How To Know When You’ve Overstayed Your Welcome

Last month, as I drove back home to Florida from my annual Christmas trip to Illinois, I stayed a few days with my dear friends, Tom and Patti. They live in Atlanta and it is a great midway stopping point. Their house always feels like home to me and frankly, I hate to leave. Heck, their cat, who doesn’t like anyone, sleeps between my legs!

How to know if you've Overstayed Your Welcome

When I told my Dad I would be staying in Atlanta for a few days, he was quick to remind me of Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying: “Fish and visitors smell in three days.” (I’m not sure, but that may have been a hint, since I’d been at Dad’s house for more than three weeks by that time). I love visiting friends but always worry about whether I’ve overstayed my welcome. I’d been in Atlanta for two or three days when I broached the subject with Tom.

When you've Overstayed Your Welcome
According to my father, guests are like fish. Both start to smell after three days.

“You have to promise to tell me if my being here is ever too much,” I said as we were about to sit down to dinner.

“You’ll know it’s time to go if we ever serve you cold lamb,” he grinned.

Tom went on to explain that in olden days, the lord of the castle ordered his servants to serve cold lamb for dinner if you’ve overstayed your welcome. It was their sign to pack up and leave.

“That’s where the phrase ‘getting the cold shoulder‘ comes from,” he explained.

I must admit that I awaited the evening meal with some trepidation and was relieved when it was Finnan Haddie, a delicious dried smoked & salted Haddock in cream sauce. Not only had I not yet overstayed my welcome, this was definitely one fish that did not stink!

9 thoughts on “How To Know When You’ve Overstayed Your Welcome”

  1. I remember being young and stupid and thinking it would be a great idea to visit an Uncle for two weeks! He had a daughter my age and three other children. By the 5th day I was ready to go home especially when I overheard her tell her boyfriend over the phone”she aggravates me” yeah, I should have left but I stuck it out for some reason. I had a miserable time but learned a valuable lesson from my teen years. Don’t overstay your welcome and adhere to the three day rule.

    • Hi Tamara. Your comment made me laugh. I wrote that post many years ago now, and I’ve since learned that there are people I can stay with for longer periods of time. I just have to choose carefully.

  2. I agree…my MIL always comes and stays for 2-3 weeks at a time…the kicker is she only sleeps in the living room…will NOT sleep in a bedroom…which makes it rather awkward when I have to get up and get ready for work…GEESH! I pray that when my boys are married I remember how difficult it is to have you MIL with you for 2-3 weeks living in your living room….

  3. Ah this is such a relevant post! Holiday season is coming right up, and some of my friends that live down at the coast have actually gone as far as moving out of their homes and renting them to holidaymakers over the festive period.

    For them it is a double whammy, as they don’t have everybody in their space, they get paid handsomely (enough to cover the bond for the next year over the six week period!) and they get to excape the holidaymakers clogging up their coastal town, whilst having a quiet holiday with their upland families themselves!

  4. I had a good laugh at this post. I read the title, “How To Know When You Have Overstayed Your Welcome” and I immediatly thought, “Take a look at my face!” We are plagued by people who never leave!! Heck, we had a friend of my husband’s show up, unannounced, with his 12 year old son, and they stayed for… wait for it… 6 weeks!!!!!! Had I known about the cold fish I would have been all over it!

  5. I agree with Benjamin Franklin’s statement. After 3 nights, it gets a little strained for both the host and the guest. Although my friends urge me to stay longer, I’m ready to move on after 3days/4 nights.


Leave a Comment