12/19/2012 07:58 am ET Updated Feb 18, 2013

Dating During the Holidays? Tips For Handling A New Romance

Are you in a new relationship? It's a heady experience -- and those first few dates and the following months of dating are crucial as you begin to establish your relationship. But incorporating a new love interest into your traditional holiday activities with family, long-time friends and possibly the ex-spouse, can be more than a little stressful.

Dating Etiquette for the Holidays

  • Different religions or traditions: It's important to discuss what your religious or holiday traditions include. Can you invite your Jewish partner to a Christmas celebration? Absolutely, just be sure to explain what the event will entail, any expectations, foods to be served and what other guests typically wear. You want to make sure your date is comfortable at all times.
  • Introducing your family: Is your family ready to meet your new date? If you're newly divorced, will your ex be around? Are your children or relatives ready to accept that you've moved on? Consider asking your children for approval before inviting a new date. Not only are you being considerate of their feelings, you're helping avoid any awkward moments.
  • Gifts: Depending on how you feel about your new date, the gift giving could be wonderful or awful. What if one of you gives a much fancier, more significant present? Are there any expectations? Talk about gift giving ahead of time. You could agree to exchange gifts in private or forego gift giving and spend the time and money on a mutually agreed upon activity.
  • Emotional baggage: If you or your new guy/gal are recently divorced, separated or widowed, the holidays can be stressful. We often hold on to memories associated with a former loved one and breaking free of that is especially difficult during this time of the year. There are a couple of ways to deal with this depending on the depth of your relationship and how willing you both are to talk about any concerns. Try spending time creating new holiday rituals that will have significance for the both of you. And, be willing to accept that at our age there are many memories and they will come up throughout your relationship.

Making Time For Romance

Face it, you may not want to introduce a new romantic interest to your family and friends. Maybe your family is a little wacko or your friends aren't ready to accept that you're dating. Whatever the reason it might be less stressful to separate events during this time of the year.

It's perfectly acceptable to do your own family events alone. Your new guy or lady will probably be relieved as it's a lot of pressure to meet the family too early in a relationship. You and a partner could go window shopping together, attend a holiday concert, watch old Christmas movies together, help each other decorate or enjoy together time in a way that's meaningful for you.

There is no reason you have to feel obligated to invite a fairly new date to your family events. Open communication and a mutual decision as to how you want to celebrate with each other is the best way to avoid tensions and have a great holiday.

For some ideas on holiday celebrations when you're single, dating or not, you might want to check out my post "Creating a Satisfying Holiday as a Single Woman."