You've been dating a new guy for a while now, and your relationship is getting serious. As the holidays approach, you ask if he wants to spend the holidays with you visiting your family across the country.
You suddenly panic.
While you are thrilled to be in love and to share the holidays with your new partner, you are also hesitant, as you think about your family members and all of the personality quirks and history shared back home. No matter how old we get, whether we are in our twenties, thirties, forties, fifties or sixties, we somehow still revert back to our childhood roles and need for approval when we return home to our original family unit.
Here are some tips for introducing your new boyfriend/girlfriend to your family when you head home for the holidays:
1. Make sure you tell your family ahead of time. The holidays are not the time to spring a surprise guest on your family, let alone a new significant other. Set aside time to call your parents and siblings, and make the announcement.
2. Make appropriate lodging arrangements in advance. If you have always stayed in your parents' home or at a sibling's home when you travel back for the holidays, you may want to rethink the situation this year and stay at a nearby hotel. This will help diffuse any potential awkward late night/early morning scenarios between you, your partner and your family. Also, this will also give you the option of space and distance between you and your family should you find you need it during the trip.
3. Give your significant other some insight into your family dynamics. There's no need to give him full editorial commentary on your feelings about your family members, just a broad overview of important or sensitive issues. In this way, you can ensure that he is not taken aback by Cousin Adam's dark humor or GrandpaJim's off-color comments. This background prep will help him understand why your brother is not drinking alcohol at dinner along with everyone else -- and prevent him from making a joking comment that could lead to an awkward moment for all.
4. Go over family expectations ahead of time. Let your partner know of any family rules or required activities. For instance, maybe your family always bakes cookies together the night before Christmas and he will be expected to participate. Or maybe your family always dresses formally for Christmas dinner; let your partner know ahead of time so he can pack accordingly.
5. Exchange gifts in private. No matter what gifts you and your partner have decided to purchase for each other, make a pact to exchange them away from the prying, judging eyes of family. It will also help take the pressure off of gift buying, and make the moment together special, just about the two of you -- not about your family, and their reactions to the gifts.
6. Allow your partner space during the trip. Meeting your significant other's family can be overwhelming any time of year, but especially during the holidays, when there are so many people gathered at once and so many holiday expectations. If your partner seems overwhelmed, suggest a quiet walk around the neighborhood or a movie date.
Your family will be thrilled to see you, but they are likely also just as excited, nervous and somewhat cautious to meet your new partner as he is to meet your family. It's easy to be emotional when we return to the comfort of our family, but if your family members don't react to your new beau the way you had expected them too, try to cut them some slack. Ease up on expectations, prep your partner and family as much as you can ahead of time and relax into the spirit of the season with those you love.