Dating Don’ts: Beware These 6 Booby Traps Over The Holidays

Every dealbreaker that any boyfriend I’ve ever had has shown itself by interacting with his family. The guy whose father had been cheating for years? Yeah, he cheated on me. The guy who seemed paranoid that I’d dislike his kids? He was super insecure. In retrospect, I should have heeded these warnings more. My therapist will give me three gold stars for saying this and it’s true: we all have been molded by our experiences with our families, for good or for ill. And that’s why most of us are crazy.

After the jump, six booby traps to look out for if you spend the holidays with his family:

1. That old saying about how a man treats his mother is true. A grown-ass man who rolls his eyes and talks back to his mom, awful as she may be, has some respect issues. You’d better believe that someday he’s not going to show respect to you either, unless he’s thoroughly dealt with his issues regarding his mother. Conversely, men who put their mother up on a pedestal — “She can do no wrong!” — are to be feared also. Simply put, if something smells weird about his family dynamic, is probably is weird.

2. Sleeping in separate bedrooms sucks, but we all have to do it sometimes. When I was younger, I would be flattered if a guy who had me stay at his relatives’ house or who came to stay at my parents’ house insisted on sharing a bed. There was always some sneaking around the hallways after my parents went to sleep! However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that not being willing to follow the house rules is a little immature. It’s just a night or two. He can deal with it. If he’s expected to sleep in a separate bedroom, as obnoxious as I agree with you that that can be, he should sleep in a separate bedroom.

3. He should get off his ass, pitch in and help clean up. Where is he when it comes time to set the table or clear the plates? Does he lift a finger or is he already on the couch watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” with your uncles?

4. He can kick it with your nephew and your grandma. My personal theory about life is that anyone worth spending time with should be able to carry their own conversation with both a kindergartener and a grandma. They should also not accidentally drop the F-bomb in front of either of them.

5. He can deal with different religious traditions. More and more relationships these days are interfaith. Since religion is really important to some people (if not either of you in the relationship), how he behaves regarding your family’s religious traditions is a peek into his character. Is your dude willing to attend Midnight Mass with your family even though he’s an atheist? Anyone can handle one hour of church, just once. Does he explain to you what prayers are being said over his Jewish dinner table or does he let you sit there, squirming and confused? There’s no need to make things more awkward on the holidays than they already are.

6. He brings a hostess gift (at the very least). The quickest way to make my mother hate you if she’s had you over for the holidays (which she probably has, our family constantly invites guests to celebrate with us) is to not bring a hostess gift and not write a thank you note afterwards. A hostess gift can just be something small, like a candle or some pretty  napkins. One of my platonic dude friend guests bought my parents a wine opener as a hostess gift and to this day, they rave about how he is the best person in the world, ever. And a thank you note should go without saying, but you would be shocked at how many people these days can’t manage to write one. If your guy manages to buy a present for your folks, that’s really nice, too. And of course, he should be gracious about any gift he receives, even if you both agree it is total crap your mom got on sale at TJ Maxx.

I’m not trying to scare anyone or make it seem like I’m setting it up for your dude to fail. But I do think that spending holidays with the family — yours, his, both — gives you a lot of insight into what makes him tick.  Good luck!

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