#797: Hark, Yon Sinful Bed Of The Unmarried!

Hello! This is a question that is hopefully less fraught than a few of the other Holiday Questions and I hope will be an easy question for you all to answer.

My partner and I have been living together for over a year and together for much longer than that; it is a thoughtful, committed relationship and I’m very happy. My parents took some time to warm up to him but now like him very much (him wading in (yes, literally) to help at last Thanksgiving’s Sewer Explosion in the Parents’ basement went a long way towards them recognizing how good of a man he really is).

The problem: my family is deeply Catholic (not me) (and in the liberation theology, Nuns on the Bus, Vatican 2 kind of way, which helps). Until my partner and I marry, my parents will not allow us to stay in the same bed. We have no plans of getting married unless there is some extenuating circumstance, and then certainly not in the church.

I haven’t brought it up in the last year or so because 1) I want to respect their beliefs and 2) most of the times we’ve been home, I’ve been sleeping on a couch or with my sister anyway since it’s been for other family events where there’s a full house. But now it’s gone on for a long time, and aforementioned sister yesterday got in a fight with my parents about creating a “boys dorm” and a “girls dorm” for our next family vacation (this also will impact my brother and his girlfriend, who have been together since they were sixteen but also are unmarried). They told her that it’s clearly not an issue since I haven’t brought it up and she’s overreacting. She is not.

Look, I’m not trying to have wild kinky sex under my parents’ roof. I would like for my partner to not have to sleep on the floor (or as happened on other vacations, in a tent outside), and I would like to feel like my parents respect our relationship. How do I broach this topic and make it clear that this does, in fact, bother me, but I’ve thus far respected their wishes — but it is a problem that they don’t seem to respect me or my relationship as responsible, adult, or mature without the parameters of Catholic marriage? Do I even bother? Is this a passive aggressive nightmare waiting to blow up ten years down the road if I don’t say something now?

Help me, Captain Awkward! You’re my only hope!

Grandma’s sleeping in my bed this year anyway so it doesn’t even matter right now

Dear Grandma’s Sleeping In My Bed,

At the holidays when there is a full house and lots of people are giving up their beds for older relatives and/or sleeping on couches, etc., I don’t think it’s necessary that big a deal for couples to split up for a few days especially when it’s as much about logistics and making sure everyone gets a comfortable sleeping spot than anything else. I know my Catholic mom has some feelings about unmarried couples sharing beds under her roof, but my old room where I sleep also has only a twin bed, so lobbying hard for “sharesies!” when I visit would both make her uncomfortable AND defy the laws of physics.

Just because I don’t feel like rocking my particular boat/brick hard four-poster bed, I do have a problem when houseguest sleeping arrangements are all about status and proving a point, for example, when straight, married couples are accommodated with a master suite and queer folks and singles are left to fight it out for recliner vs. floor vs. futon that the Great Dane sleeps on. If being unmarried meant my dude didn’t get a comfortable place to sleep it would mean a) not visiting at all, because, why put up with that? or b) hotel/motel time for us. Maybe this is a good year for you and your siblings to show solidarity with one another by finding an alternate place to stay over the holiday visit, like, splitting a hotel suite for a few nights. Your parents can work out how they prioritize acting in accordance with their principles vs. the pleasure/hassle having all of their family members under the same roof at the holidays, and you can enjoy giant comfy beds while everyone works it out.

On the future family vacation you’ll be staying in a hotel or cabin or at a campground, etc. right? Not your parents’ house? Try this as a script:

“[Sister] mentioned that you’re thinking about how to make sure all the men & women sleep separately for our vacation again next year. You’re not really planning on doing that, are you?

If so, what happens if you say “Boyfriend and I would prefer to share a room on vacation. Last time it really stunk when he had to sleep in the tent”? 

Right now your partner and your brother’s girlfriend exist in this strange limbo where they receive all of the disadvantages of being family (expected to go along with less-than-ideal circumstances for the sake of the group without complaint) but none of the advantages of being guests (to be made as comfortable & welcome as possible). It’s great that you want to respect your parents, but religious values aren’t the only values, and once you’re like “Welcome to our celebration, Guest! That’s your sleeping spot…outside…on the ground” just delete the words “welcome,” “celebration,” and “guest” from that thing you’re doing. It would be a gesture toward recognizing your relationship if your parents stopped the girls’ dorm/boys’ dorm thing on visits and vacations, but you can also give that respect to your relationship yourselves by saying, “We’d prefer to sleep together if possible” or “Ok we’ll be at the other hotel down the street then” or “Huh, sorry you feel that way. Sounds like we should skip the trip this year.



298 thoughts on “#797: Hark, Yon Sinful Bed Of The Unmarried!

  1. So, I’ve been in this boat. SO and I (a straight couple) moved in together while in college. When we visited my parents or went on trips with my family, we had to sleep separately. Not Catholic but a very Conservative family. So, we put up with it. When he put a ring on my finger I put my foot down. I had a discussion with my parents that went more or less like “Look, he’s not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere and it’s ridiculous that we have to sleep separately for three nights when we sleep together every other night.” My folks were reasonable and let it go…. which honestly surprised me.

    The Captain’s advice is good, but I’ll add a) pick your battles for when they’re really important. If the difference is a tent on the ground vs a bed – fight that. But if it’s a bed with you vs a bed not with you…. maybe let it go? and b) when you do pick the battle it can be really helpful for your cause to provide a united front with your sister. You and your sister can go to your parents together and be each others’ backup. If you go the route of a hotel, go in on it together.

    Good luck!

  2. “Maybe this is a good year for you and your siblings to show solidarity with one another by finding an alternate place to stay over the holiday visit, like, splitting a hotel suite for a few nights.”

    Another nice thing about this is that it does not so much demand that your parents suck up their feelings about you sleeping together in their house as it does courteously inform them about your choices. Really, the best changes are the ones we make to our own behavior because that is what we can control. Now your parents will have to decide what is more important to them and how far they want to go for that, which is excellent, to my way of thinking.

    1. Yes, the nice thing about the hotel plan is that you don’t HAVE to make a stink about the co-sleeping (and possibly cause a big blowup or what have you). It can just be “Oh, we decided to get a motel room because my old bed is really hard on my back” or “It’s just too hard to get a shower with everyone there and this seemed easier.” Nicely informing them that you are an adult who can do an adult thing like getting a hotel room.

      1. I wouldn’t offer alternate excuses, though. It’s worth being clear about it: the LW and her partner are used to sleeping together, they prefer to sleep together, and are not comfortable *not* sleeping together so they have made alternate arrangements that will enable them to be comfortable while still respecting the LW’s parents’ rules about what happens under their own roof.

        I’ve dealt with something sort-of-similar — not in terms of sleeping together but certainly the “under our roof” bit — and I found that making it clear that my response to the supposedly hard-and-fast “under our roof you will still do X” was “in that case I won’t be under your roof” produced rapid results. But my parents are very responsive to logic so YMMV. I also used “what do you think happens when I’m at home?” quite productively.

        Using a different excuse is especially problematic now that the LW’s supposed acquiescence is being used against her sister. The LW and others are being made quite uncomfortable at the holidays by the current arrangement, and it seems to be time to let that be known.

        1. Yeah, I think making up excuses to save the parents’ feelings is really just letting them dodge the whole issue of “our kids are now adults and are going to make some decisions in life we disagree with.” And I think it’s really not a good idea to let them dodge that in the long run, because they’ll continue to think they have any right, or it’s any of their business, to try and overrule those decisions. And the more they think it’s still okay, the bigger the blowout is going to be when the kids finally *do* get sick and tired of it and say “enough is enough”. I think the LW and her sister have every right to an adult life where they get to make the calls about their own behavior without having to tiptoe around mom & dad. They are no longer children, and the whole “these are the rules if we’re around” issue is unfair and unreasonable.

        2. This is pretty much how I approached it with my parents (or rather just my mother – my dad couldn’t give a toss whom I sleep with as long as I’m safe and happy). Mother is not really religious but carries all sorts of archaic beliefs about what is The Proper Thing to Do. For example, she seriously chewed me out once when I revealed that my boyfriend of probably 18 months at the time was my boyfriend because I had asked him out on a date and didn’t I know that was wrong and it has to be the other way around? So you can imagine how she might have felt about me sharing a bed with a man I wasn’t married to.

          The man in question is now my husband, so she’s naturally perfectly happy for us to sleep together *side-eye* but at the time we’d only been together, ooh, nearly three years, owned a house together and were engaged to be married. In her mind, that makes a big difference.

          I told her that out of respect for her personal boundaries, we wouldn’t sleep together in her house. But we slept together every night at home, were used to sleeping together and weren’t really happy sleeping separately, plus they only had one spare room and whoever wasn’t in it would have to sleep in a camp bed in a room with no privacy (because my autistic brother has a thing where he has to go round checking each room in turn except the bedrooms from the moment the sun is up). Because of this, I explained, we were perfectly happy to compromise by taking a hotel in the nearest town.

          Surprisingly, my mum then decided to give in and let us share the guest room. I think it was her Must Make Guests Comfortable guilt thing kicking in. It hasn’t come up since though, because my husband can’t stand her and hasn’t been to their house since (which, fortunately, she hasn’t noticed). But in my case, just suggesting an alternative helped her realise she actually didn’t have as much of a problem with it as she thought she did, otherwise she’d have picked the hotel option.

          1. Pretty much this exact thing happened with my parents. My dad didn’t want my partner and me to share a room (not even a bed; the room where we would’ve been staying has a double twin bed, i.e. two twin beds with a shared headboard) when we came to visit, as far as I could tell for reasons of I Never Would Have Asked My Parents to Sleep with a Romantic Partner Under Their Roof, That’s Just Not How Things Are Done. This was fine when it was a holiday and the whole family was staying over, because in that situation it made more sense for me to share with my aunt anyway.

            But when we were coming down for my brother’s wedding, the house was less crowded and there were two available beds apart from mine: one in my brother’s room, and one in the room where I would’ve been staying. My dad didn’t want my partner to stay in either room: not mine because of propriety, and not my brother’s in case my brother wanted privacy before his wedding. He suggested that my partner could stay on the couch instead. This was the point when I put my foot down, because it was utterly ridiculous for my partner to have to sleep on the couch when there were two unoccupied beds in the house. As the Captain puts it, this was the point when it became all about status and not about logistics. So, we stayed in a hotel for the wedding.

            The next time we came down for a visit, we were all set to stay in a hotel again to avoid further arguments. But lo and behold, my dad informed us that we could both stay in my room this time. I suspect his change of heart was a combination of Must Make Family Welcome guilt exacerbated by the fact that we actually had stayed in a hotel on our previous visit, and some nudging from my mom (who had not had a problem with us sharing a room in the first place). We’ve been staying in my room together ever since.

            Tl;dr: Staying in a hotel is a great option in this kind of situation if it’s possible for you. Even if it doesn’t convince your parents to relent, it gives you back your agency and makes it about your choices, not about making yourselves uncomfortable to accommodate their preferences.

            (Also hi, this is my first time posting here, although I’ve been reading for a long time.)

        3. I agree with Paulina. Just because somebody wants to create boys’/girls’ dorms, does not mean you are obligated to accept them. The only gracious way out is to do the adult thing and take care of your own accomodations, and only be their guests for communal stuff. Think of it as self-care for the relationship between you and your partner. It’s so much nicer if the holidays aren’t something you need to recover from, whether it’s smoldering negative feelings or a big fat backache.

        4. I offer those only as a way to dodge the conversation if they don’t WANT to have it, for whatever reason.

  3. Hoo boy, this would be a big deal to me (and, yeah, my parents are so much like this that it hurts).

    If you can afford it, I strongly second the advice to sleep elsewhere; it basically yanks all the power out of your parents’ hands and they aren’t really in a situation to complain unless it’s to say “but we want you HERE” in which case you can set the circumstances under which that will happen.

    If that’s not an option (because it can be expensive or logistically tricky), there’s always Act Like It’s A Foregone Conclusion which can work well if your siblings are on board. That’s where you put your suitcase with your honey’s suitcase and say “Oh, wow, it’s good to be here” and then act like pfffft of course you’re going to sleep where you WANT because you’re a goddamn adult haha. And then you just smilingly repeat “I hear what you’re saying, but dearest and I will be sleeping in here tonight, thank you!”

    That one might be a last resort but it’s helpful to remember that they can’t physically pick you up and put you in another room.

    1. Also, I just want to affirm: you are ALLOWED to find this a big fucking deal. I have a lot of separation anxiety when a bedmate is separated from me, to the point where I can’t sleep when they’re not there.

      Now, you may not have that and this may not be a big deal for you (in which case, yay) but you’re allowed. 🙂

      1. Second this! Also, if you did want to have kinky sex in your parents house that would be okay, though I’d recommend at least giving family members the courtesy of plausible deniability.

        Also, my hackles raised when LW said “[parents] told [sister] that it’s clearly not an issue since I haven’t brought it up and she’s overreacting. She is not.” Definitely time to band together.

        1. Yeah, no matter what happens I’d definitely recommend talking with LW’s sister, just so she knows she’s not alone in objecting. Even if it’s not as big of a deal to LW, their sister may be feeling it more keenly.

          1. The sister and the brother as well. It’s not clear if the sister has a partner herself, but even if she doesn’t, her sleeping arrangements are affected by this. And while the brother hasn’t objected, this is likely irritating for him and his girlfriend too.

      2. I have the opposite: lots of anxiety when I should sleep in the presence of someone else than my boyfriend or closest friends, especially if it’s someone I’m nervous around in general, such as an in-law. So a sister-in-(not-quite)-law would definitely be a huge problem.
        So, thank you, Ana, for saying this. Agreed wholeheartedly.

        1. *offers hugs, if wanted*

          I, too, cannot sleep with strangers in the room.

          [TW: assault] And that’s honestly partly because I was once assaulted in my sleep. This “boys dorm” thing increasingly upsets me, but I may be too close to the subject. Still, survivors shouldn’t feel obliged to disclose that they don’t want to sleep around strangers.

          1. For me it’s linked to physical abuse in my family of origin (by both parents and also sister who was my roommate until my 15). As a result, when I’m asleep, I prefer to be alone in a locked room so that nobody can get at me. Pretty much anything else takes a toll (intensity depends on several parameters).
            Since moving out from my parents’ place, the worst was at my boyfriend’s grandmother’s. I specifically asked about it and made clear that I needed for us to sleep in our own room where nobody else would come, or else I needed either a hotel or to just stay home because sleeping around his family was way too much. I was told that yes, everything arranged, no worries. So I agreed to go. It worked the first night but then boyfriend’s parents came, too. The plan I’d been told was that they weren’t staying overnight but as it turned out, instead of leaving they simply went to sleep in “our” bed and suddenly we were to sleep in the middle of the living room (three doors total, only possible way into granny’s room, only living area of the flat…) Yes that was only stated in the late evening when we were already about to go to sleep, not to mention the option of saying so in advance so that we could at least bring our air mattresses and wouldn’t have to lie on the hard floor (literally, bedsheet right on the carpet). Also, the granny had prepared the room for them by putting all our things out of the way; I don’t appreciate a prospective in-law handling my underwear. I ended up crying through the whole night, boyfriend kept me company, and only when the parents got up in the morning and left, we sneaked into the room that was supposed to be all ours and finally got some sleep (not that much, we needed to catch a train home in the early afternoon). Ugh.
            To this day I don’t know why they lied about their plans (no they didn’t decide on the spot) and then steamrolled over us in the middle of the night. I guess they just “didn’t think it was a big deal”. Well it was and I had said so.
            Sorry about ranting.

    2. Sleeping elsewhere, great. That’s a reasonable choice in the circumstances.

      Acting Like It’s A Foregone Conclusion thing… not great. If it’s not your house, it’s not your rules, and regardless of your relationship, you don’t get to tell anybody what to do in their own home.

      I’m currently on the receiving end of this sort of behaviour – I’m pregnant, and some older relatives are currently attempting to inform me that they will be visiting me at home the day after I give birth, despite my clearly stated wishes that they wait until I invite them. It’s not pleasant. Frankly, I’m livid. The LW may not like their parents’ rules, but that doesn’t mean they should just ignore them. As for me… had my relatives just asked, we might have been able to negotiate a compromise that would’ve kept everybody happy. (I’d never have backed down on my no visitors the day afterwards rule, but I might have been more amenable to seeing them sometime a bit later in the first week, for instance.) But they didn’t, and now I’m angry and digging in my heels and may not even tell them the baby’s born until I’m ready to see them, because I now don’t trust them not to just show up on my doorstep. I don’t think that was the result they were going for. So I really don’t recommend it as a solution.

      1. I don’t actually believe in Your House Your Rules for parents. I touched on this before but in short this isn’t an opt-in equal friendship that someone can take or leave. The parents were born first, controlled her life and finances for many years, and yes, logically have the bigger better house. There’s a power imbalance there and pretending that it’s not present is unhelpful to a child who is being abused.

        By, frex, being told to sleep outside on the ground or miss family Christmas. :/

        1. Basically, I do consider this to be religious abuse — until they submit to a religious ceremony they’re being punished.

          And, no, I don’t think abuse is justified by house ownership.

          If other people don’t see it as abuse, which is their right, they’ll likely disagree with me and that’s okay too.

      2. Ugh. I’m sorry for what you are going through.

        There’s a difference between people deciding they will visit you uninvited and people you invite deciding they won’t let you treat them shabbily. The LW and SO (and the siblings and respective partners) are not only invited guests, they are probably expected to show even if they would rather be elsewhere. There is a world of difference between “I’m going to treat my independent, adult children as if I am still in control of their lives” and “I’m crashing your house when you specifically told me not to come.”

      3. I can’t even parse their logic. Absolutely outrageous. Do what you gotta do; hoping like hell you have allies in other relatives or friends. ((And congratulations on the new person.))

        1. PS Metalsunflower, maybe a letter from your Dr or midwife or someone on your health team, that this is detrimental to you and the baby resting and bonding. Whatever is fueling their premise of being right isn’t likely to make them decide differently just on their own.

      4. I think the difference here is that your relatives, by informing you that they are coming to visit, are crossing your clearly-stated boundaries, whereas the LW, should they choose to sleep elsewhere and inform their parents of it, are not crossing any boundaries and are actually making things somewhat easier for the parents. The LW is setting their own boundaries in their circumstances, and your relatives are crossing boundaries in yours.

        (Disclaimer: This is just my opinion based on my current understanding, I could definitely be wrong, but this is my view on it.)

      5. I think there’s a big difference here in that LW’s parents are inviting them and then enforcing their moral rules on people at an (at least distantly) implied threat of being kicked out. That’s very difference from relatives forcing themselves into your home without permission. (Your relatives are being super awful about that btw.)

      6. Metalsunflower, just a reminder: even if your relatives do just show up at your doorstep, you are under no obligation to even acknowledge that they’re outside standing there, never mind to let them in!

        1. A++, have done.

          My grandparents (who, by the way, didn’t want my parents sleeping in the same bed even after they were married AND I WAS BORN) used to just show up uninvited and assume because they’d driven 1.5 hours to get there that they were (1) welcome (2) going to stay for dinner (3) may also be staying the night. After many conversations about not coming without a specific invitation and after my father’s fantasies of a compound with a gate and a long boobytrapped driveway and a moat failed to produce fruit, my parents would sometimes just not answer the door. Like, not sneak around pretending we weren’t there. TV was still on. We still moved around and talked. Just… didn’t open the door. When they shifted tactics to come when I was home from school but my parents were still at work, I continued the tradition.

          1. That is comical! Wish I could have seen it! Personally, I don’t think any of us would have a problem not eating pork if parents don’t eat pork, or not drinking if parents don’t drink, then go out later and have a few, fine. But respect them while you are at their house. If you really need to sleep with SO, go to a hotel. Please don’t expect parents to bow to everyone else’s lifestyles in their home. I would hope they wouldn’t come to your place and expect you to change what YOU do to accommodate them.

          2. There’s a castle in the Czech Republic that has a moat, but instead of being filled with water, it is literally – I kid you not – filled with bears. I want this so hard.

          3. Alli525:
            Not FILLED with bears, I hope – poor bears, having no living space like that.
            I have no idea which castle you’re talking about because pretty much all castles that have a moat in the first place keep a couple bears there. It’s very popular with tourists and never gets old.
            But one moat I was thrilled about is in Bojnice (Slovakia). It’s not dry, it’s filled with water, and – that’s the thing – a large number of turtles!

      7. I hate the my house my rules thing (especially when it’s the house you grew up in – that’s a sore spot for me because I wasn’t allowed to call it “my house” as a kid because I didn’t legally fucking own it), but you do have a point. Just because someone’s related to you doesn’t mean they are not allowed to have boundaries or not have stuff going on in their home that they’re uncomfortable with. I think it’s different if their (adult) children live with them, in which case they arguably have the right to their own comforts in their own home. But when visiting, I don’t think it’s helpful to enforce stuff the hosts are not happy with. I might not be the best judge of things, given the rather formal relationship I have with my own parents.

        Anyway, I totally feel you on the postpartum visitors thing. I had to deal with the exact same thing when I was pregnant – in fact, I wrote in to CA for advice about it, but my letter didn’t make the cut – and I just wanted to let you know that I managed to sort it out despite my mother being absolutely determined to be here. I was terrified of her turning up and yelling at me and making everything stressy and toxic for the poor baby and recovering-from-major-trauma me. I had to go through my dad to convince her that there wasn’t room for the three of them (including brother) to sleep at my house, but I had to repeat myself a number of times on the visit timing: “It’s nice of you to offer to visit. We look forward to seeing you a week or so after the birth, but before that we will not be at home to visitors at all. If you turn up, you’ll be wasting your time because nobody will open the front door. We don’t want to do that to you, so we’ll see you after a week.” I had to keep on repeating myself like a broken bloody record but it worked! Good luck, I really hope you get your message through.

        1. I completely do not understand parents pulling the “you can’t call it your house/room!” thing. Could someone explain this?? Why would you have a child and then try to make them feel unwelcome on the planet?!

          Seriously, all the ?!?!?!s.

          1. Maybe you’re not a controlling/manipulative enough person to understand.

            My mother summed it up herself thusly: “I had no power over other people when I was your age. Now it’s my turn.”

            Direct quote, I kid you not.

          2. sh!t, I’ve never thought about it like that. Some parents really do make children feel *unwelcome* in the only place they may be able to call home. How heinous. I had to walk on eggshells growing up and making me feel like I had no ownership of my life or belongings is exactly how my mother would constantly keep me off balance. It ensured that I felt I had no rights, no power, or no control – and kept me under her thumb…so there you have it, they do it to control and manipulate their kids. It probably has to do with some sort of social hierarchy/dominance thing too…

          3. I could have written that myself. It never felt like home, I never felt safe. I still have a “huh?” moment whenever anyone talks about “going home” when they actually mean their parents’ house in a different part of the country. I’m like “how is that ‘home’? You haven’t lived there for 15 years.” Then my brain catches up abd goes, oh yeah, other people actually feel at home in their parents’ houses.

          4. So, I’m trying to reply to amberxebi but that’s not an option and I’m new here? Anyways:

            I’d like to offer you a *fistbump of solidarity*. When I was around 12 I realized that I had no “home” like other people did. I had a house, a place where I lived and my things were, but I did not belong there or with that family (In fact, I don’t refer to her as family. That term is reserved for dear friends). It was a very saddening realization. Since then, I have never, ever referred to my mother’s house as “home.” Never. It chokes me up to sometimes to hear about adult children who love going “home” for the holidays.

            It really sucks.

          5. @amberxebi: That’s so unfair and I’m sorry you had that kind of childhood.

            One of my mom’s quotes du jour was: “Once you get pregnant, you might as well kill yourself because your life is over.”

            It’s really feckin awful when you parents make it clear: you are a burden and unwanted and should be damn grateful for whatever we give you.

          6. Ran of out nesting, but my brain is like WHAT THE WHAT?! Even our gazillion dogs needed a little private space to consider their own to den in and drag toys back to and peace out to when they were tired of being snuggled on, and everyone knew to Respect The Dog’s Pillow of Solitude and Toy Stash. I cannot IMAGINE making your child feel like they don’t have their own place in their home. Jeezy Creezy.

          7. I experienced a milder version of this (in that it only got tossed in my face during any argument where I tried to enforce a boundary, e.g. “knock before you come into my bedroom”). I think it was motivated by frustration more so than toxicity, as a lot of things in parenting seem to be.

            It did leave me with some strange issues around ownership and home-ness though. Like I was sooo excited to have my first laptop, because *I* bought it with *my* money and IT WAS MINE. I am still really weird about letting people borrow “my” things…but at the same time, I’ve been taught not to value things, and if they get lost or stolen or destroyed I can shrug it off as “they were just things”. Which sounds like a healthy attitude, until you realize that it’s fueled by the secret fear that the stuff I thought was mine actually might not turn out to be mine at all.

          8. My mom has always done this, but for her it’s been about grasping any form of control. She kept her clothes in our closets, chose the pictures we were allowed to hang on our walls, came into our rooms and went through our drawers, etc. because “it’s my house and I want everything kept to my standards.”

            I think she always wanted us to feel like our home was Home, yet at the same time she constantly reminded us that she was “allowing” us to live there/stay there and that as soon as we were old enough, she was going to start charging us rent as a means of ensuring that we got high-paying jobs after college. (This scheme failed spectacularly when we all moved far, far away as quickly as we could.)

            She is so rigid about maintaining control at all costs that she made our overseas cousins sleep in separate rooms when they came to visit. This couple had been together for 20 years, owned their own home, and had raised children together, and opted not to get married because they would lose their pensions. Caused a major shitstorm in the family and the cousins have never forgiven her (and I don’t blame them!)

            She grew up having to share a room with her siblings in a tiny apartment, so I think it’s some kind of Room of One’s Own thing gone amok. There is never enough space for her now, whenever she’s in her home or one of ours, she tries to take over. Really uncomfortable, that.

          9. My narcissist mother controlled the decor of our bedrooms and explained to my brother and SIL once the nieces were old enough to walk around and be typical children (i.e., a bit messy) that your children should behave like guests in the house their parents (or grandparents) live in. It is also apparently fairly common for controlling people of all descriptions to suddenly surprise adult children with house rules that were never discussed before (e.g., separate sleeping arrangements for adult child and SO who have been living together and sharing a bed for 5-6 years or so) and then stick to them, saying “this is the way it is.”

            If you can afford it, going to a hotel or B&B or staying with a local friend is the way to go with that. Problem solved.

          10. Wow, britpoptarts, that sounds eerily familiar. I’ve thought before that my mom had narcissist tendencies. Time to do some reading…

      8. oooooh heeell no. That’s really very shitty. I experienced something similar but not as bad. I was worried my mother (with whom I am very low contact) would force her way into the hospital so I didn’t tell her about the birth of either of my children until the day *afterwards* and “You can come by to visit next Saturday. If you come sooner we will all be asleep and no one will answer the door.” It worked great. That created a very distinct aura of “you are NOT the priority. Buh-Bye” For my second child I turned away visitors for over a week and felt no shame.

        Stand your ground, mama. You need to rest and self-care. And it’s best for the baby not to be passed around like a hot potato for the whole first week by sqeeing, germy aunts.

      9. Oh, no, not even!
        Totally agree to not tell them until you’re good and ready, and if they find out and show up, don’t answer the door. And turn off the ringer on your phone because then they’ll call every 5 minutes.
        Hang in there!

    3. In our family (and this is 30 years ago now) the Foregone Conclusion caused problems. Basically, my sister moved her boyfriend into her room over Christmas (they were living together at this point, but I genuinely don’t think my mum and dad had worked out they were sharing a bed). My mum and dad were too polite to say anything in front of him and my sister stayed glued to his side so they could never express their reservations to her.
      In a sense she got what she wanted – him staying over without any fuss. But we all had an uncomfortable Christmas because the discussion-that-never-got-to-happen was always an elephant in the room. And this was my sister’s fault, not his, but somehow he became associated with that feeling of discomfort. It made for a bad beginning to the family’s relationship with him. (He’s a lovely bloke.)
      I think if your parents are basically reasonable people, it’s better to bite the bullet and have the discussion beforehand.

      (My parents did accept that times had changed: when my brother told them – in advance, not repeating the mistake – he was bringing his girlfriend home for Christmas, they nipped out and bought him a double bed. )

      1. I mean… it worked in that he wasn’t mega-abused (made to sleep on the floor) but he was minor-abused (forever begrudged something that wasn’t his fault)?

        I would call that less that the Foregone Conclusion approach didn’t work and more that abusers gonna abuse? But maybe I’m too close to this, coming from a background of heavy religious abuse.

        But, I mean. “Sleep on the floor until you undergo the right religious ceremonies” I can’t even. *shrugs*

        1. It depends on what you mean by “worked” though. Yeah, it worked because she got what she wanted (which was a reasonable thing to want). But if what you want is a holiday with your family that isn’t fraught with tension, or for your family to be comfortable with your SO, this isn’t the best plan to get you there. If literally all someone cares about is making sure their SO gets to sleep in the same bed with them, yes, go the Foregone Conclusion route. If what someone wants is more complicated than that, then solution is more complicated, too. Sometimes it’s better to play the long game.

          And I’m not sure we can definitely conclude that parents not being comfortable with daughter and boyfriend sleeping in the same bed at their house is abuse. It can be, and it can be part of what adds up to abuse, but it’s kind of a leap to say that people who are uncomfortable with this are definitely, positively abusers.

          1. They were, based on the story, cold and/or rude to a Lovely Bloke because their daughter put his suitcase in his room and then hung out near him.

            For me, that’s a telltale abuse sign. They choose to be rude to a perfectly innocent person because their daughter was happy. As I’ve repeatedly said, Your Mileage May Vary.

          2. Yeah…they put him in a tent outside, more than once, on “vacations” which presumably were under a different roof than their home. They didn’t even begin to warm up to him at all until after he literally walked through shit to help them. And even then they are only starting to warm up. This isn’t your normal parents who are having a little discomfort with the idea that their child is grown and has values different from them. These are people on some kind of power trip, which is on the emotional abuse spectrum.

          3. I don’t think that being upset about “hello I brought a person into your home without informing you and now I’m going to make it impossible for you to discreetly discuss it with me” qualifies as abuse. In fact, in the parents’ position I’d be LIVID.

          4. @Haflina, in the story, he was an established live-in boyfriend of presumably months or years; I therefore understand the story to be that he was an invited guest but they hadn’t expected their daughter to toss his suitcase into her room with her.

  4. My partner and I had this happen to us when visiting her inter-state and very Catholic parents (she’s no longer, hasn’t been for a very long time).
    The first time, we made it work, and slept in separate beds for close on two weeks and it was very frustrating. It really did feel like a dis-acknowledgement of our committed relationship.
    The second time we planned ahead, and said that if we couldn’t stay together, we’d stay in a hotel. There was a massive switcheroo on their part, and we were offered the fold out couch/double bed in the study and it’s been that way ever since. I get the feeling that they preferred having our company, and having us visit feel like family, and not itinerant guests who were just visiting.

    Sometimes the outcome is a workable one.

  5. One thing I will say is that I do think that hosts have a certain right to enforce their values. I don’t agree (at all) with the idea that an unmarried couple shouldn’t share a bed, but I believe that other people have the right to enforce that when they’re hosting. (Just as I wouldn’t bring alcohol into the home of someone who has moral objections, even though I like a glass of wine with my dinner.)

    HOWEVER, if you are gonna enforce such values, it’s unreasonable to think that no one will object to being made to live by your rules. If you won’t have wine in your home, accept that you’ll have to meet me at a restaurant if you want to have dinner with me. If you won’t let unmarried couples sleep in the same bed, accept that people might choose to sleep elsewhere.

    Folks have a right to enforce (reasonable) rules in their own home. You have a right to say, “no thanks, if that’s the price of admission, I’m not paying”.

    1. Yeah, I’m with you. If the parents aren’t going to be happy with the sleeping arrangements, then the choice of the LW would seem to me to be (A) hotel or (B) skipping the visit. It makes me very uncomfortable to think of guests, even family, coming into my home and dictating to me how things are going to be.

  6. In their house is difficult. Yet, it is a matter of respect. If he is good enough to clean up their basement of sewage, he should be good enough to have his relationship with the LW recognized. When partner & I were early in relationship & unmarried and traveling from NM to TX to visit the brother in the same car with his parents, we stayed overnight on the road. We allowed them to force him to stay in their room, while I stayed in a roadside motel room by myself. The kicker – we paid for my room ourselves. I use the verb “allowed” purposefully because it was not their house. I have never forgiven them for thinking they could dictate to a thirty-something woman who would sleep in her motel room, nor have I forgiven us for giving in to their intrusiveness. I would advise the letter writer to get a hotel if possible. Otherwise, have a conversation with them about how your relationship is equivalent to marriage *for you* and how their ideas about sin just don’t apply in your world.

  7. I think I’ve said before on here that my family is a hotel family, so it clouds my perspective a bit. That said, the reasoning behind that could apply to your situation:

    At a certain point, too many people are Too Many People. While sleeping on the floor is fine and even fun when everyone is kids or even when everyone is twenty and single (generalization, I realize brother wasn’t), at a certain point, that no longer holds. Eventually people aren’t single anymore, thus nearly doubling the number of people trying to fit in the same space. Eventually everyone gets old enough that sleeping on the floor/couch is a thing that One No Longer Does or even a thing that results in Consequences the next day.

    Absolutely have a conversation with your parents about it. I’m not saying not to. I’m guessing that you and boyfriend go home at times besides events when EVERYONE is there. And having that conversation with all your siblings there (but maybe not SO’s?) would probably be a good idea.

    However, for events when everyone is there, if you are financially able to swing it, it sounds like your house may be getting to the point when saying “With everyone older and partnering up, the house is starting to get really crowded at holiday time. How’s about boyfriend and I stay in a hotel this year to make sleeping arrangements easier on everyone.” is totally unreasonable. If you are at an age or of a health condition that makes it reasonable to throw in how sleeping on the floor for a week could be a no go now, throw that in.

    1. Agreed. I second the idea to make it a physical comfort while sleeping issue (LW and partner’s ages are irrelevant). My older brother and I are both single but he’s almost 50 and I’m 30-something. If either of us were to be partnered, my mother could not reasonably suggest that someone sleep on the floor, because we’re all well past the age where futons, floor arrangements, tents or anything but a bed or sofabed indoors wouldn’t cause aches and pains, or at least discomfort. Tents and/or floors are well and good if you’re camping, but not for a holiday weekend with family.

      I do understand, but don’t necessarily excuse, parental discomfort with say, teenagers or early 20-somethings having SOs sleep over, because that can be a fraught time in negotiating boundaries with parents, some of whom may want to keep moving the “real adulthood” posts further and further back. At a certain point that no longer works.

      Fun story time! Our extended family once had a huge Thanksgiving with aunts, uncles, in-laws and everyone in between. Two of the guests were friends of my aunt’s who were in a committed long-term relationship, but unmarried. Whereupon my brother-in-law’s father straight out asked them over the meal: “So, are you two married, or are you just having sex?” Cue red-faced embarrassment on the part of my parents, the hosts, who would prefer that sex, politics, and religion go unmentioned at holiday meals, being deeply private. This was also the meal that my sister happily announced that she was going through menopause, to my mother’s chagrin. Ah, good memories

      1. Thick futon mattresses are about as good as a firm bed, in my experience. My parents, who are in their 60s, sleep on our futon when they come to visit us and never have any issues.

        Just felt like defending futons, that’s all.

  8. My partner and I had the same issue. His parents are technically Catholic, but mostly just “conservative” about things like this. Partner got the “my house, my rules; you’re unmarried” spiel from his father when we visited for Christmas last year, so we stayed in a hotel. This year for Thanksgiving, his mother put *her* foot down and basically told Father to get over it because she would rather have everyone together.

    I second the hotel idea; sometimes just forcing a change in the status quo is enough to bring people around.

    1. Funny you mention your parents being over all conservative more than actually religious, because I live in a Latin American country, and tho most people consider themselves catholic, it’s nothing like the stereotypes I hear about in the US. Sex abounds in our culture for better or for worse and very few people out of the many who are openly religious clutch their rosaries at people having casual relationships or having sex out of marriage.
      I had this theory that this is because catholisism is the most popular religion here, while in the US a lot more people are protestant (I think!). So when a religion is considered the “default”, people tend to be more lax about religious values, meanwhile people who belong to less populous religious grupos might cling harder to certain values and norms as a way of reafirming their identity. I don’t honestly know if this is true, it’s just my observation, considering that in comparison, most of the people I know identity in one way or another as catholic and when they speak of other subsets of christianity like evangelista or Jehova’s witnesses I can tell they feel a bit annoyed by them, they’re considered to be “stuck up” or “way too intense”; it does sound a bit familiar.

      1. It’s funny, because I was raised in a totally non-religious home, and my father and stepmother wouldn’t let my (at the time) fiance and I share a room. But HIS parents are Mormon and it has never once been an issue with them. They’d rather have us with them than die on that hill.

        Sometimes we still get a hotel because there can be too much family time, but it’s nice to know we don’t have to.

      2. It’s true that in the U.S. Protestants are more numerous than Catholics, but I wouldn’t call American Protestants less conservative as a culture. I think it’s less a denominational thing here than a generational, regional, or familial one. Growing up, my sense was always that if you’re strongly (or even moderately) Christian, sex outside of marriage is something of a Big Inappropriate Deal, and your level of discomfort with it is a sign of how good a Christian you are.

        That said, I was raised by one extremely uptight atheist and one rather irresponsible Southern Baptist. Go figure.

      3. I live in America and my in-laws are from a Latin American country and are practicing Catholic. They were also asking my partner and I long before we got married why I wasn’t pregnant yet and the women in the family and I have had long conversations about “lady” issues including all the various birth control methods we were using.

        I think it’s more of a cultural thing. American culture is pretty prudish and hush hush about sex regardless of religion, whereas other cultures are much more open. My Bulgarian friends got a *MUCH* more comprehensive sex ed than I did and those friends are much more open about sex-related things as just matter of fact, rather than the “oooo-sexy-scandal-shock-value!” or “oh no so ashamed!” sentiment that I usually see with my American friends. But that’s just been my experience.

  9. I’m in the same boat, and my choice has been, “Ok then, we don’t stay at your place.”

    Since your sister had the fight and your parents used your silence and assumed comfort as a weapon against her, I’d be inclined to say something on that front. Like, “Hey, Sister told me about this conversation and said you said it wasn’t a big deal to me. I just wanted to let you know that it IS a big deal, and I’m considering whether or not to try to find other arrangements if this keeps being a thing.”

    In your place, I wouldn’t want to leave my sister hanging on that. Also, if you can say it like that: “I’m considering whether to find other arrangements,” you can impress upon them the seriousness of your objection without actually committing to getting a hotel or whatever… which is useful if a hotel would be financially challenging for you. Maybe they’ll be the kind of parents that relent eventually when they realize it’s either a) have you stay with them or b) have you stay elsewhere (and potentially visit less often because of costs.) (Mine are not that kind, evidently… I’m waiting to see if grandchildren change the equation.)

    You have every right for this to be a big deal to you. And you probably will need to address this head-on at some point. I feel like it would be easier now than five years down the road when expectations are more settled, but that’s totally your call.

    1. Yes, I like this perspective! Move to a hotel or not as you wish, but sister was supportive of you, so I think it’s important to vocalize that yes, she did the right thing, it is important. To sister and to parents.

  10. Well I look forward to this discussion.

    My mother insisted that my brother and his fiancé, and myself and my fiancé sleep in separate beds until we were married. She even pressured my aunt when we were all staying at her house to not put the couples together (Aunt agreed with my brother and me that this was nuts). I get it, I do. It’s weird and silly and completely illogical.

    But it’s also their house so ultimately, neither my brother or I fought them too hard on it. Mainly that worked though because in all other ways my parents were super welcoming to both of our partners and brother and I both knew it was temporary. But that’s really why it worked and wasn’t worth fighting about.

    We were given plenty of indicators that even though my mom was not cool about hanky panky (or the hint of hanky panky) happening between non married couples,that our guests were welcome and my parents viewed them as part of the family (included in all family photos, mom trying really hard to make sure she cooked things they would like, respecting any traditions they normally did with their family being incorporated into ours). Only you know your family and what is and is not worth fighting for.

  11. How about making your own holiday traditions as a little family of your own for now, at least sometimes?

    Constantly acting like you’re primarily an adjunct of Mommy and Daddy’s Family is a good way to telegraph that you’re not really adults yet. (It’s also a sinkhole of money if you have to drive or fly.)

    1. Yo some of us are adults and actually like visiting family for Christmas (the holidays, w/e). Peeling sprouts isn’t worth it if it’s just for me and the cat.

        1. Yeah, but then you forget it’s just you and the cat (and the cat thinks sprouts are toys not food) and you peel 10 lbs worth since you’re used to cooking for that large family you love spending your holidays with (who have a different concept of ‘adult’ than ‘separate nuclear family unit’) and it’s sprouts for every meal for the next two weeks.

        2. How….how do you peel a sprout?

          Is it a Brussels sprout? All I can think of are those little crunchy sprouts you get with pho. How do you peel those??

          1. It is a Brussels Sprout. You take off the outer layer of leaves (they’re the toughest) and cut a cross in the stem. I think what you’re describing is a bean sprout? Hats off to someone who can peel those.

      1. Thanks, briargermain, I agree. I don’t consider myself somehow less adult for enjoying time with my parents. I happily spend the money it takes to be with them on holidays. Also, some of us are only children, and though I have spent holidays away from my parents, I know it is lonely for them because I AM a primary part of their family and always will be no matter how old I/they get or how many kids of my own I have. The issue here is setting boundaries with her parents that the LW can live with, not throwing the baby out with the bathwater and suggesting she simply stop hanging out with her parents. The Captain has and will recommend cutting people off/denying them your company when it is appropriate, and perhaps the LW will reach that point if her parents are completely inflexible, but even if that point is reached, the issue in that situation would be the parents’ lack of boundaries, not the LW’s maturity.

        I’m somewhat disturbed by this twist on what the Captain often says–that people should feel free to start their own family traditions with their own definition of family if it makes them happy(er). I agree with that sentiment completely, but that is because it is an EQUALLY valid choice objectively that can become the better choice based on individual circumstances. The choice to spend time with your parents at holidays isn’t inherently “less adult” than spending time with a newer family.

        It probably sounds like I’m harping, but just as there are people who can’t do the holidays with their “traditional” family for myriad logistical/health/emotional reasons, there are lots and lots of people who don’t necessarily have a “second family” readily available to stand in at holidays. Or, you know, they like their parents/fam. That doesn’t mean they are somehow communicating that they aren’t “really adults yet.”

        People should spend their time (holidays and otherwise) with whomever they genuinely want to share a meal/time with. Each person can make that decision best for herself, and nobody needs baggage like the notion they are “less adult” (or, in the reverse, “a bad child”) for the decision they make.

        1. And TBH it’s sort of a cultural outlier to have the nuclear family be the One True Family Unit. Most cultures have more focus on intergenerational family connections than the currently dominant Western capitalism model does, and even within that culture it’s still pretty important to a lot of people.

          1. It’s a model that seems to be limited to English-speaking countries for the most part. I teach international students and when I explain that it’s normal in Canada for kids to move out when they finish school, reactions often range from polite incomprehension to outrage, either on behalf of the parents – “You’re abandoning them!” – or the offspring – “They’re throwing you out!”

        2. I initially read GP post as saying the *parents* are treating the *children* like their “adjunct” and “telegraph[ing] that you’re not really adults yet,” but now that I read it again, it’s at best completely ambiguous which way they meant it…

    2. Right, because Real Adults are only those who have Official Relationships and Children (planned or actual).

      Read this with allll the side eye that ever sided.

    3. Wow. Not okay.

      I see my family at the holidays because I like seeing my family at the holidays. My family’s tradition is that Thanksgiving and Christmas are a massive celebration for as many cousins (including 2nd and 3rd cousins) as can make the trip. I’m talking “potluck for 50 with card tables everywhere and three different people each bringing a turkey” with people taking turns on whose year it is to host. Unsurprisingly, the ones who host are mostly in the 40-75 age range, because they’re the ones who have large enough houses to fit everyone. (My place *might* hold 20 if we moved the furniture and a few people didn’t mind eating in the laundry room.)

      Not going to see my parents would mean not seeing the rest of my family until the next wedding or funeral. I’m not “acting like an adjunct of Mommy and Daddy’s Family,” I’m nurturing my relationships with my kin.

  12. What would be your advice if there are no hotels nearby? I ask because (a) the LW’s comments about people sleeping on couches or the floor for multiple gatherings suggest that maybe there aren’t many other possibilities, and (b) because my hometown is so tiny and rural that the nearest hotel is thirty miles away. That’s not an insurmountable distance, but I could imagine towns being even more isolated, especially out west, or the nature of the family gatherings and events making a half-hour drive each way a little awkward.

    This is a theoretical question only, so feel free to ignore.

    1. Friends or other relatives in the same town, maybe? I once knew a gal who always stayed with her best friend from high school when visiting her parents (and said friend would greet her at the door with a glass of scotch after she had been with her parents all day.)

    2. Yeah, I’m worried about hotel access too.

      Honestly, in that case and faced with an ultimatum that boyfriend has to sleep on the ground until he agrees to undergo a major religious ceremony? I’d sleep in that damn tent with him.

      1. Exactly. And if the parents threw a hissy that I couldn’t handle, I’d put boyfriend in the house and sleep in the damn tent myself.

    3. I think that’s a situation where a combination of 1) sometimes staying at the hotel 30 miles away or with friends and 2) realizing that due to the inconvenience involved in the first set of solutions, it’s acceptable to decide to visit a little less often. Maybe one year you make that annoying drive and the next you stay home or go to the partner’s home. Maybe that means you spend more time with one family than the other, which is justified if they treat you differently, but maybe it instead means that the partner’s parents get the major holidays and your own get time at other times of the year when there are enough beds in the house to go around.

    4. This. I currently live in a place where the nearest hotel is a 30 minute drive away.

      That said, I would never dream of telling houseguests that they can’t sleep with this partner. And should my daughter (once she is… older than her current 18 months old, anyway) bring someone to stay the night, she can bloody well do as she sees fit with her own body and chose who shares her bed, wtf. It seems like such an intrusion to tell someone who is old enough to make those decisions that you have more of a right to decide who shares their bed than they do. *creepy*

      1. The nearest hotel to my parents is also about 30 minutes away, at least. But actually, I think that was a major contributing factor to my mother giving in and allowing my partner to sleep with me. We’d have seen much less of them if we were in a hotel.

    5. AirBnB or VRBO? Is there someone who rents a room, apartment, house, or condo in that rural town?

      1. Yeah or google around for B&B’s! They tend not to show up on priceline (et al), especially if they’re just mom&pop’s with 1993-era websites.

  13. Chances are your parents will get over it. My ex husband and I very diligently waited until marriage to sleep in the same room at my (Catholic) parents house despite the fact we were obviously living together. I was kind of obnoxious and would wait until I almost had to be carried to bed from tiredness rather than sleep apart. After the divorce my new boyfriend just slept in guestroom with me. It may have helped that when I broached the subject with them I said he would have the bed and I would sleep on the couch (because he’s the guest but also the bed is too hard for me and I can pile up all the pillows on the couch). For some reason the idea of their daughter sleeping on their couch was more uncomfortable than us sharing a bed.

  14. My partner and I had a similar problem: my parents are super conservative, and unmarried people are not allowed to sleep in the same bed under their roof. So we got married at the courthouse a few weeks before Christmas, and told them when we showed up for the holidays.

    I don’t recommend getting married if you don’t want to (it doesn’t actually mean anything to us other than tax benefits, and we forget all the time). But I do understand the frustration of feeling like your relationship isn’t validated. Why should a freaking piece of paper matter so much?!

    I am all for the hotel idea, and for solidarity with siblings. Either your parents will realize spending time with family is more important, or they’ll make a stand for *values* and you’ll enjoy some space to decompress.

    1. I think it’s funny that you and your partner forget you’re married, because my partner and I constantly forget we aren’t. One of us will say (teasingly), “I have no idea why I married you,” and the other will go, “Well, you didn’t, so…” Happens ALL THE TIME.

  15. Seconding that this really does work. First Xmas trip back home with partner, my parents refused to let him stay overnight. Partner and I thus spent nearly all of that winter break at *his* parents’ house, as his parents had no problems letting us sleep in the same room — with 3 older siblings all partnered and sharing rooms, I think they had lost that battle years ago — and only visited my parents for a few hours every few days.

    Next winter break, my parents had no issues whatsoever with partner and I sharing the one guest bed in their house. Magic! 😀

  16. Before we were married, my parents-in-law had this rule. For us, the line we decided to draw was that if we were staying as their guests, we would go along with their rules (and honestly, similar to your situation, there are not enough double beds for all the couples there over the holidays anyway, so it’s sort of a moot point). But when they visited us, we were not going to sleep in separate beds to accomodate them or whatever, so in that case it was our roof our rules. I think on a vacation, it would probably depend on who was paying — if you’re an adult who’s expecting your parents to pay your way on a vacation (and pay full price for your SO!), I think you give up some control. If you pay your own way, just book your own room and say “Oh cool, everyone else can do gender segregated bunks if they want, but partner and I have our own spot!”

  17. Sign me up for the “hotel” choice as well. As much as I am a heathen counter-culture defy-tradition sorta person, I eventually come down on the “their house, their rules” approach overall. I think it’s stinky when people have hospitality with caveats. But we have no other refuges in our modern world, so if that’s the one place they get to hold back the cohabitating hoards then let em have their tiny sanctuary. Doesn’t mean you have to stay there, though, and they can decide what that proximity and sense of family is worth to them.

    Personally I really love the crowd in my house at the holiday and it would bum me out if people chose to stay down the street. Maybe they’ll feel the same way and this’ll be the motivation they need to reassess.

  18. I completely agree with the advice to avoid visiting. My grandparents’ rule was that unmarried couples could not sleep in the same bed, and that was followed for all 5 of my dad’s siblings. When my parents started dating, they stopped visiting since they couldn’t sleep in the same bed.

    Shortly after sharing their decision, my grandmother called my dad to say, “You can sleep in the same bed. Dinner’s at 5.”

  19. My mom is very Catholic and I had to deal with this too. The first time I brought my boyfriend home to visit we stayed in separate bedrooms and she actually did a bed check (which she denied). For a year and a half we respected her wishes but after we moved in together, making us sleep separately was even more pointless. Not feeling like your relationship is validated is frustrating. So that Christmas I booked hotel reservations and told my mom that if we weren’t able to share a room that is where we were staying. She relented and we’ve been sharing a room ever since.

    1. Argh the bed check. I’d forgotten about that. I once dated this guy whose parents used to put a little camp bed in his room for me to sleep in, then pop in suddenly without knocking before we were up to check “if we wanted tea” or “what time we were planning to leave” but I never doubted what they were really doing.

      They were actually really nice people in general but I think they were so freaked out by the idea of their baby sleeping with someone (he was in his 20s) that in rigid defence of their own boundaries, they totally forgot about ours. Such as, you know, knocking before entering our bedroom. Sometimes parents forget for a moment that their kids are people (and adults) too.

      1. Oh man, I have SERIOUS issues with people popping into where I’m sleeping without warning, especially if I don’t know them well. That would not have gone over well with me AT ALL (to the point where I likely wouldn’t have slept the next night…or the rest of the visit).

        1. Years ago, a friend of my mom’s tried to go into her teenaged (17? 18?) son’s room to wake him up on a weekend morning (which was normal for them and had never been a problem.) The door was locked, so she knocked. When he answered, he only opened the door a few inches and stood blocking what little space was open. She told him that breakfast was ready, and he said he’d be right down and closed the door. As she walked away, she called over her shoulder, “Your friend is welcome to stay for breakfast!”

          Apparently all three of them had a nice breakfast, and the mom learned that her son was too old for her to just barge into his room to wake him up.

  20. I feel if you’re staying with someone it’s their house their rules. LW is within their rights to tell the parents that LW cannot visit/vacation with her parents or stay at the house, and be direct as to why. Ultimately though, it’s up to her parents to decide what is and isn’t acceptable in their home based on what makes them comfortable, even if it seems inane from the outside.

    My family members have the same rule and part of the bargain of a free bed or vacation is you do not even question or complain about the arrangement. You are free to go and stay elsewhere.

  21. I definitely also support the hotel option. It’s hard to force people to change. You can decide not to let them rule for you. I also personally changed how much I fought as a function of age. High school bf was out of luck. When my now husband and I lived together and paid our own rent, “no admission that hanky Panky happens on other time” became a hard stance to hold on to.

  22. The first time I brought anyone home for the holidays, it was Mr. Logic (pre-marriage) and I was 28. MomLogic and I had a sitdown about bed arrangements and my position was thusly:
    “I do not want to make you uncomfortable, but also I am almost 30 and can afford a hotel room. We are adults here, so let’s not pretend. Please let me know if you would prefer we share a bed here or at a hotel.”
    Her riposte:
    “Sure. But Brother was 20 and still dependent on you financially.”
    “Can we make up a couch-bed of plausible deniability?”

    So we did, the dog slept in and rumpled up the couch-bed, and it was fine. ymmv.

    1. Has the Couch of Plausible Deniability been added to the glossary yet? “Variations include: …”

    2. I rather like this. A hotel might be the first answer, but if that doesn’t suit, I think there’s something to be said for Boyfriend saying goodnight to everyone and retiring to the tent, then coming in when all is quiet (to use the bathroom if anyone is up), sleeping comfortably with Girlfriend, then walking in from outside again at some point in the morning in order to make a proper good-morning entrance where it can be seen.

      It seems to me that Parents know that their children sleep together outside the family home, don’t really mind on a practical level, and have hit on the tent idea as a way to save face. That’s one solution. Making up a tent and then letting the parents look the other way when Boyfriend is obviously sleeping in the house is another.

  23. “and I would like to feel like my parents respect our relationship . . .it is a problem that they don’t seem to respect me or my relationship as responsible, adult, or mature without the parameters of Catholic marriage”.

    Honing in on this bit, here’s the problem, LW: YOU can’t change how THEY feel. You can change how you allow them to treat you and your partner, you can change what you will put up with, but you can’t change how they FEEL about your partnership and they may in fact forever FEEL like because you’re not married your relationship is less “real”.

    You can change you. You *cannot* change them. You can point out that you find the implication and idea hurtful, you can point out that it would be a very big deal to you if they would consider your relationship as being that important, etc, etc, etc, but at the end of the day, you may not get what you want out of them on this one. And getting too invested in the idea of “if I just find the perfect way to express this they will change for me!” runs the risk of both a continually broken heart and endless uncertain conflict.

    Things you can do:
    – sit down and have this conversation with them. Separate-bedsness is only a symptom of what you’ve described above: if the problem really is about the respect for your relationship, you can’t actually skip that conversation. This conversation may or may not go the way you want it to, which goes to:
    – decide what you’re going to put up with. Personally I would go in with a ground rule of “I will not stay where my partner and I cannot share a bed for any reason other than logistics.” That might mean getting a hotel, if your parents hold their line, or if a hotel IS too expensive/not logistically feasible, might mean not going.
    – back your sister up. Figure out what she’s willing to put up with, as well, so that you both know exactly where you each stand and there are no surprises.

    Good luck.

  24. LW, I agree that you don’t HAVE to say anything, but it sounds like it would be much more comfortable if you did.

    I second that Capt and other commenters on advice, but wanted to give hugs of solidarity. Also: it is possible! I got both my Catholic grandmother and my bible-thumping Baptist Nana to agree to me and my partner sleeping in the same bed in their house. There was very little discussion about it, though, to be honest. I straight up asked if they’d be okay with me and partner sharing a bed, they said they would, and we talked about other things.

    Hmmmm. I think anything you can do to set the tone that this is a conversation about maybe controversial logistics, and not a referendum on whether they “approve” of you not be Catholic/power play involving who’s religious views are correct is going to be helpful. Both of my grandma’s know that a. I’m probably not becoming Christian anytime soon, and if I do it it’ll be because I decided to b. partner is a good dude and its good for me to be with him. If everyone’s on the same page, the conversation becomes much less loaded. Though how to get on the same page about religion/sexuality with family member’s is an entirely different complicated issue that I’m still navigating.

  25. My parents (or really just my mom) were the same way. The first time my boyfriend (now husband) visited for Thanksgiving, we were in a long-distance relationship and hadn’t seen each other in six weeks, so there was no way we were going to stay in separate beds. We booked a hotel that year and that was all it took to make my parents realize that they preferred having everyone under the same roof regardless of sleeping arrangements. They relented. Husband and I cohabited for five more years before we got married, and staying in the same room was never an issue after that. Not saying everyone will be that lucky, but it’s worth a shot!

  26. Tee hee.

    My longest SO and I never married.

    We were a committed couple sharing an apartment. Her parents lived 6/hours drive away and we’d visit often.

    The Captain has said in one line, what I’ve spent several years to put into words:

    ….exist in this strange limbo where they receive all of the disadvantages of being family (expected to go along with less-than-ideal circumstances for the sake of the group without complaint) but none of the advantages of being guests (to be made as comfortable & welcome as possible)*

    This is the question to put to yourself.

    With my (ex) SO, her family loved and cared for me when we visited, so having to stay down in the basement guest room was not a problem at all. Kinda luxurious.

    When we shared a holiday home, this sit-up would continue and I did not mind–they made every effort to ensure my visit was joyful, otherwise. Also, they only insisted on this rule should we all be under The Same Roof. Once they left the cabin, they has no qualms about us bunking up.

    2 other things: they didn’t have a rule for gay people. My SOs much younger brother being gay, would visit with his latest bf–and they would sleep together! And I’m 20 years older than em… But there just weren’t the rooms to stratify us.

    Meanwhile, (in case there are any parents like this out there)… My SO was not AT ALL INTO *doing it* in proximity to her parents. Her libido shut down. She is not the only person I have spent with parents who felt this way… Almost scalding if I mentioned it.

    So it depends on the atmosphere outside the bedroom too. But I can see how LW might want to have their couple acknowledged as being important and worthy of support without having to provide any more bona fides.

  27. My perspective is a little different from the Captain’s in that I really DID want to rock the boat with my parents on this restriction, and ultimately I’m very glad I did so. Whether you’re successful will generally depend on how reasonable your parents are, but if they are reasonable standing your ground on this could work. If it’s important to you, I don’t think it’s out of the question at all to bring it up to your parents.

    My parents’ reasoning for not wanting my boyfriend and I to share a room wasn’t all that religious, more a little fear on their parts about realizing I was a grown up and a little pearl clutching about what kind of example we would be setting for my much younger sibling who was still in high school. I didn’t handle the situation perfectly. There was some yelling. I got angry, ended up leaving the house to cool off. But ultimately as we discussed it the point I was able to make is that they really loved my boyfriend and were very happy for me about the relationship, and if that was the case then it should get their full support without them treating me like I was doing something wrong by us sleeping together. Regarding their worries about my sister, I pointed out that he treated me exceptionally well and could be a good model of what a healthy relationship looks like as she starts to explore dating herself. I just wanted my family to make a choice. If they thought this person was good for me and were supportive, then support us all the way, treat me like an adult, and respect me.

    So after that one tense sometimes angry discussion, they DID come around. We stay in the same room when we visit, and there has never been a negative comment about it. As a result we spend more time with them than we would otherwise, which we all enjoy. I’m so happy that I have that closeness with my family still, and sticking up for myself here was totally worth it. I do feel like it changed the relationship I had with them a little bit, but in a good way–it’s a more adult relationship and they have more respect for my own autonomy.

    Like I said, I didn’t do this perfectly. But, if you have reasonable parents it can be a discussion worth having. My advice would be to emphasize how it makes you feel and point out how their decision isn’t supportive of you and your partner. Explain that it makes you feel distanced from them when they aren’t fully respecting you. Regardless of what you choose to do, sending you good thoughts.

    1. Sounds like it *also* affects LW’s sister. The parents’ argument to Sister was “but LW doesn’t care, so you are overreacting. Unlike LW, who doesn’t care that we make her long-term partner sleep on the ground like a common troll” or whatever.

      1. The LW is often sharing a bed with her sister, so it frequently affects her – especially if the sister lives at home and the arrangement means that she ends up sharing a bed she’d otherwise be sleeping in alone. My sister married fairly young and I prefer not to bring my partners home if I can help it, but there were a couple times when she was engaged where my sister and I ended up sharing a bed so her then-fiance could be in the guest room. As the two of us are extraordinarily incompatible sleepers, the arrangement made all three of us quite miserable.

  28. Under their roof, you can’t do much. It’s when they start shifting the goalposts to “Everyone without kids has to sleep on the floor!” or to family vacation that a conversation is necessary. A “boys dorm” and a “girls dorm” on a vacation is over the line, IMO. (And sounds about as much fun as a root canal with a BBQ brush.)

    And hotels can provide fun, too. If you’ve got a big enough suite, you could always have your folks and siblings over for fancy snacks and a holiday movie. They might appreciate not hosting something, too.

    1. OK, I missed the tent part after he’d been wading through shit (literally). Yeah, no. Not OK. Not even remotely OK.

  29. It sounds like it would be a good idea to tell your parents “Hey, this thing actually is an issue for us, one that SO and I talked about and came to an agreement on how to handle- and it bothers me that you’re using our personal decision to tell Sister and her SO how to feel.” Depending on how well you think that conversation would go, of course.

    That way you can support your sister and address one HUGE problem (your parents interpreting and employing your actions in a way you didn’t intend) without necessarily going to a hotel or changing your plans if that’s not doable this year.

    1. Yup yup. It’s the thought of the sister having done all the work and being clotheslined (unexpectedly stopped while running, in a way that would knock one to the ground) by the parent, that hurt me to read. My sibling has my allegiance in our family, always.

    2. Yeah, I agree. I think the hotel option is a good one to keep in your back pocket — and if space is seriously crowded and your budget allows, may be something you want to go with anyway, out of sheer logistics — but unless it’s a crowdedness issue too, I’d personally start with the conversation. Like, “Hey parents, I just wanted to let you know, SO and I have gone along with the separate beds policy out of respect for your preferences, but it actually is an issue for us. We’ve been quiet out of courtesy, not because it’s totally fine with us. We would really prefer to sleep in the same bed on visits and family vacations, since we’re together long-term and we do in fact live together every other day of the year. If he’s enough part of the family to wade through sewage, he’s enough part of the family to sleep in the same room as me!” You can bring in the part about your sister or not as seems appropriate to you.

      They might, in fact, go along with it more easily than you think, once you unambiguously point out that it’s a problem and you object to it. And if they say “No, under our roof only couples married in the eyes of the Church will be sharing a bed,” or “No, we get your point but there’s no room for it, sorry,” or whatever, then you can say “Okay, then it’s probably time for us to get a hotel room [geography allowing, possibly starting next year or next vacation, etc].”

  30. I keep hearing people backing up the “It’s their house, their rules” line, but the LW’s folks have gone beyond the bounds of decent hospitality to enforce their antiquated rule. If it was just a question of which bed or pullout couch or even air mattress he’s sleeping on, I wouldn’t be so torqued about this idea. But they put him in a fucking tent outside while on a vacation that was NOT in their house. They are more interested in making a point about the LW’s relationship status than they are in treating a guest decently– a guest who is a kind and helpful enough person to literally wade through sewage to help them. OMFG, would they treat a stranger so shabbily?

    Respect is a two-way street, and the LW’s parents clearly have little or none for their children or their children’s life partners. I get not wanting to rock the boat and being hesitant to stand up to unreasonable people, but holy crap, I am so angry on behalf of the LW’s partner.

    Honestly, if someone was treating me this way, I would be livid.

    LW–how does your partner feel about these arrangements? I ask because there are tons and tons of letters on this site written from the POV of the partner of someone with a family that has crossed the line as much as your folks have, and most of the advice has been along the lines of “what if you didn’t go next time?” and “you have an extended family problem, but if your partner isn’t standing up to them for you, you also have a partner problem.”

    1. Also I think when you are navigating these questions as an adult child, the line between whose house it actually is can be blurred. I haven’t lived at home in about seven years, but there is still a room at my parents’ house with a bed and some of my old stuff still in the closet. My mom is adamant that room is mine and I can return at any time, no questions asked. I know not every family relationship is like that, but it’s not too unusual for adult children to still have a room at their parents’ house, and for the parents to WANT the child to still feel like the house in which they grew up is their home, too. So I find “my house, my rules” not all that useful. It’s the family home, LW and her siblings are part of the family still. Parents should learn to be respectful of their children’s autonomy.

      1. Or sometimes that old room can be a symbol of the old life you had when you were a kid, and whenever you stay there you end up regressing. It’s like, “Come home anytime…and resume your old social position within the family just as you resume your living space within Our House.” Nothing gets updated, furniture- or rules-wise.

      2. Heh. My Mum took over my old room when she started fielding phonecalls from overseas time zones, so that she wouldn’t wake up my Dad. My sibling’s old room is her office. The room that was once the spare bedroom is my Dad’s office. When I visit, I sleep in the loungeroom next to the cotbed my sibling’s kid sleeps in when my parents are babysitting, because it’s the only room with space in it that people don’t walk through to get somewhere else…

        1. My husband’s old room still has all his old things in and he’s allowed to do what he wants in it (including sharing the bed with me when we’d only been together a few months) despite him having moved out permanently over a decade ago.

          In contrast, I was never allowed to call the room I slept in as a kid “my room” (“every room in this house is ours! We just let you sleep there! “) I wasn’t even allowed to sit in there unchaperoned with a boyfriend, and the moment I moved out my mother got rid of everything in there and turned it into a craft room.

          Obviously YMMV quite a lot!

    2. Thank you! I’m bristling a little at every “their house, their rules!” comment.

      These aren’t the LW’s peers; they’re her parents. There is a limit on the kind of rules they get to set in their house, imho, because this isn’t an opt-in friendship, it’s a family she was born into. That changes the dynamics and makes some demands inappropriate regardless of who was born first, made and controlled all the money, and was able to buy the biggest house. YMMV.

      But for reals THEY PUT HIM IN A TENT. That’s so fucking upsetting to me.

      1. If it were me (as the SO), and it were at all possible, I would have left at that point. Saddle up the nopetopus, I’m gone.

        1. Yeah, I can understand why the LW and SO went along, but I do consider this to be religious abuse and they would be well within their rights imo to nope-out.

          1. It wouldn’t even have to be related to religion for me to be full of NOPE once someone told me that I would be sleeping outside in a tent while everyone else was indoors.

          2. Seriously.

            Also: = sure, kinda, to a certain extent – you don’t smoke in my house, if you need to smoke and don’t wanna do it on the porch, I will absolutely book you into the nearest hotel myself. But that doesn’t mean you have to go along and not question the rules, especially in a context where people presumably want to have everyone together and happy.

            It’s PERFECTLY appropriate to tell your parents “X is your rule, that doesn’t work for me, either you change the rule or we sleep at the hotel, let me know by Y date so I can make reservations, thanks”. Like… this isn’t a big deal, or a referrendum on your parents beliefs or on your relationship with your parents. It’s letting people know about the effects of their choices and letting them know that they can either change or you will proceed to do something that works for you.

          3. anamardoll, you’ve brought up religious abuse several times in this thread, and it makes me a little anxious for a number of reasons. Yes, in this case it does seem to be Catholic and one of the requirements is a Catholic wedding, so it is a religious thing. But marriage in and of itself doesn’t belong to any one sect, and there are plenty of parents out there whose objection, though it may be rooted in a patriarchal tradition, doesn’t come from the place of “God said so and therefore.” I’ve met stuffy, patriarchal atheists before who I can imagine having similar problems with their unmarried adult children bedding down together in their house, and I’d find it really weird to call that religious abuse. Other people have mentioned getting courthouse weddings to shut their parents up, and that’s not a religious ceremony.

            Basically I think I’m irked because weddings and marriages aren’t always religious things, and I’d be kind of upset if I ever got married and people treated it like a religious ceremony (as an atheist.) This is a secular problem (in the sense of beyond sects, not necessarily in the sense of not religious at all.) The religion is correlation, not necessarily causation.

          4. Seconding Aris Merquoni, I know multiple sets of atheist parents who do not knowledge with anything but horror the fact that their (20s/30s) children are adults an/or have a sex life.

          5. @ Aris Merquoni, I’m bringing up religious abuse because the LW specifically mentioned that even IF they got married, it wouldn’t be in the religious ceremony that her parents want.

            We have no plans of getting married unless there is some extenuating circumstance, and then certainly not in the church.

            I’m responding to the LW, not to a hypothetical situation with atheist parents.

          6. anamardoll (out of nesting): I hear you. But sometimes in the comments we’re dealing with the general case (If someone demands unreasonable things in return for hospitality, set boundaries and stay elsewhere) and sometimes with the specific case (LW’s parents are being unreasonable because of Catholic/cultural sensibilities.)

            I just feel like we have way better footing to discuss this issue in terms of boundaries and hospitality than we do about specifics. I mean, the specifics of any situation are going to deal with a whole host of things, and we don’t have a complete picture from the LW’s letter. The LW implies that their parents are expecting a Catholic wedding before allowing cohabitation, but we don’t know that a full Catholic marriage is one of the parents’ requirements. It could be! Or it could be an assumption the LW has. The LW says that “on other vacations” the LW’s SO had to stay in a tent outside–this could range from appalling (“You waded through shit for us, but you still need to sleep in the backyard alone because you’re an unmarried sinner”) to seemingly reasonable (“Remember three summers ago when we all went to that cabin and there weren’t enough beds so we had people in tents outside? Good times.”)

            We are all bringing our own assumptions to the table! You are bringing your well-honed instincts about the kind of religious bullshit people pull and the depths of shittiness that manipulative people sink to, not to mention your firm beliefs about boundaries. I’m bringing my reluctance to make declarative statements and my tendency to qualify everything I say so that it’s as widely applicable as possible. I think we’re just butting heads because of it. I’m sorry if I came across like I was trying to shut you down.

        2. Or, sneak into the room containing SO and childhood bed, and have the groaning, headboard-banging, bedspring-squeaking sex once dreamed of in youth. THEN decamp the next day to the hotel, citing back issues from floor or tent.

      2. I don’t think anyone is saying they agree with the parents’ rule, but it is their house, and they have the right to control what happens in it*. It is family, but it is opt-in for LW to stay at the parents’ house, and it is opt-in for the parents to allow LW to stay there. She has no absolute right to stay there, any more than she has an obligation to stay there. It is their house, their rules. The fact that their rules are silly and demeaning doesn’t change that; it means LW accepts the rules or tries to get them changed by showing them the consequences of their rule: LW and bf stay in a hotel, or don’t come.
        Then the parents have to decide whether to (a) allow adults to sleep together, or (b) see them a lot less. If the parents are worth anything, they’ll scrap the rule.

        If they don’t scrap the rule, then LW needs to reevaluate her relationship with her parents and decide what it’s worth to her.

        * The business about enforcing the rule on vacations is mind-boggling, and would be a deal breaker.

        1. To me, the rule is religious abuse (until you submit to this religious ceremony, you will be punished), and house ownership doesn’t give parents the right to abuse their children. YMMV.

          1. Honestly, enough with the “religious abuse.” The parents have sincerely held (and legally protected) religious beliefs and they are allowed to set up a home that accords with those views and ask that behavior that conflicts with those views not take place in their. own. home. It wouldn’t be religious abuse for a Muslim family to ask you not to drink in their home or a Jewish family to ask that you not bring pork to dinner. They are free to make those rules, you are free to not abide by them (elsewhere). Nobody is being forced to participate in a religion or a religious activity. Nobody is being “punished” or “abused” for having different views. That’s absolute nonsense and frankly offensive to people who actually have suffered from religious persecution or domestic abuse.

          2. It’s interesting. Even God himself gives people free choice to “sin” or not, rather than enforcing and preventing it himself….

          3. Honestly, enough with the “religious abuse.”

            @Shelby, um, I’m a survivor of religious abuse and I’m bringing that to the table with my comments. I’m sorry if my perspective is bothering you, but I’m unable to turn it off.

          4. I’m sorry that that happened to you, but I really think that whatever experiences you had are clouding your judgment about what’s going on here. This is just simply not abuse, religious or otherwise, and I’m not a fan of diminishing that (very important) word.

          5. Shelby, telling an abuse survivor that she’s diminishing the word abuse by labeling abuse when she sees it is really not okay. Please stop replying to me now, thank you.

          6. Shelby: not having pork or alcohol or caffeine in the house is one thing, and I wouldn’t call it abusive. Not allowing unmarried couples to sleep together is not something I would personally call abusive. Not allowing someone to sleep on a mattress or even inside the building unless they do something that they don’t want to do, and continuing that prohibition indefinitely, is something that would have me seriously considering calling Child Protective Services if it were being done to a minor. Doing it to an adult is, at the very best, unbelievably poor behavior and a fantastic way to wreck your relationship with your adult children.

            Before Mr. OtherBecky and I were married, none of our various parental units let us sleep together when visiting. Given that we weren’t living together and did intend to get married someday, it wasn’t worth fighting for. But if my family had made him sleep on the floor, or in a tent outside, I would not have gone back. Same if his family had done that to me.

          7. The fact that their rules are religious abuse doesn’t change that they own the house and are entitled to control what happens in it.
            I hear you about religious abuse, and I pretty much agree. The fact that LW’s parents try to control sleeping arrangements not in their home indicates to me that they are hard-core and want far more control over their children’s lives than they are entitled to. That’s a recipe for abuse.
            But the fact that LW’s parents are asshats does not diminish their right to control what happens in their house, and it doesn’t give LW any rights to their house. If LW just ignores them and sleeps with her bf in their house, it’s just going to cause ugliness and drama.
            Thing is, LW’s parents don’t have the right to force LW to stay with them, so LW can tell them, change the rule or we are staying in a hotel/not coming.
            They have the right to control what happens in their house. They have the choice whether to welcome their family or enjoy the comfort of an empty house.

            That puts the ball in the parents’ court and forces them to decide what’s more important to them, their rules or their daughter.
            If they decide their rules, LW knows what she needs to know about them, and has to decide how important her parents are to her. If it were me, I’d tell them to fuck off and the Jesus-raptor they rode in on. The only question would be whether I’d let them have any contact with me after that.

          8. You are assuming that a full Catholic ceremony is required, but LW’s parents may (as many of the other parents mentioned here did) simply want A wedding of some sort. Some “real” commitment that cannot be broken except through lengthy legal process and painful dividing up of stuff. If you knew for a fact that they’d be allowed to sleep in the same room if they got married at the courthouse or wherever, would you still call it “religious abuse”?

          9. If you knew for a fact that they’d be allowed to sleep in the same room if they got married at the courthouse or wherever, would you still call it “religious abuse”?

            Why does it matter to you what I think?

            I’ve given the LW my opinion. I’ve careful couched everything in I-statements and “ymmv” language. I’ve shared the background that gives me my lens.

            I’m frankly astonished at the number of commenters who seem determined to fight with me about this, including one person saying that I’d be an unfit parent. (I’m infertile and yes that stung.)

            Why, honestly, do you need to closely parse the opinion I gave to someone else? Give your own opinion, or don’t, would be my advice. Unless you literally are the parents in this example, I don’t see how my opinion harms anyone.

            It’s frankly weird to me.

          10. “Why, honestly, do you need to closely parse the opinion I gave to someone else? Give your own opinion, or don’t, would be my advice. Unless you literally are the parents in this example, I don’t see how my opinion harms anyone.”

            The lengths that some commenters went to dismiss or parse your statements weird to me, too.

            I didn’t personally have the lens of “abuse” when I read the letter, but I also don’t think that the partner is actually welcome at family celebrations and the LW would do well to factor that in to their decisions. I’m frankly appalled at the number of commenters ganging up on someone who says “Hey, I’m a victim of this type of abuse and this situation is pinging my radar, YMMV.” Why is someone offering a perspective based on their own read of a situation so threatening to other people, and why were people’s reactions – to immediately dismiss and discount the perspective of the survivor – so depressingly predictable? The “Describing abuse you’ve experienced trivializes real abuse” is such a straw man, and “You’d be a terrible parent” = just fucking mean.

            “My house, my rules” can be a really valuable principle in setting boundaries and having boundaries and rules doesn’t equal abuse. Good news, nobody said that it did! However, if you’re having a lot of “my house, my rules” conflicts with someone I think it’s a good idea to examine the underlying relationship. How actually welcome are you at someone’s place/how welcome are they in yours…when “WELL IT’S MY HOUSE, SO MY RULES APPLY” is the territory of your discussions?

            I’ve been teaching and on some deadlines and haven’t been able to moderate very closely, for which I’m sorry. Speaking of hosts and guests, it’s pretty un-fun to read pages of people being mean to each other in my space!!! Can this be a reminder that we are all imagining stories about people we don’t know and giving our best opinions, and someone can imagine something different from you without you needing to defend the honor of the version of the story you’ve imagined?

        2. I’m not saying that the LW’s parents don’t actually have the authority to determine what goes on in their house or that people are agreeing with the rule. I just saw a lot of comments that seemed to hand-wave over the “my house, my rules” thing and suggest that the LW shouldn’t push back on the actual rule. There are a lot of “well, it IS their house, so stay in a hotel or go less often” comments. But we aren’t talking about pushing back on which bed the SO gets to sleep in. We are talking about people telling the LW that her SO has to sleep on the floor or outside in a tent after he walked through shit to help them. That is so far beyond acceptable hospitality and so far beyond the way that decent people treat other people. They aren’t just being sticklers for a rule. They are actively punishing the LW’s SO for shacking up with their kid. And THAT is something that I think the LW needs to push back against, in a show of solidarity with her SO. This isn’t just about sleeping arrangements. This is about, “Parents, SO is my partner and you are treating him horribly.” The specific details of the treatment don’t actually matter.

          1. Agreed, and I wonder if the problem is that this Christian rule is so common? (Abuse is common. Common doesn’t make it non-abusive.)

            Reframe: My atheist domestic partner has to sleep on the floor or ground until he undergoes a Wiccan handfasting ceremony with our High Priestess. We absolutely refuse to ever do this, so how can I tell my parents that the floor is for dogs not darlings?

          2. Agreed. It sends a terrible message to the LW’s partner to expect him to put up with this shit (especially as well as the actual sewage issue :-). Expected to sleep outside on a family vacation, just to cater to the sensibilities of people who know very well that the LW and partner live together? It’s awful.

            Let It Be Awkward is a motto of this site, and the LW should consider doing that and stopping these efforts to have her and especially her partner absorb the awkwardness that her parents are doling out. They won’t change if they’re catered to.

          3. Literally. He literally walked through shit. I do not know what else someone would have to do – I think literally. Walking. Through. Actual. Shit. should be enough. And for everyone engaging in the “it’s their house, it’s their rules!” fapping, I do actually think there is a difference between “unmarried couples don’t sleep together in my house, so here is a comfy guest room/bed for your SO!” and “SO gets to spend the night outside. In a tent.” The former, while kind of annoying, I think could be tolerable.

            Being told to sleep outside in a fucking tent like a dog is not okay, and is so far beyond the bounds of what I consider hospitable. I would NEVER be ok with telling a GUEST that they could sleep the fuck outside. If I wanted to sleep outside, you know what I’d do? I WOULD GO CAMPING. If I showed up at someone’s house and was told that hey, guess what! I’m sleeping outside! In a tent! I would be nope-ing out of that situation SO fast.

      3. Also, note that they put HIM in a tent. They didn’t sleep in a tent so that their daughter could have one bed and her partner could have another. They didn’t send their child outside to sleep in a tent. They didn’t draw straws. I think that’s a really hostile act.

        If I were in a tend during anything other than a camping trip or maaaaaaabye a situation where the family tradition was that a bunch of younger people slept outside in a group so they could stay up and drink, I’d probably be off to a hotel and definitely wouldn’t be up for returning in following years.

        1. LOL at the idea of the parents sleeping in the tent. It gave me a mental image of the principled parents decamping to a hotel *themselves* rather than sleep under the same roof with unmarried bed-sharers. Nobody’s brought up that option yet…

          1. It is funny! But I’m also imagining what this would look like if this didn’t involve any parent-child dynamics or any squeamishness about sex. Let’s say the parents were visited by the president, or the pope, or their very oldest couple of married friends who they hadn’t seen in years. Let’s say they genuinely didn’t have any room. Would they ask any of those people to sleep in a tent? I’m guessing they’d quickly think of something creative, and that if push came to shove, they might at least consider whether they should take the tent themselves.

            If they’d do that for a guest they really valued, then I think it says something that they treat their child’s partner so shabbily.

          2. Yes, I completely agree. I also think it makes a difference, as laughingrachel says below, whether the tent situation is hierarchical (“Hello darling daughter, you can have your old room, your sister can have her old room, Cousin Jeremiah can have the guest room, Auntie and Uncle can have the pull-out couch, we’re in our room, and your SO can have the tent behind the garage”) vs more-or-less equitable (“Everybody who doesn’t fit in the house gets a blow-up mattress/sleeping bag/tent, let’s divide it up so no guys and girls are sharing unless married”). I also think it’s way more common in these latter situations for people who are (1) young and (2) male to end up getting the less-comfortable or more rustic arrangement. That’s not necessarily a pointed gesture of contempt; for some families it’s a cultural norm, like making the lone Growing Boy in the family eat whatever’s left over at dinner even though he’s not hungry and all his sisters are sitting right there. From the outside it looks awkward and sexist, but from the inside (at least to the ones doing it) it’s like “duh, he’s the boy, a little benevolent sexism never hurt anyone.”

        2. I don’t know about any other families, but at my (very large) family reunions, we often have multiple tents set up outside for the younger generation as overflow. Now that we’re all growing up, we’ve started becoming a more hotel – oriented family, but I grew up sleeping in tents, on blow up mattresses and camp cots and what-not (for some cousins well into their 20’s) and didn’t even think it was weird at all so I kind of glossed over the whole tent thing originally.

          So I guess my question is, is the boyfriend alone in the tent?? Or is there a whole tier of guests who are offered the tent? Is it like a bunch of younger male cousins are all in the tent so “Boyfriend can join them and it’ll be like a guy’s night!!” or w/e. My family was also very into having a ‘miscellaneous boy’s room’ and a ‘miscellaneous girl’s room’ for any unattached cousins or cousins who didn’t have a bed in the room given to their specific family, or possibly significant others of cousins who didn’t feel comfortable sharing a room or were maybe hinted at that they shouldn’t.

          I’m just wondering because if that’s the situation, the parents might not have even thought about how rude putting him out in a tent would be. If it’s a ongoing and totally accepted family tradition that a certain group sleeps out there. If he’s OUTSIDE in a tent ALONE?!? That would be way over the line in my opinion. Very isolating and making you not feel welcome. So over-the-line in fact that I didn’t even consider it until I realized that’s what most commenters were thinking.

          Being one of the babies of 28 first cousins, most of this got sorted into compromises before I was ever an adult and I had few tensions to deal with. Most recently, my mom made hotel arrangements so that my live-in boyfriend and I could share a bed but we were sharing a room with my single older brother. So basically she gave us a chaperone, but I didn’t care because I wasn’t really looking for sexy-times anyway and was perfectly happy just being able to sleep next to my SO.

    3. I missed that they pulled this crap on prior vacations. (I thought the upcoming vacation was the first time they pulled out separate sleeping accommodations.) Yeah, no. Not OK. Not in the least. And I think an apology to the SO is in order, too, because there should’ve been a line in the sand about making him sleep in a tent on a vacation. (I could *possibly* see moving people outside if it’s a full house for some family shindig and the house is full of people who physically can’t sleep in a tent with good tent-sleeping weather. Or offering to help pick up their hotel tab.)

      1. Like, I literally cannot imagine a house so full that a guest MUST sleep in a tent. If that was to accommodate their “young lady we raised you not to touch boy-privates” rule – and it seems to have been! – then they’ve behaved egregiously poorly as hosts.

        1. I have slept in a tent at my partner’s grandparents’ house! I was fine with it because a) it was partner’s sister’s wedding and there was literally no sleeping space left in the house with privacy (I could have slept on the couch, I guess, but it’s all open concept and other people get up way earlier than me) and, most importantly, b) PARTNER SLEPT IN THE TENT WITH ME. Because his family was not only fine with that, but specifically invited me to sleep in his tent. (Uh, context: I had booked a hotel room but couldn’t really afford it when the time came, so I asked if I could stay at the family house. They were like, yeeees, but people are already sleeping outside in tents! You could sleep in (my partner/their grandson)’s tent?). Oh and c) it was summer and the weather was great, so we were perfectly warm and dry.

          With a previous partner, we had to sleep in separate rooms at his dad’s house and both his grandparents’ houses, and typically he would get a spare bed and I’d be on a floor somewhere. In one house, I was on the floor of a sewing room that didn’t even have enough space for me to lie straight out. THAT made me feel much less welcome and much less respected. (Come to think of it … Even at his mum’s, we were supposed to be sleeping separately. We just didn’t, because both our sleeping places were in the basement and no one else was sleeping down there. I think his mum knew or suspected and didn’t care too much – she just liked having the extra Air Mattress of Plausible Deniability.)

          1. I was about to suggest that the LW could join their SO in the tent next time. Hey, the tent isn’t under anyone’s roof! It would have the added benefit of highlighting how weird/unacceptable it is for the SO to be treated that way if anyone wonders why the parents own kid is out in the backyard.

  31. Ooh, this was me and my husband before we got married. By which I mean, this was me and my husband literally up until the day we got married – we stayed with my parents for a week before the wedding, and even then we had to sleep on opposite ends of their house, on separate floors. With the creaky stairs over my parents’ room between us.

    Frankly we only put up with it because we visited so infrequently – I think there were maybe three mutual visits total pre-marriage. There have been none since (though my parents have visited us… and we make sure they have a room in a nearby or can stay in our complex’s guest suite, so they’re not exposed to our Horrible Sex Sins or Improperly Cleaned Shower… or the Uncomfortable Futon of We’re Not Giving You Our Bed).

    I don’t really have any advice, but I wish you luck, LW! Hopefully you guys can work it out.

  32. I wish I knew more about this year, & grandma, and if it actually does matter this particular year? Like if you will BOTH be sleeping on the floor, then, probably no need to bring up the convo this year. For sleeping situations within their house, you might as well wait until there is actually a potential-bed-in-question available.
    I also wish I knew more about when everyone was in a bed but S.O. was outside in a tent, it sounds kind of sad when said out loud / written down, everyone indoors with S.O. outside by himself on the ground. 😦 Like, use-it-while-making-your-case, preposterous situation kind of sad.
    At any rate, it sounds like it will be necessary to bring up the convo before separate-dorm-vacation-palooza!
    If you are doing gift-exchanges, you could also get everybody joint gifts from “Me & S.O.” to further treat yourselves as a unit that goes together.

  33. I remember having a boyfriend where we visited at Christmas and he warned me we wouldn’t be able to sleep together. Lo and behold we were led to the same room. Turns out logistics wouldn’t work if we slept separately. So this may be a problem that corrects itself. Beyond that go the hotel route but I’d just do it quietly without the “you’re not going to make us sleep separately” line. Let them make the decision.

  34. When I was in college, I went down to visit my folks for some holiday or other. They could only afford a plane ticket one way, so my then-boyfriend/eventual 1st husband drove 400+ miles each way, on a holiday weekend, so he could drive me back since I didn’t own a car and couldn’t afford a ticket myself. All so I could spend the holidays with my folks. He did me – and them – a huge favor.

    He arrived in the afternoon, and we were to leave the next day. It wasn’t until bedtime, late at night, that they declared that he wouldn’t be sleeping on the floor of my brother’s room, or the couch, as I assumed, but that my Dad was going to drive him to Dad’s church (Dad was the pastor there), and have him sleep in the coffee hour area. Locked in the church, with the alarm on.

    I blame the fact that I was a people pleaser, middle child, broke and blindsided for the fact that – though I was outraged and embarrassed – then-boyfriend ended up sleeping on the floor in the church. If I’d had more warning than, “Say goodnight, we’re getting in the car now,” I hope I would have had enough dignity and guts to say, “Never mind. Can’t stay. We’re both leaving now. You can mail my things.” Hindsight can be uncomfortable.

    The relationship between my parents and my now-ex-husband never really recovered and we did our best over the 14 years we were married to never stay at their place again, and visit as seldom as possible. Even after marriage.

    How does your partner feel about this? If you and your partner are committed to not ever getting married, you’re going to eventually have to have this conversation with your folks. I can’t imagine your partner, at 45 or 50 or 65, being thrilled at spending yet another holiday outside, on the ground.

    If he doesn’t mind, no rush. But if it’s going to eventually damage any possibility of a comfortable relationship with your parents, then nipping this in the bud sooner rather than later might be a good idea.

    On the other hand, I LOVE the hotel idea. It solves so many problems.

    Current-husband and I stay in hotels whenever possible, now, when visiting our families. Plus, since we mostly work nights, avoiding the passive-aggressive ever-louder-dish-clinking-and-door-shutting that happens when our up-at-6-am-everyday hosts think we’re horrible slackers for still being in bed at 8 am is worth every penny.

    1. This, so much. If they really don’t want the religious ceremony being demanded, then this is going to continue to be a problem for years. And the LW kinda said as much–she’s asked how to tell her parents that this isn’t okay with her.

      I have all the sympathy for her and her SO.

      1. I’m sympathetic, too. It’s not an easy situation.

        But if parents are thinking “it’s only for a year or two… they’re going to get married eventually,” well then “their house, their rules” seems a little more reasonable than the in the case of LW’s reality, which is that there’s never going to be a wedding. Then the parents are going to either have to bend their rules, or LW’s partner is going to be facing being treated like Unwelcome Perv for the next 3 decades, which changes the equation drastically in my opinion.

        It’s not the parents’ fault, completely, if they haven’t been told that there’s never going to be a wedding. They may see observing conventions for a year or two as no big hardship. I can understand if the LW hasn’t wanted to have that conversation… why would you? But I also think it’s important information for the parents, since LW’s long term monogamous but not church-blessed union is something they’re eventually going to have to face, like it or not.

        1. It’s not just the partner, though he’s important. There’s also sisterly solidarity to consider here.

          And the inestimable benefit of modelling sensible adult behaviour for any younger siblings and cousins who really don’t want the teaching-older-generation-how-to-behave-decently baton passed to them in the generational relay race to establish, maintain, challenge or change standards of family interaction. It has to stop somewhere, some time. Now is the time. The “place” seems to be up to the outcome of your conversations-emails-arguments with your parents.

          It’s time for you and your sister to deal with this – more or less as a team. Only you two know whether doing it literally in concert or as two separate individuals with the same issue, similar solutions, similar approach is the better approach. But now is the time to draw a firm bright boundary over this issue. Whether it means you joining SO in a tent or a hotel or whatever is up to you. But it has to be done.

    2. “avoiding the passive-aggressive ever-louder-dish-clinking-and-door-shutting that happens when our up-at-6-am-everyday hosts think we’re horrible slackers for still being in bed at 8 am is worth every penny”

      Oh yeah, that. I don’t see my parents often, but one of the more recent times we slept under the same roof I had a huuuuuge dose of this. Between about 8 and 10 in the morning, the “Is SHE still not up yet? God, I wish I could stay in bed all day! I was hoping for some family time, but SOME PEOPLE have decided not to get out of bed yet!” got louder and louder and louder, at one point even involving the opening of my bedroom door just to ensure I could hear I was being talked at in the third person.

      The funny thing was I’d actually been up since 7 but was busy doing stuff and didn’t particularly want to spend time with them. The even funnier thing? It was MY. FUCKING. HOUSE.

      Good times!

      1. oh my GOD. when i was still living with my parents i used to get so frustrated by my dad leaving chores for me to do by telling me to do them WHILE I WAS STILL ASLEEP. and then they didn’t get done, naturally, and he’d get mad at me for not doing them. that didn’t stop until i left for a year at college, haha.

        1. My first husband and I worked differing shifts, so I was usually in bed asleep when he got home. He would regularly ask me to do some kind of errand the next day when I woke up just enough to acknowledge that he was home and would get mad when I didn’t remember. He kept doing this even though I asked him repeatedly to just leave me a fucking note. Notice he’s my ex.

      2. Oh God. My mom would do that to me when I was home from college. It was a 2-3 hour time difference, so what was 7 a.m. for her was like 4 a.m. for me. Fun times. Only not.

    3. That is AWFUL, I’m sorry.

      I have this issue with my grandmother, who insists I go to Mass (7:30 am!) Mass with her every.day. that I stay with her. I am not a Catholic. I am on vacation. I do not want to wake up at 6:30 am (because even though the church is 5 minutes away and it takes me ten minutes to get ready, she has to start opening to door at 6:30 am to check that I’m awake!) to go to a church that I don’t believe in for a ceremony I can’t participate in.

      The result is that I don’t visit her nearly as often as she’d like. Which she is sad about. But too bad! If going to Mass > me actually visiting, I won’t visit as often.

  35. A lot of the comments so far are about parents relenting – many parents feel a need to at least give lip service to a moral rule and Make It Known How They Feel. But that doesn’t always mean they’re going to strictly enforce it. In this case, it sounds like the LW needs to be a little *more* confrontational to let their parents know how they really feel. The parents just might double-down, but it sounds like they’re going for the path of least resistance because it’s worked so far and no one has raised a fuss.

    It’s great that the LW respects their beliefs, but often times being “respectful” and non-confrontational can actually hinder family progress. I’m pretty non-confrontational and encountered a similar issue with my family – turns out, they needed to State How They Felt about my SO and I sharing rooms.. and didn’t expect me as the good kid to push back or try otherwise.

    1. I noticed that too about so many parents relenting. In the LW’s case, her sister is indeed making a fuss, but no one has taken the step yet of saying, “Ok, we’ll stay in a hotel.” That seems to be the tipping point for a lot of the parents mentioned here, when suddenly it’s less a matter of principle than priorities.

      1. I totally agree – I just mention that the parents are using the LW’s lack of pushback as being complicit, and voicing that she agrees with the sister could be a tipping point (just like saying ‘We’ll stay in a hotel’ could be).

  36. Having said stay in a hotel! I’ll tell my experiences.

    In my 30s, my GF’s parents did not let us share a room (I am a woman). She was more upset than I because she though they were disrespectful. But I, I kind of giggled because really, the thought of having sex in her parents’ house dried me up right quick.

    But, while my parents wouldn’t have cared, it was a non issue. She and I lived in my home town’s

    So here’s the thing: it’s less that your parents disapprove of non marital sex (10 will get you 20 that they had non marital sex) and more that they are freaked at the idea of their kids having sex at all.

    Any excuse to keep it from happening / pretend it didn’t ever happen.

    In my case the excuse was lesbian sex, in your case the excuse is pre/non marital sex.

    You can safely push this.

  37. Here’s a possible approach.

    Talk to your sister about this issue, and ask her how she’d feel about maybe getting a hotel or staying elsewhere as a solution. If your sister is game, go to your parents with a script like this.

    “Hey Mom & Dad, I know that the idea of unmarried couples sharing a bed makes you uncomfortable, and so Sister and I are looking for alternative places to stay where we can sleep like we usually do, and you don’t have to have us under your roof. You know this town way better than we do. Do you have any suggestions on places we should look at?”

    This informs your parents that you consider this a big issue, and are considering staying elsewhere, while keeping the tone friendly and starting a conversation. If they’re going to change their minds, this script gives them ample opportunity. If they get angry at you or start guilting you, then you can shut it down with a “Clearly this has upset you. I’ll talk to you later. Bye”

    1. I love this script. If hotels are scarce, and this is the sisters’ hometown, maybe house sitting for a friend’s family over the holidays might be an inexpensive option. I know some people who would have been delighted to not have to leave their house unoccupied over the holidays while they were visiting their own families.

  38. I came from a family like this!

    My first boyfriend’s family was also similar, they insisted we sleep in separate rooms.

    My second family’s boyfriend totally turned it over. His parents offered us THEIR ROOM and made the bed for us with fresh RED SATIN SHEETS. I tried to refuse but he said we were lucky to be offered a double bed at all and I deferred. His parents took the couch and recliner. I felt bad but was talked out of it.

    And by the way….there was no sex on those satin sheets in his parent’s bed that night. It was super awkward. I think they were really hoping for grandchildren on the order of NOW. (We were 20 years old!!! come on!)

      1. Totally awkward. I bet they knew full well that any stains or spillages that happened on those sheets would be suuuuuper obvious… yikes.

    1. Aw, now I appreciate my dad. He had satin sheets but didn’t like them, so those were for the pull-out sofa we used for sleepovers. Slipping around (we used the top and the fitted sheet at the same time– never do this with satin sheets!) and giggling about it was a definite highlight of seven-year-old sleepovers…

  39. To all the people stating that parents don’t get to enforce rules in their own house because it’s unfair and a power imbalance:

    1. I am genuinely sorry for whatever problems you have with your parents, and hope you find peace and healing.
    2. You are absolutely, completely, unequivocally, 100% wrong. Abuse is not the same thing as having rules. Abusive parents can use rules as a framework for controlling and hurting their children, but that is abuse. Enforcing reasonable rules that your child doesn’t like is not abuse.
    3. I am wondering if you will get whiplash from how quickly you recant that stance if/when you have kids of your own, or if you will insist that it’s somehow different for you and not realize how hypocritical you’re being. Or, third option, you actually live that philosophy and raise the kind of horrendous, spoiled, entitled children that terrorize the rest of the world.

    1. So, what do you think of the “great, O I respect your rules so much that I will be at a hotel” option? Esp. when, as in the LW’s case, the “rules” mean that their partner spends vacations outside on the ground?

      1. I think it’s a great solution, and it’s one I’ve taken myself when visiting my mom. I completely agree that the LW’s partner’s situation here is not good and they deserve better treatment. On the other hand, I do see a disconnect between saying I want my parents to treat me like a full adult, then turning around and saying I don’t want the responsibility of finding my own vacation place, that’s mom & dad’s job. Your parents don’t give you adulthood; it’s something you take for yourself.

        But my comment was specifically aimed at a few particular commenters who were getting a little over the top with their statements about it being a form of abusive control to try and make people to conform to your rules in your house, and that since parent to child is an imbalance of power, it’s automatically bad for parents to make kids do anything.

    2. Ok, so the LW and her partner pretty much plan to never get married.

      Are you saying that they will, for the rest of LW’s parents’ lives, sleep separately? If LW’s parents make it to the grand old age of 105, LW’s 80 year old partner (hypothetical ages, of course… I have not idea of the real age spread) will be spending his vacations in a tent out in the cold or in the “wrinkly old man’s dorm”?

      Does this get to be, at some point, ridiculous? Or do parents’ morals trump childrens’, forever and ever, amen.

      1. Ha, I used that one on my parents once. I was in a super serious relationship, but my mum’s attitude was the same as if we’d met last week because we were Not Married. I pointed out that my cousin, who’s in his 40s, has been with his partner since they were 25 and have two children together but never plan to marry. I asked her in my best Innocent Voice if they’d have to sleep in separate rooms if they stayed over.

        My mum’s response implied that no, they wouldn’t because they’d obviously had sex already (they had kids) and her letting them sleep together wouldn’t be opening the way for them to do something as hideously immoral as touching each other, because that was already open a long time ago.

        This told me that she assumed I’d never slept with my partner of two years. Okay then.

        1. I really hope you managed to appropriately confuse her by telling you you’ve actually had sex before!

          All joking aside, the thought process here must be quite… intriguing. I mean, if I thought someone hasn’t had sex in two years together that would be because I’d think these people weren’t sexually interested in each other so why on earth would them sleeping in one bed suddenly open the floodgates? And, even more interesting, surely you wouldn’t wait until you’re in her house to actually immorally touch each other – it’s not like you didn’t have the chance to do so the 51 other weeks of the year (or whichever number) where you weren’t at her house! So bizarre.

          1. You know what I think it is? I think it has nothing to do with people’s relationships or actual logic and everything to do with the parents’ attitudes. My mother, for example, didn’t think I was sleeping with my boyfriend because she had never been able to bring herself to think about it. Because sex is such a shameful, dirty thing and all.

      2. No, my original comment wasn’t specifically about the LW. The ridiculous part of that hypothetical is that there is NO REASON for the LW or their partner to go along with it. The LW needs to act the adult she wants to be treated like and talk to her parents. Like the Captain said, they may well just need to discuss for the parents to say ok, we didn’t see it that way, we can change that tradition. Or they may stand firm and she and her partner may need to cut their visits to afford hotel rooms. Or find another family member in the area they can stay with. Just, if this really bothers her, then deal with it.

        My comment was about some comments that were very unreasonable and seemed to be about the commenter’s family, not the LW’s. And reading the replies, I’m starting to wonder why enforcing boundaries and standing by your principles is only a virtue when certain people do it? If the parents truly feel this is something they don’t want in their home, why are they the bad guys for stating their needs? The LW and partner have always been free to say that doesn’t work for them, they need to find another option. They just didn’t find it important enough, until the mother misinterpreted it to the sister. To be clear, I do not agree with the LW’s parents on this issue or on the treatment of the LW’s partner. I just don’t think they are NECESSARILY the evil, controlling assholes they are being painted by some of the commenters.

        1. “I just don’t think they are NECESSARILY the evil, controlling assholes they are being painted by some of the commenters.”

          That’s all fine and well, as long as you aren’t being mean to commenters about their own experiences to defend the honor of strangers, which strangely a lot of people did in this thread.

          Comments closed.

    3. Enforcing reasonable rules with your child while you are raising them that they don’tt like is not abuse, yes. But the process of raising actual children is not what is being discussed here – what is being discussed here is the relationship and boundaries that adults have with other adults who happen to be their parents.

      When your adult children who live on their own come to stay with you, they are no longer your children, they are guests in your home, and insisting that they sleep apart from their partner that they live with because you are uncomfortable with the idea of unmarried people sleeping together is not reasonable.

      1. Exactly! What if the rules that the LW’s parents were trying to enforce were things like curfew or parental-approved dress code or the “clean plate club”? No one would be saying, “Their house, their rules!”

        1. I actually think people would be saying the same thing – don’t visit their house if the requirements/rules for visiting are intolerable/ridiculous.

          The parents don’t have to let the LW stay at her house if she doesn’t want to comply with their rules. Likewise, she doesn’t have to stay at their house if she doesn’t want to comply.

          She is not entitled to their house – but they are not entitled to her company. And my guess is they want her company more than she wants to sleep in their house.

          1. I think people would be saying “Get up and leave/Don’t go,” but also “OMFG that is not OK!” as opposed to the “Eh, their house, what are you going to do?” handwaving that I’m seeing. I also think there would be some advice along the lines of saying in the moment some variation of “That doesn’t work for me + subject change.” i.e. NOT putting up with it in the moment.

  40. Whee, parents and sharing of beds….

    So … after my wife and I (a straight couple) got married and were back from the honeymoon and spending a few nights at my mom’s house before driving across the country to our future home, my mom was doing her planning dance of figuring out who would sleep where since my brother and one or two other family members were also staying in the house.

    My wife says there was a moment of my mom going through, “Brooks will stay in his room upstairs, and brother will have his room, and you can have the fold-out couch, and…” and she gave my mom a look and said “Um,” and there was a bit of mutual looking at each other until my mom said, “Oh, right, you’ll be wanting to stay in Brooks’s room, won’t you.”

    I don’t think she was exactly comfortable with it even at that point, but she was out of reasons to complain, so there we were.

    1. Oh, man. At some point, it’s like… you have to stop letting your discomfort interfere with other peoples lives. It’s a sign of maturity.

      1. This this this this this.

        I have a relative who is super homophobic and when challenged she says, “It just makes me…uncomfortable, that’s all.”

        Then I get to say stuff like “Since when has your personal comfort level meant that anyone else’s love life is any of your business?” and “So you’d be totally comfortable with a random straight couple having sex in front of you?”

  41. I wonder what the consequences would be for LW telling their parents that they just…wouldn’t be following the rule. “Mom, Partner and I have been living together for N years, and we’re having sex on the regular. The thought of having sex in your house is actually really gross to us so we won’t be doing that (also: travel exhaustion and jetlag), but we will be sharing a room this trip. Can’t wait to see you!”

    It’ll be awkward–why not let it? It’s the parents house, yes, but they’re enforcing an unreasonable, outdated rule on a couple they know are already having nonmarital sex and whom they probably know will not be having sex in their house anyway.

    And then, when they’ve arrived, act like it’s a foregone conclusion. Choose to not follow the rule. Have a backup plan, and let the parents look unreasonable and foolish if they try to enforce the no-unmarrieds-sharing-beds thing.

    1. I think going the “We really want to sleep together and thus have booked a hotel” option is so much kinder than dictating sleeping arrangements to your hosts (and your parents.) One is providing options; the other is outright rebellion. They’ll probably both (eventually) generate the same results, but the former option is much more likely to do so peacefully and without fighting/hurting feelings/disrupting everyone’s holidays, including the LW’s.

  42. Since hotels are a big part of the recommendation, I’m going to add a way of thinking about them if (like many people) your finances can’t accommodate several nights in a hotel without there also being some sacrifices from other parts of your budget.

    Your parents’ rules are making it harder for you to visit. That’s a cost you’re already paying in terms of your partner’s physical discomfort, in terms of his being treated unequally and ungraciously, and in terms of whatever tension that may cause in your relationship with each other or with other family members. It might be necessary for you to continue paying that cost, if that’s one you can bear and the financial one isn’t.

    However, you might want to think about it in the same way you would if your parents lived further away, and it cost more in terms of both money and time to visit them. One option in those cases, even when there’s no conflict, is to visit somewhat less often. That’s a solution that’s available for you too, whether it means paying for a hotel less often or dealing with discomfort and mistreatment less often. If you take it, I think it would be wise to link the fact that there are now somewhat fewer visits with the fact that your parents’ rules are making visits taxing. This also has some effect on the sort of parents who don’t actually mind you sleeping in a hotel and who don’t quickly relent when you say you’ll be making plans to do that this year. They might also be fine with fewer visits, but it is a way of making sure that not all of the costs of the rule fall on you and particularly your partner, as they currently have been.

    (Now, I’m not saying you have to do this. If being with family over the holidays is a higher priority for both you and your partner, then I’d say redo the budget and find whatever it is you can live without to make room for the hotel.)

  43. Relevant story from the (NSFW) webcomic Oh Joy Sex Toy can be found here. So I guess this is a warning not to let any loopholes slide by? I mean, I certainly hope your parents are more accommodating than Erika’s mother was, but just in case…

    1. That comic was what got me through the first awkward boyfriend and family under the same roof weekend. 😀 ❤

  44. What a fascinating discussion, with all the undercurrents of control entitlement and beliefs. I feel curious if the people angry at their married parents dictating sleeping arrangements to them, would ever turn the tables if their newly widowed or single parents were now their own houseguests, and wanted to sleep together with their new partners?

    1. Honestly? They’re grown-ass adults and guests in my house, they can sleep with their consenting partners if they feel like it. And if they’re having sex I would prefer they strip the sheets off the bed themselves and ideally be quiet enough that I don’t hear the details.

    2. I think there’s just a point where you have to grow up and acknowledge that your discomfort with other people’s life choices doesn’t actually get to affect how they live their lives (barring ethical consequences).

      Would I be COMFORTABLE with a recently-widowed parent bringing their new person to my house? Not particularly. Should that affect the welcome I extend to my parent and their guest? No.

      Aka: my comfort should not be the dictating factor of someone else’s life.

      1. How far does that go? I certainly don’t think you should be able to invite people and then make them miserable so you can be more comfortable. I do think you can choose who can be a guest in your home, and that it’s okay if some of people who aren’t on the houseguest list are relatives, whatever the reason for that might be. The only thing that dictates is how their holidays end up being spent.

    3. . . . no?

      If the relationship has been going on long enough that the new partner is becoming a fixture at family events and trips (in other words, if I’ve invited them), I would absolutely assume they wanted to share a bed. I would think it absolutely absurd NOT to make that assumption, and cannot actually imagine why one wouldn’t, other than some kind of odd “ick ick ick!” reaction to the idea of someone related to one having sex. Which just strikes me as rather juvenile.

      1. Oh, in my family, it’s not the parents who decide who’s invited to the family events – the kids all invite SOs whenever they want to. It’s understood that all invitations to major holidays include a “+1” of your own discretion.

    4. Sharing a bed just isn’t a trigger for me, so I can’t see myself drawing a boundary there. I can see myself drawing other ones. You don’t have to have your family members as houseguests, and if the relationship were very new, I think I’d probably suggest that we not all stay under the same roof until I had a chance to get to know the new partner better. Visiting them, meeting at a vacation destination, or offering to put them up in a hotel all sound better and kinder. The objection wouldn’t be to presumed sexual activity but to spending all day for several days in a row with someone I might be getting to know or ambivalent about. I don’t think I’d have strong feelings about it once the relationship was established and the new normal.

    5. I can’t even fathom the idea on telling a guest in my house, relative or not, who they could share a room or bed with or not. The whole idea is just deeply shocking and horrendous to me. Like if I was literally ordering them around about their sex life, or telling them to have or not have certain kinds of sex. I would expect total open-mouthed shock as a reaction if I attempted something like this to an adult. Just thinking about it embarrasses me.

      1. Me too. I can feel my skin getting tight just at the thought of having such a conversation. My mum has never brought a partner to stay in my house, but it certainly wouldn’t occur to me to dictate where her putative boyfriend could sleep (she might prefer to sleep separately because, like me, she is a light sleeper who hates to be octopussed, but that’s another issue). But then, she has never tried to stop me sleeping under her roof with a partner, and none of my previous partners’ parents have either. For most people in the UK, once you’re out of your teens it is a non-issue.

      2. I have, on occasion, couch/bed surfed among my friend group and my friends have couch surfed at my house, and we have one ground rule: no bodily fluids in a bed that doesn’t belong to you. You can bring an SO for the night, if that’s what helps you sleep; when couch surfing it’s super hard to get alone time with your partner and we want to respect that. But there’s a large enough contingent of us that are squicked by having sex in someone else’s bed or someone else have sex in their bed or on the couch that the whole house has to share that it just became a blanket group rule. I guess part of it comes down to how much control you have over your own living space as well; if it’s yours and yours alone you don’t have to set any rules if you don’t want to, but if it’s shared at all (friend, spouse with stronger religious views, young child or teenage child you don’t want to have the talkz with yet) sometimes rules are just kinda needed to keep the peace between family members who share the space on a daily basis.

        Obviously some rules are more reasonable then others. Like, I rank no bodily fluids in the bed orders of magnitude more reasonable then no partners in the same bed at all and that slightly more reasonable then no partners under one roof, but I think it’s important that reasonable/unreasonable to us doesn’t actually matter, it’s what’s unreasonable to the LW and at what point they want to put their foot down.

    6. My mother is not married to her long term partner, and I wouldn’t think twice about having them sleep in the same bed (if they wanted to) while staying with me. I would be mortified if my mother’s partner thought he had to sleep outside or in a separate room to appease me. I would give them my bed before I’d let them do that.

      I don’t think I’d even have a problem with them having sex while I was out (I live in a studio), and I’m very prudish.

      I will say that not having a locking door between where I sleep and a strange man would be unacceptable because of my anxiety, but that’s not because I disapprove of or don’t trust my mom.

    7. There are circumstances in which I could imagine being uncomfortable about a parent’s new relationship, but 1) I would consider that my problem, 2) It would hardly be contingent on whether or not they were married* 3) I would take it for granted that by inviting them both to my home I was communicating that I was over it or at least damn well going to act like it.

      *This is the thought I find weirdest! If I hate Mum’s new boyfriend or have some understandable but childish hangups about her sharing a bed with anyone but my father, I’m not going to solve either problem by standing at the door with a shotgun all, “I DON’T SEE NO RING.”

  45. LW, I’m really curious about your partner’s perspective on the situation. Personally, if I went on vacation with my partner’s family and found myself sleeping outside in a tent, then in the future I’d be waving Partner off to enjoy their family vacations without me.

  46. For me I think the question of whether or not you bring this up to your parents depends on how far their willing to go to enforce this rule and what the impact on you and your partner is.

    When my older sister first brought her boyfriend home for visits my parents very much had a separate beds rule. She didn’t bother challenging it because it was their house and we had enough rooms/beds for everyone. Even later on down the road after they graduated college and were living together, there would be some mild mocking from us kids about how illogical that was but we all went along with it, because it wasn’t a huge inconvenience. Then I got a serious boyfriend and all of sudden it went from being a mild annoyance to an actual problem because we didn’t really have enough bed or room space to accommodate four adults separately. At this point there seemed to be a realization among both me, my sister and our parents, that this was now just becoming completely illogical because the two of us stopped really adhering to it and my parents stopped telling us where to sleep.

    See while we thought the rule was kinda of stupid we were willing to go along with it because it could be easily accommodated, but when it reached the point were it was making figuring out sleeping arrangements into a game of human tetris, we figured it was finally worth fighting it. Similarly however much our parents actually cared about the morality of our sleeping arrangements (and honestly to this day I really don’t know how much they cared) It didn’t outweigh their sense of logic to the point where the were willing to have us all spend the visit being cranky and annoyed.

    If your parents can accommodate enforcing this rule, then I might hesitate about confronting them about it. But if enforcing this rules means your partner or your brother’s girlfriend are being forced onto couches, air mattresses or tents when the could easily just share a bed with their partners then I don’t think your overthinking or overstepping to rock the boat. As other have pointed out marriage isn’t always a forgone conclusion for many couples and even then it might be something that isn’t going to happen for some time. Case in point my sister and her boyfriend dated for 8 years before they got married. By that point he actually been a part of my family longer then some of my extend family had known their spouses, But at family functions he would be the one booted to the couch.

    I should also mention that part of why the no sleeping together rule finally collapsed is because we were in the process of planning a family vacation that included both our boyfriends and was something our parents were interested in making a yearly tradition. If your family enough to go on a family vacation you shouldn’t be shafted to a fold out couch.

  47. I really appreciate the way this topic allows us to be thoughtful about respect and turf and beliefs. The key re-occurring issue in the comments is that parents see their adult childrens’ partners – unmarried, queer, etc- as either combatants or nuisances rather than family – privileges extended- or as guests – perhaps different privileges extended. The religious or moral beliefs merely act to justify those characterizations and concomitant behaviors. As a non-reproducing person, I hope that I can be welcoming to future partners of nieces, nephews, partners of friends’ children, etc. We need a better language for young people partnering and bringing said people to family homes.

  48. ‘Your house, your rules’ is perfectly reasonable for enforcing rules _about the house_. Do dishes get put in the sink, or in the dishwasher? If someone for some reason wants to wear shoes indoors (which apparently is common some places), is that allowed? Do you come in the front door or if it’s rainy do you go through the mudroom? Are we all quiet after 10pm because some people want to sleep? Are there rooms in the house whose doors remain closed because they’re not for visitors? If you need toileteries, which cupboards are OK to rummage around in?

    Those are house rules. Who is allowed to touch who or at what times of day or who is allowed to speak to who in private are NOT ‘house rules’. They have nothing to do with the house. I don’t care whose name is on the mortgage or who paid for the food – your mortgage does not extend to my body.

    I can see humouring someone who you know will be embarrased by something. But that’s me choosing to humour them, not something any other person actually has any right to decide but me.

    1. This is very well put. Keeping your kid from sharing a bed with their partner isn’t about running your house how you like it. It’s just being weird and controlling.

    2. Alternatively, it would be different if the house rule was “nobody shares a bed.” It’s not: the LW’s parents share a bed.

      This is closer to a rule that “we get to wear shoes in the house, but our guests don’t” or “only we and anyone we specifically invite gets to smoke inside; the rest of you have to take your cigarettes out in the rain, even if we’re smoking at the same time.”

    3. I really like your way of putting it. House rules about the house totally makes sense. House rules about who guests can choose to sleep with just seem weird and controlling.

      Another thing I feel really weird about with the “my house, my rules” thing in the context of parents saying it to non-adult children is, isn’t it the kid’s house too? Shouldn’t they also get a say in what happens in their home? I really think all “my house, my rules” accomplishes is reminding kids that it’s not their house and their needs don’t count.

  49. I really feel for you LW, I personally avoid ‘talks’ whenever I can. I hope something from the advice & comments will be helpful.

    My family are very open about partners/GF-BF so visits for all of us anywhere are more about logistics than rules. My father and stepmum’s place is an example – with multiple extended families + friends, trad. holidays tend to attract entire villagefuls. It’s a big place: lifestyle block (not quite hobby farm) with a B-&-B + art studio/gallery, but it’s miles from the nearest paved road let alone hotels! Overnighters get to opt for KS bedbed (only the one), or 2x singles, or airbeds/spare mattresses on the floor, spare beds in the gallery, caravans or campervans or, yes, tents outside – BUT only when temperature and prevailing winds allow. We all try to give priority to whoever *needs* ease of access but sometimes it’s first in best served. All space used, no room for quibbling.

    What I’m getting at is, there comes a time when logistics win the toss over rules: how large a group were staying? and was your SO the only one outside? If so did he volunteer or “volunteer”? Also, are there just the 3 siblings, and are you ready to bring the subject up? Cos it sounds as though you’re all on the same page with this… can you talk to your brother & sister and work out a script for ‘the talk’ so your parents get the same message from each of you?

    I’d choose elsewhere here, but my personal thing always comes down to how long is the line for the bathroom – dad has 4 toilets (having said that, this may be my last dad visit this year: reasons). If there aren’t hotels/motels/B&B’s within reach, are caravans/campervans an option? Or, is there a local “rent-a-cabin” that could deliver & pickup?

    Good fortune with whatever you decide ☺i hope you and SO get to enjoy the holidays WHERE-ever and with WHO-ever you choose.

  50. I find this all quite staggering. Are you all in the U.S.? I’m in the UK and feel like these sort of conversations might have happened thirty years ago. I had two Christmases (1985/86) where I was living with my bf but unmarried. I can’t remember what we did but we lived so close to both our parents we didn’t need to stay overnight. I think maybe we had Christmas Day at my parents’ and Boxing Day at SO’s or vice versa. Same in 1987 after marriage. After that we moved 300 miles away (along with SO’s parents). So it was never an issue. But it was with siblings. I’ll have to ask them what happened. I feel like even then it wasn’t much of an issue. My dad’s parents divorced and his mother lived with another man for many years (raising my dad’s much younger sister). The said aunt is only a couple of years older than I am and is the only one who is still happily with the father of her children (they never married). It seems such a non-issue now, the only relevance is legality and why relationships fail so often (I wonder if marriage encourages taking your partner for granted etc).
    I guess I’m entering the generation of the parent here (my kids are 27, 18 & 13), but the 27-year-old is autistic, still dependent and unlikely to ever have a relationship.

    1. *waves* Fellow Brit here, also aghast!

      Given that marriage isn’t something that every couple does here these days, rules like “No ring on her finger, no roof over your head!” would mean virtually all of my mates would be tent-dwelling over the hols! Very few people I know, family and friends alike, are married. My Mam and Dad are, but only one friend is in a civil partnership, nobody else has bothered. You get the same status after three years together anyway. My brother’s never been married either, I doubt he ever will, but he’s had several LTRs

      I’m horrified at the tent thing, it would devastate me.

      1. Scandinavian here.

        When me and my brothers first started dating people (and I dragged home a long-distance boyfriend on weekends), my parents’ response was to buy a pack of condoms and let us know where it was. Horribly awkward, but that was all the pushback they ever gave us on sex and sleeping together. Trying to control where other people SLEEP just seems absolutely bonkers to me.

        1. Another Scandinavian here, and it’s pretty much the same with my parents. Not that my parents have ever given me a pack of condoms, but when I turned 15, they did buy me a slightly larger bed “for when I eventually wanted to have someone sleeping over”. Reading this post, and the comments, even while living in the US now, part of me still feel absolutely baffled at the idea that two adults can not decide themselves if they’re allowed to sleep in the same room/bed.

      2. You get the same status after three years together anyway.

        This is absolutely not true in the UK. There are big legal differences between being married/civil partnered and not. It’s possible to recreate some of the legal consequences of being married via other means (e.g. making sure that you have up-to-date wills) but not all of them (e.g. tenancy rights).

        1. I read it as meaning socially. As in, if you’ve been together for 3+ years people think of you as committed anyway.

      3. Is… is my mother the only person in the UK who does this then?

        I did think it weird when I realised every single partner I’d ever had, had parents who were cool with us sleeping together while my mum wouldn’t even allow us to sit unchaperoned in the bedroom (this until I got married at 32).

      4. The tent thing is a bit odd. I’m guessing that the place was completely full of people and they were running out of places to sleep? Even so “we’ll share the single bed” would be better for me that a *tent* in *December* (oh wait, was this a different holiday occasion?).

        I’ve “had” to sleep in twin beds at my OH’s parents’ place (because one of their two spare rooms as twin beds in it, I can hardly expect them to go furniture shopping for me! but the next time his brother (and his wife, and child) got the twin room and we got the double). (I say “had” because I didn’t *have to go* – an option well worth considering if you parents/out-laws are being total dicks about the situation; I see no mention of LW’s partner’s parents in this letter, would going to visit them be an option for the holidays this year?).

        My parents made surprisingly little fuss when my brother brought his gf to stay one year. They made an enormous fuss when I went to stay at my OH’s parents’ for Christmas though. (I think they’ve mostly gotten over that by now).

    2. I’m seeing two major possible causes behind the cultural differences here: the different roles of religion in society (including the ever-lingering Puritanism that still affects so much of public discourse), and health insurance. Before same-sex marriage became legal, it wasn’t unusual for even fairly progressive workplaces to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners, but not to opposite-sex partners unless they were married. And before Obamacare, getting health insurance that wasn’t through an employer could be ruinously expensive. (And even after Obamacare, it’s still pretty costly.) There are other legal and financial incentives to marriage in the US — being able to inherit after the spouse’s death without paying the estate tax, having medical and financial powers of attorney — but I don’t know how those work in the UK.

      Of various friends and relatives, I can think of one couple who have no intention of ever marrying.

  51. Your parents sound as though their hearts are baaaaaaasically in the right place and they love you and are willing to accept your partner as part of the family. The problem seems to be that they have a much different threshold for when to draw that line: they have it set at marriage, and you seem to quite sensibly have it set at cohabitation and wading through sewage. It sounds as though you don’t want to make a fuss, but you do want to make sure that their unfortunate misconception is cleared up. You’re committed to this guy, he’s committed to you, and since your parents may not have realized in the absence of a more formal announcement, you’re pointing it out to them now. (What you do in bed together is none of your parents’ business unless it’s creating enough racket to wake up the neighbors and/or scare the horses.)

    “Hi parents. I wanted to make sure we cleared up any misunderstandings before the holiday. In past years you have treated [name] as a guest and he has graciously taken the tent/floor. Now that we have moved in together and after last year’s plumbing catastrophe, I would like you to consider him a member of the family. He is my partner, and there is no need to make him sleep in a tent or on the floor. We can share the [appropriately sized sleeping surface], and on the upcoming vacation, we will be sharing a room. You can ask [brother], but I’m sure he’d prefer to share a room with [girlfriend] as well.”

    I had a really entertaining discussion with my mother when I was 19 and wanted to spend the night with my boyfriend. I’d been off at college; now that I was back at home I was depending on my parents for rides. Mama went off on a several minute rant about how she knew I had to have been Doing Things at college, but how could I just ask her for permission to spend the night with a boy like that, what kind of mother did I think she was!!! I waited until she wound down, and then quietly but firmly said that I was not asking her permission to sleep with this guy: I was over 18, so it was not my place to ask her for permission, nor her place to grant it. I just wanted to know if either of my parents could give me the ride to his house in the evening and pick me up the following morning. (And into the stunning silence that followed, my dad volunteered to give me the ride.)

    1. I had a similar thing where I called my mother to let her know I’d be sleeping at my “friend’s” house, although mine devolved into shouting “WHAT IF I WAS A LESBIAN MOM?! YOU’VE BEEN FINE WITH ME SLEEPING WITH WOMEN FOR YEARS!”
      It made me so angry that I could have unchaperoned time in bed with my female friends BEFORE I turned 18 and was an adult, but once I was 18 and made that decision about a male friend? INSTANT JUDGEMENT
      And granted, I am not bi or gay, but it still rankled.

    2. (I imagine that if your parents double down on the No You Are Not Sharing A Bed Under My Roof Until You Are Married stance, it would be time to pull out the Thanks Awfully For Letting Us Know That We’re Not At All Welcome To Sleep Under Your Roof Anymore, Time To Head For That Hotel stance.)

  52. I’m not sure from the letter whether the parents make these arrangements pointedly or just out of thoughtless habit. If the latter, then a plain “actually, mother, you’re wrong: I was too polite to bring it up, but since sister did, let’s make clear that I’m also really uncomfortable about this and would very much like to share room with my partner from now on” should suffice.
    It’s probably a cultural thing, but going to a hotel without stating your problem and seeing if there’s a solution first seems most offensive to me. That’s a move I’d suggest saving for the case negotiations fail, not the first thing to do when you haven’t yet spoken up even once.
    But I admit I’m coming from a different place, so there’s that. I don’t even understand why your parents would care how you siblings’n’partners divide the given bulk of sleeping space among yourselves. (Of course, my parents were assuming boyfriend and I would share a room since the very beginning. My father’s devout catholicism wasn’t a factor, but then, he doesn’t object to nonmarital sex at all as long as it’s in a serious, committed relationship. And also, sleeping in the same room does not automatically equal “sex” in our culture.)

    1. Yeah, my parents might find ‘by the way we’re sharing a room’ awkward or embarrassing perhaps, but ‘we’re staying in a hotel’ would feel like a massive big deal to them. I think it would have to be introduced very diplomatically not to feel hurtful. And so much of the socialising in my family happens over breakfast or late in the evening, it really would change the holiday.

  53. My grandparents tried that with my uncle.

    How he announced he had a girlfriend/fiancee, who was pregnant: ‘I’ll be moving to $place.’ Them: ‘Why?’ Him: ‘Because I want to live with my wife and kid.’

    Said girlfriend, who became my godmother later on, was visibly pregnant the first time she visited my grandparents. Cue grandma worrying where she should sleep.
    Uncle: ‘With me in my room, of course.’
    Grandma: ‘What will the neighbours think?!’
    Uncle: ‘She’s visibli pregnant. That horse has bolted long ago.’

    So they slept in the same bed.

    1. And how will the neighbors know (and why would they care?) who slept where? Unless you run into them and instead of catching up on news they quiz you about the sleeping arrangements. And you decided they need to know, and answer their questions. More likely the neighbors notice pregnant girlfriend and make happy noises and offer congratulations and don’t inquire too closely about when the baby was conceived.

      1. I think they tell the neighbors. My mother used to tell me how horrified her co-workers were about various things I did and how it was lowering their opinion of her, and since I have never met any of her co-workers, there was no way for them to know any of these things other than her telling them. It’s an extra stick to beat the children with.

  54. Get a hotel. Get a hotel. Getahotelgetahotelgetahotel (assuming it’s financially feasible).

    Seriously, I am so over people being shitty and rude to guests because of religion or “values” or “morals” or whatever, from trying to shove meat off onto the vegetarian to not letting same-sex couples share a room. You know what? If your religion or “values” or “morals” or whatever are so goddamnfuckingimportant, NEVER HAVE GUESTS OVER EVER and maybe also seal up your house and live inside in a little bubble where you get everything exactly how you want it, forever and ever amen. Argy bargy.

  55. Also, as someone who is heading out of town to visit relatives of an SO (we are staying in a hotel!) I will be good and goddamned if I have to sleep on the couch or the floor of someone’s house when there are enough beds on MY vacation time that I PAID FOR to visit people when I could be at home sleeping in my comfortable bed FOR FREE so they can make some sort of point. I am TOO OLD FOR THAT SHIT.

  56. Totally into Get a Hotel.

    My husband and I were together four years before we got married, and my dad is moderately conservative (he’s a pastor) and my MIL is a moderate/liberal Catholic but neither of them were cool with us sharing a bedroom on visits before we got married. Thankfully both houses had enough space that there was no tent involved.

    What’s funny to me is that now we’ve been together twelve years, married eight, and my BIL was living with a woman, married her, then they got divorced, now he’s with another lady and it was like, as soon as Husband and I got married, the rules no longer applied to BIL. Married or no he’s shared rooms with both his major significant others at his parents’. I like to think I paved the way. 😛

  57. My husband is a few years older than I am and when we got engaged, I was 21 and he was 27. The first time I met his mother (who lived overseas) was at Christmas during my last year of college, in a different state than the one in which he lived. I had driven up to spend the last week with him before break ended and she had come to visit him for the holiday. Also, he lived in a one bedroom apartment then. So of course, he gave up his bed for his mother and he had an air mattress in the living room. When I got there and it was time for bed, she was rather insistent that it would be perfectly fine with her if I joined her in the bedroom, “because it would be more comfortable for me.” I told her that I would be very comfortable in the living room with him and that she shouldn’t worry about me, but she was very, very insistent that I should sleep with her in the bedroom. Finally, I just put my foot down and said that I would be fine in the living room and that I was sure she was a perfectly lovely person, but I wasn’t comfortable sleeping in the same bed as a person I’d only met a few hours before and so I’d be sleeping in on the air mattress with my fiance, thank you very much. All this went down while he was in the shower, though, and she didn’t bring it up again in his presence. I asked him later what she did when she visited before me, as he’d lived with a previous SO for a few years, and he said that they’d had in a two bedroom place and he always slept on the couch when she visited. To me, that is just completely ridiculous for her to assume that her 20-something son living with a woman he presumably had strong romantic feelings for wasn’t actually doing that woman while they lived together. Just as it was ridiculous for her to assume that he and I weren’t doing anything (not that we would have with her in the next room, but still, it isn’t like it never happened ever, either).
    Needless to say, I was not her favorite person in the world for a long time, until I produced her first grandson. Then all of a sudden I was gold.

  58. [CN: Disability, Sexual Assault]

    After having slept on it, here’s the situation as I understand it.

    1. The parents don’t have a (stated) problem with the LW and SO sleeping together if-and-only-if they undergo a religious ceremony that they don’t want to have.

    2. Until the LW and SO have this religious ceremony that they intend never to have, the SO will be punished. This punishment includes:

    a. Sleeping on the ground in a tent, which can be physically painful. (I have a bad back; maybe he does not.)

    b. Sleeping in a room with people he is not accustomed to sleeping with and possibly would not choose to sleep with. (I have a history where I was sexually assaulted in my sleep; maybe he does not.)

    I use the term “punished” deliberately here; the SO is not being treated like an honored guest and given a bed and a room to himself. The parents aren’t sleeping on the ground, the LW isn’t sleeping on the ground, the SO is.

    3. The parents are using the LW’s silent acquiescence to gaslight the sister (who is affected by these arrangements) by telling her that her emotions are unreasonable and over-reactionary. I note that the sister objected to the “girl dorm” specifically–it is possible that SHE is uncomfortable sleeping with strangers (like the brother’s girlfriend). She is allowed to want her own space while sleeping (which is an inherently vulnerable act).

    4. The LW has asked how to tell her parents that she isn’t happy. I recommend pulling the bandaid off: Mom, I’ve actually been going along with this because I love you and I didn’t want to make a stink, but I’m actually not happy with this.

    Honestly, I’m super alarmed about the gaslighting stuff of “sister is happy; why can’t you be” alongside the religious decision to punish a sexual partner by making him sleep on the ground. Alarm bells that may or may not go off for others, but I will say that you are 100% allowed to find this Very Much Not Okay.

    Good luck. ❤

    1. I think your framing falls down on the issue of whether the parents would still insist LW’s partner sleep separately if they had a secular marriage ceremony. I see absolutely no reason to assume that this is the case, and think that this is a case of married people being treated as a social unit and given social capital that the same people, absent that one piece of paper, are not given.

      1. I would like for my partner to not have to sleep on the floor (or as happened on other vacations, in a tent outside), and I would like to feel like my parents respect our relationship. How do I broach this topic and make it clear that this does, in fact, bother me, but I’ve thus far respected their wishes — but it is a problem that they don’t seem to respect me or my relationship as responsible, adult, or mature without the parameters of Catholic marriage?

        1. Except that Catholicism generally acknowledges civil marriages as legitimate. Not *all* civil marriages (my understanding is that, for example, the Church does not consider a civil marriage where someone involved is a divorced Catholic legitimate), but the vast majority of them.

          Not that I think it makes any more sense to insist upon a civil marriage, in this case, but I’d be surprised if Catholic parents wouldn’t accept a civil marriage, unless they’re Opus Dei or some other hyperconservative offshoot.

          1. ….okay? I’m taking the LW at her word that (a) her parents want a Catholic marriage and (b) she and SO want no marriage of any kind, possibly never yet (c) she still wants her partner accepted and not made to sleep on the floor.

            That’s enough for me.

          2. Actually, the Catholic Church does not recognize a civil marriage as a valid marriage if one or both of the people involved is Catholic even if both parties have never been married before — only a Catholic ceremony would be regarded as valid by the Church. (Or the civil marriage is convalidated by the Church.)

            Thus, my very Catholic mother does not consider my brother’s civil marriage legitimate and has been pressuring the couple on and off for years to have a church wedding so they have a “real” marriage. She didn’t want to tell her relatives about her son getting the civil marriage (which was for very practical, legal reasons) — nor did she want my brother and sister-in-law telling them! — because she found the situation so shameful. She was also vocal about premarital sex being a sin and treated my brother’s wife poorly both before and after the civil wedding. She’s been trying to be better with my sister-in-law (since the first grandchild came into the picture), but SIL rightly does not trust her and would rather not be around her. Ever.

            It sounds like LW’s family is very like my mother in terms of belief. Practically, getting a hotel room is the best way that LW and SO can ensure a comfortable night’s sleep in the same bed together. In terms of LW’s family showing a greater degree of respect to SO and LW’s relationship with SO (or their other children’s relationships outside of a Catholic wedding)… I’m not optimistic. A very frank discussion will have to be had in the near future, I think, and LW should be prepared that this might come down to standing with SO (and perhaps sister and brother as well) against the parents.

            LW, I’m sorry to say this, but I really doubt that respect from your family, for your relationship and your SO, will ever come without having the Catholic ceremony. And even then, it’s not a guarantee that respect will come. If you don’t want the Catholic wedding, then stand by that choice, but don’t expect them to ever understand, agree, or not give you grief for that choice. You’ll have to sand firm on the kind of life and relationships YOU want. You have my sympathy for your situation, and I hope you and your SO can work out a happy life together despite the purposeful invalidation of your relationship. Things like this make maintaining committed relationships very difficult.

            One more thing… splitting couples up into girls and boys “dorms” on family vacation? Hell, no! Even if completely paid for, that’s not my idea of a vacation, and I’d not go if that was a requirement.

  59. A Tent!?!?!

    Am the only one horrified by that? Because even me: Ye of Wavering Assertiveness and Debilitating Agreeableness would nope the hell right out of that regardless if the tent was outside or in the living room.

    Your parents get to decide that no unmarried couples can share a bed in their house. You get to decide that sleeping in a tent or with grandma is not an option. There isn’t always a win/win option (in fact, there rarely is with family) but there ARE options. You just have to decide what option will cause the least amount of friction for you and your SO. When not sharing a bed is most practical it may not be worth it to fight that battle but when *not* sharing the bed is wildly impracticable (seriously, a TENT) that’s when it might be worth it to pick your battle.

    I also second the advice to talk with your siblings about this. Even if The United Front won’t sway your parents, having familial validation and a sounding board for your parents will be beneficial. Not to mention people to share the cost of hotel rooms/airbnb etc.

    1. You are not the only one horrified by this. Not by a long shot.

      You mention sibling United Front, and someone else said something about the LW starting their own traditions…this is merging in my head, and I’m suddenly envisioning a sibling holiday coup in which the siblings announce that *they* are holding a holiday celebration (together) elsewhere and that the parents are invited to join them.

  60. My husband and I went through this with both his Catholic parents and my (much less religious) Jewish parents– they all were of the opinion that unmarried couples don’t sleep in the same bed in their house, but his parents were also of the no premarital sex opinion. Notably, once, my husband hid my toothbrush that I kept at his house for nights I slept over when his parents visited– thus was the degree of the charade regarding us not having sex. For my parents, it broke when my grandparents (!) offered their guest room (with king size bed) as a way to bribe us into staying with them instead of my parents house– that’s when my parents caved and let us sleep together (we were already engaged at this point).

    You’ve got a few different problems here, that each bears separate discussion.
    1) Solidarity with sister– sister had the fight at least partially on your behalf and they used your silence against her, so I think it would be a good idea to pipe up and say “sister told me about this and actually, yes, it does bother us. We weren’t sure how to bring it up, but since it’s brought up, here are my thoughts…”

    2) They made your partner sleep IN A TENT! This is completely unacceptable and you should make that known. The hill to die on is absolutely “comfortable sleeping arrangements for everyone or we’re getting a hotel/not coming” (depending on whether a hotel is a viable option or not). Now comfortable doesn’t HAVE to mean (and I’ll get to this in a second) that you sleep together, but it does mean that boyfriend is not relegated to the couch, the floor, or the backyard. I mean seriously, what even is that?! My rule for visiting all family is that we get a bed in a room with a door, or we stay in a hotel if there is an affordable one nearby, or we don’t come. I am old enough now (at 29, which is not that old, but old enough) to be above sleeping on the air mattress in the living room*. But I do admit that this is a privileged position wherein I have enough money to spend a night or two in a hotel and that my family mostly lives in city or suburb places where a hotel is an option. But regardless of circumstances, you have to decide what you’re willing to deal with and stick to it. Now that you’ve brought it up with parents per #1, discuss your terms for what is acceptable lodging.

    3) You say this is a committed relationship but do not mention marriage– no judgement from me, it just changes my recommended response. If marriage is in your future within the next couple years, it’s probably not worth fighting for joint sleeping arrangements in the intervening time. If marriage is not in your plans for whatever reason, then I think it is worth fighting for your relationship to be legitimized on your terms. It’s time to break it to your parents that you and partner are in a committed, cohabitating relationship and that you are in it for the long haul without marriage. Recognize that marriage is important to them and their religious beliefs, but that you do not agree and will not get married just to satisfy their checklist. Request that they consider accepting you and partner as a permanent couple unit and afford you the rights that entails, like sleeping in the same bed. If they cannot then you will stay in hotel/not visit in order to give your relationship the respect you think it deserves. To some extent I agree with the above posters that you can’t force relatives past their comfort zone, but you need to take care of you and your partner first so if their comfort zone cannot expand to incorporate your “nontraditional” family unit, then maybe yours cannot expand to going home for Christmas.

    *I have had to play this card exactly once, last year, when my parents invited the whole family 3 kids plus SOs and grandparents) to their house for their 30th wedding anniversary. My mom suggested that since there weren’t enough beds, I could bunk with my sister, and the boys (her boyfriend, my husband, and my brother) could sleep on the pull out couch/air mattress. I said hell no, and that if they couldn’t find a bed for us, then we would stay in the hotel. They decided they wanted all their kids under their roof and put my grandparents in a hotel instead.

    1. If marriage is in your future within the next couple years, it’s probably not worth fighting for joint sleeping arrangements in the intervening time. If marriage is not in your plans for whatever reason, then I think it is worth fighting for your relationship to be legitimized on your terms. It’s time to break it to your parents that you and partner are in a committed, cohabitating relationship and that you are in it for the long haul without marriage.

      I heartily agree with this. Get your parents on the same page as you and your partner. They may hate it. They may grieve. But they’ll have to quit holding on to the idea that they would change how they treat your partner if you and your partner would change your marital status. If your unmarried status ain’t ever gonna change, then they really need to understand that, so that they can work through the issue. Then hopefully they’ll move on and treat your partner (and your relationship) properly.

      Also — as with so many other letters recently, this first conversation will be hard, but every holiday will get easier and easier.

    2. From the letter: “We have no plans of getting married unless there is some extenuating circumstance” – that sounds like ‘won’t be marrying within the next few years’ to me.

  61. LW, both partner and I are expected to visit partner’s parents every Christmas. The problem is we always end up either sleeping on the floor or outside in a tent. It is not a place that gets terribly cold – though it may get below freezing. I have woken up with ice on my pillow.. LW, I agreed to camp outside in a tent on frozen ground with a bad back at Christmas time for fifteen years until I happened to mention it to a friend who looked at me in horror and said “You don’t have to do that. I wouldn’t do that”. LW, it was magical. I guess it may sound stupid, but it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could just opt out.

    Now I do not go to visit (my family or partner’s family) unless I get a real bed. Often one is not available, or not one that meets the standards of a) we can share b) are pet-free and c) clean (b&c because allergies). So we get a hotel room. There have been times that hotel rooms have not been available (literally, no room at the inns), and we simply Do Not Go, unless it is summertime and we choose to camp – a whole world of difference from having the need to camp imposed upon us, let me tell you.

    1. I seriously think this comment thread has broken my brain. There are people? Out there? Who expect visitors to sleep in a tent?! Outside?? When they visit?!?? And the hosts apparently have NO ALTERNATIVE THAN THE FROZEN GROUND?

      Shame on those people. Seriously!

      1. SERIOUSLY. My jaw has dropped at some of the comments (and the original letter!). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore that some people are so inconsiderate, but I’m kind of glad to know that there are still things that shock me. Because I would *never*, NEVER, consider it acceptable to tell a guest of mine to camp outside. It honestly has never even occurred to me as a possibility.

        1. I sort of didn’t react much at first. However, I’m Australian. Xmas holidays are normally warm and dry so tents-verandahs-‘sleepouts’-carports-caravans-campervans are quite common overflow accommodation for such events.

          Once I got with the ice-snow-freezing concept, I was as horrified as all the rest of you.

  62. When I saw 16, and not having sex with my sweetheart, he slept on the couch the one night he spent the night.
    When I was 18, dating the same person, and having sex with him, he slept in my bed – which was fun, as it was a twin, and he is more than 6 feet tall. Much cuddling was ‘necessary’.
    When I was 20, and sleeping with a new sweetheart, I put him in my bed without talking about it, and my parents never mentioned either the couch or the guest room.
    It wasn’t until I was 25, and bringing home the secondary sweetheart that my parents got nervous, and meeting him beforehand made them happier. It was only once, but we slept in the guest room together (I had moved out, and no longer had ‘my bed’).
    Every parent has a limit. It doesn’t mean you can’t change that limit, and it doesn’t mean you have to follow that limit with regard to yourself, but they all have something. Naming it can sometime be enough to start the conversation.

  63. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the Christmas where we went 8 hours away to my aunts house for Xmas. My mother assured me that everyone would have a bed and partner and I would be able to sleep together. In a previous year older cousin and her beau had stayed in a bedroom together so I thought that we were in the clear.
    We got there and aunt cheerfully exclaimed that boys were in the basement and girls were upstairs. Mother Dearest had obviously lied to us so we wouldn’t be able to argue against this ruling or make different arrangements. MD proceeded to ignore my attempts to catch her eye or talk to her before she declared she was going to bed.
    It was around 10pm on the 23rd of Xmas when we arrived, so there wasn’t much we could do. Partner slept on a thin blanket over concrete in the basement with young cousin playing loud video games till the wee hours of the morning while I slept in a full bed upstairs. I let partner take a nap in aforementioned full bed the next day and got scolded harshly for letting a BOY UPSTAIRS.

  64. Another aspect of the status differences here: I am virtually certain that when LW’s parents are talking about a “boys’ dorm” and “girls’ dorm” they don’t mean that there will be two rooms, one of which the LW’s mother will share with her and sister, and the other of which the LW’s father will share with his son and LW’s partner.

  65. My husband’s parents – when we were dating and he took me to meet them – were pissed that I wanted separate bedrooms. It felt weird to me to sleep in the same bed as my boyfriend under his parents’ roof.

    Boyfriend asked them and there was all this drama because now it was necessary to clean the junk out of the spare room and how could I be so much trouble?

    Once I was there, Primo’s dad offered the shower in the master bath to Primo and me, telling me that he and Primo’s mom showered there together all the time.

    1. This is not the image I wanted in my head
    2. If they knew I had asked for a separate bedroom, what makes them think I would shower in their shower with their son while they were around?
    3. Unrelated to the previous point but still bad hospitality – they don’t eat lunch so there was nothing for Primo and me to eat for lunch.

    1. Funny enough my parents kind of had the reverse reaction of this.

      When I started dating my now husband my mom did the super awkward are you being safe talk (I was 20 and he was my first serious boyfriend) and that was the only time ever in our dating history that I was really glad he wanted to wait until marriage because I got to be like “yep super safe because there is no sex happening here” and leave that conversation immediately.

      Flash forward a few years boyfriend is now fiance and we’re going on a family ski trip with my parents, sister and her long time live in boyfriend. My parents are generously paying for all of the rooms and are double checking with everyone before booking and I feel like I’m repeating the same conversation with my parents, were it seems like they are trying to subtlety check the fact that finance and I are okay with sharing a room & bed.

      It’s not until having a discussion about parental weirdness with my sister that we realize my parents had apparently thought (and probably thought this the entire time we had been together) that us not having sex also carried some sort of puritanical restrictions against sleeping together or cohabiting. To this day I’m not sure if it bothered me more that my Mom had apparently clued my Dad in on the safe conversation, or that they thought this was something I would do.

  66. This was years ago, probably around 1999 or 2000: My mother’s brother, having turned over most of of his Minnesota farm to his son or leased it, would drive to California for a couple of months in the winter and visit my parents. This year he announced he was bringing his girlfriend. Now, my parents’ guest room had two single beds. Mom pointed out to my uncle that she only had one guest room, and he said that was fine, there were two beds and two of them. My poor, traditional Catholic mother was in agony. Unmarried couples were NOT sharing a room in her house! Mom, I said, it’s your brother. He’s retired. He’s old enough to follow whatever rules he chooses to follow. He hasn’t darkened the door of a church in years. It isn’t your problem, and you know you want to see him.

    She dithered and dithered, finally relented, and let my uncle and his girlfriend come. The first couple of days it was awkward; after that, she got to be friends with the girlfriend, decided it really wasn’t her problem, and everything was fine.

    The irony was, I’m sure they never attempted sex in those horrible guest room beds; they were challenging enough just to sleep in. The springs were such that people in the next county could hear you roll over,

  67. I wonder how much LW’s parents and the parents from other people’s stories use this as an avenue for expressing general disapproval of the partner. When I moved out and got a serious boyfriend who I started bringing home to visit, there was a little conversation about where he would sleep (which after a little discussion ended up being my room, on a camp bed). But my parents fucking hated that guy. The literally the first time I came along for a visit with my next boyfriend who they absolutely adored there was a lovely gift of a new double bed waiting for us. I wonder, LW, if your parents are using sleeping arrangements partly as a shitty, passive-aggressive way to express their feelings on your choice of partner.

    I agree with the advice to try a unified sibling front, and if it doesn’t work, get a hotel or don’t go. Your leverage over your parents is *yourself* and whether they get to spend time with you. BUT I would also suggest you have a conversation with your boyfriend about this, and perhaps apologise for not standing up for him when your parents were treating him poorly and acknowledge the feelings he probably has about being treated that way.

  68. I’m shocked the BF put up with this. I would simply say, “Honey, I love you, but I’m not sleeping outside in a tent. Do you want to go home? Do you want to get a hotel? Should I go home and you stay here?”

  69. This all feels crazy to me but for another reason entirely. I can barely imagine sharing a bed at my parents’ house. As far as they are concerned, I have no sex life until I am married. This came after I heard my stepmother discussing details about an unmarried family member’s sex life with someone who was a complete stranger to her. (Multiple complete strangers, actually, but this one was more important to me because she was a co-worker of mine.) I was horrified. (And it wasn’t a malicious act; she just has NO discretion.) I don’t want my intimate life discussed in detail with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people, some of whom are in the small conservative town I grew up in. Just not worth it.

    1. Ha! Sounds to me like some people are such incorrigible gossips it may go some way towards explaining why they are so worried about the whole damn thing. They assume that everyone gossips to everyone about everyone and worry about what other people will think. It’s the most tedious conversation to me; my mother is more interested in discussing (and criticising) other people than anything else. I find it wearing. And her general knowledge and even cultural knowledge is appalling. Only so much room inside those small minds I guess.

  70. LW, I don’t think anyone’s brought this up directly yet, but it seems to me like this is the PERFECT TIME to apply the The Sheelzebub Principle! In essence, how much longer are you willing to tolerate NOT sleeping with your partner when you visit home? 6 months? A year? 6 years? If the answer to those questions is “maybe”, “not really”, and “oh hell no”, the Captain has provided some fantastic scripts for the opt out route and I would also like to second the general vibe of “or rock the boat, politely and while giving your parents the option to say no to things in their own home, no matter how stupid those choices seem to us [and keeping the hotel as a backup plan at all times.]”

  71. Not enough spoons right now to read through and make sure this hasn’t already been said, but a great alternative if possible is renting a VRBO or AirBnB or other house/condo/apartment (nearby your holiday home base) with your sister and her SO for the holiday. Then you can have your own space, snuggle up with Partner as much as you want, and have the win/win of having your own space to retreat to (or host folks at for a pre-holiday pizza dinner or other new tradition idea you like) and giving your folks the space it sounds like they’d really appreciate while hosting holiday festivities. If your mom feels weird about it, you can say you and your sister are doing it for Sisterly Holiday Time reasons. It sounds like generally you and your family (and your partner) have a happy relationship. This might be a nice way to get what you want and start some new little traditions!

  72. I have had the exact opposite problem, but the solution is ultimately the same. The first Christmas I brought my husband home for was while we were engaged after ~5 years of dating. We had stayed at my parents house before in the (double) bed in my childhood room without a problem (I did bring it up/check with them first). My husband, myself, and my brother were all in our late 20s/early 30s.

    But at Christmas, my brother was home, too. I was so confused when my parents insisted my husband and I stay in a hotel. There were plenty of beds! Even a spare queen in a guest room! My brother still has his own room at my parents place!

    Apparently, my brother was NOT OKAY with my husband and I sleeping in the next room. He had pitched a fit to my parents and instead of them telling him to go stay in a hotel, they simply booked one for me and my husband, framing it as a gift.

    It hurt. It sent a message of “You are not equal in this family to your brother.” I get that my parents have a right to say we can’t stay there. I also get that my brother has a right to not stay in the same house as us. But having my parents spring it on us at the last minute that we were not welcome in their home and after we had flown 3,000 miles to see them was painful.

    I had a conversation with them on how, if we were not welcome to stay in the house, we would not be visiting for the holidays. I put my foot down and said I expected my husband to be welcomed into the house as family, and if they couldn’t do that, we wouldn’t come. Now my brother has to suck it up or find somewhere else to stay. So he sucks it up, let complains if even the faintest noise (such as the opening of the closet!) comes out of my bedroom before noon. It’s progress, I suppose.

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