Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: About every other month, my mother-in-law and her husband used to come to the city where my husband and I live and would stay in a hotel, visit friends, and spend time with us. Just before the holidays last year, her husband left her, and we invited her to stay at our apartment for a weekend (we live in a small apartment that has reasonable guest accommodations for a single person, but not a couple). My husband was hesitant to do this, but I convinced him it was the right thing to do. It wasn't.
She extended her one-night stay to three without asking (just telling us what her tickets were). She walked into our bedroom while we were in bed at 7 o'clock one morning, and generally didn't respect our time or space. When she left, we agreed having her stay with us was a bad idea.
In the almost six months since then, she has asked to stay with us again quite a few times. My husband has responded to every request by saying hat we will be out of town (we travel a lot, so this is often true, but not always).
My question is, how can we reset things so we can see her when she visits our city, but she stays in a hotel (she can certainly afford it, though, unfortunately, there are none in our neighborhood)? We have gone to see her since this visit, but I feel terrible that we are seeing her less while she is dealing with her divorce.
I would be OK with having her stay with us for one night (and locking the bedroom door), but based on the last time, I don't think she will respect that boundary.
Answer: Some form of the truth has to be better than the dodging, because dodging means you don't see her.
Whether the truth you tell is that you and your husband have decided you aren't comfortable having guests in your small apartment after all, or that you were fine with one night but three was a strain and you'd like for her to be in town for more than a night, or that, geez, Ma, you walked in on us at 7 a.m. without knocking, your husband just needs to tell her you'd love for her to visit, but you're going back to the hotel arrangement, "Thanks so much for understanding."
Comment: If you can afford a vacation with your mother-in-law not at your house (in other words, a hotel, cruise, resort, etc.), then organize it. This keeps her out of your space and allows all involved some autonomy.
Reply: It's an elegant solution, thanks. Realistically, it probably works for only one visit a year, not only because it's expensive, but also because she'll eventually notice she's never invited to your home - but as a way to relieve the pressure on you to host, it can be effective and generous.