A friend of mine recently decided to introduce her significant other to her family for the first time, and this was a big moment for her. She said it wasn’t so much the experience of her family meeting him that had her nervous – she had every confidence in the world that they’d get along splendidly. But what had her stomach in knots was what it meant to introduce him to her family. This was a big step in their relationship, and “meeting the parents” was symbolic. It symbolized commitment.
This caused me to reflect on my dating years and think about when I had chosen to introduce my significant others to my family. I realized I did not view the occasions in the same way as she does. I’d introduce guys I was casually dating to my family just as soon as I’d introduce them to the potential father of my children. I didn’t see the experience as a commitment-maker – it was just another way to spend time together.
So this begs the question, when is the appropriate time to introduce your significant other to your family? Other than the question of personal meaning described above, here are several factors to consider when making the decision.
Your family dynamic
My extended family gathers together practically every weekend for food, games, and conversation. Inviting another person into the mix was never a big deal, and in fact, it was fun to see how he would interact with my self-proclaimed “crazy family.” For some families, though, family time is sort of sacred, and it can be difficult for members to open up to someone new. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe there is some conflict or distance in your family and the introduction of a new partner may be strained. You might want to make sure your significant other will be around for a while before drawing her into either of the latter situations.
Your family’s sense of attachment
If there is any potential that your family might get attached to a significant other that’s not “the one,” you might want to weigh the pros and cons before bringing him home. My family grew close to one of my sister’s boyfriends, and the breakup was difficult for everyone because we all had to lose someone we loved. This was especially hard for my sister because it added additional guilt and sadness to an already painful breakup. Of course, plenty of relationships could seem to be toward marriage only to have things end later, so this might be a situation you won’t be able to avoid in all cases.
Impressions on your family
Think about the impression that will be made on your family – not only by your significant other, but also by you. If you have the kind of family who will tease you incessantly because you keep introducing them to people who never stick around, consider how much of that kind of playful (or perhaps not so playful) joking you’ll be able to take. On the other hand, if you never introduce them to boyfriends or girlfriends and then suddenly you’ve brought someone home, that can add a lot of pressure to the situation and perhaps to your relationship.
Conflicting values or points of view
If you know there are some conflicting values or points of view that will cause contention, it might be best to wait until your relationship is a sure thing before introducing your significant other. You could experience your fair share of backlash from introducing your liberal boyfriend to your staunch right-wing father or your Atheist girlfriend to your traditional Catholic mother. Make sure your significant other and your relationship can handle the pressure, or consider giving your family plenty of time to adjust to particular differences in opinion ahead of time.
Inviting your family in to the relationship
The saying goes, “When you marry a man, you marry his family.” Now granted, if you are going to marry this person one day, your family will be part of the picture no matter what. But if you’re too early in the relationship, you might be inviting in some premature meddling from your parents or siblings who now feel they have some sort of stake in the relationship. Their advice, insights, or perspectives could be valuable in some situations, but they could also introduce or complicate conflicts while you and your significant other are just trying to establish yourselves.
There is a lot to consider before introducing your significant other to your family, but in my opinion, you need not err on the side of extreme caution. I found that the benefits of my family getting to know my future spouse far outweighed the potential risks of introducing them to someone I wouldn’t be with forever.
More from this writer:
A Star Under their Roof: Seven Ways to Shine When Visiting Your Boyfriend’s Parents
Waiting for the Ring: Is a Marriage Ultimatum the Answer?
Seven Signs He’s Marriage Material