“What are you doing for the holidays?” can be a loaded question in a new relationship.
Should you spend it together? Should you be upset if you don’t? How soon is too soon to introduce him to your family?
First, you should evaluate your relationship.
- Are you serious about him?
- Does he know how you feel?
- Is he serious about you?
If the answer to any of these questions is I don’t know or a definite no, it’s too soon to add the family dynamic. Even with the best of kin first meetings at holiday functions can be overwhelming, sometimes disastrous.
You don’t want to send him the wrong message.
I once invited a guy I had been casually dating to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving dinner. His family lived in Florida and he had no where local to go. I was just being nice, but he assumed I was serious about him and started coming on way too strong. It made me uncomfortable and we broke up shortly after. To make it worse my young nieces had fallen in love with him. They didn’t understand why I didn’t bring him back for Christmas. But it could have gone the other way. If he wasn’t ready to get serious it could have scared him away thinking that I was. You don’t want to push him or risk tarnishing his opinion of you before his feelings have a chance to fully develop. Being truly in love makes you more tolerant when situations get awkward.
Have you traveled together?
If you’ve never traveled together you might be better off with a neutral first destination. Itinerary tribulations can bring out the worst in some people and spoil crucial first impressions; which are hard to reverse.
If he’s going to spend the night consider staying in a local hotel or with some friends. Explain to your parents he’s important to you and you want him to be comfortable. In many cases, a trip to meet family ends a relationship.
Has anyone else met him?
Ideally, it’s better if you have met each other’s friends before you introduce family. Friends are people you have chosen to be your family and if your actual family is at all dysfunctional your friends can balance his opinion of you. If that doesn’t go well it can save you the trouble of ever involving your family.
If you are serious about each other.
If you are serious about your guy and you think he’s receptive, try to make the invitation as casual as you can. If possible have him meet your parents separately before the entire family. Prepare your boyfriend in advance of any family quirks or topics to avoid discussing. Politics and religion are usually better to avoid. Equally prepare your family of anything you want them to preclude, especially relationship questions. My Dad’s wife once asked a guy I just introduced if we had any wedding plans. I wanted to crawl under the table!
What if he invites me to meet his family?
Most men aren’t in a hurry to introduce you to their families so if your man wants to he probably is serious about you. This is a perfect opportunity to learn more about him and if he’s really right for you. Try to relax and be yourself but also a bit of a sleuth. Observe how his parents interact with each other. How does he treat his Mother? Is that how you want to be treated down the road? His parents are his relationship paradigm. Ask yourself if you’d like to come back again. Did they make you feel comfortable? Don’t put so much emphasis on wanting to be liked that you fail to recognize if you like them. If you marry him you’ll be marrying his family too.
Overall, the timing of a new relationship is very important so don’t rush it just because the holidays are here. Make sure you’re ready to change what you already have. Bringing family into your relationship will deepen emotional intimacy. That can either be a wonderful thing, or it can tear you apart.
Learn more about creating a healthy relationship and enforcing healthy boundaries in my book Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships: Recipes for Healthy Choices.