Who's been sleeping in my bed, and what business is it of yours?
October 27, 2008 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Fundamentalist sister coming to visit; won't stay at our place because we are not married!

To my way of thinking this is utter insanity. My inamorata has four sisters and they will all be visiting us this week. I have met three of the four. I like them all, but three of them (including the one I have not met) are fundies. We invited one of them to stay overnight at our place but she refused on the grounds that we are not married.

(The remaining sister is gay, so she is obviously not the source of the problem.)

My love and I are not kids; we'll never see 55 again. I confess to feeling highly insulted at this moralistic BS. I told my love that there better be no discussion of politics or religion during this visit because I won't keep my opinion to myself. She agrees that the fundie sister is being an idiot, but of course she, my love, wants to keep the peace (this has been her role, and she is the eldest in the family). I emphasize that I like the fundie sister as a person; she's bright and funny, but clearly (IMHO) deranged.

Is there a good way for me to move past this? How is it that people can still think this way in the 21st century?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit to Human Relations (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Different people have different opinions, even in the 21st century. If you've made it this far and can't accept that, asking the internet isn't going to help you out.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:32 AM on October 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

You offered to let her stay in your home, but she decided she'd rather stay somewhere else. Just like she'd do if she didn't want to be around your dog, or thought the fold-out couch in the guest room was uncomfortable, or if she was weirded out that you didn't also ask her three sisters to stay in the house, or, y'know, whatever. I don't think there's anything for you to feel insulted about.
posted by box at 10:32 AM on October 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

It's her loss. That's all the impetus you need, IMO; her knee-jerk fundie crap is her problem and reflects totally on her and not on you. She's the one out of line with societal standards, not you. Your S.O. has graciously offered to be a host, and her sister has refused in a rather demeaning way. Your obligations ended long ago, and you've done everything you ought to. Let her sister be miserable somewhere else while the rest of the family has their fun.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:33 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

You just have to move past it. You aren't going to change her mind. If politics or religion come up, just say that you'd rather not discuss them because you want to keep the conversation friendly. You say your partner takes the role of peace keeper, so out of respect for her, try to keep the peace, otherwise you will just make everyone feel uncomfortable, which will only lend credence to the sister's belief that you all should not be living together. If this is the only thing about her that insults you, then you should just be the better person and forgive and forget.
posted by greta simone at 10:34 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your house, your rules. If they stay. She has a problem with the rules of your house, so is choosing to stay elsewhere.

I have a fundie brother-in-law. When my inamorata (great word by the way) stay at their house we sleep in different bedrooms. We do it out of respect. Just as when my girlfriend's parents stay at her place I choose to not. No reason to beat them with the obvious.

And as to the religion/politics thing. I'd just stay quiet, or say, "We'd rather enjoy your stay, so let's talk about something else."

High road. Take it.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:37 AM on October 27, 2008 [11 favorites]

This happens. You did the right thing offering your place. That was kind. Now let her make her own decision and not stay there.

She knows you're a godless heathen who will burn in hell. You know she's a narrow minded zealot. But you're obviously both communicating despite this, and you still socialize. Let it go.

I like cjorgensen's approach.
posted by rokusan at 10:40 AM on October 27, 2008

Well, civility is not something you move past, is it? From the sound of your post, it seems as if you are the one who is more likely to bring up politics or religion.

Mutual toleration and understanding is the key here. Not "fundies" or "deranged." Think of it as an alternative lifestyle they are engaged in, then you'll see that a bit more tolerance should happen in both directions.

I'm as liberal as they come but I have a close friend who is a Republican and Christian. And family friends who are orthodox jews and kindly invited me to the gorgeous wedding of their daughter. We all move past this by seeing each other as humans instead of foot soldiers for this or that cultural army.
posted by vacapinta at 10:40 AM on October 27, 2008 [10 favorites]

Is there a good way for me to move past this?

This seems to be the only non-rhetorical question you've asked. Judging by the tone of your question and the tags you chose, my answer to your question would be:

No. There is not a good way for you to move past this.
posted by SpiffyRob at 10:42 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

You may have some problems with this:
Is there a good way for me to move past this?

While you still think like this:
How is it that people can still think this way in the 21st century?

Just by asking that last question the way you did, you've already looked down upon a very large portion of the world's population. If you want to move past this, then you have to accept that people can believe some very different things than you and respect that the person has chosen to believe that way. If you can't accept that, then you do what you're doing and keep yourself as civil as possible.
posted by cimbrog at 10:45 AM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Let me give you a little perspective with a hypothetical ask.me questions.

Dear Ask.Me

My sister is shacking up with a guy that she is not married to. To my way of thinking this is utter insanity. They invited me to stay with them overnight, but I don't want to. I told my sister that I don't want to insult them, but there better be no discussion of politics or religion during this visit because I won't keep my opinion to myself. I emphasize that I like the couple as a people; they're bright and funny, but clearly (IMHO) deranged. I just don't understand their choice.

Notice where the italics came from? Please stop to consider that she has just as much right to her opinions as you do, and that, frankly, she could just as easily be a moralistic jerk about it (as you are dangerously close to being, considering the tone of your comments). Instead she chose a rather diplomatic option. She is, in fact, being considerate of your choices, and seems to me to be trying to avoid causing you (and her) undo discomfort and drama. The fact that you have a different opinion and thus a different view of her choice has nothing to do with it.

"How is it that people can still think this way in the 21st century?"
Do you really think that everyone should share your opinion? That simply because you see something as rational and perfectly acceptable, that everyone should agree? Really?

"Is there a good way for me to move past this?"
You can begin by realizing that from her perspective, she is trying to be a good person and a good sister in the best way that she can.
posted by oddman at 10:48 AM on October 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

Agree to disagree and let her stay in a hotel and enjoy the rest of her visit, focusing on her bright and funny side.

To be honest, I don't agree with her reasons for refusing to stay with you, but I must admit that whenever I visit faraway relatives/friends, I'm always more comfortable staying in a hotel or motel. I can't understand why my potential hosts feel so insulted that I won't bunk with them; you'd think they'd appreciate not having to deal with extra mess/chaos. I'm just more comfortable staying in a place where I can leave the TV on all night if I want to and can use as much hot water in the shower as I want.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:49 AM on October 27, 2008

I told my love that there better be no discussion of politics or religion during this visit because I won't keep my opinion to myself.

Has it perhaps occurred to you that the reason that your inamorata's sister has declined your invitation is because she KNOWS this, and is deciding to stay somewhere else to make YOU more comfortable?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Sounds like a blessing to me. Houseguests are work and out of town visitors are more fun if you can go to your own corners from time to time. She's not insane because she makes different choices and has different priorities than you.

You are comfortable with your decisions and that's all that matters. There's no need to be pissed off about hers. As others have said, it's kind of ironic considering the reason you're upset in the first place is that she doesn't agree with your choices.
posted by Kimberly at 10:56 AM on October 27, 2008

Think of it this way, the chances of religion or politics coming up in discussion, and general drama are greatly reduced if she doesn't stay in your house. I feel similarly to you about her views, but I am capable of moving past it because I adopt the attitude of live and let live. As long as she doesn't come over and tell you guys to get married, that you are going to hell etc etc then what does it matter what she thinks, as long as she keeps it to herself.

Another way to think of it. If you guys were going to visit her wherever she lived, and she made it clear that you would have to sleep in separate bedrooms, would you do so to appease her views, or would you decline and choose to stay in a hotel? I suspect you (like I) would choose to sleep in a hotel, in order to keep things civil. I have no idea of her true motivations and how in your face she is likely to be, but perhaps its better for everyone that she stay elsewhere if she feels this strongly. Enjoy her company during the day, then breathe a sigh of relief when she heads out in the evening. You can stay home and revel in your sin without worrying what the fundie in the guest bedroom thinks :)
posted by Joh at 11:06 AM on October 27, 2008

When I had a health problem, and was comatose, and the doctors told my family to decide if I was to be buried or cremated or what, my (insane) fundie sister and brother-in-law hopped into their van and drove here, straight through, crying as they drove.

Until they caught this mental illness, they were the two people in this world who I loved the most, and I trusted them implicitly, and they loved me, and hung with me through all of the struggles of my youthful foolishnesses. We really did try to find a common ground but were unable to do so, and my sister, and those long wonderful conversations we had, my sister and I now had to be careful in every conversation we had.

But they drove 1200 miles, crying as they drove, to help me if they could, to be by my side, to pray for me.

We have reached an armistice. Love is powerful. It can reach over tall fences or walls. They love me with all their hearts, and I love them with all of my heart. I am by far the one more likely to be disrespectful, to make fun of Leviticus or any of the rest of those bums, and then my heart hurts, not a good plan for a person with a history of cardiac, um, problems.

Let them be, let them stay wherever they want, treat them with respect and love -- they may be the first at your side when your time of trouble comes.

On Review: Nthing what everyone else is saying, favoriting vacapinto and perhaps all others who've replied.

Love Is All You Need

John Lennon
posted by dancestoblue at 11:07 AM on October 27, 2008 [9 favorites]

Think of it like she's got a terrible allergy to cats. And your place is covered in cat hair. She's not setting your house on fire - she's just staying somewhere else to be comfortable.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:16 AM on October 27, 2008

Be a witness of the goodness in your character to her.
posted by troy at 11:18 AM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

While you are entitled to feel any way you like, you are not entitled under normal circumstances to take your feelings out on others in an impolite manner. The sister has, from your description, been nothing but polite to you. She declined your invitation with no rudeness. She does not deserve to be called deranged or an idiot, nor does she deserve to be mocked or derided as reactionary in a public forum, simply because her beliefs are different from yours.

Many people in the world, including many people you know, hold beliefs that are different from yours. I'm sure that you hold some beliefs that are unsavory to some of the people who love and respect you. There is no problem here unless you create one, which you seem intent on doing. You've received a lot of good advice on how not to start fights about politics or religion. You can move past this by realizing that it has nothing to do with you. I hope you enjoy your visit.
posted by decathecting at 11:19 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know it feels insulting and belittling, that this person won't stay over because they think that your lifestyle just isn't good enough. I think a lot of people up thread miss out on that point. I have a fundie sister in law as well, and it can be really rough to get along with a person that fundamentally disapproves of a big chunk of your life. Most people want to be accepted, loved, etc., especially by the family of their significant other. Most people are also very proud of their relationship, when someone disapproves of it, it does suck.

But her not staying at your house? It's a good thing, trust me. My husband & I have switched to visiting his family on "our terms" for the religion reason, as well as food (I am a vegetarian, they are pretty much dead opposite).
posted by kellyblah at 11:31 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Good riddance."

Note: This is to be said to yourself, not your SO.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:40 AM on October 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I think I was dangerously close to being a jerk, which is not the Guy (Inamonkeysuit) I want to be. I'll keep my yap shut and direct the conversation away from contentious subjects.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:50 AM on October 27, 2008

This isn't meant to be a cheap shot, but you are judging her life at least as much as you feel that she is judging hers. You feel that she's making a value judgment about your way of living. If you can't see that you are doing the same thing, that might be a good place to start in terms of moving past this.

It's also helpful to realize that it's okay to disagree about stuff like this and still be fellow human beings, but you need to make room for other people to not feel as if their moral code is being compromised. Would you really want this for her, for her to be uncomfortable in your house, even if you feel she is misguided?

If it's eating you alive such that this isn't possible, perhaps talk about it with her in a non-judgmental way (as it seems that is courtesy you would hope she extends your way). Assuming people are stupid for holding traditional views will do nothing to change the circumstances, or how you feel about it. But finding out reasons may at least assuage your hurt feelings a bit.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:54 AM on October 27, 2008

Some value judgements turn out to be right: for example enjoying exercise more than smoking.

So, you are right and she is crazy. Remember, you can't reason with crazy. That's crazy's game. Just nod and smile. Love the person, hate the disease.
posted by ewkpates at 12:24 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

If thou art judged and considered to be a lowlife dirtbag destined to burn in hell, it's best you take it quietly.

The Book of Metafilter 10:27
posted by mandal at 12:24 PM on October 27, 2008

Some value judgements turn out to be right: for example enjoying exercise more than smoking.

Very true. Just like it's right that it's inappropriate to assume that people you know little about are crazy and irrational, or to assume that one issue is sufficient to call their sanity or rationality into question.

I would go with the talking before giving the cold shoulder. Building emotional bridges is the best way to mend hurt feelings, and also to persuade others regarding the error of their ways. If logic doesn't work, people are often converted to a particular viewpoint through friendship and winsomeness.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:10 PM on October 27, 2008

One couple I knew used to completely rearrange their home before family visits so that his super-religious parents wouldn't realise they were "living in sin".

Be glad your inamorata isn't running around taking your toothbrush from the bathroom and throwing all your DVDs in the garage!

On a more practical note, you'll find it easier to keep from talking about politics or religion if you work out some 'safe' topics in advance. Ask Inamorata about her sister's hobbies then if the conversation ever drifts into dangerous waters, you can push it in the direction of pony trekking or contract bridge or whatever it is she's into.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:16 PM on October 27, 2008

you'll find it easier to keep from talking about politics or religion if you work out some 'safe' topics in advance

just don't go there, or be drawn there. Nothing to be gained, at a lot to be lost.
posted by troy at 1:47 PM on October 27, 2008

Look, you're all older and set in your ways.

It seems like she's doing her best to live and let live. She's friendly and sociable, right? She doesn't talk to you about burning in hell or send you Chick tracts, right?

There is still probably a part of her that she can't control, that's kinda icked out by your living arrangement.

I mean, yeah, this is the 21st century, but she spent most of her life in the last one.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:02 PM on October 27, 2008

Best answer: I have to say that I'm surprised at this response. While I agree with and echo everyone's call for you to take the high road, I think that there is a bit of self-care that goes into this. It isn't as if you offered her a place to sleep in your bed.

My sister's boyfriend/soon-to-be-fiancee/soon-to-be-husband (unless by some miracle or deus-ex-machina, we're all spared this fate) told her that when they were married, and have children, he wouldn't want them to stay at my place because I'm gay. Sorry folks, I'm not about to take that politely.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion - that doesn't make their opinion polite, correct, humane, or decent.

In some ways, I disagree with everyone about this sister's response. I don't think it was polite. Had it been polite, Guy_inamonkeysuit would never have known that she was declining because of his cohabitation. THAT would have been polite. Had my sister's intended wanted to be polite, they would have simply waited until visiting with their children and said something to the effect of, "Oh, we'd really just like to have our own base of operations, and with the kids, it's just too much to trouble you with!" THAT is polite. Not, "Sorry bro, you're gay and we think that's sinful, and we can't sleep on your sheets or show our kids that you and your partner share a bedroom lest they become gay too." That is NOT polite.

I think what you need in order to move on and enjoy the visit is some validation that a) you are a-ok great; b) her reaction and judgment of your living situation was crappy; and c) your feelings were hurt and you deserve better than that. So here I am to give you that.

posted by greekphilosophy at 2:15 PM on October 27, 2008 [10 favorites]

The best way to move past this is to remember that this is the sister of your beloved. Simple respect for your S.O. should provide the impetus for getting over this and making sure that the visit is pleasant for all involved. You will gain no points for "standing up" to her, and it will cause far more pain than benefit for the one you care about.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:55 PM on October 27, 2008

THis is going to sound like the low road, but what seems healthiest for you and the situation is to not care at all, or pretend you don't care. She'll just take your unease as guilt.

Arguing with people like that just doesn't help.

Good luck. It doesn't sound easy.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:44 PM on October 27, 2008

I was the fundie and I made all of those choices. At the time I really believed that my higher moral ground was witness to what I believed.

I am very grateful that certain family members have forgiven me and don't say I told you so when I now come visiting with my live-in-sin partner.
posted by chairish at 1:54 AM on October 28, 2008

Response by poster: greekphilosophy, you are da man. Thank you, that is really what I wanted. To everyone else: I will be, yes, polite, and charming and all of that, but I still object to the implied moral superiorty of her stance. I guess that makes me somewhat intolerant. Well, as was said in a good book, you sow what you reap. I do not sow intolerance. My inamorata and I are good people, we live lightly on the earth and we respect difference. But yeah, I admit to feeling insulted. I'll work it out. There will be no confrontations or other unpleasantness.

Thank you to everyone on this thread. This has been very helpful for me.

As a writer, of course I will have "paper revenge" -- carnage on the printed page! Muah-hahahahaha!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:07 AM on October 28, 2008

To everyone else: I will be, yes, polite, and charming and all of that, but I still object to the implied moral superiorty of her stance. I guess that makes me somewhat intolerant.

Tolerance isn't always as shiny-happy-puppy as everyone thinks it is. I actually disagree with the implication that you "shouldn't judge her" -- dammit, she thinks unfair things about the way you choose to live your life, and that sucks. And you're allowed to think that sucks -- tolerance doesn't require you to give up that very genuine reaction.

But tolerance doesn't ASK you to give up that reaction -- it only asks you to set aside that reaction and agree to disagree about that, and just talk about something else instead. The only IN-tolerant thing you could do WOULD be to make a stink about this -- "I don't care that this offends you! How dare you insult us this way!" But it seems like what you are choosing to do -- you don't like her thought processes, but you're just going to not get into it with her -- actually IS tolerance. You can politely discuss the weather with her while mentally drawing a little mustache and devil horns on her if you like -- as long as you don't try to press YOUR opinions on her, you're still being tolerant.

It does go both ways, though -- if you're trying to take the high road and discuss food and weather or other topics, and she starts to give you a lecture about your sinful ways or something, you are perfectly within your rights to defend yourself. Or just leave.

But thinking "I'll be civil to her, even though I think she's full of shit" is still tolerance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 AM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

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