Meet the Family: New Relationships and the Holidays!

Meet the Family: New Relationships and the Holidays!

Dear Michele,
With the holidays coming up, I don’t know if I should invite my date to meet my extended family. I normally spend the holidays with my parents (who are getting close to being elderly), my siblings and their children and our aunt. However, getting everyone together can be loud and chaotic. At times, fights break out (just yelling, no physical violence). I’m used to it, I don’t love it, but I love my family. At the same time, I don’t want to scare off my girlfriend. We’ve been dating for four months. Any thoughts?

Signed,

Sharing the Holidays

Dear Sharing the Holidays,

Sounds like you have a passionate family! I can see that you are aware of the dynamics of interacting with the entire family in one place, but at the same time you are expressing acceptance of what likely will not change. The challenge is you can’t share just the parts you like about your family. If you bring your girlfriend she is going to see the whole picture.

I would start by asking yourself if it’s important for the two of you to spend the holidays together. If you are dating exclusively and it would be significant for you to be together on the holidays, then for the good of the relationship you should find a way to be in the same place at the same time. If that means going to your family, then now is the time to start the prep work.

Start talking to your girlfriend about what it’s like when your family is together. Start by talking about the goodness of who your family is, and about the love you received growing up. Then, tell her what it’s like when they are all together, what you like about being together, and what you don’t like. Tell her what you do to still have a good time without getting pulled into the chaos. Then, together as a couple, decide if going to your house is best for the two of you as a couple. Explain why you want to share that part of your life, and let her decide.

If the two of you do show up together at your house, then decide what you want to do if and when an argument breaks out, or if something else is happening that you don’t want to participate in. You can choose to take a walk, go into another room, find the children and start playing with them, and have private time to joke about how you knew this was going to happen -distraction basically. Or, you can decide on a signal to give each other when it’s time to leave.

It’s also a time to share your holiday traditions. What is Thanksgiving and Christmas about for you and your family? It is an obligatory time to be together, or something more? Does the family attend Mass together, or would you like to start that tradition? Does your family share their faith in any special way at the holidays, or are you one of the few who is a practicing Catholic? All of these topics are important ways for you and your girlfriend to get to know each other on a more intimate level.

No matter what happens around the Thanksgiving or Christmas table, the experience will be a great exercise for the two of you. This is an opportunity to practice communication about a topic that might be uncomfortable. It’s also about showing the “not always the best” side of your family. It’s about being real. Let me assure you, there is no family out there that doesn’t have a few rough edges. It sounds like you love your family and likely want them to meet your girlfriend. It shows how important they are to you, and how important this new relationship is to you. And, it’s a reflection of your true heart … with the bumps and all. That is true love.

Have a great holiday season!

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