Home For The Holidays?

Should you bring your sweetie to meet the family this season? Here, our writer reveals three times you should…and three times you shouldn’t.

By Bob Strauss

hort of getting married and churning out a series of adorable moppets, nothing screams “serious!” like asking your significant other to Christmas dinner—or, more tellingly, inviting him or her to spend a few days at the family compound. But as fun as it can be for your sweetie to bask in the admiring gaze of aunt, uncles, and siblings — and as much as you’ll enjoy having a ready-made ally should family dysfunction rear its ugly head — this is not a step to be taken lightly. Here are some signs that the love of your life may not quite be ready to spend holiday time with the folks—and a couple of clues that your honey is rarin’ to go.

Three signs you shouldn’t offer an invitation
Red flag #1: Being noncommittal. It’s nice that the object of your affection asks what you’re doing for the holidays, but if you talk in detail about the annual Smith Family
Talking about gifts is a sign of being invested in sharing the holidays.
Sleigh ride and he or she doesn’t immediately reserve a seat, that’s a red flag. “If your date doesn’t make it completely unambiguous that he wants to be with you on the holidays, you’re probably hearing the wrong thing if you think that’s a yes to spending the time together,” says Marian Lindner, author of The Emotionally Available Partner.

Red flag #2: Being indiscreet. Holidays dinners can be a strange mix of exaggerated courtesy, eggshell-thin feelings, and grudges dating back to childhood—so if your sweetie’s knowledge about your family is inversely proportional to his or her ability to keep mum, an invitation may not be in order. Ditto if your date just seems to lack the tact gene in high-pressure situations. Here’s a cautionary tale from the trenches: “One Christmas, my brother brought home his sweetheart. She was quiet and well-behaved, so she was doing fine in our collective opinion. The trouble started when my grandmother noticed the girl didn’t put much food on her plate. She replied that she wasn’t very hungry. Which would have been fine, except as they were getting ready to leave she asked my brother, in a loud voice, ‘Do you think there’s a Burger King nearby?’”

Red flag #3: Being a refugee. Granted, not everyone’s family is a warm, nurturing haven of sweetness and light—but if your date seems just a bit eager to skip out on her family gathering in favor of your own folks’ get-together, that can be a bad sign in itself. Odds are, he or she will behave just fine, but it’s hard to survive 20 years’ worth of dysfunctional wing-dings without picking up (and being liable to spread) just a wee bit of holiday madness.

So what about the opposite situation—how can you tell your guy or gal pal is not only ready, but eager, to join the holiday festivities? Here are some surefire signs:

These are signs of being invested in sharing the holidays.
Green light #1: Being pro-holiday. “He asks you what you want for Christmas and engages in conversation about the holiday,” Lindner says. These are signs of being invested in sharing the holidays. (Of course, if your sweetie is being so inquisitive and caring in the hopes of scoring a big gift, this would all be in bad taste.)

Green light #2: Being curious about your family. A date who asks about your family’s traditions, the area of the country they live in, and so forth is showing a readiness to bond with your clan during the season. Invite him or her along, and your date is bound to bask in the warm glow of your extended family (even if you think they’re somewhat nuts) like a dog napping by the fireplace.

Green light #3: Reminiscing about holidays past. It’s also a good sign, Lindner says, if your date talks about (positive) memories of past celebrations and gently probes you for your own recollections. Then, your biggest problem won’t be whether to invite your sweetheart over; it’ll be deciding with whose folks to while away the holidays

Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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