Wright Foundation | December 8, 2015

Should I Bring a Date
Home for the Holidays?

Ah the holidays…feelings of joy, goodwill towards others, and what’s this? Dread?! If you’re just in a relationship, dating someone new or single, the holidays can bring up a whole myriad of concerns.


“What if I bring Sara to Christmas dinner and my aunt Susan talks about how much she (and the whole family) loved my ex, Julie?”

Or worse… “What if Sam goes to my cousin’s wedding with me and my sisters start up about when WE’RE going to get married? We’ve literally been dating for two months. Is it too soon to bring him?”

Whatever your situation, facing the litmus test of family, friends and merriment can dredge up all sorts of expectations, yearnings and feelings. If it’s a holiday like Valentine’s Day, Christmas or a birthday, there’s always the issue of whether or not to get gifts for the guy or girl you’re dating. If it’s a romantic event (like a wedding or worse—a destination wedding) or a family-heavy event, there are a lot of uncertainties.

“We Aren’t That Serious!”

When you’re first dating someone, there’s often a heady, euphoric, romantic period. You have control over the way you present yourself. You can engage with your date one-on-one and get to know each other. You may be determining the direction of the relationship, exploring the connection, and deciding how far you want things to continue.

There can be a fear the person you’re dating will “read into” an invitation and assume things are more serious. If this is the case, it might be time to take a look at what’s holding you back. There’s an underlying reason you don’t want them to read into the invitation—and that reason should be explored.

Are you fearful they’ll misread your invitation? Are you afraid of taking the relationship further? Or are you afraid they’re not as serious and you’re avoiding pushing it? Either way, it’s time for some personal work and growth.

On the flipside, what if you’re afraid of showing up single to an event? Are you reaching to the other person to be a shield from engaging with your family? Is that easier than setting appropriate boundaries and letting them know that while you appreciate their concern and feedback, you’re perfectly happy with this stage in your life?

“My Family Is Weird!”

Okay, sometimes it’s not about the person you’re dating at all, but about your own family dynamics…on the surface. We’re all familiar with our own family quirks, be they positive or negative. Sometimes exposing another person to that dynamic can be scary. You’re waiting for them to notice similarities (the dreaded “you’re just like your mother”) or for your family to do something embarrassing or frustrating.

You aren’t a jerk for feeling you’d prefer to spare your significant other the interaction with your family. You also aren’t a jerk to want have your family time all to yourself or to feel your relationship isn’t ready. The point is to own it and express it.

If you’re truly engaging with your significant other in a meaningful, honest way, chances are they aren’t going to see your freaky family and head for the hills. This can be a great opportunity for you to do a little transformational growth work and focus on what it is about your family dynamic that freaks you out.

We’re often our most vulnerable around family members, who have seen us at our best and worst. They may still remember the rough patch you went through in college or the fact you were a bed-wetter in elementary school. What’s worse, you never know what they’re going to “share” with a new person. Maybe your family is loud and overwhelming. Maybe you just miss your family and you don’t want to have to be shadowed by a new boyfriend or girlfriend, worrying about their needs the entire time.

There’s no time like the present to confront some of these issues head-on. When your sister brings up an embarrassing story (again), let her know it’s time you move past it. If your dad’s politics won’t jive with your new girlfriend, give her a heads up before dinner and divert the conversation. If you need your boyfriend to engage with your family, sans hand-holding, let him know ahead of time he’s going to have to hold his own.

As it turns out, these events can actually strengthen your bond, as you develop an “ally” mentality. It can be very reassuring to have your date there to support you and help understand where you’re coming from. Even if you decide it’s not an appropriate time for them to attend an event, it can be wonderful to have a sounding board when you need to vent.

“I Wasn’t Invited…”

It happens. It can bring up all kinds of feelings and yearnings. Did you express to your boyfriend or girlfriend you wanted to go? Did you explain you feel you’re in a place where you feel like you should have been invited?

There’s really no hard and fast rule about how many dates or how old a relationship should be before you go to events or give gifts. If you aren’t sure where you are, it’s time to talk about it. Not only that, but your date might be wondering the same sorts of things, and having the same fears and yearnings.

Admit to yourself (and to your boyfriend or girlfriend) you feel bad you weren’t invited. It’s perfectly okay to have a reaction where you feel hurt or things didn’t turn out in a satisfactory way. Oftentimes the anxiety about how these things will go permeates the interaction and builds up until it turns into an explosive reaction. It’s better to deal with it immediately and handle the conflict ahead of time.

During the holidays and big events, we can get this feeling like we’re supposed to feel something we aren’t—like we are supposed to be happy. Our relationship is supposed to be 100% fulfilling and perfect. We’re supposed to give them the greatest Valentine’s Day gift ever. It’s time to remind yourself, you are okay—work on strengthening your own sense of self-worth, first. You might want to visit your family alone, and that’s okay. You might not give the perfect gift, and that’s okay, too.

Focus on making the experience positive and approaching it with honest and open engagement. Let down the anticipatory anxiety over what you think it’s “supposed” to be and just let it happen organically. You just may find you enjoy the event and learn a thing or two about yourself and your date!

Join us every two weeks on Wednesdays at noon CST for our podcast Bring Out Your Best! where we discuss dating, relationships and being your best self.

If you’re looking for deeper, more meaningful relationships, you can order our new relationships book: The Heart of The Fight, coming out next February.

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Blog post image courtesy: Flickr user parttimephotos.