When dating someone new, it’s easy to think about them more than ourselves. Are they happy? Are they sexually satisfied? What do they want? But we tend to forget how we feel ourselves. I rarely ask myself if I’m comfortable, or if I even like a guy as much as I think I do. This also applies to big relationship milestones, like introducing your partner to your family. It’s easy to wonder if everyone else is ready, but why do we rarely ask ourselves, “Am I ready to introduce my partner to my family?” We tend to overlook questions like that in regards to any part of a relationship, but putting yourself first is extremely crucial to self-care.
Putting others before yourself is a noble thing to do, but when you do it all the time, it can often result in an unhealthy relationship, both with your partner and with yourself. And who wants that?! No one, especially when it comes to something as big as meeting the parents. You want yourself, your partner, and your family to all be on the same page when it comes to finally making formal introductions, because having people you care about care about each other is an amazing thing! But before asking your mom if she’s ready, or your partner if they’re ready, you should always ask yourself if you’re ready.
“What often happens to those who simply give in and put themselves last is that eventually — sooner rather than later, one hopes — that person will realize that she or he is unhappy and resentful, more so when they realize it’s their own responsibility in this,” wrote Isadora Alman, MFT, CST in Psychology Today. “What I’m suggesting is that when there’s a decision to be made, from the mundane to the life altering, we all need to do an internal check-in first. Is what is being proposed really okay with me?”
Part of doing that internal check-in is looking introspectively at the things you do and the ways you feel in your relationship. I spoke to Dr. Jess O’Reilly, host of the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast, about the ways you can tell you’re actually ready for your partner to meet your family.
I have never introduced a boyfriend to my family, and I’m not ashamed or regretful. It just never felt right, because I’ve never been with someone who made me feel like our relationship could work for the foreseeable future. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t introduce your partner to your family if you don’t think you’ll marry them someday, but if it’s just a fling or your relationship is casual, it’s OK not to feel ready or comfortable with the idea of introducing them to the most important people in your life.
If you can see yourself being in a relationship with this person for a good amount of time, or even if you just feel happy at the thought of your partner shaking your dad’s hand, maybe you’re ready to make introductions! And if you really do see your relationship lasting, and you’re thinking about making big decisions together, it’s even more of a reason to involve your loved ones.
“Your future with your partner is not only about the two of you — your friends and family are relevant to your relationship, so if you’re planning any big changes (like moving cities, moving in together), it’s wise to introduce them to the people with whom you’re closest,” says Dr. O’Reilly.
“It’s easy to be excited and passionate about a new partner, and falling in love is the simple part — really liking your partner, however, is far more important than the passion itself, as we cannot exist in a constant state of passion,” says Dr. O’Reilly.
True that! Having a crush and falling in love is really easy, but once the honeymoon phase is over, you really have to like the person you’re with in order to make your relationship work in the long run. Feeling pride over their accomplishments is a huge part of that. If you feel like their accomplishments are your accomplishments, like their happiness makes you happy, and like you just can’t wait to tell everyone about their successes, introducing them to your family is a great next step.
Just because your partner introduced you to their family, doesn’t mean that you have to introduce them to yours. But if you’ve met their fam and you got along great, then what’s to say they won’t get along great with yours? Granted, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Every family dynamic is different, just like every relationship is different. If you have their mom on speed dial, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll automatically be invited to every one of your family dinner from here until eternity.
Just try to envision them at your family table. What will your mom say? What questions will your siblings ask? Can you see your dad making really bad jokes but your partner laughing at them anyway? These are all things that might help you decipher if you’re truly ready or not.
However, if your partner is asking you to meet your family, and they won’t stop mentioning it, it can be easy to feel a little bit pressured. Still, wait until you no longer feel like it’s something you have to do, but rather, that it’s something you want to do. Take your partner’s enthusiasm into consideration as a sign that they’re ready, but not as a sign that you are. It says more about them than it does about you.
“Their enthusiasm speaks volumes about their feelings toward you and your relationship,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “If they’re asking to be included in family gatherings, it’s a good sign that it’s time to take them along.”
If you think you’re ready for the big intro, Dr. O’Reilly suggests planning a short visit during a non-holiday occasion, as “the holidays and large groups of new people can be overwhelming, so a short visit may help them to ease into your family and their traditions,” she says. She also suggests sorting out sleeping arrangements with the host beforehand and abiding by their rules respectfully. “It doesn’t matter if you live together or have been sleeping together for years,” she says. “The rules of the host’s house apply regardless of your age.”
Another cool trick? Dr. O’Reilly suggests texting photos of you and your SO together to your parents, “or post them on social media where they can see them, to take advantage of the mere-exposure effect, which suggests that humans find familiar faces more likable.”
Introducing your SO to your fam is a big step, no doubt about it, and it’s super important that you feel ready for it, since you’re the common factor and a lot of the pressure is on you. Sure, your partner is going to try to make the best impression they can, but it’s your worlds that are colliding, not theirs. Follow your gut and don’t feel like you have to do anything you’re not ready for yet. And if you are ready, then trust the people you love. Your happiness alone will surely help your fam see that your SO is great for you.
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