Is my girlfriend's sister justified or not in her disapproval, and why?
May 13, 2009 11:13 AM   Subscribe

How can I avoid straining the relationship between my girlfriend and her sister, who disapproves of us? Also, what are some good religious / psychological / philosophical texts to help me understand and (gently) argue against the sister's point of view: that my girlfriend and I are living in sin by having sex out of wedlock?

I am a straight man, 25 years old. My girlfriend of 20 and her twin sister live together in a nearby city, about 80 miles away from me. The girlfriend and I had been taking turns visiting each other on the weekends until her sister made it known to her that I was no longer welcome in their apartment, ostensibly because of our sexual relationship (I am my girlfriend's first). The sisters grew up in a strict Protestant household (grandfather was a pastor), but my girlfriend has been moving away from that lifestyle in some ways over the last couple of years while her sister has continued to embrace it. The sister and her boyfriend have been dating for about a year but are apparently not intimate beyond the occasional long hug (!).

Last night, after an apparent understanding was reached by the sisters some weeks ago whereby I was allowed to visit on an occasional basis (the implicit understanding was that we could sleep together but my girlfriend and I had agreed not to have sex there) and as my girlfriend and I were settling down to bed, she was called into her sister's room and given an ultimatum: that either I would be spending the night on the couch downstairs or that she (the sister) would be going to her boyfriend's house to spend the night (on his couch downstairs, natch). My girlfriend refused to cooperate with this and so the sister's boyfriend came over to pick her up and they left together, but not before he gave my girlfriend and I a bit of an arrogant dressing-down. So this is the impetus for my post.

And here are my questions:
1) Am I in way over my head here? Am I in the moral wrong for driving a wedge (or for being the wedge, anyway) between my girlfriend and her sister? Family's always first? Or, should I take this as a portent of things to come and get out now?

2) What's the big deal? Is this a religious thing only, or are there other impulses at play here? Is the sister justified in feeling "uncomfortable in her own home" because my girlfriend and I are sharing a bed, or because she knows we have sex when my girlfriend comes to visit me?

3) There are assuredly precedents for this type of situation. Can anyone direct me to relevant writings about them? The more specific the better I suppose, but anything in the realm of philosophy, psychology or theology that could help explain the sister's point of view, or justify or refute her ultimatum, would be great.

I may sound disingenuously naive here, but I assure you I'm not trying to be. I grew up in an entirely areligious household and have been throughout my life by turns indifferent to and dismissive of organized religion. Although I can't change the fact that I don't believe, I'm trying in every way that I can to meet my girlfriend half way in this foreign territory. Recently I feel as if I might be up against something far stranger than I ever knew. Or are we just talking about one nutty sister? Thanks in advance.
posted by radiosig to Human Relations (38 answers total)
 
Oy. I'm sort of there. But I'm marrying her in May, so the family is becoming less and less of an issue.

1) It's your girlfriend's choice to do what she wants. If she feels comfortable with you, then it shouldn't matter. Now, because she lives with her sister, her sister can lay down whatever sort of law she'd like - but that's a roommate issue, not a sisterly moral sin issue.

Some roommates don't like having SOs sleep over - that's not because of your immortal soul, that's because some people aren't comfortable with it.

2) This is a religious thing and a moral thing. I live with my girlfriend, we have sex, and a lot of people on her side of the family (and some of mine, though thankfully not my parents) are up in arms. And I'm getting married to her. I know plenty of religious people that, also, would be willing to put the sex thing aside, as long as we weren't living together.

You can't decode this, you can't figure it out. It just is. This is the situation you've stepped in to. I stepped into a deeply religious Catholic family, and I'm with the outlier daughter. You an imagine how that goes. I received a dressing down from her mother. She yelled at me, cornered me, talking about how I was corrupting her daughter's immortal soul. All of the good stuff.

Ok, this is rambly, and I'm sorry for that. But man, I've been there. I didn't understand it either - I mean, I can see why they believe this, but the fervor, the anger, the outright outrage was just beyond me.

You can't justify, you can't refute. You can avoid, you can remove yourself from the situation. As long as she's there, as long as you two are having sex and sleeping together out of wedlock, it's going to happen. Your girlfriend can move out, you guys can spend more time at your place, you can make yourself scarce. But this is going to continue, I'm pretty sure.

Good luck, man.
posted by SNWidget at 11:22 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think you should follow your girlfriend's lead on this. Talk to her - see how she feels, and what she's willing to do. Ultimately, being preached to is annoying, but she's the one with the relationship at actual risk, here, so she's the one who needs to make the decisions.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:24 AM on May 13, 2009


I would save your breath and not concern yourself with 'arguing' your side with the sister. With no judgement I say that you will be yelling into the wind by trying to get her to see your side of things. Just as I believe you will never come around to her point of view, she will do the same and never completely agree or approve of yours.

Looking up texts and trying to prove your points seems a bit aggressive to me. In matters of family-in-law, I have found it's best to be a bit passive - not a pushover - but passive until someone really wants your opinion.
posted by Brettus at 11:30 AM on May 13, 2009


"He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her." John 8:7
posted by goethean at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2009


Well, if you subscribe to her puritanical superstitions about "sins" and other similarly infantile notions, then, yes, she is justified in her disapproval. And there's probably not much you can do to change her opinions about her sister's behavior. Moreover, no, she's not just one nutty sister -- a huge, though mercifully dwindling, proportion of the U.S. population harbor such antiquated beliefs about sexuality.

However, when it comes to whether or not you stay over, your girlfriend, as holder of half the lease on the apartment, has every right to have whomever she would like sleep in her bed.

And if her sister has to go somewhere else for heavy hugging, rather than be in the vicinity of your mortal sins, all the better. Seriously, who wants to think about someone's prudish sister listening to you have sex?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:34 AM on May 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


My girlfriend refused to cooperate with this and so the sister's boyfriend came over to pick her up and they left together, but not before he gave my girlfriend and I a bit of an arrogant dressing-down.

The sister is being completely unreasonable, and her sanctimonious loser boyfriend isn't helping. The next time that guy tries to lecture you, feel free to predict his eventual descent into Ted Haggard-like hypocrisy and/or ask if he's saving himself for Jesus.

That said, you're not in the wrong here at all with regard to your GF and her sis. You're doing what normal (in the broadest sense, glossing over minor differences) couples do. You're not driving any sort of wedge between them because this whole thing is just her sister projecting her own insecurities onto you two. Yes, follow your girlfriend's lead, but feel free to put on your best shit-eating grin if the sister yells at you.

Is the sister justified in feeling "uncomfortable in her own home" because my girlfriend and I are sharing a bed, or because she knows we have sex when my girlfriend comes to visit me?

It's also your girlfriend's home. Maybe she and her sister shouldn't live together, but having sex is one of the thing's normal people do in their own homes. Your GF's sister is asking for a special accomodation, and you can grant it to her if she also participates in the compromise: e.g., maybe no sex while she's in the house, but she agrees not to try to play nanny to the two of you.

Although I can't change the fact that I don't believe, I'm trying in every way that I can to meet my girlfriend half way in this foreign territory.

This isn't foreign territory. This is a minefield covered in razor wire and feces. You're under no obligation to indulge the sister's delusions. You can respect her feelings, but you most assuredly do not need to act in accordance with her wishes when she's not in the room.

TL;DR Hang in there. Sounds like you've got a great GF because you've put up with this nuttiness so far, and if you stay with her a bit longer maybe the sister will get a life. Until then, respect her as a person but grant no credence to her ridiculous, abnormal moralizing.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:37 AM on May 13, 2009


I don't think the sister is being unreasonable. It's her home, not yours.

Work it out with your girlfriend, and let her deal with her sister.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:39 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I was raised in a similar environment, and my sister was very angry at me (and disappointed, and hurt) when she found out that I was having sex with my boyfriend in college. When we lived together for a summer, I did not have him over to spend the night and did not have sex with him in the apartment, out of respect to her feelings. (She eventually got over it, by the way, but I wouldn't hold your breath for that ending.) If we wanted that kind of privacy, we went to his house, which he was sharing with like eight other guys, so you can see how I value respecting the opinion of a family member with whom I'm living.

There are two issues: that the sister doesn't want her sister to "sin" by sleeping with you, and that she's uncomfortable with you sleeping in her sister's bed while she's there. Only the second is valid, in my opinion, since she has a right to feel safe/comfortable in her own home. Think of it this way--where would you sleep when you visit her parents?

Your girlfriend needs to make a decision about this. Either she's comfortable kicking her sister out whenever you come to visit (in which case, be prepared to be unwelcome in the family in general) or she'll only spend the night in bed with you in your apartment. Then SHE needs to be the one to discuss this with her sister, not you. I'd also recommend that they not be roommates for long since they have this incompatibility.

If her family confronts you about this, well. I'm not sure what to say about that. Frankly, I think your girlfriend should remain the go-between as long as possible. I'm really dreading a scenario in which my family confronts my boyfriend similar to what SNWidget went through when they find out we're moving in together. They have no right to judge him, but they can say what they want to me--I'm the one who's supposedly turning my back on how I was raised.

TLDR; don't bother confronting the sister with anything. That's your girlfriend's job (besides, you WON'T win). Decide what's more important--sleeping together in her bed and dealing with the shitstorm that follows, or sleeping on the couch every other weekend or having her come visit you more frequently so you can sleep in the same bed.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:39 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fact that your girlfriend refused to give in to her sister's demand speaks well of her and of the future of your relationship. You do not want to be with someone who is unable to stand up to her family, not only for your sake, but for hers.

That's not to say you don't face any problems here. Here's what I would do:

- if I had a fundie family who disapproved of my sexual relationship with a boyfriend (I do actually have the former, though sadly, not the latter) I would keep a low profile. No need to rub their noses in it. This would mean I am not unneccessarily forthcoming about all the nookie I am having, that I don't sleep with my boyfriend in my parents' home (their house, their rules), that kind of thing. BUT, I wouldn't lie or compromise the way I live my life or tolerate being preached at. So, I'd sit down with the sister roommate and say as diplomatically as possible that since I'm paying half the rent what I am doing in my room is my business. If sis couldn't accept that peaceably, I'd move or get another roommate but do my best to preserve my relationship with her. Anyone who preached at me would be firmly told that lectures are inappropriate. I wouldn't expect my significant other to deal with my family - that's my job. I would ask him to let me fight those battles and I would stand up for him if anyone tried to lecture him or control him. For his part, I would ask that he just support me and be somewhat discreet and try to meet my family on what common ground they do share.

- if I were involved with someone whose fundie family disapproved of our getting it on, the roles would be reversed. I'd expect the guy to deal with his family and just let me be the polite new girlfriend who is doing her best to remain on good terms with everyone.

Good luck dude. And when things get really frustrating, just silently remind yourself that the in-laws may just be miserable because they're not getting laid like you and your girlfriend.;-)
posted by orange swan at 11:46 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Her sister is being unreasonable. Your girlfriend wants to have sex with you, so you're not driving a moral wedge between them; if it weren't you, it'd be whatever other guy she was with.

You were as reasonable and as accommodating as you could be by agreeing not to have sex with her when you go to visit her, and they had agreed you could at least sleep together. Her sister was being unreasonable when she suddenly clammed up about the agreement, and she's being extra unreasonable to talk down to both of you about having sex ever. That she feels uncomfortable that you and your girlfriend has sex is not something she should take out on you.

You're not going to be able to talk into sense into the sister. Just don't respond and let your girlfriend do any talking she feels she needs to. The only thing that will satisfy the sister is for your two to stop having sex, and even if you did -- don't -- she might still resent you for having had sex before marriage in the past. It's considerate of you to want to try and smooth things over, though.

If you can afford it, you might consider getting a hotel room for the weekend when you go to visit her. It won't make the sister feel any better but she'd be out of your hair.
posted by Nattie at 11:47 AM on May 13, 2009


What's the big deal? Is this a religious thing only, or are there other impulses at play here? Is the sister justified in feeling "uncomfortable in her own home" because my girlfriend and I are sharing a bed, or because she knows we have sex when my girlfriend comes to visit me?

Same difference, essentially. The religious view is that what your girlfriend is doing is terribly immoral and damaging, thus twin is making a stand against condoning it by refusing to be in the same house while unacceptable activity is going on. I don't know what kind of example would work in your experience as a parallel of a dangerously wrong activity -- perhaps drinking heavily?

And yes, more practically speaking, twin is likely highly uncomfortable with not only condoning such behavior, but possibly audibly witnessing it. (No matter how quiet you are, there's a distinctive squeaka-squeaka of the bedsprings.)

It sounds as if you've wisely stayed out of arguing directly with twin. Stick to that. That the boyfriend was the one who gave you and your girlfriend the dressing down is ridiculously rude. This is between the sisters. (If I were you, I would feel free to politely point that out to twin's boyfriend if pushed.)

This may be exceedingly strange to you, but I'm sure you'll get a lot of replies from people who went through very similar issues with their family over different levels of religious belief. It's certainly not just one nutty sister.

How does your girlfriend feel about this situation? Is it very upsetting, is it causing her a lot of guilt, is she comfortable with her decision to be sexually involved with you?
posted by desuetude at 11:48 AM on May 13, 2009


It is not your job to make your girlfriend's sister approve of your life choices. It is your girlfriend's job to sit down with her sister and come up with a set of rules for their household. If they can't come up with rules they can both agree to, your girlfriend needs to move out and get her own place.

Your girlfriend's sister has every right to her feelings about sexual morality. She's being impolite to you in her manner of expressing her feelings, but it's not immoral to be impolite, nor is it immoral to do things that other people in your life feel badly about.

It sounds as though your girlfriend's sister is afraid of losing their familial bond, which is probably heavily steeped in religion. She has identified you as the proximate threat to that bond; if your girlfriend were pulling away from her family to join a band or get a PhD in English, I'm sure her sister would have equally nasty things to say about rock music or academia.

Again, the house rules should be worked out between your girlfriend and her sister, and if they can't come up with rules that allow them both to be comfortable in the apartment, one of them should move. The fact that your girlfriend's sister doesn't like you is not your problem. She may never like you. But if your girlfriend likes you, that's what counts.
posted by decathecting at 11:49 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Grah, I mangled that:

*That she feels uncomfortable that you and your girlfriend have sex is not something she should take out on you.

* You're not going to be able to talk sense into the sister.

* The only thing that will satisfy the sister is for you two to stop having sex
posted by Nattie at 11:49 AM on May 13, 2009


argue against the sister's point of view: that my girlfriend and I are living in sin by having sex out of wedlock?

You should not argue this because you would be incorrect. Under the rules of this religion you are sinning.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:52 AM on May 13, 2009


Is this really about the sex/religion or more about the you becoming close to her twin in a way she could never be?

I would suggest not arguing with the sister. She's not going to change her mind and you're not going to change yours. I would simply say "We disagree on this and rather than spending time arguing about it and developing negative feelings about each, why don't we agree to disagree and play a game of Scramble (or other activity)"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:08 PM on May 13, 2009


Don't try and take any role in discussing or arguing over the issue with the sister. This is a matter between her and her sister. The best thing you can do, as noted above, is be as polite as possible. It's entirely possible that somewhere along the line, a year from now or ten, someone will act and behave in a way that you feel is as wrong as the sister feels about pre-marital sex. Consider how you'd want that person to act when dealing with you, and apply that to how you act now.

As is, neither your girlfriend or her sister, have an absolute right to do things in their apartment which makes the other uncomfortable. Like any roommate situation, they just need to find a middle ground. It could be argued that the situation should be more sympathetic to the sister, as when she opted to live with your girlfriend, she may have had no idea that her sister was intending on changing her lifestyle. In the reverse, your girlfriend has the exact same roommate she moved in with from the start (barring her telling her sister of her intended life changes).

Lastly, as Brandon suggested, perhaps it might be a good idea to give the sister a chance to know you as the guy her sister loves, versus the guy who shows up every two weeks to have sex with her. It could go a long way in solving this current problem.
posted by Atreides at 12:19 PM on May 13, 2009


How long have you been dating her?

Given your age differences, especially that she's so young, I wanted to offer a second opinon on the sister's thoughts, maybe one a little more sympathetic, to balance out the perspectives being offered here.

I'm assuming they're both in college, and you're not. And I'm also sure you know there's a steep learning curve among people in their early 20s, making your age difference now more significant than, say, a 35-year-old dating a 40-year-old.

She may see you as a significantly "older" man who is not only her twin's first boyfriend, but you've taken her virginity. Have you thought about her perspective on this? I'm not sure how "fundie" these people are, but I have a lot of friends who are conservative (think Baylor, not Bob Jones) and their thoughts would certainly NOT be: "ooo, living in sin! God will damn you! Flames of hell and nasty demons with pitchforks!" Look at the sister. She has a boyfriend, who I presume she likes since she's dating him, and he hasn't gotten even a kiss from her yet, you say. And he's not going to be getting much more than that until they are well done and married. As in, seal the deal, wet ink on the paper, legally official. Now, given that, and given that it's a healthy relationship (which I don't know), he must really like her.

These circles aren't thinking so much, "living in sin!!! eek!!" but "If a good, Christian man loves you, he loves you for you, not for the sex services you're offering for free." (This line of thought is much more what I've encountered among my conservative friends, who are your girlfriend's age.) To these women, the fact that a man waits, and properly shows a woman that he cares for HER--her soul, her identity, her being, thoughts, dreams, and THEN her body somewhere down the list. By putting off sex, he's showing that he's looking for a mate, not a lay, and (modern day) Christianity is all about finding that mate, snagging her, and starting a family.

By having sex off the bat and insisting on doing it in her sister's home, you're showing these people, who probably equate a woman's virginity with her "purity" of soul (this isn't as silly as it sounds: if you're having sex with someone often shares the same bed--pun intended--as serious emotional involvement. Not a requirement, but the two tend to go hand in hand) that you may be "ruining" her (yes, her virginity, too, but most importantly) emotionally for other Christian mates they see as more suitable for her. Of course, that is obviously NOT their business, but that's how they would prefer it.

So bottom line. My guess is, to them, Radiosig, you are a 25-year-old man who doesn't run in their peer circle, with no credentials they respect (i.e., not wait-until-marriage Christian) debauching this 20-year-old, just two years out of her nice, Christian nest, where they had dreamed of a stable, church-going, family man (read: potential father material, he's going to stay around and not leave her saddled with 3 kids and a WIC check) who would give them, in this order: compliments, flowers, take them out to dinner, and eventually seduce them into a long, drawn-out courtship, culmininating in an engagement, marriage, and THEN! THEN! sex! He's shown his love and patience for her by remaining a virgin until he met her and all through the dating stage, and she's done the same for him, a sacrifice of love for each other, and a sign that they believed their mate would show up one day, by the grace of God, and they would be sexually/emotionally pure for that mate.

I know I didn't offer any suggestions for a resolution, and I don't condone her behavior, but I feel it's best to get a feeling for the other side, from a more generous perspective than what I saw being offered here. I highly doubt she's a shrew. I mean, she's your girlfriend's twin, and you like your girlfriend? You three (well, four) just have very, very different viewpoints. It makes sense from their side of the fence, and isn't illogical to them.
posted by Dukat at 12:25 PM on May 13, 2009 [16 favorites]


Both the sister and her boyfriend are being completely unreasonable, but it's unfortunately not your place to make this a standoff--you're not the one who will have to deal with the fallout, so it falls on your girlfriend to keep the peace. Short of her moving out of the apartment (which I wholly recommend: you know full well that now that the stage is set, this is only going to escalate), the only real option here is to start doing weekends exclusively at your place. This has the double advantage of removing the drama from your life, and adding just enough inconvenience to your girlfriend's life that she'll be motivated to fix the situation in her apartment.

That said, the sister's boyfriend was wildly out of line, and if he tries it again, I don't think there are many people who would find fault if you were to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.
posted by Mayor West at 12:27 PM on May 13, 2009


should I take this as a portent of things to come and get out now?

If arguments between sisters is all it takes to make you flee, yes you should go now.
posted by Houstonian at 12:30 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


How does your girlfriend feel about this situation? Is it very upsetting, is it causing her a lot of guilt, is she comfortable with her decision to be sexually involved with you?

The situation is mostly just making my girlfriend furious with her sister, which is heartbreaking for me to watch. I'm desperate to do anything I can to alleviate those feelings on her part which is why I posted even though logically I know there's not much I can or should do. As far as I can tell she's totally comfortable with her decision to be sexually involved with me (she recently marveled at how her sister feels sorry for her for having sex when it's her [the girlfriend] who should feel sorry for her [the sister] for not having sex -- hopefully that wasn't just pillow talk).

---

You should not argue this because you would be incorrect. Under the rules of this religion you are sinning.

I knew I'd get nailed on that one after I re-read my wording. I guess that kind of cuts to the heart of what's so frustrating for me.

---

I would suggest not arguing with the sister.

Many of you have responded along these lines, and yes, I agree. Any "talking points" I come up with would be passed along to my girlfriend only. I've tried to be a perfect smiling cardboard-cutout person in exchanges with the sister and I've managed to keep it up even when starts using Christian sentences (it's like they have an entirely different preferred syntax and lexicon, has anyone else noticed that?)

Honestly, these are all fantastic responses. A big thanks to everyone!
posted by radiosig at 12:30 PM on May 13, 2009


"If your Sumerian storm god doesn't want us sleeping together, he's going to have to come down here and wrestle me like he wrestled Jacob."
posted by Oktober at 12:42 PM on May 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


As far as I can tell she's totally comfortable with her decision to be sexually involved with me (she recently marveled at how her sister feels sorry for her for having sex when it's her [the girlfriend] who should feel sorry for her [the sister] for not having sex -- hopefully that wasn't just pillow talk).

I don't think anyone has to feel sorry for anyone for their sexual choices - that's just immature.

I currently live with my boyfriend, but I've always had, in the past a "no people other than the ones living here" rule in apartment share situations, sibling or not. If that's the deal, respect it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:46 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The situation is mostly just making my girlfriend furious with her sister, which is heartbreaking for me to watch. I'm desperate to do anything I can to alleviate those feelings on her part which is why I posted even though logically I know there's not much I can or should do.

This is a you problem, not a her problem. Siblings get pissed with each and your GF has every right to mad at her sister. Don't fret over it and don't get involved unless she needs you to listen or asks for advice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:48 PM on May 13, 2009


Upon reading your follow-up, I think it would be a great idea for you to do some reading on the sister's perspective--not as a way to stock up on counter-arguments, but in order to understand why this matters so much to her. She's handling it in a rude, and frankly un-Christian way, and I'm not defending her behavior or her point of view, but it would probably make sense for you to try to understand how hard it is for many conservative Christians to deal with real life sexuality (i.e., she goes to church and wears a purity ring and whatnot, but then her sister is having all sorts of soul-endangering, immoral unmarried sex in her home, she must have an obligation to speak up, right?). I imagine there's a lot of complicated emotion going on with the sister--she probably worries about your girlfriend's soul, she's maybe a little jealous that she's "staying pure" while her sister fornicates with abandon, perhaps she doesn't want to admit or dwell on the sexual feelings she herself has, etc.

For books, Lauren Winner strikes me as a sane and interesting person, although she takes the sister's view of sex; you might check out her book, Real Sex for a contemporary Evangelical woman's view. Also, I just finished The Unlikely Disciple, which is about a non-Christian college student spending a semester at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University--this book would definitely give you a nice look into the conservative Protestant mindset regarding sexual morality (it's also a fascinating and hilarious read). There are also a couple chapters on popular approaches toward "purity" as well as married sex in Rapture Ready, which is about conservative American Protestant pop culture (like Unlikely Disciple, it's written by an open-minded but critical-thinking outsider). What I like about these second two books is that they're written by and for outsiders, but without snark or stereotyping, and I think they do a pretty fair-minded assessment of the topics they cover. All three books deal less with theology in terms of what the Bible says, and more with the cultural dialogue that is ongoing within conservative Protestantism, which for your purposes is, I think, the information you need.

As for your girlfriend, she would probably do well to approach this as a respect thing--her sister has made her perspective clear, but so has your girlfriend. They need to find a way to agree to disagree, not a way to agree that it's ok for her to have sex.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:59 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


That the boyfriend was the one who gave you and your girlfriend the dressing down is ridiculously rude.

Not to defend the guy, but if my girlfriend phoned me up at midnight to pick her up because of some housemate issue, I might not be at my charmingest when I got there.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:59 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell she's totally comfortable with her decision to be sexually involved with me (she recently marveled at how her sister feels sorry for her for having sex when it's her [the girlfriend] who should feel sorry for her [the sister] for not having sex -- hopefully that wasn't just pillow talk).

I'm glad that she feels this way, but please do not be surprised if the issue with her sister starts bringing up some guilt from her. It doesn't necessarily mean that she's questioning YOU, but she was raised a certain way and now she's living a different way, and it's putting a strain on her relationship with her sister and/or family. It can be hard to not feel guilty for being different or choosing different values, especially when family members start getting all judgey-judgey on you. Trust me on this.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:01 PM on May 13, 2009


The sister is uncomfortable with 'sinful' behavior occurring in her house, it would be considerate of you two to refrain from having sex in their home. What you and your girlfriend do in your home is none of the sister's business. She has no right to dictate what the sister does outside of their shared home. Lots of roommates have 'house rules' about partners staying over that are nothing to do with morals, religion or sisters.

Treat this as a simple roommate disagreement over house rules, in other words, its none of your business, stay out of it. If they can't agree on acceptable terms between the two of them then one of both of them need to find a new place to live.
posted by missmagenta at 1:13 PM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The situation is mostly just making my girlfriend furious with her sister, which is heartbreaking for me to watch. I'm desperate to do anything I can to alleviate those feelings on her part which is why I posted even though logically I know there's not much I can or should do.

You're doing the right thing, and you're doing fine. It's her battle, and she chose it.

Do all the usual taking-the-high-road being a good boyfriend stuff. Let her vent, don't get too bitchy about her sister because hey, we can bitch about our own families but that doesn't mean we want to hear it from someone else, and continue to be calm and undramatic about the sleeping arrangements per whatever your girlfriend wants to do. And then have a nice fun date as you two merrily get on with your happy relationship.

I've managed to keep it up even when starts using Christian sentences (it's like they have an entirely different preferred syntax and lexicon, has anyone else noticed that?)

Your observation is correct. And is a more lengthy conversation, with which I don't want to derail this thread. But for your purposes you can equate it roughly as a formality akin to your perfect smiling cardboard-cutout person thing.
posted by desuetude at 1:43 PM on May 13, 2009


Oh, my god - get a hotel room.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:06 PM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, my god - get a hotel room.

what, every other weekend? every time they want to have sex?


i was in a similar situation when i was dating my wife. my sister got self righteous on us about it. we told her to piss off. ruined the vacation but after that she chose to ignore what were doing.

course then she turns around a year later and goes way beyond what she chided us for.

meh. young adults dont have fully developed brains, dont hold it against her forever.
posted by phritosan at 3:40 PM on May 13, 2009


I'll chime in with some anecdotal evidence: my wife has a really fundamentalist family that laid the guilt on pretty hard when we got together years ago (and even stalked us... yes, honest to god, stalking including sitting outside my apartment in a van.)

If anything their bat-shit-insane religious-fueled behavior did two things: it strengthened our relationship enormously (an Us vs Them situation tends to do that to a relationship) and it made my wife realize how crazy and unhealthy the religious environment she grew up in was.

My advice would be to stand by the girlfriend, don't pick fights with the sister because there is no arguing with someone who drinks from the Urn of Everlasting Koolaide, and spend more time over at your place.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 4:58 PM on May 13, 2009


I didn't bother reading the other responses, but I just wanted to say this: you are not the one driving the wedge between them. It wouldn't matter what boyfriend your girlfriend had unless they were a puritanical as her sister. It's a difference between her and her sister, not between you and her and her sister.
posted by ishotjr at 5:18 PM on May 13, 2009


To add: they should probably stop living together once the lease ends, or sooner if one can find a replacement. Two people who disagree so completely on basic issues of the home are not compatible as roommates, even if they are sisters. I would never live with my sister, for example.
posted by ishotjr at 5:22 PM on May 13, 2009


Far from unprecedented, but the mocking, ridiculing the sister's beliefs is less than endearing--and I say that as someone not religious who has no time for people telling me how to live.

Your gal wants to do something in the apt. The sis does not approve. Hard to see how one view rules the other. "I want to so tough toads for you."

As people suggested, the sis no doubt thinks the same, from a different perspective. In this context, can't see how one view holds more water than the other.

"What's the big deal?," reads as not respecting a difference of faith/values. You noted that you've "been indifferent to and dismissive of organized religion," which I think creates different thoughts, tones, etc., than something of which you are not dismissive.

"This is something of supreme importance to me and at the very core of my being."

"Oh; I'm dismissive of that... and I'm here to fuck your sister in the apartment you share with her."

Not to suggest conversations are along those specific lines, but it seems like such are the mindsets at play.

A grand, thoughtful post about considering from the sister's perspective. Beyond that, sounds like the overwhelming majority of people with whom sis interacts have the same view, which reinforces, reinforces, reinforces.

Sis also probably picks up on the smiling-cardboard-man thing, which doesn't come across as showing respect, trying to gain some understanding/appreciation of her perspective.

All that aside, these things happen all the time when faith has nothing to do with it; questions about sex sounds, various operational impacts of someone spending the night, being in the apt. in the morning.

Seems the only option that all concerned will deem adequate is your GF getting her own place or a different roomie.
posted by ambient2 at 1:01 AM on May 14, 2009


Religion, morality, and the family game aside (the sisters live together, that by itself is a protective arrangement), you might want to reflect on negative and positive rights. That is a common sense/logic but I understand this is not necessarily something you subscribe to. In the eyes of people who care about your girlfriend's overall life, emotional wellness, chances to succeed in life (as in: not to end up as a single mother at the very least), she is endangered by short-term possible dead end encounter with you.
posted by Jurate at 2:18 AM on May 14, 2009


Oh, my god - get a hotel room.

what, every other weekend? every time they want to have sex?


Yes. It's completely inappropriate for the OP to have to negotiate the terms of his sex life with his girlfriend's sister.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:36 AM on May 14, 2009


(Exhales) Oh man, I wish I could call you and tell you this personally. Where to begin? This exact situation happened to me: My younger brother, who I had led into a very fundamentalist christian worldview, lived together my last year of college. I had begun relaxing my rigid moral values for the previous year. That year I began having sex. I was 22 and I didn't want to wait anymore (that's not so unreasonable, is it? it's not like i was 15.)

My brother, who was still very idealistic about sexual "propriety" and "integrity" was extremely agitated about my relationship, and treated my boyfriend very rudely. We had a long distance relationship and didn't see each other very often, but when he came to visit me, my brother would scowl and pout and stomp all around the apartment as though my boyfriend was ruining HIS life.


My brother was very disillusioned; the decisions I made had knocked me off the pedestal he had put me on. I was no longer the high school sophomore he remembered praying with and talking about the Bible with. To him, it felt like he was losing me, and he blamed my boyfriend. The truth was that I made every decision myself. I was changing, and he didn't know how to handle that.

My brother couldn't handle the fact that I was making decisions that he disagreed with. He was extremely disappointed in me and made his disapproval no secret. I stood up for myself to him, but his behavior during that relationship drove us apart. In retrospect, I know that my decisions to date and sleep with the person of my choice was my way of asserting my independence and rejecting the mold he had put me in.

Ultimately, I think your girlfriend is going to learn where she stands in the eyes of her sister and their family. I learned that my brother's love was Conditional, and that I didn't want to be around people who demanded that I conform to their religious mores to be eligible for love and respect. This might be the event your girlfriend needs to assert herself as an individual and an Adult capable of taking care of herself. And then she can start finding people who will support her no matter how they disagree with her.
posted by mynameismandab at 12:30 AM on May 15, 2009


Epilogue: Even after my boyfriend and I broke up, my relationship with my brother didn't improve. I had already seen too much of his judgmentalism and moral superiority to ever again believe he was a person I could be vulnerable with again. He probably thought my boyfriend had corrupted or ruined my soul, but the way I saw it, my brother had ruined my trust and faith in Him. We moved to cities two time zones away from each other, and we've only seen each other twice in the past three years (at our weddings, which were two months apart).

I only hope for your girlfriend's sake that she is shown more mercy than I was.
posted by mynameismandab at 12:46 AM on May 15, 2009


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