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First vacation together, meeting each other's friends, attending a wedding or office party together — when you start dating someone new, every milestone is exciting. If you've been dating for some time and have done all of the above, maybe you're thinking about introducing your partner to your family. But how do you know if you're both ready for that relationship milestone?
We talked to dating expert and founder of Latina x Love Magazine Sujeiry Gonzalez, also known as Love Sujeiry, about the pros and cons of taking that step. Keep reading to learn how to tell if it's the right time to introduce your partner to la familia, how to make it a smooth process for everyone, and how to approach the meet if they don't speak the same language.
Is This Relationship Serious?
"Meeting the family indicates that you're in a serious relationship," Sujeiry said. "If you don't know where you and your partner stand commitment-wise or have not laid out plans for your future as a couple, it's not the right time." You could also opt for a happy medium — introduce them to a sibling or a cousin you're close with, so they can get a taste of your family dynamics.
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"On the flip side, if you and your partner have had 'the talk' and are on an upward trajectory romantically, and your partner is excited and willing to meet your family, go for it!" Sujeiry said. In both cases, it should always be a mutual decision. If you force someone to meet your entire family too soon, you might end up feeling like you're in a scene from a bad rom-com where everyone is uncomfortable. Remember that there's no need to rush it.
Know What You Want
If you're not sure if you are at that point in the relationship, Sujeiry said there are some questions you can ask yourself to help you make the decision. For example, "Is this relationship meeting my expectations?", "Am I clear on what I want in this relationship?", or "Do I know what my partner wants in this relationship?" If the answer is no, then maybe it's time to have that talk. To get that conversation started, she recommended speaking about where the relationship stands and being clear about how both of you would like it to grow. "Ask your partner to speak on their experience and what they feel, so it's not a one-sided conversation," she said.
Deciding if you want your partner to meet the family is not something to take lightly in any case, "but especially if you're meeting a Latinx family," Sujeiry said. "Soon enough, your tías, your abuela, and mamá will start to plan your wedding." Make sure you know as much of each other's history as possible before the meeting to minimize the risk of embarrassing or uncomfortable conversations. "Baggage can make or break a relationship if the other party can't handle the load. And the point of meeting the family is to show your commitment to each other, which means you must share the not-so-appealing sides of yourselves and stories about your past."
Know Each Other´s Cultures
Another way of making things easier for everyone, especially if you have different cultural backgrounds, is to make sure your partner understands what to expect and what is traditionally appropriate or inappropriate in your family. "Latinx families tend to kiss and hug when they say hello, whereas some Asian cultures bow and will not feel comfortable with that type of greeting," Sujeiry said. It can be small things like removing your shoes when walking into their home or bringing a gift. Before you meet a family of a different culture or introduce yours to your partner, make sure you're both informed and know how to show respect (and impress!) them on that first meeting.
If there's also a language barrier, the whole thing can get even more tricky. The best way to navigate this situation is to serve as a translator yourself if you can. "This way, they can engage as much as they can with each other and not feel awkward," Sujeiry said. But if you don't feel comfortable enough in both languages, you can also share tools like Google Translate with everyone, so they can communicate with each other using the app.
Pick the Right Event
We've all seen too many movies in which the main character brings their significant other to Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas, or their parents' wedding anniversaries and things end up going south. This begs the question: why do we pick these already stressful-for-everyone events as the time to introduce your SO to your family?
While Sujeiry said birthdays are a good idea because friends are invited and can act as a buffer, she advised avoiding family holidays for that first meeting. "A holiday is not the best idea as it's often just family celebrating the festivities, and holiday traditions are also at play," she said. "You don't want an awkward Noche Buena, if, let's say, your papá isn't connecting with your partner. Holidays are much more intimate, so stick to birthday bashes or a nonholiday! You and your partner can take your relatives to dinner at one of their favorite restaurants to break the ice."
Let's say you've thought this through, considered all the factors, and you don't think you are ready to take this big step. Even if you feel committed to the relationship and your partner asked you to meet their family, it's OK to be honest and say you don't want to. What matters is the way you communicate it.
"Focus on the readiness factor," Sujeiry said. "Speak honestly about why you're not ready without blaming them and their behavior. Have an open dialogue about what needs to occur, so that you are both on the same page." Ultimately, meeting the family is just another way of showing how much you care about each other, so make sure whatever you want the next step in the relationship to be, you decide it together.