The holidays are meant to remind us of what’s important in our lives – our family, our friends, and if you’re lucky, a boyfriend or girlfriend. And if you do have a special someone in your life, the holidays present a perfect opportunity to introduce your new girl or guy to Mom and Dad.
Meeting the parents should be a simple – albeit nerve-wracking – rite of passage in a relationship. For some, however, it’s much more complicated than that. Emily from UConn has been dating her boyfriend, who is of a different nationality than her, for over a year. “My boyfriend’s family is from out of the country, and they expect him to date – and eventually, marry – someone of their nationality and religion. My family is all from the states, and I grew up being told that I could date whoever I want, as long as they care about me and treat me well.”
Needless to say, Emily can’t go home with her boyfriend over the holidays. In fact, she’s never even met his parents. This has caused some difficulties for Emily and her boyfriend. “It’s hard sometimes feeling like I have to hide from his parents, especially since my parents are so accepting of our relationship.”
Ben from Northwestern is dealing with similar issues this holiday season. “I started dating my boyfriend about three months ago, at the beginning of the school year.” Ben would love to bring his new boyfriend home for Thanksgiving, but his Catholic background makes this impossible. “We both want to be honest with our families about our relationship, but because of their beliefs, we’ve agreed that it would be safer and easier for everyone to keep it a secret, at least for the time being.”
You don’t need to be in a situation like the ones mentioned above for meeting the parents to be nerve racking. A simple misstep could make things uncomfortable quickly. Mark Harris, whose daughter is a sophomore at Boston College, would want her daughter’s significant other to “find out beforehand if there are certain customs or beliefs that we hold valuable. Not only does this reduce the risk of offending, but it also shows interest and attention to detail.”
When trying to impress a parent, Harris believes that “confidence and respect are invaluable. Be polite, but don’t be afraid to express your opinions. Give honest and intelligent answers when you are asked a question, and ask meaningful questions yourself. A parent will admire someone who is intelligent and sure of themselves, as well as courteous.”
These suggestions are especially important when it comes to situations like Emily and Ben’s where so much is on the line. About meeting his boyfriend’s family, Ben says, “That time isn’t now, but it will come eventually.” And when that time does come, Ben will be prepared.
Getting nervous about meeting a significant other’s family is normal. It might be awkward, it might force you to step out of your comfort zone, but at the end of the day, it’s an important step that will ultimately strengthen your relationship. Whether you’re taking the new beau home to mom and dad this holiday season – or vice versa – remember that a parent will respect someone who is true to him or herself. If you and your guy or girl are going separate ways this holiday season, don’t be discouraged. When the family introductions do happen, you’ll be prepared to push through the awkwardness and show off how great you really are.