8 Ways to Know If You're Ready to Bring Your Partner Home for the Holidays
Welcome to Hump Day, where award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sexiest questions—unjudged and unfiltered. Have a quandary? Email us anonymously at HumpDay@instyle.com.
DEAR DR. JENN,
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a few months now, and I’m head over heels for him, but it's not like we’re talking about “the future” yet. He hasn't met my parents yet. How do I know if I’m ready to invite him to celebrate the holidays with my family? —Focker Fears
DEAR FOCKER FEARS,
You ask an age-old question: When is the right time to introduce the new boyfriend or girlfriend to the family? For some people it is no big deal, but for most, as Carrie Bradshaw said to Aiden in Sex in the City, “Where I come from ... meeting the parents? Oh so big!”
Understand that bringing your BF home opens the door for the fam to ask questions about your future together, which it sounds like you are unsure of at this point. But that doesn't mean you need to pick out a ring before including him in family get togethers. Here are eight questions to ask yourself that will help you determine whether you're ready for him to meet your tribe over the holidays.
1) Have your parents heard about him? And not just what his name is. It is always best to plant the seed before you ring the doorbell. Get them excited and interested in him by sharing information that will make them more likely to welcome him with open arms. I get that some families are into surprises—if you're into that, bring a wacky gift. Your partner meeting your family shouldn't in and of itself come as a surprise in any way, for you or them. It is better to give relatives a little time to emotionally adjust to the idea of you as part of a couple. If your family already knows about him and has asked to meet him, you get bonus points for laying the groundwork.
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2) How crazy is your family? You don't want to throw your man to the lions. If your dad likes to grill your boyfriends about their intensions with you, your sister has a history of drinking too much and starting fights at the table, or your aunt likes to have heated political debates, you're going to want to wait until you have more experience together as a couple before you give him this kind of family stress test. Protect your man. Maybe a better option with a family like that is to have one or a couple relatives meet him before bringing him along to a full-on reunion. If you have a warm, welcoming, open-minded family, that's another story. Consider bring him by and, while you're at it, consider renting out your crew to those less fortunate than you.
3) How long have you dated? From my clinical experience, I find that most people introduce the family somewhere between the three- and six-month mark. That said, a British online survey found that on average, people introduce the new sig other to their parents after twelve dates or six weeks. That seems awfully fast to me. I think a relationship should outlast the expiration date on your soy milk before parents get involved. When you bring your new beau into the family fold, people form attachments on both sides. It is a good idea to screen the relationship over time so you see if it has potential to go the distance before bringing him around.
4) Is it exclusive? Are you both committed to each other? Are you both off other dating apps? Make sure you are both on the same page commitment-wise before that introduction takes place. I once had a client who brought her new boyfriend home before they were totally exclusive. Shortly after the dinner, her cousin matched with him on an app. Even though he didn't respond, the family branded him a douchebag and he never recovered.
5) Have you met other significant people in each other's lives? The parents are an advanced-level intro. Start with friends and work up to siblings and other relatives before organizing a meet with the folks. See how your boyfriend does, and let a few rave reviews get back to your parents before the big day.
6) Do you think the relationship will go the distance? Before your mother starts fantasizing about grandbabies and your dad invites him to a baseball game, make sure you are comfortable with your family members starting to form their own relationships with your dude. If you are lucky enough and they get along, they are likely to want to spend more time with him. And if it doesn't work out, they are going to have their own feelings of loss.
7) How is your track record? If you have a long history of bringing home a—holes who break your heart or make for unpleasant dinner conversation, your man is heading for some serious family scrutiny. If you have subjected them to a few too many of these, spare your boyfriend the interrogation until you have been together for a good six months. The time and connection will benefit him when he finally walks through the door and, hopefully, proves to them that you are past your bad-boy phase.
8) Do you both feel ready? No one should be dragged to the family table before they are ready. It is one thing to be nervous but another to not feel prepared for that step. Make sure you are both on the same page and nobody feels pressure to do something they are not emotionally ready for.
Still heading to TG dinner hand in hand? Congratulations! Bring flowers and wine. (And maybe have a sip before you get there.)