Dating is fun, but stressful. Holidays are fun, but stressful. Put the two together, and you just might have an explosive mix on your hands.
Fortunately, if you take things easy, the situation is much less likely to blow up in your face. Gauge the appropriateness of various holiday traditions based on how long you've been dating and the mutual level of seriousness that's already been established in your relationship. For example, someone you've gone out with only twice doesn't need to be invited to your family's Christmas dinner. A pricy gift is best reserved for someone you've been dating for six months or even a year. And unless you've already had a conversation that has determined you're both in this relationship for the long haul, don't even think about suggesting that you send holiday cards together.
Your family might be in a hurry to see you married off, but pressure to bring a special someone to the family gathering is no reason to rush a new relationship. Slow and steady wins the race, and that's especially true during this intense, high-stress time of year. Don't try to move your relationship ahead more quickly than normal just because it's holiday-time.
Good relationships are built on good communication, so the best way to navigate holiday dating is just to be open about it. The conversation might be awkward at first, but there's a good chance that the other person is dealing with the same sort of questions that you are. It's perfectly fine to ask, "Would it be okay if I gave you a small Christmas gift?"
However, there's a difference between being open and being overbearing. Saying, "I know we've only been out once, but I'd really like you to come along for my extended family's annual ski getaway," might be honest, but it's also likely to scare off the other person. If you aren't sure whether what you want to say is acceptable, run it by a trusted friend or two first.
Dating during the holidays might seem particularly tricky, but there's a positive side to it, too. It happens to be the most wonderful time of the year for creative dating ideas. In a season when there's always a new holiday activity to attend, there's always something festive to do with your date.
Christmas parties are almost a given at this time of year. If you're invited to a party, bring along your special someone. These are often low-pressure situations that allow you to spend time with one another in the company of other friends or acquaintances.
December is a great time to break out of the standard dinner-and-a-movie routine. Take in a holiday show, go caroling, try out your ice skating skills or look at festive light displays. Do you have a secret wish for this relationship to last? Make a date of visiting Santa together and whisper your hopes in St. Nick's ear.
You can also tackle your holiday to-do lists together. Shopping trips, marathon wrapping sessions and cookie-baking days can all make for fun dates.
Sure, the holidays may bring add an extra element of uncertainty to a dating relationship, but they can also add plenty of fun. Just remember to take things easy, communicate with one another and enjoy the festivity that's all around you.
Meghan Ross is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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