The holidays are upon us, and your family and friends are probably in full-on planning mode. That’s all well and good, but conversations about where you’re going and who you’re spending the holidays with might have you thinking about whether it’s finally time to bring your new flame home to meet your loved ones.
Even if your partner has already met your parents, having them meet the rest of your extended family is a big deal. Are they ready? Are you ready? Follow these 11 rules to make your new S.O.’s first holiday with your family as smooth as pumpkin pie.
Make Sure You’re Ready
Even if your S.O. has already met your parents, do you feel comfortable introducing your partner to Uncle Joe, with the big, filterless mouth, or your cousin, who can never help but bring up your most awkward teenage stories? Be sure that you’re fully comfortable with your partner before bringing them around your entire family, where they might hear embarrassing anecdotes from your childhood and observe how drunk your aunt gets while cooking a turkey.
Give Your Hosts a Heads-up
It doesn’t matter how much of a fuss they make, you must let family know in advance that you’re bringing your new partner home for the holidays. It’s the right and respectful thing to do—plus, the holidays are stressful enough, without surprising everyone when you walk into the house with a stranger.
Offer Some Background Details
Give your parents and siblings (or whoever your S.O. will be meeting) the basics before they meet your partner, and vice versa—if you haven’t done so already. This way, family members will be less tempted to interrogate her or him during the visit, explains relationship writer Justin Lavelle. “You don’t need to divulge any confidential information, but give your family enough to go on that they feel comfortable making conversation.”
Be Clear About Your Relationship Status
Before you even consider bringing your S.O. home to face a barrage of questions about your relationship, make sure the both of you are on the same page. If nosy cousin Lisa asks your partner if marriage is in the future and s/he says “I don’t know,” when you expected a firm “yes,” it could really kill the holiday spirit.
Warn Your Partner
Clue your date in on any family traditions, quirks, and weird relatives ahead of time so that there are no unexpected (and unnecessarily uncomfortable) surprises during the visit, says relationship expert Stef Safran. “If you know your dad will grill them, be sure to let your partner know that’s his personality so sh/e can mentally prepare.”
Keep Your History in Mind
Remember that if you’re close with your family, they might have been almost attached to past lovers as you were—and it might take them a minute to warm up to your new S.O. Don’t expect the exact same reaction when you walk through the door as a couple. “When people have to get used to new significant others, it can be hard on some people if they really liked the previous person,” says Safran. Either way, they’re probably making subconscious comparisons because they’re human. But ultimately, most loving, functional families just want you to be happy—so they’re going to support whoever makes you feel that way.
Figure out the Gift Situation
“Have a discussion about gift-giving ahead of time, both with your family and your S.O. so no one feels awkward both in terms of one having a gift for the other, but not the other way around,” says Lavelle. Your partner should probably bring a small token of thanks—i.e. a host gift—while your family treating you and your S.O. to a long weekend of meals might feel like enough. (And definitely nudge your date to write a thank you note after the fact—it does wonders.)
Follow House Rules
Yes, you’re both adults, but you should still be respectful to family and follow the rules of the home you’re visiting. “Your rules about sleepovers and sharing a bed might be different than your family’s home rules,” says Lavelle. “This is not the time to take a stand—unless you want unnecessary drama.” Following the rules is easier on everyone, we promise.
Avoid Thorny Topics
If there are any polarizing subjects between family, you, and your S.O. in relation to politics, religion, or whatever—have conversations with your partner and family beforehand and agree to stay away from those topics. The holidays—and getting-to-know-you visits—are about peace and love, not hostile debates over foreign policy (save that for next year).
Don’t Plan Too Much
Your aunt’s house for breakfast; your parents’ for dinner; shopping with the cousins, drinks at your high school friend’s… For many, it’s tradition to have nonstop bonding time with friends and family during the holidays. You might be used to it, but your partner isn’t—and it can be pretty draining, especially for introverts. “If s/he participates in some family activities, be sure to make time to do things with just the two of you to unwind,” says Safran.
Be Extra Thoughtful
Even though you’re going “home,” the benefit of home doesn’t mean that you get to revert to your teenage self. “Follow the schedule of the house. Breakfast at 8? Don’t sleep until noon. Pitch in with the work and cleanup of the festivities. Basically just try to be decent to all parties involved,” says Lavelle. You got this!