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05.16.2001: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners for real-world living |
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Cohabitation and disapproving parents ... 
My boyfriend and I have been dating for four years and sharing an apartment for the last year and a half. My parents know we live together but were both raised with VERY conservative values and don’t approve (not of the boyfriend, they like him, just of us living together as an unmarried couple). They live far away so mostly we’ve just agreed to disagree – meaning I get harassed only every couple weeks when I call home, about how they want us to get married. But they’re coming to visit for four days in July and I don’t know if they’re expecting to stay at our place! We only have one bedroom plus a ratty sofabed in the living room. I know my parents will get weird if my boyfriend and I sleep in the same bed while they’re here. Do I offer to find a hotel for them? Is that rude? Any advice would be great, M.

A: Lucky you. You have an open enough relationship with your parents that you feel able to tell them you’re living your life in a way they might not agree with – I’ve known plenty of people who've resorted to keeping an extra, unused apartment or finding a third roommate for the simple reason that they were afraid to come clean with Mom and Dad. And your parents obviously aren’t so furious as to completely cut you out of their lives, under some misguided notion that it may force you to see the "errors" of your ways. Nagging is par for the course for parental types, so if that’s all you're suffering as a result of your decision to cohabitate, life’s not so bad.

As for how to deal with their upcoming visit, why not just ask them what they’d prefer? Do it subtly by saying something along the lines of, "We’d love to have you stay at our place but the apartment is pretty cramped, so if you think you’d be more comfortable at a hotel, let me know and I can arrange a room nearby." It lets them know that they’re welcome, while simultaneously giving them the option to spend their visit under whatever circumstances put them most at ease. And my feeling is, if they then choose the former option, they’ve made the decision to stay under your roof, under your rules. If that means you sharing a bed with your sweetie like you always do, they’ll just have to deal with it. 

On the other hand, if it weirds you out to be flaunting your defiance of their beliefs in their faces -- because after all, you do love and respect them -- give your parents the bedroom while you and your boyfriend sleep in separate sleeping bags on the sofabed. After all, it’s only for four days, and if it results in four days of pester-free parentals, the little sacrifice just may be worth it. 
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