I’m now in a relationship with a man that I hope to marry, and as of this January we will have been together for two years, including an intercontinental move so that we could be together. He is British, and we both live in Europe, albeit not together for schooling reasons. My parents have met him once, and they like him very much.
I have now bought tickets for both of us to head back to the US for Christmas this year. I look forward to allowing my parents to spend more time with him and to showing him where I come from. However, in a recent phone call, my parents told me that they hoped I understood that we would be sleeping in separate rooms at their house over Christmas. Not only do I wish they’d told me this BEFORE we bought our (very expensive) tickets, it seems incredibly infantilizing to still be treated like the 18-year-old they must see me as. I understand that it is their home, but this is my life. Is it outrageous of me to expect them to respect my decisions and beliefs? Is it manipulative of me to warn them that such treatment of my choices will cause me to rethink future visits and our future relationship, not to mention their relationship with any potential children of ours? (I would not want any children of mine exposed to what I see as a damaging belief system). While I am willing to compromise some, I don’t want them to think that I am any less dedicated to my own beliefs than they are to theirs. I’m not sure where drawing the line stops being the mature, independent thing to do and starts becoming simply rebellious and/or manipulative. — Christmas Catastrophe?
There’s a pretty big sense of entitlement coming through your letter loud and clear. Your parents refused to help you financially, so you cut off contact with them? You didn’t think to ask your conservative Christian parents about the sleeping arrangements BEFORE you bought your and your boyfriend’s airline tickets home for the holidays and somehow it’s their fault for not volunteering the information sooner? You’re going to THEIR house, yet you think YOUR beliefs should be respected above theirs? How about this: When you are in their home, you play by their rules (separate rooms for unmarried couples), and, when/if they visit your home, you get to play by your rules (you and your boyfriend can bonk like bunnies in all your premarital glory).
You ask whether you’re outrageous to expect your parents to respect your decisions and beliefs, but there’s a big difference between respecting someone’s decisions and beliefs and accommodating someone’s opposing beliefs in one’s own home. I mean, if it makes your parents so uncomfortable letting their grown daughter share a bedroom with her boyfriend in their home, is it that big a deal for you and your boyfriend to sleep in separate beds for a few days? Is it really worth sacrificing a relationship with your parents and potentially keeping them from seeing their future grandchildren just to prove you’re “dedicated to your beliefs”? You said you’re wondering where you might cross the line from being mature and independent to simply being manipulative. You’re pretty close to crossing it.
It’s a tragedy that you lost your younger sister much too early in life, and I’m so sorry for your loss, but if anything positive might have come from it, I’d hope it would be your understanding and appreciation that life is short — too short to hold such massive grudges, especially against people who love and care for you. Your parents surely aren’t perfect — none of us is — but they want a relationship with you… and it sounds like you want one with them. You’re flying halfway across the world to see them for the holidays and to more deeply introduce them to your boyfriend. So you must want a relationship with them, which is great. How about instead of focusing on how your parents aren’t loving or treating you perfectly, you focus on what they’re doing well? Considering the differences in your beliefs, can you appreciate the effort your parents make to try to understand and accept you, even if they don’t always kowtow to your wants? Instead of holding a grudge for a decision they made 10 years ago when they cut you off financially, can you focus instead on the strides you’ve all made to reconnect and heal your relationship?
Life is short. All families have baggage. None of us loves anyone perfectly. And a holiday vacation is just a drop in the bucket of a lifetime of trips, and a lifetime of compromises, and a lifetime of sharing a bed with the one you love. I’d let it go and just enjoy spending time with your parents and your boyfriend as they get to know each other. When the holidays are over, you’ll return home, where you can call the shots and you don’t have to compromise your lifestyle for anyone.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.