Busted Halo
feature: sex & relationships
December 7th, 2012

Meeting the Parents

Is a holiday introduction to your significant other’s family a good or a bad idea?


Question: My boyfriend has invited me to meet his parents this Christmas. We’ve been dating about four months. Is it too soon to meet his family?
Answer: I’m not sure there is any “right time” to meet your boyfriend’s family; the decision is really up to each couple. It can be a significant step in your relationship, or it can simply be part of how you are able to celebrate the holiday together. Here are some guidelines that can help you decide, along with tips to make introductions go more smoothly.

First, if you are not dating exclusively or if you don’t plan to stay in the relationship much longer, then meeting his family would give the wrong signal. On the other hand, if you see this relationship moving forward, and you consider your boyfriend to be very important to you, then meeting his family would be a natural step in getting to know each other better.

The significance of meeting the family can depend a lot on his or her relationship with them, or it can come down to simple logistics. If your boyfriend lives with his family, or lives very close to them, then meeting them would not necessarily be a “big deal.” In fact, it would almost seem rude not to, especially at the holidays. If your boyfriend’s family is an airplane ride away, then taking the time, money and effort to meet them shows how important your relationship is to you.

The timing on when to meet his parents is more about how you and your boyfriend feel about it. If he is asking you, then it must be important to him. Be sure to talk about his expectations. What are his parents like? How do they celebrate the holidays? Should you bring a small gift or dish to share? What is their relationship with your boyfriend? Are they easygoing, laid-back, inquisitive or, even, confrontational in their approach? How much do they know about your relationship? Will there be siblings or stepfamilies involved?

The significance of meeting the family can depend a lot on his or her relationship with them, or it can come down to simple logistics. The timing on when to meet his parents is more about how you and your boyfriend feel about it. If he is asking you, then it must be important to him. Be sure to talk about his expectations.

Meeting your boyfriend’s family is a great way to learn more about him. It can bring you closer, as you begin to understand how he has been formed from the characteristics of his parents (as we all are). You will see how his family celebrates the holidays, and how they integrate religious beliefs into their traditions.

One of the biggest issues can be the question of staying in the same room. If his parents prefer you sleep in separate rooms, then follow their lead. If you prefer to sleep in separate rooms, then make that clear before making the trip. As you may know, our faith believes being physically intimate is a sacred gift reserved for marriage. Honoring your sexuality would be a great gift to give yourself, and your boyfriend, especially at Christmas. If there are younger siblings or family members also spending the night, staying in separate bedrooms sends a powerful message of how much you both respect your faith and your relationship.

Just remember, it’s very natural to feel nervous about meeting a date’s family. All of us want to make a good first impression. But beyond a few butterflies, do you have any other concerns? Is there something important they don’t know about you or your relationship? Is there a history of conflict between your boyfriend and someone in his family? Is there a possibility they could be rude to you? If there is a chance that something uncomfortable may come up, then talk to your boyfriend about how it will be handled. It’s family — we all have one — and they all have issues. It doesn’t have to ruin the trip. Just make sure your boyfriend knows the best way to support you, and the two of you as a couple. If you want a good laugh before you go, be sure to rent “Meet the Parents.” Everything that could go wrong does, and the strength of the couple’s relationship is really the message of the movie.

I had a client that was dating his girlfriend for about six months when he flew out to meet her family. Everyone was kind and accommodating, but he felt an awkward sense of silence that was pervasive throughout his trip. At first, he simply thought they were more of the “quiet type,” although she was not like that at all. It was many months later that he learned the silence was covering up a pending divorce, a history of abuse, and the sense that too much conversation would spark a major argument.

I had been dating my husband for about four months when the holiday season arrived. I had already met his parents because they lived in the local area, but my parents lived on the other side of the country. The day after Christmas he flew out to meet my parents. Since I felt as if this could be “the one,” I actually had a talk with my full-blooded Italian parents to make sure our loud and boisterous manner didn’t scare him off! I also limited the “cute” stories about me as a child to only the ones I didn’t find embarrassing. My husband loved my family, and they felt the same way. My father actually kept the embarrassing stories for his toast at our wedding reception, a time when I was comfortable enough to laugh along with everyone else.

I hope this has helped you in your decision. My prayer for you is to enjoy the journey with your boyfriend, and that you both remain connected to the peace and joy that is such an important part of our Christmas celebration.

The Author : Michele Fleming
Michele Fleming, M.A., is a counselor, national speaker, and writer on Christian relationships for CatholicSingles.com. Michele has a master's in clinical psychology with an emphasis in the integration of Christian theology. She is currently completing her Ph.D. and her research is focused on dating and relationships. She is a member of the Christian Association for the Psychological Sciences and the American Psychological Association. Her website is www.michelefleming.org.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/andyotto Andy Otto

    How timely! I’m going to be spending Christmas with my girlfriend’s family cross country. We’ve been together about 9 months. While I had met her parents before, I get to meet her two brothers for the first time. Sure, I’m a bit nervous, but this is an opportunity to further confirm our commitment to each other. I’m excited! And yes, separate rooms.

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