The Etiquette of Meeting the Parents -- and Sleeping Over

Every sometimes-single girl knows that having a boyfriend during the holidays can be a gift in itself, however not everything about new coupledom is easy over the holidays. Your mission as the new girlfriend is to delicately work out a plan for sleeping arrangements, dining together, observing family traditions (and knowing when to back out). And while a cozy weekend en famille can definitely nudge you and your significant other significantly closer, it is imperative that you proceed with caution. Herewith, a cautionary tale:

"Right before I visited my boyfriend's folks for the first time, I saw Meet the Parents," Lexi, a 24-year-old office manager, recalls with a shudder. "Watching Ben Stiller self-destruct in front of his prospective in-laws made me extra nervous. I was savvy enough to bring a gift and had determined beforehand not to stay in the same room as my boyfriend. (My dad calls this 'the breakfast etiquette': No parent wants to sit down to breakfast and wonder what went on the night before.) I learned the hard way that the gift wasn't enough. I should have sent a thank-you note after the visit. Craig's mom called him and wondered why I'd committed such a bad etiquette lapse."

Who's Sleeping with Whom?

There are a host of etiquette lapses you want to avoid when your hosts are the parents of someone you are beginning to love. Rule number one is to be respectful of their wishes, even if those wishes seem silly. "My parents decided they'd rather let my boyfriend and I sleep in the same room than be awakened by a lot of silly sneaking around in the middle of the night," Kelly, a 25-year-old public relations executive recalls. "Dan's parents didn't feel as comfortable, so we slept separately at their place. I plan to be seeing these people for a long time to come, so I never felt it was worth making an issue out of something that would go away in time. And it is going away: This Christmas they're finally putting us in the same room. It's happening without there ever having been a fight."

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