Navigating Holiday Sleeping Arrangements


Navigating Holiday

Sleeping Arrangements

by Bianca Palmisano

My son is coming home from college for the holidays soon and is planning on bringing a boyfriend to visit overnight for the first time. We want to support them, but this is new territory for us. How do we navigate sleeping arrangements?
— Anonymous

Bianca Says:

Holidays can be stressful enough with the arrival of out-of-town-relatives, copious cooking and cleaning responsibilities, and the coordination of the many moving parts that make up a family celebration.  Sleeping arrangements can be a sticky proposal for many people, but with everything else that is likely to be going on in your household, it’s best to have a clear plan for who sleeps where long before the guests arrive.

Keep in mind that your son is probably just as nervous about this situation as you are. Asking your parents’ blessing on a relationship by “coming home for the holidays” can be very vulnerable, so it’s important to treat these situations with care and respect. 

In order to make a decision that suits everyone, you should keep two things in mind: your own values and precedents for behavior that you have set with other relationships.  

If you firmly believe that couples should not sleep together until they are married, then it is 100% your prerogative to enforce that rule. That being said, it’s important to remember that for some LGBT couples, getting married is still not a legal right they can access, and I personally believe that some leniency should be offered in those instances. Regardless, your household rules should apply evenly across relationships, particularly if you have other children in heterosexual relationships or if you yourself are dating or living with a partner.  If it’s alright for you and your partner to sleep together without being married, then you should apply that standard to your son’s relationships too. Sleeping arrangements shouldn’t change depending on the gender of the person your son is bringing home.

For example, there was a lot of friction when I first brought my girlfriend home for the holidays several years ago. My parents had previously allowed me to stay the night with a high school boyfriend and had also allowed my younger sister to have one of her long-term boyfriends stay the night in the past.  Yet the rules were suddenly changed when I starting seeing a woman. It felt deeply unfair that the gender of my partner changed the treatment my relationship received, and it took a lot of frustrating back-and-forth to win the right to have her stay in my bedroom. Needless to say, this was emotionally exhausting, and not an ideal way to start a holiday visit.

The funny thing is, “sleeping arrangements” is almost always code for sex when it comes to conversations like this. But really, most of what’s going on in our bedrooms genuinely is SLEEPING. I’ve shared my mattress with my best male friend, many lovers of a variety of genders, my co-worker, my life partner, and my little sister. Some were better at sharing the covers than others, and one or two kept me up the whole night with their snoring. But as long as they are respectful during the day and quiet when others are trying to sleep, what earthly difference could it make?

There is certainly no right answer regarding the actual arrangements you make for your son and his partner. But regardless of your decision and the grounds you decide to stand on, make sure your rationale is clear and explained well ahead of your son and his boyfriend’s arrival. That way, everyone will know what to expect and hopefully no feelings will be hurt.

Bianca Palmisano is the Director of Operations for The Garden, a sex education initiative in Washington DC. She has moderated panels, conducted workshops, and lectured on sex-positivity for the past three years, appearing at events like University of Maryland’s Sex Week and offering free sex education programming to DC non-profits. Bianca is also a pole dancer, blues dancer, and self-professed geek. More than anything, she loves creating unity and understanding among different people’s experiences and facilitating important conversations that are also fun, relateable, and infused with movement.