Um, is it too late to back out of this? Because, if your boyfriend isn’t really “that comfortable” around your family, maybe dragging him along on a seven day “vacation” with the whole gang (siblings’ spouses and babies included) isn’t the best idea — especially if you truly think work might be more relaxing than spending “every minute” with your boyfriend. Perhaps a better way to see how you two might survive a week of intense togetherness without fighting is to go away just the two of you before you sick your entire family on the poor guy for that amount of time. Another option may be to have your boyfriend join you and your family for only part of your vacation — say the first or last couple of days instead of the whole shebang. Seriously, a week is a long time to spend with a family that isn’t yours — and who you aren’t all that comfortable around! — along a girlfriend who thinks being at work may be more relaxing than being with you.
I know you asked for actual tips to prepare for what sounds like self-enforced torture, but my best tip for you is this: don’t do it. And if you don’t heed that tip, don’t be surprised if it blows up in your face. Traveling with a significant other can be stressful. Traveling with a significant other plus your entire family for a whole week when you know your significant other doesn’t feel comfortable around your peeps sounds like a real recipe for disaster. Why put yourself — and him — through that if you don’t have to? But if you do, please be sure to make plenty of time for just the two of you — a dinner or two out, romantic walks along the beach, etc. And if that really doesn’t appeal to you, then again, I urge you to reconsider dragging your boyfriend with you this time. Maybe being the only single sibling left in your family has been a lonesome feeling, but don’t let that be the reason you put him through a week of discomfort.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at email@example.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.
SGMcG May 20, 2011, 8:27 am
LW, were your other siblings allowed to bring their boyfriend/girlfriend along in the family vacation? If so, why haven’t you asked them what to do to make him feel more comfortable? If you haven’t, I’m guessing it’s because they never brought their boyfriend/girlfriend along to a family vacation, even if they “get to”. Bringing a spouse (or life partner) to a family vacation is an entirely different matter, especially if you’re raising children with that person. As it stands now, you guys have a commitment to date exclusively only – you guys are not even sharing living arrangements yet! For me, that is not enough to bring them to a family vacation. Since it sounds like someone other than yourself is footing the bill for accommodations, are you aware what the sleeping arrangements for this vacation will be? If you can’t bring yourself to ask that, let alone ask your siblings for advice, chances are you shouldn’t bring your boyfriend along.
Fairhaired child May 20, 2011, 9:12 am
I think by the letter it seems all the siblings are bringing their SOs and kids since they are all married. Which means the SOs have likely already become well integrated into the family and been on previous vacations. Also the LW has been together with her bf for over a year so he’s probably expected to come – but I think he should have gone on maybe a smaller family trip first. And don’t count them not living together against the relationship because a lot of couples may wait to move in together for a variety of reasons including waiting for marriage or bc of finances , previous commitments etc.
bagge72 May 20, 2011, 10:13 am
I agree with you Fairhaired child, especially on the moving in part. I know my fiance and I are going to wait until very close to our wedding to move in. We wanted to do it after, but it seems like there might be to much going on after that for us to get it done, and we wouldn’t really want to be living apart for that long after, if we couldn’t find a new place.
SGMcG May 20, 2011, 10:17 am
I only base my response from my experience with my family. My family is extremely close, not just my parents and my sister but also my aunts on my father’s side (mother’s side is on a different hemisphere), their spouses, my cousins with their spouses and their children. If LW’s family has “togetherness” that is similar to my family, then everyone in each individual family unit (the mom, the dad and 2-3 kids) keeps up-to-date within the extended family network – good AND bad. It is not unusual to have different interpretations of family vacations with at least 8 people – your individual family unit and a few more cousins.
Among all of us, there is this unwritten code that unless you are expressly committed to an individual, such as through an engagement, OR if the person who’s hosting/mainly coordinating the event asks you to come along, if you are not a blood relation in some way (born into it or marriage), the family vacation (or party) is just for family. Heaven forbid you bring someone to a family get-together who was “just your boyfriend” – the males in your family then start asking him what are their intentions. I’ve seen it happen at parties – no one has ever attempted bringing someone to a vacation who is not a blood relation without expressed permission of whoever is hosting.
I was living with my now husband at the time and there was an opportunity to have a family vacation in Florida, hosted by aunt/family matriarch – a total of 35 people. He didn’t come along because the host of that vacation didn’t extend the invite to him – it was understood that it was “family only”. Could he have come along the family vacation as my boyfriend? Only if he had an invitation from my aunt – she would have called and asked him personally. Even with it, sleeping arrangements would have been decided for us.
Now maybe the LW’s family has different standards/protocols when it comes to family vacations as opposed to mine. Admittedly my family get-togethers can get kind of clannish, whether it be a party or a vacation. Yet I love having those times – the LW’s boyfriend may not, especially if he’s tagging along with the invitation of a girlfriend unfamiliar with what goes on in her family. If the LW has witnessed past experiences of her siblings inviting their then boyfriend/girlfriend to the family vacation, she should reach out to her siblings for advice regarding the matter and how to include that reluctant boyfriend/girlfriend. If not, there is the potential for resentment generated by the older siblings relating to past experiences with spouses, then boyfriend/girlfriend. She is the youngest sibling in her family – she shouldn’t have to jump family hurdles that haven’t been already crossed by her older ones without asking for their advice too.
Alittlelux May 20, 2011, 11:25 am
I completely agree, SGMcG.
SGMcG May 20, 2011, 4:55 pm
Thanks Alittlelux. I understand that not everyone has my crazy family dynamic. Yet there is a lot of old school Filipino-Catholic thinking in the way my family operates, and the rules are there for a reason. It’s easier to have that marker of engaged and beyond only than to have ALL your cousins (and respective second cousins) ask their parents and the host of the party/vacation if they can bring their boyfriend or girlfriend. My dad was the youngest son in his family of nine – so that’s a lot of potential SOs to think of if you didn’t have that threshold. There were always exceptions to the rule, like if they were dating 5+ years or if they were paglaladlad and weren’t allowed to legally marry, yet, as a couple, you’d go to the host of the party/vacation in those instances and ask for those exceptions first. The boyfriends/girlfriends usually understood that when it’s family time, it’s that way for a reason.
Fairhaired Child May 20, 2011, 10:03 pm
I guess I interpreted the letter differently than you did such as the line “this year I finally get to bring my man along.” and “he comes to some family stuff with me”, I read the letter not as “how do I make it ok for him to come” but more of “he’s coming and I have no previous experience of a long vacation with a SO how do i make it more comfortable for him.” And when I read your response it seemed to me like you didn’t realize that the other spouses were coming, and that he was expected/invited – but again there goes that internet interpretations.
I agree that he should not go if he was not invited, but I read it as he is invited and expected, and she’s worried he may not enjoy his time there or not have fun with her family and she’s worried about making sure everyone has a good time – and what are good ways to balance time with him alone, with the family, and to get him to hang with some of the family without her dragging him to things (maybe he can go to the bar with a “married in” male spouse of her sister or whatever). So yes, the LW should ask her siblings how they helped ease their SOs into the family, but it could be that all their SOs are used to “together close knit families” where as he is the “odd one” for not being super close to his family.
Fairhaired child May 20, 2011, 8:37 am
Great response! I think a 7 day trip with your bf and family may be a little overwhelming for both of you. You would have the stress if trying to make sure he feels included while most of your family will want to do all these things with you. He will probably feel a little awkward at times and may even be less social and warm towards your family by the end of the trip and your family may assume he is being rude. I think depends on how the living arrangements for the week are too… Is it a large hotel or a small bed and breakfast/cabin. If the place you are going has a lot of things to do/see then it might not be too hard for him to also find other things to do as well to take a break from your family. However if you are going somewhere more small and intimate then he may be really uncomfortable and not enjoy the vacation which could make you also not enjoy your week off.
Colleen May 20, 2011, 8:38 am
In addition to carving out time to spend as a couple, make solo time for each of you. If the week is stressful for you both, you’ll really benefit from having quiet time to just relax and not worry about interacting with everyone else.
My husband and I still do this, even when it’s just the two of us traveling. One of us will curl up with a book, go down to the hotel hot tub, or even take a drive on our own. Those few minutes apart make all of the together time more fun.
Also, try to incorporate activities that your boyfriend enjoys into the family agenda. Play his favorite game, have him cook his best dinner, or visit a museum he’d like. If he’s having fun and doing things he’s good at, he’ll feel more comfortable.
And while you should help him interact and fit in to your family, don’t become his crutch. You’re both adults, so he should be able to handle a few minutes without you if you need to take a shower or go for a walk. Support him, but don’t baby him.
Robin May 20, 2011, 12:19 pm
Totally agree. My family has a summer cottage where we all get together nearly every weekend in the summer, and my boyfriend frequently comes along for long weekends (3-4 days). I think how he makes it through is by carving lots of alone time for himself – going on walks, hanging out at cafes, or whatever by himself to give himself some breathing time while I get family time. And my family totally understands that he needs “Tom time.”
That said, by the end of 4 days, he is usually really eager to get home (this is mostly because the nieces and nephews love him and crowd him whenever he is around). I’m not sure he would survive 7 days. And we are practically married (been together 5+ years and live together).
bagge72 May 20, 2011, 2:09 pm
This just seems so different to me. 5 + years, and he still cant spend 3-4 days with your family without lots of alone time? I’m I guess people deal with it differently, but I don’t know if I could be with somebody who couldn’t handle a couple of days with my family, or even a week. I mean I can see for the LW because this is his first trip with them that he might feel uncomfortable, but I would hope her family would try to make him feel as comfortable as possible, and not demand he spend every waking second with them. I just guess I’m used to my family where they clicked really quick with my SO, and we all usually just spend a lot of time together anyways.
kali May 20, 2011, 3:46 pm
Every family is different. I wouldn’t want to spend a week with my parents and siblings (at least not all of them) but it’s totally different with my grown daughters and their children. Or my ex-in-laws… I think the key is respecting other people’s need for boundaries and allowing newcomers to join in or opt out as they feel the need.
Jess May 20, 2011, 3:51 pm
thats what i was thinking! after 5 years he still has to “make it through” spending a week with her family, and only by isolating himself a signigifcant amount?? yikes
_jsw_ May 20, 2011, 3:53 pm
I can’t spend 3-4 days with my own family without lots of alone time.
Kate May 20, 2011, 3:56 pm
Totally with you there. Some people are not used to being around their own families, never mind someone else’s. There are many reasons for this, such as you live far away and are used to your own schedule. Doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad SO.
PFG-SCR May 20, 2011, 3:58 pm
I don’t think you could spend 3-4 days by yourself without lots of alone time.
cdobbs May 20, 2011, 8:56 am
eek! i feel so bad for the boyfriend, it sounds like its gonna be brutal for him! reminds me of when a guy I was dating took me to his brother’s wedding out of town. instead of a hotel we stayed at his aunts house, alond with about 20 other people, there was a shortage of beds, so somehow i had to sleep in the same bed as my boyfriends aunt for five days! longest five days of my life! if your boyfriend does go through with this, i think he deserves Major brownie points!
LTC039 May 20, 2011, 11:51 am
Ouch! That sounds bad! I don’t know how you did that! I would’ve tried to gather any money I could & rent a hotel! Sharing a bed with a boyfriend’s aunt?? Again, I don’t know how you dealt with it!!
Bethany May 20, 2011, 9:04 am
I totally agree that you shouldn’t do it. My fiance has known my family for 4+ years, and I still wouldn’t dream of taking him on a week long vacation with my family UNLESS we all went to the same place but stayed in different hotels or something- You need that sort of buffer, especially for his first trip. I totally agree with Wendy- If you bring him along only bring him for a few days, because why on earth would you want him to be uncomfortable on your vacation? Doesn’t sound like any fun to me.
MissDre May 20, 2011, 9:06 am
I dunno, I tend to disagree with Wendy on this one! I think this would be a fantastic time for her boyfriend to get to know her family better! Maybe he’s just a little shy around them. I mean, my boyfriend is usually kinda quiet around my family because he doesn’t always know what to say. But once you get to know somebody, conversation comes easier.
Also, I don’t know where they are vacationing so that could make a difference… if they’re all in the same house that might get a bit too close for comfort. Certainly she should make sure to spend lots of time alone together as well. LW, If you’re going to resort, maybe take an off-resort trip just the two of you? Hopefully your family is relaxed and won’t care what time he sleeps in til or whatever.
Let him be by himself to do his own thing sometimes too: read or lay on the beach or sleep in a hammock or whatever. Don’t make him feel like he has to participate in every single activity. That will also give you time to visit independently with your mom, sisters, dad brothers and whatnot so you don’t get sick of him.
I don’t know what your family is like, but my family is super close-knit and silly and laid-back so all I can think about is how much fun it would be for all of us!
TheOtherMe May 20, 2011, 9:27 am
I agree with everything you said MissDre, It’s true that 7 days can be a bit long for a first time family trip but it’s not necessarily going to be 7 days of torture. I think if you go on the trip with absolute fear and stress, it will definitely affect everyone’s mood.
As for siblings and babies, well, that’s just part of life, family life, something beautiful that you should enjoy as much as you can because we all get busy in life and as time goes by, those wonderful family opportunities become few and far between.
PFG-SCR May 20, 2011, 10:02 am
“As for siblings and babies, well, that’s just part of life, family life, something beautiful that you should enjoy as much as you can because we all get busy in life and as time goes by, those wonderful family opportunities become few and far between.”
While I agree this, keep in mind that this isn’t _his_ family. We’re not sure why he doesn’t feel comfortable around them, but he likely isn’t vested in this like he would be with his own family (even though they aren’t as close as hers). You can’t expect him to automatically view the vacation in the same way as she does.
Even so, I think it’s an opportunity for him to get closer to her family, assuming there is no underlying issue that the LW didn’t share with us.
melikeycheesecake May 20, 2011, 10:36 am
Yep MissDre Yep! I agree. I have had several BF’s that initally did not feel comfortable with my family (even though they are the best 🙂 ) but after spending more and more time together, the nerves wore off and they got along great.
I was terrified of my fiance’s family at first. They did not like me… they loved his ex!!! Uncomfortable for me!!! But after some QT with them… they decided I was not so bad after all. My point is give it time…. be patient and let the bf go on Vaca. Get alone with him sometimes and be calm and patient if a fuss does happen.
PFG-SCR May 20, 2011, 9:06 am
Is he uncomfortable with them because he doesn’t know them that well (you said he comes to “some [family] stuff” with you) or because he doesn’t like them (and/or vice-versa)? If it’s the former, and you see yourself having a future with him, it might be a good opportunity for him to get to know them better, and for them to get to know him better. If you do see a future with him, you want him to be more comfortable since you are such a close family, and he’s going to be spending a decent amount of time with them over the years, it seems. But, if it’s the latter, I’m not sure how a week long vacation would feel like a vacation to either you or him under those circumstances.
Assuming he does go with you, I agree with Wendy that you should find time to do things just the two of you. He may even have some things he’d like to do alone, even. Since your family is so close, I’d prepare them ahead of time so they don’t complain when you announce that the two of you are going to dinner (or anything else) alone, and especially since they don’t get upset at him doing something alone. Additionally if possible, schedule some activities that he could do with some of the guys so he improves those relationships and feels some camaraderie with others in your family. This will help make him more comfortable and give you time to socialize without feeling you have to entertain him.
I think it’s great that your family takes vacations together, but you don’t want to cause him, your relationship and/or your family unnecessary anxiety and stress during a time that should be relaxing and fun.
Budjer May 20, 2011, 12:07 pm
Excellent point. It’s ok if his family isn’t close…but if the lw values close family ties he should really be (and want to be) an aspect of that portion of her life if she plans on building a future with him.
If this vacation is such a big deal how would the rest of her life be with this guy if he isn’t interested in getting to know her family? Of course this is all moot if he isn’t a long term candidate for the lw…in that case I would heed Wendy’s advice and not bring him or have him pop in for a couple days.
jottino May 20, 2011, 9:09 am
Um, I think LW is overreacting. You’ve been together for over a year. This isn’t the first time he’s spent time with your family. I don’t think it should matter that his upbringing was different than yours. If he was really THAT uncomfortable, I feel like he would’ve backed out of the vacation.
If you’re in your late 20s, I’m going to assume he is around that age as well. He should be able to handle himself. It sounds like it’s going to be a large group: you, him, parents, siblings, siblings’ spouses, & children. Maybe he won’t rely just on you. Maybe he’ll hit it off with your brother, or your brother-in-law. Maybe the guys will have a poker game, or a fishing trip, or something where they can all get together and be a little more comfortable around each other. And that would give you some time to spend without him, which would prevent you two from being together every second (though I do wonder why you think spending a few days together with your boyfriend would cause arguing).
I feel like this trip wouldn’t have been agreed upon (by both your boyfriend and your family) unless they all got along together in some capacity. At the very least, your boyfriend should try to enjoy himself for your sake.
Yes, I think you should find some time for just the two of you. Yes, I think you should be sensitive to how he is handling the vacation, and be ready to jump in if he’s very uncomfortable. But overall, I think it should be fine. Stop overthinking it. Just relax and have a good time, and enjoy that you’re going on a vacation with many of the people who are most important to you.
MissDre May 20, 2011, 9:18 am
Thumbs up x100!
melikeycheesecake May 20, 2011, 10:38 am
What jottino said!!!
abby May 20, 2011, 9:59 am
My thoughts exactly!
spaceboy761 May 20, 2011, 9:19 am
I’m with Wendy on this one… this has debacle written all over it. It’s very possible that your family’s ‘togetherness’ will come off as clannish behavior (through no fault of your own) to an outsider. This would work a lot better as maybe a weekend trip instead of a full seven days. That’s like tossing your kid with his newly minted YMCA Advanced Beginner swimming card into the diving tank without letting him try out the normal swimming pool first.
On the plus side, it sounds like an awesome plot for a romantic goofball comedy. Just cast Bradley Cooper as your boyfriend, Ginnifer Goodwin as yourself, and Kim Catrall as your mom. Throw in your basic Tom Jones cameo appearance, and I smell money.
LTC039 May 20, 2011, 9:45 am
Ehh, as a **huge** Sex & the City fan, I can’t agree with you on Kim Catrall…Diane Keaton is much more fitting…lol
spaceboy761 May 20, 2011, 10:08 am
Too old to believably be Ginnifer Goodwin’s mom. I like Kim Catrall as the burned-out “twelve years younger than her husband” trophy wife. I’m also trying to work in Aziz Ansari as her zany adoptive brother. I should have the script finished by Monday.
Working title: “Matching Luggage”
LTC039 May 20, 2011, 10:15 am
Ok…now I see where you’re going with this…I can picture that lol
spaceboy761 May 20, 2011, 10:16 am
Also, I really like Diane Keaton and I wouldn’t throw her into a piece of crap like this.
PFG-SCR May 20, 2011, 10:16 am
“I like Kim Catrall as the burned-out “twelve years younger than her husband” trophy wife.”
This might explain why the boyfriend (Bradley Cooper in your movie) feels uncomfortable – her under-sexed mom (Kim Catrall) has a habit of coming on to him at family gatherings.
spaceboy761 May 20, 2011, 10:18 am
It’s like you have a window into my brain.
spaceboy761 May 20, 2011, 4:04 pm
I’ve done some more work on this:
Nick Swardson: Bradley Cooper’s neurotic but sensible best friend that keeps on warning him what a disaster this trip could turn out to be. He eventually gets laid in the last five minutes in the movie in a comically ironic fashion.
Niecy Nash: Director at the all-inclusive where they are staying that just gives people shit because it’s funny.
Jason Bateman: Overachieiving, hypercompetitive, ‘you’ll never be good enough for my sister’ish brother of Ginnifer.
Kristen Wiig: Jason Bateman’s equally as hypercompetitve, one-uppy wife. Basically your sister-in-law from hell.
Rashida Jones: Ginnifer’s good-hearted token minority best friend.
Ryan O’Neal: Ginnifer’s dad. He plays the same character all the time, so that.
Random Young Timid Eye-Candy Guy who works at the resort: To be sexually intimidated by Kim Catrall because it’s funny.
PFG-SCR May 20, 2011, 4:07 pm
OMG, you should cast me instead of Kristen Wiig – that totally describes me IRL! And, I’d really like to have you write in some steamy sex scenes for me and Jason Bateman.
LTC039 May 20, 2011, 9:44 am
Really what caught my eye more than the family issue is the “I can’t imagine spending 7 days straight with my boyfriend without getting into an arguement…” How often do you guys argue? Because if you can’t spend a week with your boyfriend without getting into an arguement, maybe you should take a look at your relationship.
& another thing, what do you mean by an arguement? Like, what’s the magnitude? Because I can understand silly disagreements, I’m sure it happens to everyone. When I stay at my boyfriend’s for more than two days straight we **may** get into a little arguement over something stupid, which is normal. But that’s nothing to worry about!
So all in all, if you’re having problems in your relationship, no I don’t suggest going on vacation with your entire family for a week, because of the fact that he’s not even comfortable with them to begin with, that will def ADD to the stress.
Hope you figure everything out!
spaceboy761 May 20, 2011, 10:15 am
Basically, your first sentence over and over again in flashing neon lights.
LTC039 May 20, 2011, 10:35 am
Yeah! I’m surprised Wendy didnt really comment on that…
melikeycheesecake May 20, 2011, 10:40 am
Love the first sentence LTC039… I had not thought of that!
BoomChakaLaka May 20, 2011, 11:31 am
I was about to leave a comment, but thanks for saying it first. I mean, the fact that she is freaking out over a seven day vacation because they might be arguing at every turn and bend – that to me is what sticks out. This is a time to get away and relax. What issues could you guys possibly need to argue about on a vacation?
Unless you guys have pre-existing issues that you carry around everywhere…
HmC May 20, 2011, 11:44 am
I had a similar thought when I read that. But, I’m kind of a non-fighter, and I realize most people tend to fight in their relationships a little more than me, so it’s hard for me to know what most people consider a “normal” amount of fighting. If you can’t go a week without fighting that would be a problem for me.
Of course, she’s asking about fighting in a very specific context- a week full of constant togetherness with each other and the entire family. LW may just be concerned about fighting because of the added stress, her concern may not necessarily reflect that her and her bf fight a lot normally.
demoiselle May 20, 2011, 3:45 pm
Yes, that’s the thing that stuck out to me, too!
Meg May 20, 2011, 9:55 am
I’m kind of torn about how to respond. If it’s really going to be as bad as you describe, then I agree with Wendy’s advice that you’re not ready to do the joint family/bf vacation just yet.
If you might be over-dramatizing just a little bit, then we can probably help with tips to make it go more smoothly. I agree with talking to your siblings. If you have a brother or brother-in-law who you think gets/would get along with your boyfriend better than the rest of the family (or even is just a people-person in general), maybe enlist their help in making your boyfriend feel included, that way the two of you aren’t glued to each others’ hips the entire time. Yes, definitely schedule some “just the two of you” time too, and try to structure the trip so he can have time to himself.
Overall though, I think that if you approach this trip like it’s going to be a disaster, you’re setting the scene for it to become so. Prepare him by giving him lots of info about different family members, try to set up some support ahead of time, and then go into it with an open mind. If you expect him to be able to handle himself, he’s more likely to step into those shoes. And if it is a total disaster, it might be worth thinking about how he is as a long-term fit, since when you get married your husband will have to fit in with your close family, at least a little bit.
Quakergirl May 20, 2011, 10:18 am
I’m not quite sure what to make of this letter. The first thing that stuck out to me was this– “So, how do I survive a week spending almost every minute together without arguing?” Really? You’ve been dating for over a year and you’re concerned that you can’t spend a week together without driving one another up a wall? That, perhaps, is something to look into before you even worry about the family stuff.
And if you’re worried about having to spend so much time with him, then don’t stick together like glue. Ask your brothers/brothers-in-law to find a time for a pizza/beer/ballgame outing, even if it’s just at a local sports bar or something, while the ladies take the kids for ice cream. Have him go out with your dad for an hour to get bagels in the morning or bring back the morning papers and some coffee for everyone. Your boyfriend should be able to handle these short interactions on his own– he’s in his late 20s for goodness’ sake! I know not everyone is a social butterfly, but he’s met them before and it sounds like your family is loving and welcoming. If you see any kind of future with him, he has to learn to interact with your family, and this trip is a great way to make that happen. If you have a good mix of alone time for the two of you, time together with the family, and alone time for him with your family, you should be able to avoid fighting with him and have him get to know your family better. And if this trip does actually blow up in everyone’s face, then perhaps take that as a sign…
cmarie May 20, 2011, 11:27 am
In defense of the LW, I don’t think she’s saying she can’t spend 7 days without fighting with her BF, I think she’s speaking more towards 7 days of playing mediator to her BF and family. That can be stressful and trying to keep everyone happy usually mean you’re unhappy. If you want to have a future with this guy I think the vacation would be a good chance for him to get to know your family. If you’re going to be together a while he’s probably going to have to interact with them a lot so he needs to get over whatever hang-ups he has. I understand that couples have to keep a degree of distance between relatives, you have to put your partner first, but your partner has to put you first as well. Does he understand how close you are to your family? Coming from a different background he might not realize how much that means to you so he might not be making a full effort to get to know your family and be comfortable with them. Explain to him how important it is for him to like your family and enjoy spending some time with them. And make sure you do the same. If you can’t have a good relationship with his family (barring some horrible exceptions like compulsive fire starting) then you don’t really have any room for pushing him. He needs to make an effort for you if you guys want a future and you need to respect his needs as well. If you go on this vacation together make sure to have couple time as well as individual time. Ask him what topics he would prefer to avoid and try to steer the conversation, be a buffer if he starts to feel overwhelmed. Also, if you start to feel overwhelmed tell him he’s on his own and get some time to yourself. The surest way to start a fight is when you’re feeling frustrated and used. I went through this with my partner. Talk to him if you’re feeling like he isn’t making an effort and listen to him as well. Communication between you guys and an effort being made by both of you to make this work is most important.
spaceboy761 May 20, 2011, 11:49 am
This seems awfully harsh on the boyfriend. The ‘Let’s throw him in there with the entire family for seven days and see if he’s keeper material’ is a pretty large step for a one-year relationship. Maybe like a two-day test would be fair. Hell, I met my wife in 2004 and I probably wouldn’t agree to this.
cmarie May 20, 2011, 12:34 pm
I’m not saying throw him to the wolves and see if they eat him, I’m saying if he sees a long-term future with her he should be willing to put in as much effort to be comfortable with her family as she puts in to make sure he’s comfortable. If they want a future together she can’t be the permanent buffer between him and them. He needs to find a way to be comfortable enough to spend some time alone with her family while she goes to the bathroom. My partner is incredibly uncomfortable with my family. She’s Chinese and grew up in a very strict household with just her parents. My family is huge and laid-back. We joke and are affectionate in ways she never was. She’s adjusting to them and learning to get used to the difference between them and her because she knows it’s important to me that I stay close with them. I stand by her to tell people to back off if they’re overwhelming her, support her if she needs some air, and plan on lots of couple time when we get together. It takes balance, give-and-take between both of us, to make this relationship work. If the LW and her BF want a future together, are planning on future together, they need to figure out a system so that he can be comfortable and she doesn’t have to get frustrated at being the go-between. He needs to put forth the same effort she is, and vice versa.
Amber May 20, 2011, 11:41 am
I haven’t read the responses, but am I the only one who thinks its kind of a red flag that the LW is worried, family issue aside, that she can’t spend even one week of vacation with her boyfriend of over a year without arguing?
Amber May 20, 2011, 11:44 am
Okay clearly I wasn’t the first one 😉
Colleen May 20, 2011, 12:27 pm
I don’t think being nervous about spending a week together nonstop is necessarily a red flag about the relationship. Some people are just accustomed to having more space apart than other couples are. That can actually be a sign of maturity and self-awareness, knowing that you each need time away from each other to recharge and find balance in life. My now-husband and I were a little nervous before our first long trips together, because although our relationship is close and healthy we also value time apart. Even living together is not the same as being on vacation together, because at home you spend time apart at work, with other friends, etc. Finding a balance on vacation and blending your travel styles takes some time. Is everyone here seriously saying that they were never nervous before their first big getaway with their SO?
cmarie May 20, 2011, 12:41 pm
I honestly don’t think she’s worried they can’t spend a week without fighting. She’s probably worried that she’ll get frustrated that she can’t enjoy her vacation and family always having to stay with him and help him interact with her family. Also, they don’t live together so this might be the longest time they’ve spend together constantly. That in and of itself is kind of scary but when you have to worry if he’s ok talking to your brother it might be difficult not to get frustrated with someone.
bitter gay mark May 20, 2011, 1:19 pm
Well, gee, Wendy is right. If it’s going to be too much work to bring your boyfriend to this, then, it’s real simple. Don’t bring him. Frankly, from what you said in your letter — it almost sounds like it’s too much work to date him. Period. Something to think about. I mean, seriously, how hard it it to interact with somebody’s family? How hard it to go on vacation for a week? Oh my God, wait! Your siblings all have babies!! Oh, the horror, the horror… I’m sorry but this is the kind of letter that makes me wanna scream… Yep, this is the sort of stupid, petty problem that truly sends Bitter Gay Mark straight over the edge — see, far too many of his boyfriend’s families haven’t wanted him around because of the whole gay thing. (Now that’s a REAL problem…) NEWSFLASH — If your boyfriend can’t survive a week alone with you with your family without your constant hand holding, he probably can’t survive much of anything. Gee, that sure sounds real attractive… Ugh.
Quakergirl May 20, 2011, 1:37 pm
Agreed. It’s not like there’s some issue between the boyfriend and the family (like your example) or there’s a serious potential point of disagreement (they can’t stop fighting about politics or religion or something). There appears to be no reason whatsoever that they couldn’t get along, other than he’s uncomfortable around them. Welcome to the real world– sometimes we have to do things that are uncomfortable. I had to meet Quakerboy’s very intimidating boss and colleagues all at once over a really messy dinner the other day (eat-with-your-hands kinda messy). Was that fun? No. Did I freak out a little beforehand? Sure. But these are the kinds of things you do because it’s important to someone you love. And it went fine, seriously. I think the LW is understandably nervous about the situation, but this is such a non-issue as long as everyone acts like a grown up. And if they can’t, then that’s pretty telling, too.
LTC039 May 20, 2011, 1:40 pm
Although your comment is pretty harsh, not gonna deny that I comlpetely agree! Sometimes, you gotta tell like it is…
melikeycheesecake May 20, 2011, 1:47 pm
While everyone has their own opinion and way of putting things… I don’t understand why you come off so harsh ( most of the time) and almost make the LW seem… lacking intelligence? Eh… everyone is different and reacts differently…
bitter gay mark May 20, 2011, 1:52 pm
Not so much as lacking intelligence, but I definitely do think that the LW is very much lacking in common sense.
melikeycheesecake May 20, 2011, 2:07 pm
“see, far too many of his boyfriend’s families haven’t wanted him around because of the whole gay thing.” This I could totally see and sympathize with you!!!
bagge72 May 20, 2011, 3:01 pm
Sometimes I think you are my hero, because you say what people need to hear, and what other people are thinking, and sometimes I think you are a little mean haha. This time I’m leaning towards hero.
TheOtherMe May 20, 2011, 3:13 pm
Well said bagge72 !
mirage14 May 20, 2011, 1:24 pm
Echoing on some of the other comments – every year I go on a family trip with my father (mother is remarried), my aunt (dad’s sister), my uncle and his family (aunt, plus 3 cousins). Its an unwritten, but very clear rule, that no one besides family, not even friends, are allowed on this trip. My cousins and I would DIE before even asking to bring a boyfriend along. We have a very tight knit family, and until someone is married or in a long term commitment, no outsiders are allowed. We are all girls, ranging in age from 18-25, and we always wondered would this change if one of us was a guy, bringing a girlfriend (I feel it would, but thats another story).
My mom’s side and my stepdad’s side are the same – you better be sure you are going to marry that person before you bring them to a family function, let alone vacation. My cousin’s wife, who he introduced to the family early on, was practically shunned before we let her in – she has now become one of my best friends – but its the same type of idea, no outsiders.
From the sound of your letter, LW, you probably have a close family as well, and you seem extremely nervous about bringing him – I suspect alot of this has to do with what your family’s reaction and actions may be. My suggestion is don’t do it – find a weekend or a few days to take a trip with your boyfriend by yourselves, and introduce him slowly into the family.
bagge72 May 20, 2011, 2:26 pm
I have an extremely close family aswell, but it is the completely opposite with us. If somebody has a significant other my family wants to meet them (Not talking about just the dating stage). They love meeting new people, and sharing our traditions, and making them feel like part of the family. I would feel weird if I had to tell my girlfriend the whole time we were dating that she couldn’t come to any of my family events, and I’m sure she would feel like she was left out or unwanted if I had to do that aswell.
mirage14 May 20, 2011, 2:35 pm
it just depends on the family – all three sides of my family happen to be very overprotective and a bit overbearing, which would make me feel uncomfortable bringing someone on a vacation, etc.
every family is different, and its not that my family would be mean or rude or anything, they just don’t accept people in right off the bat.
bagge72 May 20, 2011, 2:56 pm
Oh I know, I’m not saying that they are being mean or rude by doing that, and I’m sorry if it came off that way. I was just saying that I think my particular girlfriend may feel that way if it were to happen, because I felt that way when it kind of happened to me. Just wondering, what is the cut off point where you feel comfortable bringing your SO to something like that?
mirage14 May 20, 2011, 3:09 pm
To a day-long, family function type thing? (I’m talking extended family here) – probably at least a year.
Family vacation – I do not want to get married (a whole other story), but I believe that long term commitment is right for me, so I’d have to be with the person for at LEAST 3-4 years before considering that.
Something with my immediate family, perhaps a dinner or day outing, I’d wait probably until 8-9 months.
But my family is also spread out some, so its not like I’m driving across town to see my family every week, I live 80 miles from my dad, 4 hours from my mom, though I do have extended family closer to me than that.
As I said in my first comment, I think this would be different if I was a guy, hah, because from my experience guys bringing girls into family stuff usually goes over way better than the other way around, especially when you have numerous uncles and male cousins staring your boyfriend down.
I’m also a fairly private person, and I do not feel comfortable inviting a SO to a family event without it being a serious thing.
Fairhaired Child May 20, 2011, 10:37 pm
See for me I’m extremely close with my family, but we are on the perspective of “the more the merrier” and its totally fine to bring friends or SOs on vacation/to events but we always ASK first if that’s ok. Here are my cutoff things:
Day long immediate family thing at parents house- probably 5 months
Day long family event either at a siblings or extended family’s house – probably a year
Family vacation immediate family hosted by parents- probably more than a year together
Family vacation hosted by someone other than parents/including extended family – probably 2 years +
Dinner with immediate family – I introduce around 2-3 months
Granted on a side note: my boyfriend and I have been dating for over a year and 3 months (living together for 10) and he still has not met my brother (but he lives in a different state, previously only 2 hours away but now >15 hours away) and I do not plan on introducing him to my brother probably for a while longer maybe till xmas time if my Brother flies back – but I would not take my bf on a trip to spend time with my Brother in a separate state (with no escape plan if needed lol). But that’s because my Brother is military and a very “intimidating” person who isn’t as “close” as the rest of the family is.
My boyfriend has been to several “day long things” with a few of my extended family but not ALL of the family except this past xmas – when we had been dating for just under a year. We frequently go to spend time with my Uncle and his family for a whole day thing etc. However I still make sure if its ok if he tags along etc. My BF isnt very close to his family at all but he likes the closeness of my family and enjoys spending time with them. Whereas I really am uncomfortable spending time with his Mom – and would NOT want to go on a vacation with his family unless his grandmother would also come, and there was another hotel/other floors that we could stay on to be able to “escape them” if I needed to.
AKchic May 20, 2011, 2:14 pm
Holy hell. Talk about throwing him to the wolves honey. Are you trying total immersion therapy or something?
Are there places nearby that you two can go out to? So you can get away from the togetherness? A small movie theater, library, restaurant, coffee shop, bar, something?
He’s going to NEED it. You will probably WANT it. If the two of you have never spent 7 days together ALONE the entire time, then expecting him to be fine with your extended family for 7 days in all of their close togetherness (which is something he hasn’t grown up around) is not only a supreme sacrifice on his part, but something that will be very stressful and “fish out of water” like for him. Give him a medal for even agreeing to do it. I wouldn’t have.
Make sure that the both of you drive up in separate vehicles. Check around for cheap motels in the area, in case he needs to retreat for a night before driving back home (and offer to pay for half of the cost of the room for the night – and stick to it).
Before he gets there, remind your family that he comes from a very different home life and that he isn’t used to such closeness. Make sure that the two of you do some things separately. Walks in the woods, relaxing picnics, etc. If there’s that restaurant or something – an evening away (or lunch), volunteer to go to the local store to pick up odds and ends that are needed. Take him site seeing in the area.
If he sticks it out the entire time and immerses himself in your family togetherness without a single stress, care, worry or complaint – you have a saint.
Don’t stress yourself too much and try to enjoy yourself. It is a vacation. Just let your guy know that there is no shame in leaving early, and that if he needs to, a perfectly good excuse can be made (i.e., work-related call back, friend injured back in town needs help, etc – work on excuses prior to going up so they don’t look made up on the spot and sound flimsy). Or, be honest and explain that he got overwhelmed. There is no shame in that.
SpyGlassez May 20, 2011, 4:37 pm
Whoo, where to start? Well, first a brief backstory: this past Christmas, just a little over a year into our first relationship, my boyfriend asked me to travel to Ohio with him and his parents to meet their extended family – by which I mean grandparents, aunts, uncles, and ALL the cousins. I wavered, but finally agreed to go. We drove out with his folks, split the time between the grandma on one side of the family’s house, and an aunt and uncle on the other side of the family’s house. It was a little different in that it was extended and not immediate family, but similar in that I knew no one but my bf and his folks and so basically was tethered to them the entire time. My boyfriend and I had a couple of minor arguments during the trip, and by the last couple days I would go to the room we were using and take an afternoon nap to get away from his mom and aunts for a while. I don’t regret going at all, but I won’t lie – it was definitely a little patchy at times. One main difference is that my bf and I have talked marriage, and so while we’re not engaged, the family did recognize this was more permanent than just him bringing *a* girlfriend.
As for what will or won’t be different for you guys – just remember that if you are all driving together or riding with parents, you will be pretty limited as to what you can do apart from the others. Depending on where you go, your time might be pretty strictly regulated (as ours was by his mom and aunts). And if your boyfriend is quiet or reclusive (like me), he might eventually come to resent people asking him constant questions about your relationship and plans. I understand your worries; I had some of the same ones about going for 2 weeks over Christmas. In my case, however, I realized that it was very important to my bf and our future so I went. It’s possible that it might be equally important to your future that your boyfriend NOT go.
Jess May 21, 2011, 5:18 am
ugh please I’m living in a foreign country, so I spend all the holidays with my boyfriend and his family, and they all speak a dialect I can’t understand. And I survive. So can your boyfriend. its called sucking it up! If he’s really making such a big deal about this he shouldn’t go.