Why Meeting The Parents Terrified Me

Last fall, I walked into my new apartment carrying a pizza, being careful not to trip over the array of boxes. Straight ahead, I caught sight of something that made my heart skip a beat: My dad and my boyfriend, putting together my furniture. I stood in the doorway, frozen for a few minutes as I let it sink in: Woah, I’m in a relationship. A real relationship.
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Although I'd been on the dating scene a while and had been monogamous in the past, this was the first time I'd introduced a significant other to my parents. And, it was a really big deal.
A few years ago, a guy I was seeing suggested we take a trip out west — where my family was. I brusquely blurted, "Why would we do that?" Although it wasn’t my intention to be rude, I realized I'd hurt his feelings. He thought going home to see my folks would be fun — something that would bring us closer — whereas I just felt like our relationship wasn’t ready for that gigantic step. Suddenly, a sweet suggestion turned into an argument. Right in the middle of it, I realized that for me, bringing a guy home to meet the parents implied that I might marry him. For some, being in a serious relationship means being exclusive. For me, it means that I can see a future — a permanent one.
Perhaps I take after my mother in this sense; she never introduced her parents to anyone but my dad, and that only happened after she was certain they would stay together. In fact, my father had the same way of thinking: My mom was the first girl his parents met — though she wasn't his first girlfriend. Did my parents tell me to never to bring a guy home? No. But, they did raise me and my sisters to not date anyone unless they had long-term potential. I guess since I was never taught how to date casually, I looked at every guy through this lens.
I had no problem being in a relationship with Mr. Right Now until I was ready to meet Mr. Right. But, that wasn’t very fair to Mr. Right Now, was it? Of course, realizing all this during an argument with my well-meaning significant other wasn't ideal. I tried to explain where I was coming from, but the damage had been done. The rejection — though unintentional — destroyed us. I had to face the fact that I didn't actually envision a future with him.
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The thing is, I like to keep my parents updated on my relationships. But, I obviously limit what I share with them — and I prefer that they don't befriend my boyfriend unless — until — I'm "sure." In some ways, I feel like I’ve done my parents, siblings, and little cousins a favor by visiting solo over many holidays — even when I was in a relationship. This way, no one had the opportunity to get attached to someone who didn't last. And, no one can compare my latest boyfriend to the previous one. I never wanted to deal with hearing “Aw, we thought he was a keeper!” after I'd determined he wasn't.
Now that I'm with someone I believe is a keeper, the story, as you know, has changed. When my boyfriend and I first started spending time together, he told me he'd never brought a partner home to meet his family. He looked at me, expecting me to cringe. Instead, I lit up, exclaiming, “Me, neither!” I was excited that I'd finally met someone who was on the same page as me — someone I wanted to introduce to the most important people in my life.
That exchange led to me meeting my boyfriend's parents, and to him meeting mine — over the aforementioned pizza and half-built furniture. I knew I could be "sure" of him, because when it came to our family values, we were so similar. He didn’t want a parade of women coming through his parents' door, but he knew that when he thought a girl could be “the one” he'd seek his family's approval to affirm what he already knew.
We aren't engaged, but anything could happen. At the moment, we are Mr. and Miss Right Now, and that's good enough for me — and probably good enough for a little holiday travel together, too.
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