Adapted from recent online discussions.My daughter is home from college and wants her boyfriend from another state to visit ... including sleepover benefits. I have younger kids at home. What do you suggest?Sleepless
Figure out now what you believe, top to bottom, including what rules you’ll have for the younger kids when they get older.
Too often we act reflexively, declaring that kids shouldn’t see X or be permitted Y because that’s what everyone says and it seems right, so yeah, OK. But situations like yours are good at forcing us to prioritize our values, beliefs and enforcement thereof.
What message do you want to send your younger kids – that no unmarried adults can ever share a room? Or is it just adults who are your children? Or just adults still under your household umbrella (e.g., under age XX and/or accepting tuition money) – and you wouldn’t presume to tell their unmarried 45-year-old Aunt Susie she can’t share a room with her partner?
Will whatever rules you make now hold up later for your youngest, with no younger sibs around?
Or do you want your message to be that adults have agency to make these decisions, and your younger kids will too when they’re old enough to handle the consequences of these decisions themselves?
If it’s the latter, are they old enough to have a nuanced conversation about this? Or, alternately, are you ready to choose not to explain, except to say that the rules evolve as people get older, and you’ll talk about it when they’re older, too?
Of course, you can just say it’s your home, your rules – heads of households have that prerogative. And some people really do find black-and-white to be the best colors for their parental worldview.
But people with comfortably gray value systems often go black-and-white in discrete situations just because it’s easier to do that than it is to come up with a more nuanced, gray-friendly solution that stands up over time and remains applicable in many different scenarios. And I think copping out like that tends to come back to bite people when future gray situations come up.
So, yeah. What’s your message? That’s my message.
Re: Sleepless:There are plenty of reasons they might want to share a room that don’t involve sex – for instance, meeting your significant other’s family is a stressful experience, and there’s always the opportunity for misunderstandings. Having a shared room lets your daughter and her boyfriend talk these issues out together in privacy. If they’re both still in college, they might not be able to afford to get a hotel room. It might even be a big deal for him to travel to see your family.They’re doing a nice thing by reaching out to you in this way. Do you want to feel welcoming? If not, there should be a really good reason for it, not just one that you can articulate, but which is backed up by your values and the way you’ve always lived your life.PerspectiveRe: Sleepover:This is a hard issue to face given the physical and emotional negatives of casual sex. Isn’t this a big consideration?AnonymousSex between adults in an established relationship isn’t “casual sex.” So, no.
Do you have suggestions on whether and how to encourage a partner to lose weight? We’ve talked about it a bit in terms of improving his health, but in terms of heart rate/blood pressure/previous illnesses, he’s healthier than I am. So I feel bad that much of my motivation is just wanting to be more physically attracted to him. Especially as he’s never made me question his attraction to me, and my body’s undergone a lot of negative changes (medical).I guess I don’t know how honest to be. And then regardless of motivations, do you have suggestions on how to encourage healthy eating? When I cook a healthy meal and then he follows it with an unhealthy snack, I can’t help but be annoyed, which I know is not helpful.Talking About Weight
Maybe it is, though. Overeating and inactivity can eventually limit mobility, which then can limit a couple’s quality of life – and even push the healthier partner into a difficult, draining, resentful caregiving role.
At the same time, accidents and illness can strike despite meticulous self-care.
So I see it as a duty that comes with life partnership to stick to a basic level of self-maintenance expressly to avoid placing a FORESEEABLE burden on one’s mate.
That said: It’s disingenuous to talk health when your issue is attraction. I’m glad you’re being honest with yourself – now push past the “I shouldn’t feel this way!” barrier to recognize that yes, you do feel this way.
The downside of just wanting him hotter is that you have no standing to push for it. The upside is that you can release yourself of the obligation of trying to fix him.
There is something to that. It’s so easy to take on other people’s problems as our own that we sometimes fail to see how stressful that is. “I can’t fix this” is a small step with big impact on your to-do list.
Cross off everything that isn’t part of just being healthy yourself. Buy and prepare good foods, be active, invite him along.
And, explore your revulsion at his eating habits. Why do they annoy you? Can you train yourself to respond differently? If not, can you accept occasional annoyance as part of life with anyone? If not, can you recognize that he deserves to know what actions of his might alienate you?
New relationships are about having what you love. Settled-in ones lean toward loving what you have – helpful to keep in mind no matter what you do next.
Re: Weight:In a lot of cases, health is just a convenient, politically correct pretext when they really mean “you’re no longer hot.” And focus on appearance doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the self-delusion. Applause to “Talking” for being brave enough to type it out loud.Deeply Suspicious
I agree this is common. However, it is not “political correctness” or self-delusion to cry “health” when there’s a mobility crisis in progress.
Re: Weight:It’s usually not so much about my husband’s weight as annoyance that he talks about wanting to look better and eat healthier, but then follows a healthy dinner with a junk food snack. I think it’s fine to bring up that disconnect.AnonymousCarolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at email@example.com.