I am divorced and in a new relationship with someone whom I am planning to take home to meet my family for Thanksgiving. I have never done this before and can’t help but think of Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in The Family Stone. I feel extremely protective of my new partner, and while I really want to bring him home to meet my extended family (he’s already met my kids), I am suddenly feeling extremely anxious about it. I think I may have made a mistake inviting him, but I don’t want to cancel and hurt his feelings or cause drama within my family. (They’re all really excited to meet him!)
If you think you made a mistake, I would lean into your instincts. I’m so tired of the way we normalize passivity when it comes to self-doubt and assume that because we are supposed to want something, then we will come to actually want it.
I was recently having this conversation with someone about the idea of “cold feet,” which is a concept that’s ripe for debunking. In my youth, I definitely bought into the idea that you could overcome doubts if you reasoned with yourself, and I have come to realize how foolish that is. The way we have normalized second thoughts as “totally natural! Just ignore them!” is yet another example of how heteronormative/marital/patriarchal culture f*cks us up.
“I don’t know a single person who had cold feet going into their marriage who isn’t now divorced,” my friend said. (I want to be clear that this isn’t part of an argument against divorce. Not all marriages last, but most people go into them thinking — or at least hoping — that they will.) The fact that “leaving someone at the altar” is far more frowned upon than entering a marriage with serious doubts is a cultural red flag, my friends. And while your question has nothing to do with marriage, my point is this: If you ignore cold feet, there is a very good chance they will turn blue and fall off your legs and then you won’t be able to stand.
All of this to say, to hell what your family thinks. It’s OK to disappoint people. You can validate their disappointment as well as your changed mind and everyone will feel seen. Besides, you have all the time in the world to introduce your person to your family if you decide down the road that you want to.
I also think the fluidity of changing one’s mind and being able to openly talk to your partner about that without fear of being chastised will be a great test of whether this is your person or not. I am realizing, as I get older, that changing one’s mind is a sign of growth, of strength of character, not weakness. Being able to comfortably communicate that without getting lambasted is a sign of a healthy relationship.
Holidays are stressful enough without feeling obligated to keep plans that include the introduction of a significant other. Especially when you’re having second thoughts.
So, to recap:
- It isn’t cold feet. (That term is bullsh*t.)
- Changing your mind does not mean you’re a flake.
- If it isn’t a full-on yes, it’s probably a no. (At least for now.)
- Happy holidays! I love you!
I want to answer any and all questions you all have about the exhilarating, terrifying, and wonderful experience of dating and having sex with new people after becoming a parent. Send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Woolf writes Romper’s Sex & the Single Mom series. She has worked as a writer for more than two decades and is the author of two books, Rockabye: From Wild to Child and All of This: A Memoir of Death and Desire. You can subscribe to her newsletter, The Braid, for more. She lives in Los Angeles with her four children.