Should we allow our unmarried adult daughter to share a room with her boyfriend in our house? She lives out of town, and she plans to bring this man home with her for Christmas. To our disappointment, they have been sexually active for some time, and I know they'll expect to sleep in the same room while they're here. How should we respond?
We'll grant you that this is a delicate situation. But it's not irresolvable. To handle it wisely and appropriately you simply have to find a way to hold two things in balance: respect for your daughter as an autonomous adult and faithfulness to the dictates of your own conscience. In other words, you need to approach it as you would approach any conflict of values with a friend or peer.
There comes a time in every child's life when he or she crosses the threshold into adulthood. Once this line is passed, the parent-child relationship changes in some basic ways. As an adult, your daughter is your equal. She has graduated into a position of self-responsibility, in which she is accountable to a higher authority – the authority of God Himself. If she wants to engage in sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage, she will have to answer to Him for that decision. She's no longer bound by Mommy's and Daddy's rules.
Does this mean that she has the prerogative to adopt a dismissive attitude toward you or to disparage your values and opinions? Absolutely not. As your peer and a guest in your home she is still under obligation to respect your beliefs and standards of behavior. That's not to mention that there is no time- or age-limit attached to the biblical command to honor one's parents; as Paul writes (quoting Exodus 20:12), "'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Ephesians 6:2).
We suggest that you have a frank conversation with your daughter before she comes home for the holidays. Explain that you have strong feelings about God's plan for human sexuality. Make it clear that, from your perspective, sexual relations are meant to be reserved for marriage, and that for this reason she and her boyfriend will have to occupy separate rooms while staying under your roof. You don't have to fuss or argue or preach. Just let her know that while you love her dearly, your Christian convictions won't permit you to condone what you regard as sexual immorality. If she's willing to cooperate, you've achieved your objective. If not, invite her to arrange other accommodations. Help her understand that the choice is hers to make. And remember that you can have a huge influence in her life through the power of prayer.
Bear in mind that there's a very real sense in which you are engaged in a deeply spiritual battle. You can find a tremendous amount of strength and encouragement for the fight in Beth Moore's book Praying God's Word. Meanwhile, if your daughter is open to learning more about the biblical basis for your beliefs, you may want to direct her attention to Les and Leslie Parrott's excellent book Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. Both resources are available through the ministry of Focus on the Family and can be ordered by calling our offices or visiting our Online Store.
If you'd like to discuss this situation at greater length with a member of our staff, please feel free to give our Counseling department a call. Our trained and licensed family counselors consider it a privilege to be of service to you and your family in any way they can.