I recently found out that my 26-year-old granddaughter is living with her boyfriend. Our family has a family reunion planned for a week in July in a rented home and they are both attending. I have several younger grandchildren who will be there. How can I tactfully and kindly inform my granddaughter and her boyfriend that while they are welcome and wanted at the reunion, I do not want them sharing a bedroom during that time? She and I live in different states, and we are not close. However, she is important to me, and I want to maintain a good relationship with her.


Gathering with loved ones who have different beliefs and values is the perfect opportunity to practice the tolerance and respect we often preach. Families present us with a regular opportunity to balance competing needs while striving to build strong relationships. Let’s talk about some ways to accomplish this.

The boundaries around our beliefs often collide with the boundaries and beliefs of those around us. It’s always been this way and there’s no way to avoid these conflicts. I think it’s important to check ourselves about how we handle these inevitabilities. We can treat the other person as a hassle or we can view them as a fellow human doing something that makes sense to them. We can own our position while allowing the other person to own theirs.

Since this is your reunion and you’re likely paying for the house, you can certainly make the rule about sleeping arrangements, send out notice, and call it good. That’s technically your right and your granddaughter and her boyfriend would then need to decide if they want to participate. You could also decide that this rule doesn’t make sense and it’s more important to welcome them to your gathering without sleeping restrictions. Obviously, neither of these feel right to you and you’re not sure what to do with your dilemma.

I believe healthy relationships can tolerate dilemmas. In healthy relationships, both people see each other’s good intentions. They feel loved and respected and are more willing to make room for different perspectives. Connection doesn’t require sameness.

You noted that your relationship with your granddaughter needs improvement. I think if you put this rule ahead of the relationship, you’ll have difficult building a close relationship with her in the future. Now, I’m not saying that you should give up on your preference. I’m saying this situation calls for an emphasis on relationship before rules.

Your granddaughter is well into adulthood and can likely understand the challenge of balancing competing needs. I recommend you take complete ownership of your preference and have a courageous mature conversation directly with your adult granddaughter. Don’t treat her like a fragile child who needs protecting. She’s owning her decision to live her life in a way that makes sense to her. You’re living your life and running things in a way that makes sense to you. Conflicting needs don’t need to turn into contention.

You feel strongly about the sleeping arrangements and don’t want her to be offended. Perhaps you reveal to her what you shared with me in your question. You can acknowledge that she’s important to you even though you realize you’re not close to each other. Own any accountability for your part in having a more distant relationship. You can let her know you have a dilemma that you want to discuss with her. It’s unlikely she’ll be surprised, as she’s familiar with your values and preferences. Treat her like a strong woman who can have a mature discussion about this situation.

Part of being an adult is accepting that others will have boundaries and limits we don’t agree with or will inconvenience us. You don’t have to apologize for your beliefs. As you talk with her and listen to her response, you can see if anything she shares influences your thoughts on the situation. It’s possible you can both work together to find a solution that feels right for both of you and strengthens your relationship.

Talking with her directly will preserve her dignity and create the best conditions to improve your relationship with her. Don’t turn her lifestyle choices into family gossip, especially if she’s the outlier in your family culture. She needs to feel like she’s a respected and valued family member even if she’s living a life you wouldn’t personally choose.

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Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com  

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About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.