How do you navigate the holidays with a new girlfriend? I explore the shift from hanging out with my friends for the holidays to hanging out with my girl’s family.

I love my family. I’m crazy about each of them, even the difficult ones. But I live 2,000 miles away, and travelling during the holidays is expensive and stressful. And so, for the past seven years, I chose to spend the holidays with my local family – my group of friends. I began to look forward to this tradition with excitement and relief.

The great thing about a friend-family holiday is that it requires no travel, no drama, plenty of alcohol, and laughter. And it allows me to visit my family during a less expensive, less hectic, less pressure-filled time – like summer.

Let’s face it – the holidays are not the ideal time to coordinate many people living their own lives in many different cities. I love my family. And the truth is, I do miss them during the holidays. But the other truth is, my friend’s holidays were just…. more straightforward.

Then I met a girl.

Going home to meet your partner’s family for the holidays requires a lot of flexibility and the ability to adapt, like being flexible with your schedule –  not having access to a gym, which is part of your day-to-day, how-you-stay-sane daily routine. Or stuffing a holiday gift – a big screen TV into the backseat of the convertible, the only rental car left on the lot.

Or carrying the 100-pound old TV out to the curb when the new one is opened. Or adapting to just being in someone else’s home. Let’s face it, the bed is usually just a little too small, privacy a little too hard to come by, and affection a little too awkward to display.

There are some advantages to meeting the family, of course. For one, you get to see who and where she came from. In a way, you get to fall for her all over again as you recognize her smile in the family resemblance of her sister’s face, hear her witty humour in her mom’s perfectly timed comments, and get teased by her sister in that good-teasing kind of way that makes you feel part of the family or see her child-like side as you laugh with her niece and nephew.

In a way, it’s an honour to be invited into someone’s home to share their holiday and see how they live. I can’t help but wonder if it feels scary to them too.

One of the best parts of meeting the family is that you can get to know them and enjoy who they are, as they could never trigger you like your own family. Plus, you get to know some fantastic people she loves and has talked about. Strangely, it makes you appreciate your own family even more.

If you’re fortunate, you just might like them so much that they begin to feel like your own family (minus the baggage, of course). And if you’re lucky enough to bond with them and begin to think of them with love and concern as your friend or family, that’s just fabulous. Happy holidays everyone.