One of my favorite TV shows is Friends. A recent conversation with a relative reminded me of one of the earlier episodes. In it, Monica (Courtney Cox) has started dating a new guy, Roger. She is reluctant to bring him over to meet the rest of the gang, being all too familiar with their often scathing reviews of boyfriends. Surprise! None of them can find a thing wrong with him — Chandler (Matthew Perry) even remarks that Roger is now the new standard by which all of Monica’s other boyfriends will be measured. The gang then takes Roger into the fold as one of their own. He becomes their confidante, shoulder to cry on, and the newest friend in the group.
There’s just one problem. After a few weeks of dating, Monica realizes that though her friends think the world of him, she doesn’t like him all that much! She is more nervous about telling her friends that she’s decided to split with Roger than telling Roger himself.
Friends is fiction, of course, but this happens in real life sometimes.
Introducing your new guy or girl to your loved ones is an important step in the relationship. Even though what matters most is how you feel about the person, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t ask their family or best pals “So what did you think?” after the first big meeting. The future of the whole relationship can sometimes hinge on their answers.
I’ve been in a situation like Monica’s before. I’ve been lucky in that although I haven’t had many long-term relationships, for the most part my friends and family have liked the guys I’ve brought home. I hear nightmarish stories about family feuds and deranged in-laws and I’m thankful that at least I’ve been spared those types of experiences. A few months back my aunt asked if I ever hear from my most recent ex. We’d been together for nearly two years, so obviously he’d been to several family functions. I thought our relationship was very promising, but a lot of factors resulted in our eventual breakup. I answered honestly: “Once in a while.” We’d had a shaky friendship after the split, then didn’t talk at all for months, then had gone back to a very shaky friendship and only talked occasionally if we saw the other online.
“How’s he doing? I really liked him!” she said.
“Everyone liked him!” I said, hoping the bitterness I felt wasn’t too obvious in my voice.
Right, right. Everyone — except for me. Just one thing, though — I had liked him! For a long time! But then things started to change, and I had no choice but to end the relationship. It wasn’t an easy decision, but one I had to make. But thanks for bringing it up and making me feel guilty about it all over again.
Sigh. What’s worse — having everyone in your family hate your new significant other, or like him a lot… possibly even more than you do? This can get complicated if you have some of the same friends, or if they’ve grown close to a member of your family.
It’s not easy to be told over and over again that you two made such a cute couple, or that “I was sure he/she was The One!” every time you visit. Here are a few pointers to diffuse a sometimes touchy situation and still keep the peace with your loved ones:
Let your friends or family down easy.
If your significant other was a total jerk, you don’t owe anyone an explanation if you’ve decided to send them packing. But if you’re going to end things on fairly good terms, soften the blow and give the bad news to those closest to you. You may have to do this first, depending on just how well they got along with your soon-to-be-ex. If you have mutual friends or they’re tight with someone in your family, be respectful of their feelings and let your relative know before they hear it from someone else.
Ask your loved ones what they liked about your soon-to-be-ex.
Hear them out — maybe they saw something endearing that you overlooked, though this may be harder to determine the longer the relationship lasts. The fact that your now-former love is your mother’s hair stylist’s son, and they thought you would be such a good match isn’t a good enough reason to keep the romance going. Sorry Mum, but guilt is never a valid substitute for genuine love and attraction.
Be civil to your former love.
Your soon-to-be-ex got to be pretty chummy with your sister, and now they’re best friends. Odds are good that your paths will cross again. As long as your former flame wasn’t a complete dud or the abusive type, you can still have a civil relationship with them. You may never be the best of friends, but as long as the hard feelings are kept in check, there’s no reason why your holidays have to be ruined if they stop by.