After Darren invited his new girlfriend to come to his parents’ house for the holidays, he immediately regretted it. “It was a disaster. My family is a little crazy, and she was not ready for it. It chased her away in a hurry,” said Darren, an author.
So the next year, when he was dating another woman, he went the opposite route and refrained from inviting her. “That didn’t go well either,” he said, and the relationship ended shortly afterwards.
For most of the year, couples can allow new relationships to evolve slowly without burdening themselves with a lot of strict definitions. Is the man you’re having dinner with on Friday your boyfriend or just a guy you’re seeing? Who cares? The point is you’re looking forward to it.
But during the holidays, couples are confronted with a host of awkward questions. Should you exchange gifts? Visit each other’s families? What about office parties and New Year’s celebrations? Suddenly, the status of your relationship is cast into high relief.
Jaime, a writer and editor, met a great guy at a Halloween party this year. “When I was dressed as Britney Spears, no less!”
While she has been enjoying getting to know him, she’s also glad they’re keeping their holidays mostly separate. “We already have enough obligations around the holidays. The last thing you want is to feel like you owe your new interest anything!” says Jaime.
But she was tickled when on Thanksgiving her new sweetie sent her a text with a picture of the family dog, who wished her a Happy Thanksgiving.
“I loved getting that text. It was lighthearted and sweet, but it also asked nothing of me in response. So I’d advise anyone to extend the spirit of the holidays into their new relationships—focus on what you can give (in this case, share a slice of your life, no strings attached) instead of what you’re receiving.”
For Dan, a media-relations director, the rule is “no gift-giving until you’re three dates in” and families shouldn’t be met for a least a couple of months, even though he once went to a family gathering on the first date. “Some of the people around the table had talked about how she had done this before, and they have all these family photos of her with guys that nobody remembers!”
He also recalls going on a first date with a woman named Tina one mid-September evening. In addition to the major holidays ahead, Dan’s birthday was in early November. “So there was the issue of her buying me birthday as well as holiday gifts,” says Dan.
Fortunately, the two were so comfortable with each other that parade of Big Occasions wasn’t a stress. Tina took Dan out for his birthday. During the holidays they exchanged gifts and Dan introduced her to his family.
“My family loved and loves her,” he said, “which is one of the reasons I ended up marrying her.”
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