed Up has been an absolute mensch. She has gone out of her way repeatedly to open her home to a person who has been critical and unhelpful. He has few friends — for a reason! His rude comments do not endear him to his hosts. Part of being a guest is being a good guest. This person is not.
Shabbos is about being with one’s family, slowing down, and relaxing. Fed Up is not getting to enjoy the benefits with Shabbos when this guest comes to stay. I would feel no guilt, and stop offering him invitations. Simply ask other people to come for the next Shabbos.
If he ever asks why he hasn’t been invited back (people with personalities like this usually do things like that), it would be wonderful for her husband to get involved and actually explain that some of his critical comments were not well-received by his wife. I wouldn’t expect him to change. He can’t.
But everyone knows what happens when the Queen isn’t happy. ;-)
Oooh, interesting and a sensitive topic … What about Fed Up suggesting that her husband help his friend find another place to stay, and then arrange things so that they can learn b’chevrusa or have shalosh seudas together? That way her husband and his friend get to see each other one on one, but in a more neutral setting that won’t leave her on edge?
I actually had a similar issue when I was first married. My husband invited two couples- and later their infants- to stay with us every shabbos for almost a year while they were beginning their conversion process. I am still in touch with the two women today, but it was hard on me as I was just getting to know my husband, and enduring a difficult pregnancy. Some weeks I wanted to be left alone, but my husband was determined to invite them every week, and there was no tactful way to say no. Finally my son moved into his own room around the time when both couples moved to a different community. I also had a situation where a single guest would come for meals, and he was difficult to say the least, but no one else invited him for the same reason. We both had to keep making excuses not to invite him, even with other people to diffuse the situation, as your reader says.
Definitely, shalom bayis comes first. That first year was taxing on me, and I hate to see others repeat the same situation. I would- to be nice- invite him once in a while with other guests. It is much easier to have guests come for meals and leave, and then have your space. Hatzlacha to you.
My worst experience has actually been when I have been invited as a guest to someone’s home and tn been treated rudely, indifferently or otherwise uncomfortably and then we are stuck there until Shabbos is over.
oops… I hit send too early! What I meant to say is that when we were first becoming observant we felt obligated to take every invitation and never turn any down. It got us into a lot of uncomfortable situations. Primarily people saying their house was “kid-friendly” and then finding out that it SO was not. The whole meal then becomes awkward as you try to keep your 12 month old from breaking their precious Shabbos China while they gaze on with judgmental looks and makes comments about how “precocious” your child is. etc. Then there was the time we were invited for an entire Shabbos and our normally friendly hosts had decided to become very indifferent to us and we spent the entire time feeling like we weren’t wanted. It was a LONG day.
So I’ve become both selective in who I invite and in which invitations I accept. I also have “escape plans”. am impromptu trip to the park. A nap. A shiur… whatever. Anything to break up the uncomfortableness if it happens. and then? if it all just goes terribly wrong, I don’t invite/accept that person anymore ;)
Perhaps the husband (or a rabbi) could have a talk with this man about his behavior. There may be a reason he does not have many friends. Maybe he does not realize his comments were hurtful or that he was monopolizing the husband’s time. He might be a better guest if he was given some guidance.
If this were in my community, I would rally my neighbors to help me “spread the pain.” So, maybe the first Shabbos. the guest would sleep here and eat Friday night with us, but then join another family on my block for the lunch meal, telling the gentleman we would like to introduce him to some other families, so he can make new friends, etc. Then when he comes back the next time, he could maybe eat 2 meals “out” and possibly even start staying with another family. And you are certainly not obligated to have him over every week. Every family deserves a break and a little private Shabbos time. Hatzlacha!
It’s not good to give out of resentment. Sometimes, if you give less, you can give more at other times with a full heart. It’s hard not to take some people’s behaviour personally. You have to have a lot of self-confidence and be totally focused on the other person’s needs, and take pleasure from giving to them. It’s quite a madreiga, but it seems to me that when you read biographies of tzadikim, that was one of the things that set them apart. Rebbetzin Kanievsky had all sorts of difficult people in her home, and she loved giving to them. But we don’t get there over night and I don’t think we should feel bad that we’re not there yet. I feel like we do so much building klal Yisrael, we shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no.
Ok Fed Up, I have the SAME situation. Reading your story, I can imagine this guy doing the same thing or saying the same kinds of things. Not to get into my personal story too much, but basically, this past shabbat something had happened and I was so upset that I cried and couldn’t stop. He felt horrible, my husband felt horrible, and besides for that and him profusely apologizing while still not getting the point, there wasn’t much that could be done. After Shabbat, after I had cooled down, I called him, and I told him everything, in a firm but gentle way. I said WE love having you in our home, but some things you do are out of line/inappropriate. I explained to him that because he’s single (and we pray that he shouldn’t be for much longer!) he doesn’t understand what shalom bayis is (ie this meat is overdone, this sushi isn’t sticking together because it’s brown rice, etc), or what goes in to preparing a meal for guests with children/work/etc (stress, meal planning, waiting for a check to do the shopping, etc). and how certain things that he says can prevent him from getting invited back to OTHER families. I really tried to emphasize a lot of ‘tzumat lev’ to him because he really is a good guy he’s just very lonely and wants to get married, etc and i expressed my empathy for him and explained that this was advice not only for my own home but for his dating life and his career of being a guest in another home. I had asked my husband permission before speaking to him, but he ‘heard’ me and said that he would really try to be more sensitive to these issues. i know that it’s hard, and i’m sure that you really put yourself out there for him, i really want to make it work for my personal situation because he’s alone/has no one and my husband DOES like him. maybe all he needs is a pep talk and some explaining? i wish you so much luck, and it’s a big mitzvah that you’re doing, and i also wish you the gevurah to say ‘ad kan’. if you are truly fed up and unwilling to go any further, than you have done your histadlus and that’s all Hashem expects of you. Shana tova!!
Oh my goodness, I love this Dear Rivkie concept.
I agree with Renee (and others 100%) and don’t have much new to add. But also just wanted to say that I like the idea of the husband finding some other families to host the man for Shabbos so Fed Up can rest easy knowing that he as some place to go.
I’ve had such an experience, and thank G-d my husband trusts my ‘binah yeseirah’ that ‘extra sensitive intuition’ and when I’ve told him I just don’t feel ‘so and so’ is a good fit for us to have as a guest again, he will just gracefully make it such that we are ‘unavailable’ for various reasons when this ‘friend’ contacts us again. Of course, helping to find another family who might host this person and can deal with the social awkwardness/inept comments, behaviors of such a guest is a great option, but really not necessary. It’s not a mitzvah if it is done at the expense of your own family’s peace and Oneg Shabbos/Yom Tov!
This is a tough situation. First of all, I would strongly caution against the idea of having the husband arrange other Shabbos plans for the rude guest. If I had a regular guest whose visits I dreaded, I would never ask my friends and neighbors to host that person, not without warning them about why I was finding him other Shabbos plans in the first place – and I can’t think of a kind, sensitive way to convey that information to the potential other hosts.
It seems to me that you have three options. One: you stop inviting him altogether. This could be the end of your husband’s friendship with the guest. If this guy is as bad as you say he is, maybe your husband is fine with that. Two: you keep inviting him and wait for the situation to explode, as it almost inevitably will, like in Perry’s comment above. That would be unpleasant, but it would give you an opening to explain that his behavior is rude and makes him a bad guest. Three: without waiting for an explosive opening, you or your husband speak privately to the guest and explain the situation. That seems like the best option to me. Of course, it’s possible that he’ll take it badly and it will destroy his friendship with your husband – but that’s equally likely, if not more so, in the other two possible scenarios. At least in option number three, you treat him like the adult he is and give him the opportunity to correct his bad behavior and improve his character.
Such a dilemma, but I definitely agree with the woman’s ruling in this situation. If we go out of our way to be a good host and our guest is rude, we should not feel obligated to invite them back. I understand about wanting to do mitzvot and open our home to people, but it’s unacceptable if they can not be a gracious guest. I’ve dealt with ungracious guests and it’s not pleasant. Especially after I’ve spent time preparing for their visit.