Dear Sister Sunday,
The holidays are coming, and I’m once again wondering what to say to guests who are living together but not married. (Some of those “guests” are my grown children.) I don’t want them sleeping in the same bed in my house (if they’re so in love, why don’t they just get married?), but I also don’t want the anger and resentment that bubbles up every year when my husband and I (Married. To one another. For a long time.) lead each guest to his or her own room. What should I do?
I’m sorry that you have the same domestic dramas replayed each holiday, but you have plenty of company. Some of these scenes get set in stone like the all-day December 25th airing of “A Christmas Story” on television, and woe to the person who tries to make even the smallest change. Some people like the fight and, in a perverse way, look forward to it. It becomes like Aunt Janet’s marshmallowed fruit “salad” — horrible, but part of the landscape.
Avoid the temptation to wonder aloud when you are going to have grandchildren or where you went wrong.
If you are truly trying to be together without the annual dust-up (and I hope you are) here’s one change you have to make. You and your husband (don’t take on the designated bad guy role if that’s what you’re doing; you are together the hosts) let the unmarried and cohabitating contingent know, well ahead of their arrival, that, at your house, unmarried adults are welcome and wanted, but they will sleep in separate bedrooms. Don’t be nasty when saying this, just firm. Avoid the temptation to wonder aloud when you are going to have grandchildren or where you went wrong. Free will can be a terrifying thing, but it is part of the adult deal.
Here’s where the adult guests have a chance to act like adults. They can follow the house rules at your house, just as they do when they stay with non-smokers or recovering alcoholics or vegans. It’s considered good manners in those cases to leave the premises to smoke, drink or put away a plate of baby-back pork ribs. Or to simply abstain from smoking, drinking and chowing down on hog meat. Some find the vacation from routine refreshing. Some run screaming back to their routines. But all of us are capable of adjusting for a few days to another’s rules and routines.
If they want to leave the premises there are discount hotel/motel sites. This is where your adult guests have a chance to go on Orbitz or Expedia or Hotels.com and find a hotel room at a reasonable price a reasonable distance from your house. (But, keep in mind, they’ll need time to find and reserve a room. The closer you get to the holiday, the harder and more expensive this will be.) If they do choose to stay at a motel, be gracious and grateful and don’t grill them on the arrangements. Act in such a way that your long marriage looks like something unmarrieds might want to emulate.
Refrain from bringing up your views on cohabitation at the table. If one of your guests does ask to talk to you, have the talk in private and keep the confidences you hear. And remember Saint Monica. Make her your friend and companion. She prayed for 30 years for her husband’s conversion and 17 years for her son’s. That’s a lot of roast turkeys under the bridge and on the table!
Let me know how it goes, and thanks for writing.