No matter how festive this time of year is most agree the holidays are stressful. And if you find yourself in a budding relationship then the stress and anxiety of the season can be a bit amplified. Is it too soon to introduce your new love to your family? Is a private celebration more appropriate? And, what gift do you give? If your palms are sweating reading this, our team of Kelleher matchmakers has some suggestions to help you navigate the swirling blizzard of holiday emotions.Before you make any big decisions or even discuss meeting the family or closest friends with your significant other, it’s critical to evaluate your relationship with those most sacred groups in your life and how much you’ve already shared with them about your love life. Do you typically bring men/women home or is this a rare occurrence? Based on past relationships, how will they react to this one?
“I think whatever the answers are to those questions will determine when the time is right,” says Kimberly Colgate, Kelleher’s head of matchmaking. “For some, introducing the family early on is not a big deal and can help strengthen a relationship.”
Kimberly reflects back on two clients who had just met and accidentally jumped right in, “On their second date, they traveled to the woman's hometown in the wine country. A few wine tastings in, the woman asked if it would be weird if her sister and brother-in-law joined. Her date replied, “The more, the merrier.” Before they knew it, both of the woman’s parents and sister were joining in the fun. Everything flowed naturally and they had a blast restaurant hopping and tasting wine along the way. The couple ended up getting married a few years later. Subsequently, when I talked to the guy about this experience he admitted it was a little soon, but it wasn't awkward. He said he loved how comfortable and close she was with her family and appreciated that insight upfront.”
If it’s your family the new love is meeting, there are some primary responsibilities and courtesies to extend to make the experience as stress-free as possible for your significant other. Patty Russell, CEO Club matchmaker, suggests, “Make it a point to personally introduce your new love interest to your family and friends at the function. Don’t make a blanket intro and leave your person to fend for themselves. Be supportive and remember you’ll be the new kid on the block yourself one day soon.”
One pro tip from matchmaker Erin Soskin is a little pre-planning to help make the occasion smooth and successful. “If you’re an affectionate couple, discuss PDA rules around the family. If it’s a sleepover, give your partner a heads-up if your parents frown on unmarried couples sleeping in the same room. Being blindsided with separate sleeping arrangements can be awkward if you typically sleep together or pack your things in the same bag.”
“When you’re meeting the friends and family of someone you care about the desire to make a great impression is natural. The main thing to remember is to relax, be yourself, and breathe through the nervousness. And be observant! There’s a lot to learn from the personalities and interactions happening around you,” Patty adds. “If the family is immediately welcoming, the anxiety will dissipate in no time.”
A big part of any relationship is family-time during the holidays and other moments throughout the year. Patty warns, “If you never feel comfortable in those situations and don't like your person’s family or friends you need to do some soul-searching. These people are a part of who your significant other is. It is imperative to discuss these feelings with your partner if you’re both committed to being together long term. It is true that when you marry someone, you are marrying their family as well.”
A client situation that comes to mind, Patty explains, “One client was in a relationship for six months before her beau wanted to introduce his children and immediate family members. A year later he was still keeping his life with her very separate from the rest of his life and familial connections. This divide was one of the main reasons she decided to end the relationship.”
Kimberly expands, “For clients with kids, it can be more of a challenge in figuring out timing. I always tell clients to examine the relationship and where they see it going in the next few years. Do you feel future potential? Are you exclusive? Early in the dating phase, it might be best to hold off the introduction. Especially around the holidays when there is an expectation of gifts and more time spent together. I would suggest doing a fun romantic date together - maybe ice skating with a champagne toast afterward overlooking the city skyline - and exchanging gifts then rather than with either of your family or friends.”
Kimberly also advises clients to give timing and relationship appropriate gifts. “There’s no need to break the bank on a new relationship. Instead, go for something that shows interest in spending more time together. Consider a future-forward gift like tickets to a concert a few months out or a weekend getaway.”
Bottom line, if you both decide your relationship is ready to progress to the "meet the family" stage, cut each other some slack, especially around the holidays. Erin adds, ”If something comes up while you're in the throws of the family holiday festivities, try to find a private moment to bring it up with your partner and let them know how you're feeling - avoid accusations, anger, or airing dirty laundry. If you're staying under the same roof whether you’re the guest or host, do your best to make each other feel comfortable. After all, your partner is either the family foreigner or the one stuck in no man's land between their family and you. Compassion goes a long way.”
While the “family introduction” stage of a relationship adds another layer of complexity, it can also bring a great deal of joy. If you think this might be your forever person, take note of the way you feel around their family and them yours. Be aware of the relationship your partner has with their family and friends and whether you foresee joining the tribe. On the other hand, if you’re still looking for love, consider calling Kelleher. We’d be delighted to begin matching you and set you up for love and success in 2018.