How Do I Deal with a Relative Who Visits Unannounced and Often?

My sister in law visits our home at least 5 times a week. She never calls to ask if it is a good time to visit. She always stops by unannounced and uninvited.


If I am in the middle of cooking dinner, I either have to make more food to feed her or put my dinner on hold till she leaves. It is obvious that we are getting ready to eat, but she doesn't get the message to leave. We sit there hungry until she decides to go home.

We have been walking out the door to leave and she shows up and we have to postpone our plans. We have rented movies and have to stop watching because the movie was inappropriate for her 3 year old. We've even been interrupted by her when we were intimate.

I don't know how to make her understand that her constant visits are a nuisance without hurting someone's feelings. Five visits a week is just too much.

By citykitty

November 15, 20101 found this helpful

If you are on the way out the door when she arrives, just plain tell her you are on the way out and don't have time to visit. As far as the movies go, continue watching them, even if they aren't appropriate for her kid to watch. If you do things like that often enough she should get the hint. Especially when it comes to the movie, if she doesn't want the three year old to see the movie she will leave. At meal time, I would go ahead and eat, telling her she will have to excuse you while you eat as it is your meal time and you only have enough prepared for your family. Rudeness deserves rudeness.

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November 15, 20101 found this helpful

You could just not answer the door. Or, as redhatterb pointed out, just be direct and tell her that you're going out, or that you need to eat and you weren't expecting anyone else so didn't prepare extras. But I just wouldn't answer the door.

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November 15, 20100 found this helpful

Don't answer the door, and if she asks why you didn't answer, tell her you were in the shower or didn't hear the door.

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November 15, 20100 found this helpful

Here's my thoughts: It is up to you both to start a conversation with the sister-in-law about her too frequent visits to your home. You and your husband allowed the situation to continue by not saying something sooner, so it is partly that you're both to share the blame for the matter escalating and it is up to you both to put an end to it.

Purposefully invite her before she pops up and have a meal and a discussion with your sister-in-law and let her know up front you want to end a pattern you see developing over time and it's time to break the pattern. Let her know how much you love her and still want to see her, but be firm and tactful when you state that her infrequent visits unannounced are making you feel agitated because, and give her a few examples of her behavior pattern so she recognizes what she's been doing and possibly never thought about. As long as you were allowing her to walk in or stay at home for her visit, she felt it was A-OK with you both when it really wasn't. She wasn't getting any mixed messages, she just wasn't getting anything was wrong with it.

You and your husband enjoy going out together and have some alone time and don't like it when you plan on that and it's important to you both and then feel like you have to remain at home because she stops in and who knows for how long. Perhaps her stay has messed up all your evening out time and when she leaves, it's too late for you both to continue in your plans. Apparently you are a fun family for her to be around and she enjoys your company or else she's plain bored and has nowhere to go that doesn't cost her money. She needs to get a life and you'll be helping her do that when you put an end to the song and dance.

If she still doesn't understand, then bring examples like how would she like it if...and name a few. Tell her it is important for a good family relationship to respect the idea of calling first to see if it's alright and you have the time for her visit or else she should wait until you call her. It's a lot like having good neighbors by having a fence in between. She needs to respect that you have a lot of things to do in your home and her visit interrupts and it needs to get done on your time frame; not hers.

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Anonymous Flag
November 15, 20100 found this helpful

If you don't keep the door locked, I would make sure it stays locked from now on. I would instruct everyone in the house that if she knocks, you will answer the door, and if you don't hear her knock, they are to tell you.

If she comes over while you are cooking, open the door a crack and with a big smile on your face, tell her "I wish you would have called. I'm cooking supper, I'll give you a call when we are finished eating. Bye-bye." then shut the door before she has a chance to raise any objections.

If she comes over when you are watching a movie, open the door a crack, big smile, say "I'm sorry, we are watching a movie that isn't appropriate for ______. I wish you would have called first. I'll give you a call when the movie is over. Bye-bye." then shut the door.

If she comes over when you are on the way out, big smile - say, "I'm sorry, I wish you would have called. We are on our way out. I'll give you a call when we get back."

It won't take long for her to take the hint.

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November 15, 20100 found this helpful

Why not just tell her what you have posted on Thrifty Fun?

I would, if the situation was reversed, just tell her not to just drop in any time she feels like it. You may want to add the unannounced visits are taking time away from other projects that you need to do and her visits are are disruptive to your plans. Ask her to call ahead to see if you have the time for her visit. I would not hide from her or not open the door to tell her you are too busy at the moment for a visit.

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November 15, 20100 found this helpful

Never tell her a lie. That is of the utmost importance. That is worse than hurting her feelings by telling her the truth. You just need to build up the courage to say, "I'm sorry, this isn't a good time for you to visit" and close the door. If she asks what is wrong just tell her: we are sitting down to eat, we are going out and need to leave, we are busy with family matters (for the movie situation). And you can always add to the statement above, "You should have called, I'm sorry".

Think of it as tough love (but I don't think it is even close to what tough love really is).

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November 16, 20100 found this helpful

It is you and your husband's responsibility to set "boundaries." You have not done this successfully. You don't say what strategies you've tried. If you tell her in a straightforward and calm manner and she has hurt feelings, that is her responsibility to deal with. You can only control your thoughts, feelings and actions. She is in control of hers. Again, she can't gain entrance to your home without your granting her access. Good luck. I get the feeling that it is very hard for you to say no and not feel bad about it. You have to claim your power. :)

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November 16, 20100 found this helpful

You have to stop enabling her behavior. This won't be easy since you have been very effectively training her to visit unannounced and often. Every time you allow her to interrupt what you are doing, you are training her to do it again. So, you simply have to stop putting aside your activity when she shows up.

You have received many good answers already as to what to say to her. I would say continue going about your activity when she comes in, and don't do anything extra to accommodate her (with the exception of the inappropriate movie. I would lock the door if you are going to watch such a movie and do not answer it if she comes to the door.) Again, I would definitely stop what you are doing because you are actually encouraging her to continue the behavior that you do not like.

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Anonymous Flag
November 16, 20100 found this helpful

My rule is, and has been for nearly forty years, 'Please call first if you want to visit just in case I/we are busy or not feeling up to company.' All you and your husband need to say to her is, "We have a new house rule" and explain that you both would prefer the courtesy of a phone call. As a matter of fact it should be your husband, since it's his sister, saying it to her in your presence. I like what Lorelei mentioned about making sure it's said at a time you had invited her instead of during one of her surprise visits.

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November 16, 20100 found this helpful

I had a sister in law exactly like that. It was awful. She showed up and just walked into the house. When you have kids out playing you can't really lock the door. It never stopped until we moved too far away for her to just show up. The problem is that if you tell her to call she probably won't. Then you have to tell her again that if she doesn't call you won't let her in. Some people have no bounderies. My husband wouldn't address it. Unfortunately, there is a good chance she will end up mad but it is her own fault. Your home has to be your sanctuary. She should already know five nights a week is too much.

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November 16, 20100 found this helpful

I agree with the general opinion here. She should have more tact than just to show up. You feed her, accomadate her, and let her do as she pleases, uprooting family and alone time. Do not hint, just flat out tell her that you have plans, and they do not include her.

I am sure she would not like being brought out of her bed at 3 a.m. by your pounding on her door wanting to have a 'bull session'. I am sure just one of those would put her out of sorts.

Sit her down (I agree, it should be a family metting, with hubby leading the talk, as she is his sister), tell her that there are going to be rules:

1. She is to call, put a limit, say at least two hours before she intends to visit. If she just pops up, you cannot guarantee that you will accomadate her or even be home.

2. When you and your family are getting ready for an activity, she is to take the hint. Unless she is invited for dinner, or with the family to an outing (like a movie), that is the time to leave. As for the movie, if she shows up while the movie that may be too intense for the 3 yr old is on, tell her that now is not a good time, and she could call for a raincheck.

3. You are your own people, not her back up for when she has nothing to do and nowhere to go. Make appointments (really goes along with call ahead) but if she calls and that day/evening is not good, offer a day later in the week.

If she gets offended, too bad. Really, I suspect she'll be more mad than offended.

I am all for family, but family or not, she is not taking into consideration your feelings, plans, and the fact you do not need to include her at her whim.

Good luck, she is going to be unhappy, but I bet just one of those 3 a.m. visits to her place wanting to chit chat and have her prepare a meal for you would really be something she would not forget anytime soon.

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November 18, 20100 found this helpful

Although I agree with some the ideas suggested by the others, I think there's something you need to think about first. Is it possible she is lonely? Does she not have friends of her own? Is she a single mom? If this is a possibility, perhaps you could help her find some activities that have other single parents, where she could make some new friends and be less dependent on you and your family. You could also set certain days and times for her visits, maybe like lunch/dinner once a week and a movie or game afternoon/night on another day for her and her child and your family. (You could also ask her to alternate weeks with you to give you a cooking break, etc.) You can tell her this would make everyone's time seem like a special day (by having some time apart). I know too much family can be an annoying thing but not having any family nearby (My siblings and their families live 16 hours away and I would love to be able to see them more often.) can be sad.

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December 5, 20110 found this helpful

I did not read the suggestions from others, but here is what I would do in your situation:

1 - If you are about to eat dinner, eat it anyway. You actually can do this in a polite way. I've done it to family and have had family do it to me. No biggie.

Example: There are times when I just need my grandparents' advice. I'll pop in unannounced, knowing that they have an open-door policy. If they are about to sit down to dinner, my grandmother looks at me, apologizes, lets me know I am more than welcome to stay, but that they were about to eat dinner and are going to have to eat in front of me. If your sister-in-law cannot respect this, that is her problem, not yours.

2 - If you are about to leave for whatever reason, you should be able to let her know that you were just headed out the door, but you be free (enter time and date here) and would love to see her then. Again, if she takes offense, she is being selfish and that is her issue, not yours or your husband's.

3 - You have a movie, you paid so you could watch it, and it is your and your husband's home. If she wants you to turn a movie off because it is inappropriate for her child, I would tell her she can deal with it, send the child to another room, or go home. This is one that I would have a tough time being polite on. She is being selfish and controlling.

4 - As for the intimacy - I'd just make her wait. You'd hope that'd embarrass her enough to start changing some things.

5 - Have you talked to your husband about this? If he is just as annoyed, he may be the one who needs to deal with it... Not only is he the man of the house, but it's his family to deal with. He should know his sister inside and out, which could be helpful in dealing with her mishaps.

I do wish you and your family the absolute best. It's important to have close family ties and it does make me smile to think of how close his sister must feel to you guys if she acts this way. But, a line does need to be drawn. You guys need to be able to live your own life and she needs to go live hers.

Anyway, that's just my two cents. I hope God leads you all to the best possible destination!

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August 11, 20160 found this helpful

Hello. My name is Em and my cousin lives in a shelter/hotel with her adult daughter. The cousin comes over to my home every other weekend while her daughter comes the weekend her mother doesn't. The daughter loves to fry her hair in my bathroom sink, leaving hair everywhere, and has cursed me out when she doesn't get her way. One time she actually broke my fish tank and walked out the door even got in my face and called me the b word and my mother some derogatory names that will not be repeated here. She's been doing this since the age 14, her mom sits by saying nothing in our defense aligns herself with daughter as her friend. Now, as it stands their both homeless yet the daughter calls and ask us in advance if it's okay for her to visit but her mother refuses to ask. What's the problem? Is it a sign of weakness to do such a thing or is it just control or power over someone else? I am really ready to tell her to make the best of a bad situation by watching tv there instead of my guest bedroom because she leaves the tv on all night long just like her daughter. Tired and exhausted of them both incessantly complaining and talking about themselves like the world revolves around them.

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