As our society continues to evolve, our attitudes about lifestyles that fall outside what is considered “mainstream” such as being gay, lesbian or bisexual have become more tolerant. However, the recent gay marriage firestorm is pushing those tolerance levels to their limits and people to one side or the other in support of whether or not a percentage of this country’s population can enjoy the same freedoms as their fellow citizens. With such an epic battle raging, the task of introducing your same-sex partner to your family may seem daunting to say the least. Making such an announcement doesn’t have to be the thing that ruins Thanksgiving dinner for everyone as it once was in the past. By conducting a “360-degree” assessment of the situation ahead of time, you can keep the drama to a minimum for yourself and everyone involved. This assessment includes evaluating your motivations, determining your partner’s comfort level with meeting your family and having a fairly accurate perception of your family’s attitude and beliefs where sexuality and relationships
If you’re making the decision to introduce your partner to your family, the pervasive assumption is that your relationship is substantial and long-term from the perspective of your partner and your family. Keeping this in mind, evaluate your motivations for wanting your family to meet this person. It is generally considered a “big deal” when you take someone home to meet your family, so you should be prepared for the inevitable scrutiny from them. As a result, if there are any insecurities, hostilities or unresolved issues in your relationship, they could come up at what may seem like an inconvenient time; right in front of your family! If you factor in our unconscious desire to please our parents, you can find yourself exaggerating or fabricating your partner’s qualities as well as the quality of your relationship. Avoid these pitfalls by being totally honest with yourself and your family as well as being accepting of your partner, flaws and all. These steps can take off a lot of undue pressure from you and your partner.
Determining your partner’s comfort level with meeting your family is crucial in making this situation a good first impression or a very awkward gathering. The feeling of being analyzed will be unavoidable by your partner because the reality is this is exactly what your family will be doing to him or her. Having an honest conversation in advance to discuss your partner’s feelings about being under the microscope can help minimize anxiety. If there is any information you can give your partner about your family’s personalities, eccentricities, quirks and hot buttons, I’m sure it will be greatly appreciated. Additionally, it is important that your partner feel comfortable with being his or herself and not have to rein in their personality which could lead to feelings of resentment and inadequacy.
Having a fairly accurate perception of your family’s attitudes and beliefs around homosexuality is paramount for a relatively drama-free introduction of your same-sex partner. If you have not already divulged your sexual orientation to your family, introducing your partner at the same time may be a bit much for them to process at one time. A big part of strategizing when making an announcement such as this is anticipating your family’s reaction. If your family flipped out or instituted a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy where this issue is concerned, subjecting your partner to their hostility won’t make things better for anyone.
However, most people who are contemplating introducing their same-sex partners to their families have some level of acceptance from them that signals a positive experience for such an encounter. Typically, family members are well-meaning and want to make sure you are with someone trustworthy who makes you happy. Of course, their behavior may come across as overbearing, meddlesome and embarrassing but that’s the beauty of family and you and your partner can establish boundaries to cut down on unnecessary interference from them. In many instances, we underestimate our family’s love and support for us by playing out imagined worst-case scenarios that could not be further from the actual reality. If you have an honest, open relationship with your family, introducing them to your same-sex partner shouldn’t be a painful experience unless there is something about your partner that you know will cause them to be disapproving. Also, think wisely about the occasion on which you introduce your partner. If you know that Thanksgiving is always a tense time for your family, consider introducing your partner when the environment will be more conducive to a favorable response from them.
There is no denying that the prospect of having your parents meet your significant other, regardless of sexual orientation, is stressful. This act makes a statement whether or not you intend to spend the rest of your life with the person or just casually date them. Your approach to this introduction sets the tone for how this relationship will be viewed by your family and how well they get along with your partner. Taking the time to develop the approach that is best for all parties involved can be tricky at best but the reward can be a profound deepening of your most cherished relationships.