The holidays can be challenging for couples who have been through the drill many times, but for those in new relationships, it can be doubly stressful. How soon is too soon to meet the family? How do you handle that first meeting? When is “too soon” to tackle holiday dinners with that crazy uncle or an overbearing mother?

Women are often anxious to receive an invitation to “dinner” because it solidifies some sense of commitment (though not always the case), and men sometimes move quickly because it helps to make the woman feel more secure in the relationship. (Though, being smitten is not reserved for women with marriage on their minds.)

Relationship coach and “Reality Expert” Troy Spry talks about ways to handle the holidays and candidly answers questions about dating protocol for couples during this season.

Joy Simone

1. How soon should you introduce your “special someone” to the family? Are holiday dinners the best time to meet the family?

Remember that most times someone introducing you to his or her family implies a higher level of intention for the relationship. People who see you being an important part of their life don’t mind introducing you to the important people in their lives. It is my belief that if one is going to introduce someone new to the family, then they need to first have decided that they see the relationship potentially progressing into something more than just dating. There is no time frame or rule of thumb, it depends more on intention than on time. If you have invested enough in dating each other that there is potential for more or it is “official” and you have a title, then it’s only right to introduce them to the family. I don’t think that the holidays (if you are in close proximity) are the best time to bring your new mate around for the first time. The atmosphere will be too hectic and to intimidating.

2. Are there reasons a couple should never attend family gatherings pre-marriage? Or otherwise?

I don’t believe so. I believe that if they wait until marriage they are doing themselves a disservice. If someone’s family is important to them, then it will be vital that they are able to see how his/her mate interacts with the family. Family dynamics can put tremendous stress on a relationship if not handled with care. Furthermore, your relationship or marriage won’t exist within a bubble, and it’s important for the different personalities to begin to be able to co-exist.

Your relationship or marriage won’t exist within a bubble, and it’s important for the different personalities to begin to be able to co-exist.

3. What goes through a man’s mind when he decides to invite his lady to meet the fam?

What goes through his mind is that he believes that she could play an important role in his life and be his woman. He also is thinking that he hopes that his mother likes her and that they get along. Finally, he hopes that she vibes well with the other women in his family like his sisters. Men don’t worry much about what the other men think. As long as she nice and is attractive they will probably give their stamp of approval.

4. Is the lack of an invite an automatic red flag for the relationship?

It’s only a red flag if they have been seriously dating for an extended period of time and are working towards a relationship. Usually if she doesn’t get the invite to meet the fam after a few months, then odds are he won’t move the relationship much further than it is at that time.

5. Should the woman/man insist on an invite?

I don’t believe the woman/man should insist an invite, and if he/she has to do so then the truth is that they probably already know where they  stand in that person’s life.

6. Should the woman/man ever turn down an invite?

They should only turn down the invite if it is very early on and they are uncomfortable with knowing where they are going in the relationship. I mean, if they have only been on two dates and they are already trying to introduce them to the family, that is a sign that this is a person that is moving way too fast.

Just be authentic and be yourself. Although you may be trying to make an impression, people can usually see right through any facades.

7. Overall, how should new couples (6 months or less) tackle the holidays in terms of gifts, family gatherings, meeting family?

Overall, very new couples shouldn’t feel pressure to buy extravagant gifts. A good rule of thumb could be to just buy a gift that could be used for the entire house, such as wine. Just don’t come empty handed! HA! Secondly and above all things, just be nice and avoid uncomfortable conversations and gossip.  Finally, just be authentic and be yourself. Although you may be trying to make an impression, people can usually see right through any facades.

8. Are there other factors to consider?

One thing to consider is if the other person has children. Be careful trying to replace the other parent too early into the relationship, especially around other family members. That is not your place so always default to the custodial parent or other family members. Secondly, be cognizant of your attire. Keep it classy, not too tight or revealing. You don’t want to be perceived as classless or as a threat around other women in the family. Not only may they feel they have to compete, but keep in mind it’s likely that their men will be there as well. Avoid too much PDA (public displays of affection) as it could be perceived as disrespectful.

As for men, just keep it light and avoid getting into conversations about other women, as many men will try to bait you into those conversations. Don’t be a prude and act like you are above the conversations, just do more listening and less talking.  Leave the arrogance and cockiness at the door and ask people about themselves more than you talk about yourself.

All in all just remember that BASIC MANNERS go a long way.

About the Expert

Troy Spry, a Certified Life, Dating, and Relationship Coach and the one and only “Reality Expert” resides in Charlotte, NC. He created his blog, Xklusive Thoughts, with the intent of putting out a very realistic perspective about dating, relationships, and marriage and using that as a vehicle for inspiration! His mission is to first inspire people to become better people so that they can become better mates, which will foster an environment for better relationships and ultimately help build better communities!

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