Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “My Girlfriend’s Parents Show Up Unannounced… Even When We Aren’t Home!”

woman at door

My girlfriend and I do not have any children and already her parents show up at our home unannounced. My girlfriend brought it to their attention and they have since decreased the number of unannounced visits. But now what they do is show up at our house while we are both at work without even telling us. I have come home to both of them sitting in my house watching Netflix while my partner is still at work. I don’t understand why they would even want to be at my house if no one is home. When my partner asks them why, they use our dog as an excuse, saying that they wanted to take care of him for us. She has told them many times that it is not necessary to do so, yet they continue to show up. Once I’m home they still stay two hours more. I work shifts 12-15 hours long, so I am in no mood to attend to them. What’s worse is that they are bad visitors and don’t follow the house rules. My partner feels caught in the middle and doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. She doesn’t see this behavior as abnormal or inappropriate. She doesn’t mind them showing up, even if she isn’t home, because she feels like they are doing us a favor by checking in on our dog. I hate making her feel caught in the middle between her parents and me, but I don’t want to put up with it forever either. What can I do? โ€” Tired of Unannounced Visiting Parents

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50 comments… add one
  • kmtthat

    kmentothat April 16, 2015, 8:28 am

    Ask for your key back or change the locks. I don’t think telling them again for the umpteenth time that you do not want them showing up unannounced will help. What will help is taking away their access. It may feel like a dramatic move, but you are all adults need to set your boundaries. If you have to soften it, tell them you’d hate for them to walk in on the two of you getting intimate and as adults, you need privacy. Period. I’d also suggest figuring out how often you DO feel comfortable seeing them and setting up a schedule, like dinner every Tuesday or dinner out at a restaurant with them once a month. It will make it a lot easier when they show up on a random day to say “mom, I am really burnt out from work and need some time alone to decompress, so you and dad will need to leave. But I am looking forward to our Tuesday night dinner!” And stand firm.
    .
    As for the dog, its either fine home alone all day and your girlfriend is just feeling guilty, or it’s not fine at home alone all day. If you have the money, either pay for a dog walker or a doggy day care a few days a week, and if your parents insist they can do it, insist you would neeeeever want to burden them like that after all they did to raise you. If you can’t afford to have doggy daycare or a walker and the dog really can’t be alone for that long (not just because of guilt) you may be in a sticky situation, because you need them. But I strongly suspect the dog is fine and you could pay either pet professionals or college kids in the area to help out, but would rather not. Personally, I value my privacy so I know what I would choose. Good luck setting parental boundaries!

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    • avatar

      joanna April 16, 2015, 8:45 am

      It’s not the LW’s parents. They are the parents of his/her girlfriend.

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      • kmtthat

        kmentothat April 16, 2015, 9:16 am

        Oooooops. Yes, then the LW needs to talk to their gf about this and the gf should be the one delivering the message. It’s important for their relationnship to be on the same page about it, so the LW really needs to sit her down and communicate how this invasion of privacy makes you feel, how it affects your relationship with her negatively, and perhaps offer the suggestion I mentioned regarding setting a recurring parent visit and dog care. You two need to work as a team, and if it doesn’t bother her but REALLY bothers you, she needs to take your feelings into account because it is your house too.

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  • gigi

    gigi April 16, 2015, 8:41 am

    Change then locks! My (former) MIL use to do this, & she would also walk right on in without waiting for someone to answer a knock. So one day, I had applied a self-tanner & was lounging around half naked, reading the paper, waiting for it to dry, when in she comes. There was nothing I could do, there she stood. It’s hard to say which one of us was more embarrassed at the time, then after she made a quick exit, I was was furious, then it became extremely funny to me. She never ever came in unannounced again. So LW, maybe you should just start hanging out nekkid? Or again, change the locks.

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. April 16, 2015, 9:23 am

      I like the hanging around naked idea. But changing the locks would work too…

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    • Lianne

      Lianne April 16, 2015, 9:45 am

      This reminds me of the Sex and the City episode where Charlotte’s mother-in-law, Bunny, was extremely inappropriate, coming by unannounced, applying Vicks to Trey’s chest when he was sick, etc. On an occasion when Bunny stopped in unannounced, Charlotte and Trey were having sex and she walked right into their bedroom, like it was her right. She was speechless and left – and never did it again.
      .
      That show is just so relevant in so many ways.

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    • avatar

      Girlchrisesq April 16, 2015, 11:49 am

      What is it about parents/ in-laws not understanding this until there is a naked situation involved? My FIL used to drop by unannounced. Once I had literally just gotten out of the shower and was drying off when he banged on the front door. I wasn’t planning on answering until he started yelling through the front window, “HEEELLLOOO ANYONE HOME!?!??!” I threw a robe on and answered the door still dripping wet. He was instantly flummoxed. But, he hasn’t come by since, so that’s a good thing?

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  • avatar

    Cleopatra Jones April 16, 2015, 8:48 am

    This sounds like classic parents who have invested all of their time and energy into their kid. Once that kid leaves home or wants independence, they don’t know what to do with themselves. Your partner feels guilty because frankly their actions are subliminally guilt inducing AND she probably doesn’t have experience drawing boundaries for Mom & Dad.
    .
    As kmentothat said, either take back your key or change the locks. Then your partner needs to have a really hard talk with them about boundaries. Once that’s done, stick to it! Don’t waffle nor feel guilty about it because if you do, they will keep trouncing those boundaries. I suspect that your partner did not have a real hard talk with them, I suspect she said something along the lines of, ‘Mom & Dad, SO doesn’t like it when you stop by so much.’ instead of ‘Mom & Dad, please don’t stop unless you call first.’ Once they know y’all are serious about y’alls privacy they will have a Come-To-Jesus moment.
    .
    Then encourage them to either get hobbies or do stuff together but whatever they decide to do, they absolutely NEED to cut the apron strings from your partner.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover April 16, 2015, 10:40 am

      And if they don’t get hobbies, buy them a puppy. That should keep them busy and it’ll give them a new baby to take care of. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite April 16, 2015, 8:49 am

    Change the locks or ask for their key back.
    .
    If the dog does need care, pay for it.
    .
    The biggest problem is “My partner feels caught in the middle and doesnโ€™t want to hurt their feelings. She doesnโ€™t see this behavior as abnormal or inappropriate. ” You say she’s told them to stop this behavior but it’s clear they don’t believe her or she’s sugarcoating it because she doesn’t see it as a problem. You need to talk with her separately about the reason you want to maintain scheduled visits, encourage her to drop by their place, etc.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh April 16, 2015, 8:50 am

    You need to talk to her again and explain that it is your house too. There has to be compromise somewhere in there. Them coming by to let the dog out is one thing, staying for two hours to watch Netflix and staying after you get home and are ready to relax is another. It might be what she’s used to and has done when living alone but, she’s not living alone anymore. If she isn’t willing to stand up to them and is happy with the status quo and doesn’t want to change then you have to decide if you want to keep living with her. I personally would hate that arrangement and if my SO wasn’t willing to stand up to their parents I couldn’t live with them. But, only you can decide big of a deal breaker this is for you, after you talk to her again and see what her response is.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy April 16, 2015, 8:54 am

    I wouldn’t worry so much about putting your girlfriend “in the middle.” Being in your position โ€” coming home to unwanted/uninvited houseguests on a regular basis, especially after a long workday โ€” is a far worse position to be in than “in the middle.” Fuck that shit. Tell your girlfriend you’ve had enough and if she won’t tell them that their key is to be used ONLY for emergencies or when they are explicitly asked to come over/ let themselves, you will change the locks. Your girlfriend needs to grow up, step up, and create some healthy boundaries with her parents for the sake of your relationship and your sanity, if not for her own personal growth.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover April 16, 2015, 10:42 am

      Wendy, be honest. Did you make this a “Your Turn” so you could swear freely, because it’s not an “official” response? ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • avatar

    Essie April 16, 2015, 8:55 am

    Problem is, it sounds like the GF doesn’t mind having them there.
    .
    It’s just a ‘different strokes’ situation. This would drive me up the wall. My home is my sanctuary, my place of refuge, and having people just randomly show up and act like they live there would make me crazy. So my knee jerk reaction is, ” Oh my GOD, take these people’s keys away!!!” But I have relatives whose home was the neighborhood hangout. They loved having people drop in. Encouraged it. Thrived on it. They wouldn’t see a single thing wrong with what the parents are doing.
    .
    No one’s really wrong here. The problem is in figuring out how to blend two different views of what home represents. LW, this is where you and your GF do the hard work of compromise. The home belongs to both of you. You have a right to your own space, and privacy. You agreed to live with your GF, not your GF and her parents. I get that they’re trying to help, but they need to find a way to help that’s not quite so intrusive.

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes April 16, 2015, 9:03 am

      You said this better than I did below. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • avatar

    Anon April 16, 2015, 9:01 am

    The problem isn’t that your girlfriend’s parents drop by unannounced. It’s that she’s notable to set limits with them, and “doesn’t want to hurt their feelings.” That’s a huge problem and it needs to be resolved or you’ll be going through this same problem about everything from centerpieces at the wedding to how to raise your children. Everyone is right that taking away their keys is the obvious solution to the immediate issue, but the immediate issues is a red herring. The real problem is your girlfriend is afraid of setting limits with her parents.

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes April 16, 2015, 9:01 am

    This isnt a prying parents issue, this is an issue with your partner. She is either with you or against you here, and it sounds like she is trying to straddle the central line and waive a truce flag. She has not set firm boundaries with her parents. It is her job to do so, and her job to enforce and re-enforce them. It is your job to stand strong behind her. Doing so may be uncomfortable for all involved, and it may become awkward at times, but it has to be done. They are the ones who have brought this on themselves, not you.I agree that you all need to set up concrete times to see them, presumably weekly or somesuch. For instance, you come home early and they are there? “Oh hi, MIL and FIL, thanks for taking care of Fido, even though SO told you that he is ok during the day. Im going to take a shower and relax, so go ahead and let yourselves out and we will see you Saturday for brunch (or whatever)!” And then go shower or whatever, and expect them to show themselves out. If they dont, they have escalated the situation, so you need to too- “Oh, I thought you left. Please do that, I need time to detox after work. Alone.” Look at the door pointedly. Dont back down.(Or walk out naked or whatever. This works as well. This is your house, not theirs.)
    Ack, I need to get back to work, and this is becoming a novel. LW, you need your GF on your side, not people-pleasing her parents. She has to pick a side and you both need to back each other up. Also, not a bad idea to change the locks. Good luck

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  • othy

    othy April 16, 2015, 9:05 am

    My in-laws did this for a while. It drove me nuts. Thankfully, they didn’t have a key, so it was limited to them showing up at random times during the day, and they would have to knock. Then, they stopped by once unannounced with a couple of Othello’s aunts in tow. I was in the shower when they came by, so I never heard them enter the house. I came out of the bathroom post-shower in my usual way (wearing nothing but a towel on my head), only to realize that there were people in the living room, who could see everything. They haven’t come by unannounced since (And, for the record, I actually blame Othello for 90% of this. He said that he told me they were there, but I can never hear anything over the shower, and he never got my verbal confirmation that I heard what he said. And, he didn’t think to bring me clothes so I would have something to wear out of the bathroom).

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  • avatar

    booknerd April 16, 2015, 9:39 am

    I would absolutely go nuts if this happened to me. One of the perks of living very far from family, I guess, is that this would never happen. I can’t even imagine it! Start going to their home unannounced?

    You need to discuss this with your partner again, and make her understand how important this is to you. She needs to work it out or, you do. Take back the key. Change the locks. Whatever you need to do.

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  • avatar

    _s_ April 16, 2015, 9:39 am

    I hate to say this, but this sound like a no-win scenario for you. In-law interference is NOT good for relationships – though it was by NO means the only factor, my grandma’s interference was certainly A factor in the breakup of my mom’s marriage. If your GF was in agreement with you about stopping their unannounced visits, but just to scared to tell them so, the concrete solutions everyone is mentioning would work – change the locks, and then if they show up unannounced while you are home, just open the door, politely but firmly say “we didn’t know you were coming and have other plans right now, but if you call in advance next time we can try to accommodate you” and then close (and lock) the door. BUT, it sounds like your GF is not on board with this at all because she likes having her parents there and sees nothing wrong with it. It’s certainly worth another sit down to really explain to her that this family dynamic is not how you were raised, you need your alone time, and unannounced visits just won’t work for you, and maybe offer a compromise on announced visits (“I’m willing to have your parents over X time(s) a week, along as they arrange it in advance.”). If she is willing to compromise with you, and follow through with her parents gladly (not painting you as the day guy), you may have a chance. But if she can’t or won’t respect your needs on this, you may have to MOA.

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  • avatar

    _s_ April 16, 2015, 9:40 am

    Uh, “bad guy,” not “day guy.” Really miss the edit feature. ๐Ÿ™

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy April 16, 2015, 9:44 am

      Comments *are* editable.

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      • avatar

        _s_ April 16, 2015, 9:48 am

        How? In the forums there’s an edit link, but on article comments I only have “Reply” and “Link.”

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy April 16, 2015, 9:49 am

        Really? I see an edit link, and I have it set to allow edits for up to 600 minutes after a comment is made (that’s the longest I can set it for). What do other people see?

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh April 16, 2015, 9:50 am

        In the comments section I don’t see a way to edit either…

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      • avatar

        Unwanted_Truth April 16, 2015, 9:51 am

        I too only see Reply, and Link. No edit option here.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy April 16, 2015, 9:54 am

        Hmm, ok. This is out of my realm of expertise, but I’ll have my developer take a look and hopefully it’s just a quick fix. As always: if you’re having an issue with the site or if there was a feature you once took advantage of that is now gone, please let me know. As the admin, I don’t always see/experience the site the same way as regular users and sometimes things I intend to be available may not be, unbeknownst to me.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover April 16, 2015, 10:49 am

        You could create yourself a gmail address and then register as another user with that address, if you want to experience the site as one of us peasants. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl April 16, 2015, 9:41 am

    My guess is that your GF’s parents are either retired or semi-retired in order to have the free time to break and enter into your house at odd hours of the day. It is completely inappropriate behavior and there needs to be boundaries set in order to get them to respect your space and privacy. That being said, it is likely they are bored and this is a change of scenery for them to drop by your place and ‘help’. Since they use the dog as an excuse, would it be possible for you and your GF to drop the dog off at their place a couple of times a week for them to babysit? That would get rid of that excuse and would likely give them something to focus on during the day. You might also want to steer them into social groups such as cards, book club, garden society with other people their age. If all else fails, change the locks.

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  • avatar

    Unwanted_Truth April 16, 2015, 9:45 am

    Just to clarify, LW, who’s house is it exactly? You state “my house” in your letter, but I wonder if that’s what you really meant, or is this her house? Did you lease/buy/rent together? If it is NOT your actual place, and you just live there with HER, sorry, nothing you can really do. I’d change the locks and tell your gf that since she doesn’t want to put her foot down, you’ll do it yourself. If it is in fact your place that is.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo April 16, 2015, 10:34 am

    As long as they are paying all the rent and bills on your apartment, you really have no choice. Oh wait, they’re not? You work long hours and pay your own way in life?Oh, simple then. Change the locks and tell them in future that they should call first before dropping by. Anytime they don’t, you are busy and they can’t come in.

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  • avatar

    Kate April 16, 2015, 10:52 am

    This is so obvious, I’m sure someone mentioned it, but get your gf to tell her parents you need their key back temporarily so you can give it to your new dog walker. Then just never give them a new one.

    And then… Break up with your gf because this is going to be your life.

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  • avatar

    Wendy (not Wendy) April 16, 2015, 11:06 am

    Am I the only one dying to know what the “house rules” are?

    So, whether or not your girlfriend thinks it’s acceptable, you don’t and it’s important to you. (I would feel SO MUCH THE SAME, maybe moreso.) Can she please make your needs the priority over her parents’?

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes April 16, 2015, 12:36 pm

      Agreed. I took the House Rules as basics like no crappy Netflix shows or something, but it could be No Dog On the Couch, or Clean Up Your Dirty Dishes. Or they could be ppl that require that shoes be taken off at the door, but her parents are tromping in with dirty boots on and putting them up on the coffee table while they watch old LIfetime movies or something. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Whatever though, if they arent respecting rules (that they know about or are aware of), then that is just one more thing the GF needs to delineate specific boundaries about.

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  • Stonegypsy

    Stonegypsy April 16, 2015, 11:07 am

    This would drive me soooo crazy. I’m so glad that no one in my family is the type to do this kind of thing. Your girlfriend seriously needs to make it very clear to her parents that this is *not* okay. If I were you, I would give an ultimatum. “This needs to stop, or I need to move out.”

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  • chief10

    chief10 April 16, 2015, 11:17 am

    I know i’m going to be in the minority on this but I’d have a HUGE problem if my significant other changed the locks. You might end up terminating that relationship pretty quickly. Personally I’d just ignore them and go about my home life, go to bed, take a nap if need be (thought their activities in the house, watching netflix etc might make that a moot point) I’d have another talk to your girlfriend, be as firm as you can with your expectations. She really needs to address this with her parents. In the interim, log out of netflix, enable parental controls, take away their ability to enjoy themselves freely in your place. Only do the locks as a last resort.

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    • avatar

      Sunshine Brite April 16, 2015, 12:27 pm

      Well, presumably he’d talk to her about it though. It sounds like they’re crossing boundaries and not letting him go about his home life

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope April 16, 2015, 11:39 am

    People will treat you the way you allow them to. If they don’t have proper boundaries then you have to set them. Don’t change the locks, don’t ask, don’t whine. Just look them straight in the eye and in a very serious tone say, this is not acceptable to me.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray April 16, 2015, 12:40 pm

    In addition to setting up boundaries and changing the locks, if your girlfriend wants to see her parents often, she needs to set aside time and maybe a schedule for that in their house or a neutral location. I love my in-laws but they can be kind of needy as my husband is his mom’s only child. I love seeing them but would rather go to them, so we make sure we visit them a few times a week, and that very much limits the unexpected or unannounced visits to us.

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  • avatar

    Boosker April 16, 2015, 1:04 pm

    I would soooo not be happy if my in-laws were doing this. They’re lovely, respectful people, so they wouldn’t, but still. I agree with everyone else that they have clearly shown that they aren’t going to respect your space and your gf isn’t comfortable with explaining you don’t ever want them treating your house like their second home. I think a clear line in the sand (i.e. you guys ALWAYS need to call ahead if you want to come over. you should NEVER be there when we’re not) is perfectly reasonable.

    The only thing that’s sticking a little for me is the dog thing. You have a job that keeps you away for 12-15 hours a day. That’s obviously too long for a dog to be expected to be left alone and not be able to go to the bathroom. So maybe, from their perspective, it’s like, “Oh my god, if we didn’t go over there, we’d have to call the Humane Society on them because that poor puppy is being left alone for way too long.”

    So yeah, if no one else is letting your dog out while you and your gf are out for such extended periods of time, maybe you need to accept the fact that they’re going to be around and consider that part of the deal for you not wanting to pay for pet care.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh April 16, 2015, 1:17 pm

      I’m going to guess that the gf doesn’t work as long of hours or the LW would have noted that. If she works a normal job and it’s not a small dog and isn’t a puppy it really is just an excuse on the parent’s part. I think the idea of someone above of if the parents really want to spend time with the dog dropping it off at their house a good idea.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 16, 2015, 1:18 pm

    I’d change the locks unless it is a rental and you’re not allowed to change them. If it’s a rental you’ll need to talk to the landlord. I’d also have the gf drop off the dog at her parents house on her way to work and pick it up on the way home from work. Buy all of the accessories like a dog bed and dishes that the dog would need at their house. That way they can see each other every day and her parents can keep busy taking care of the dog and there is no need for them to be at your house. I’d change the Netflix password so they can’t use the account. If you arrive home and they are there I’d tell them that you had a long day at work and you need alone time to unwind every day so that you’re good company for your gf when she gets home. Say thanks for taking care of the dog but I’m here now and I’ll take care of him. If they have jackets or coats bring them to them and hand them to them. Look at them and say I’ll walk you to the door, it’s been nice seeing you. Be polite but firm. It is really the responsibility of your gf to establish boundaries with her parents but it seems like the two of you have different ideas of what appropriate boundaries you want to set. How do you settle issues in your relationship? In our marriage if one of us doesn’t like something, that something is out. We do that because it will only cause problems to try to include the something that one of us dislikes. It doesn’t matter whether we are buying a car or a couch or naming a child or deciding whether someone can come over. If one of us doesn’t agree it is out. The two of you need to establish how you will settle disagreements in your relationship so that both of you can be happy. I’ve been recommending the book “He Wins, She Wins” Learning the Art of Marital Negotiation” to people all week. I know you aren’t married but learning to settle disputes in a way that makes you both happy is an essential relationship skill.

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  • avatar

    Writer of question April 17, 2015, 9:32 am

    First thank you all for answering, I was beginning to think I was the one who was wrong to not want them there. Now to answer your questions. The home is rented by the both of us. We have a doggy door installed so my dog can let himself out to pee, he also has a automatic water and food dispenser so he really does not need anyone watching him. He really only stays home alone for 8 hours at most because my gf goes into work later than me. Questions regarding her parents and why they have the time for that well her dad is on disability and her mom does not work. As for the house rules:, always use coasters, no eating in the living room and no feeding the dog nondog food. They break all of them flat out in front of me. They even laugh about it and make jokes about it saying hahaha we are glad our daughter isn’t home Because she is kinda strict with house rules. I never laugh at this joke and just stay serious. When I see they don’t have coasters I just take it to them or when I see they’re feeding my dog human food I take them treats and tell them here feed him this instead. When I tell my partner about this she gets angry with them and she scolds them but it doesn’t change anything. I would tell them myself but because her dad has bipolar disorder she has asked me not to because he can be very explosive. This is also why she is afraid to hurt his feelings. I know I can’t live this way for the rest of my life but aside from this issue my gf is amazing I have been with her for 9 yrs. living together for 3. Her parents are really our only problem obviously tho this is a huge problem. I brought up all the solutions proposed to my gf and we have agreed upon scheduling 2 visits with them a week and asking for the key for the dog walker. We have decided that if that doesnt work then she is just going to have to hurt their feelings and tell them flat out. I will let you all know how it goes. Thanks again!

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    • avatar

      Kate April 17, 2015, 9:40 am

      After 9 years why aren’t you married tho?

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      • Ika

        Ika April 17, 2015, 9:51 am

        What difference does it make???
        A ton of people donยดt get married for whatever reason. I think there are issues that are more important.

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      • avatar

        Cleopatra Jones April 17, 2015, 9:56 am

        I know that this is probably heresy but not everyone thinks marriage is the end game in a relationship. ๐Ÿ™‚
        Also, I can’t quite tell if the LW is a woman and this is a lesbian relationship (the use of partner makes me think that because I’ve never heard that used in heterosexual relationships). If it is, marriage probably isn’t an option for them.
        .

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      • Portia

        Portia April 17, 2015, 10:12 am

        Because not everyone gets married or wants to get married? Also, dollars to donuts the SO’s parents would still be doing this even if they were married.

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      • avatar

        Kate April 17, 2015, 10:16 am

        I know the reasons people don’t get married, but curious about this specific situation.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossolm April 17, 2015, 9:42 am

      Ask for the key while they are at your house but don’t let them know ahead of time that you will be asking for it. That way it will take them by surprise and they can’t go out and make a copy just to make sure they still have a key to your house. If they’ve already made a copy then asking for the key won’t work.

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  • avatar

    Anonymous April 17, 2015, 5:48 pm

    that is really pernicious, at first I thought, well, that is good for the dog but it does seem as if the dog is well catered for re freedom without their input. I’d pretend locks were compromised, change them to a digital system which you can then give them the code for on a need to know and change as needed. Give them a day you would like them to come, welcome them then, but otherwise shut them out . On welcome day, make it really special.

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