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David Eddie's Damage Control

My partner lets his friends crash at our place Add to ...

The question

My partner and I live in a one-bedroom apartment. One of his friends called recently and asked to stay at our place next week, for the whole week, while he takes a course in the city. I was taken aback when my partner told me he said yes. When I tried to tell him I would have liked to discuss it before he said yes, he said I never discussed with him about our current house guest (who happens to be my best friend, who is only staying for two nights, which she booked months ago). Is it possible to politely decline such a request? My grandparents are visiting next week as well (though staying at a hotel), which I felt made it somewhat inappropriate/annoying to have someone crashing on the kitchen floor. Am I totally overreacting and/or being rude?

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The answer

Being the pomo proto-boho mofo that I am, I've always felt that one of the pleasures, and even obligations, of having your own place is to be able to provide a temporary roof to those in need.

In fact, for a while there, it was my policy to extend mi-casa-su-casa-style hospitality to all out-of-towners and basically anyone who seemed in need of a place to crash.

I had to revise that policy, though, after putting up a series of houseguests who proved to be boorish ingrates.

For example, a friend's sister, up from the United States, asked if she could stay at our house for "a couple of days." She - and her kid - wound up here for three weeks.

Every night, I, the chef de maison, cooked dinner for them. Every night, I poured her wine from our stash. Periodically we stripped her bed, washed her sheets, put them back on her bed. She used our Internet, telephone, laundry facilities, etc., freely.

And I was happy to oblige. But then one day she bought a bottle of wine that, unbeknownst to me, she was planning to bring to someone else's house when she went over for dinner. I got home, spotted it in the fridge and, mistaking it for one of my own (or, to be honest, not really thinking about it too much one way or the other), popped it and helped myself.

When she came home and discovered most of it gone (I'm a big and naturally thirsty guy; after a hard day of writing, my thirst is such that I can just look at a glass of wine and the level of liquid will go down), she said, and I quote: "Dave, I could punch you in the face for doing that."

I stared at her in astonishment. My whole head went red. But I bit my lip, and merely allowed the following thought balloon to appear above my noggin: "Prediction: Once you leave my house, I never see you or your bratty little kid again, for the rest of my life."

So far, that prediction has come to pass.

All of which is to say: Don't necessarily feel an obligation to give everyone who asks the chance to sleep on your kitchen floor. (Kitchen floor! Sounds like space is truly at a premium chez vous.)

Your talk of "booking" your kitchen floor makes me think you view your apartment as a bit of a hotel. Don't.

Every creature who penetrates the perimeter of your domicile intending to stay inevitably raises the tension level inside (especially if you have to step over them to make coffee in the morning). Not all who seek asylum on your linoleum may be worthy of the strain it will put on your relationship with your partner.

In future, weigh each application for temporary residence on its merits, and feel free to say no if its not a good time and/or you don't feel like it.

But that's the easy part. The real issue here, I think, is lack of intra-couple consultation.

I don't know how long you have been together, but I think you'll find that, over time, things will run a lot more smoothly if you consult each other on every decision, both great and small, that will wind up affecting both of you.

I do it on auto-pilot now. Someone calls and says: "Hey, Dave, wanna get together Thursday?" I say: "Love to, but first let me check with Pam [my wife]and get back to you."

You learn this rote response over time, through trial and error. Too many times in early days, either Pam or I, swept up in joie de vivre and enthusiasm, said yes to something without consulting the other, only to find ourselves embroiled in conflict and friction.

So henceforward, always consult. Got that? Okay. Vis-à-vis the friend your partner has offered to let sleep on the kitchen floor, well, I wouldn't initiate any further friction by attempting to de-invite him.

I've spoken before in this column about the uninvite: It's an extreme measure, a real slap in the face to the recipient, and therefore to be avoided except in emergencies.

No, I would just weather the upcoming storm of out-of-towners swirling around your apartment. But make a pact with your partner always to check with each other in future before making any decision that affects both of you.

If you do that, and adhere to it, I predict a sunny stretch of cloudless couch-surfing (or in your case, I guess, breakfast-nook-napping) for all concerned in the years to come.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.

I've made a huge mistake Have you created any damage that needs controlling? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com, and include your hometown and a daytime contact number.

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