When the winter holidays come, they hit hard. The expectations and demands can be intense. So much so that a recent survey from Healthline found that 62% of adult respondents reported a “very” or “somewhat” elevated stress level during the holidays. However, the holidays may also be the perfect time to introduce your new relationship to the family. In this article, I’ll highlight a few tips to make the experience as smooth and merry as possible.
Prepare your date.
The best way to prevent unnecessary awkwardness or drama is to inform your date to any family dynamics. It’s important to give a brief summary of who the major players are and to describe the relationship you have with each of them. If the family dynamics are positive and loving, say that; if your family tends to engage in regular or unpredictable conflicts, provide that warning. The overall point is to be sensitive to the fact that it can be intimidating for anyone to meet a person’s family. So, protect your date’s feelings and make sure that the meeting goes as smoothly as possible.
Gauge the stress level of the family.
As a rule, people are at their best when they are happy and relaxed. Accordingly, people also get along with others and have the fewest conflicts when they’re in a similar state. If your family is experiencing any sort of major stress – a sickness, a job loss, or something similar – ask yourself and your family members if it’s the best time to introduce your date. Just because it’s the holidays, it doesn’t mean that it’s the precise time when you should introduce your date to your family. It’s important that the family dynamics are relaxed and relatively stress-free when you make the introduction.
Keep it brief.
Some families have short and sweet holiday gatherings, while others have gatherings that last all day or night. An event that spans hours may be fine for some people, but others may prefer a briefer visit for the first meeting. Ask your date whether they’d prefer to be at the gathering for the entire time or part of the time, and schedule their appearance accordingly.
Bring a gift or lend a hand.
Encourage your date to bring a gift for the holiday event. In particular, share examples of things your parents or other family members like. When you’re at the gathering, suggest to your date that the two of you offer some sort of help to the hosts. Offering to help isn’t just polite; it’s generous and kind. If your date shows a willingness to contribute and help, these efforts will be noticed and appreciated by your family.
Quotes to keep in mind.
“I’m the one dating this person –not my family – so what matters most is how I feel about this person;”
“The goal is for my family to like my date; they don’t have to love my date;”
“No matter what, I’ll make sure my date feels comfortable, and if something makes them uncomfortable, I’ll do what I need to do to make them feel more comfortable at that time.”
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.