Even if your family is as sunny as the Brady Bunch, introducing a girlfriend/boyfriend/partner to them for the first time during the holidays can feel overwhelming for everyone. Questions like, “Where’s this going?” and, “Are there grandbabies in our future?” can put more pressure on a holiday meal than whatever’s cooking in the Instant Pot. Here’s how you get by with the least amount of angst for all parties involved.
If your family is hosting…
Information is power and I’m a firm believer in giving your date and your parents quick tutorials to make sure they know what’s what and what topics are off the table at the dinner table. If it’s your family and your date, it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone has all the information they need about the people they’ll be meeting before that meeting takes place. Advise everyone to avoid politics, unless by some miracle everyone’s views on our current President align. The Fourth of July is the only holiday where fireworks are acceptable.
If uncomfortable questions or topics do arise (they probably will), have a list of things to divert the dinner table’s collective consciousness. Everyone lights up talking about their Netflix picks. Even if you and your partner never watch The Kominsky Method and your family will skip anything animated, you’ll all kill at least 20 minutes talking about the joys of streaming.
Establish dietary restrictions
This may technically qualify under debriefings, but because this is L.A., it gets its own category. It’s up to you to communicate to your family (or whomever is preparing the meal) well in advance if the guest you’re bringing is gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. If necessary, bring dishes that will suit you and your date, so no one can get upset about feeling obligated to make vegan cauliflower mashed potatoes with oat milk.
Have a face-to-face relationship status conversation
Giving or receiving an invite to meet the family is a big deal for some and not a big deal for others. For people who have lovely families with healthy boundaries, welcoming a variety of guest stars to their dining room tables may be a pretty regular thing and may not signal that things are getting serious. When you invite a date to meet the fam, use the opportunity to have an earnest conversation about where you stand. There’s no need for your date to freak out that you want to get too serious too soon if your invitation comes after your third date. Similarly, if you’ve been together a while, it’s best not to let your partner assume you’re a half step away from popping the question if you’re not close to ready. Save your date from an internal “What does this mean?” spiral by saying just explaining, “Hey, this is what this means.”
If you’re the guest at someone else’s family’s house…
It almost goes without saying, but when you’re a guest in someone’s home, be polite. Offer to help. Don’t dominate conversations, especially with unrelatable L.A. stuff. Listen. Ask questions. Learn something about the family’s traditions and some of their stories. This could be your future family. Also, you can see your date/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner through a different lens.
In L.A., we can all be someone else, but to be serious with someone it’s important to know who they really are. Besides, if the family is awesome, it may help extend the relationship, like in that Sex and the City episode when Carrie kept dating a sexually inept writer played by a Justin Theroux mostly because she loved his mom (Valerie Harper).
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