Dating 2011: You can pick your friends, but...

I don’t know who said that, but it is one of the truest statements I have ever heard. You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. With most of our friends, there’s a point in the relationship where one or both people decide that they would like to have a deeper connection with the other.

With family, we don’t get that option. From the very beginning, we’re given brothers and sisters and parents, with no say in the matter at all. If you’re a person who hasn’t had a happy family life, that situation feels unfair, while if you’ve been blessed with loving parents and siblings, the statement is humorous rather than derogatory.

Family knows us better than we know ourselves. They know when we’re faking it, when we’re upset or when we’re trying to keep a secret. They’ve lived with us for most of the growing part of our lives, and yet, when it comes to dating, we’re always too happy to put family on the backburner, to sit and wait for the dream wedding, which they will presumably attend in large white numbers.


This mentality doesn’t make sense. When you’re dating, your family is one of your greatest resources you have!

Family looks at your relationship without the emotional side, and through these clear glasses can see so much that we either can’t, or refuse to, see.

Ask your family what they think of your boy/girlfriend. It’s not an issue of minding your business for you, it’s an issue of caring.

But I’m not comfortable with bringing them home, you might say.

Why? Is it the kitchen that looks like a crime scene? The younger siblings charging noisily around the house? The parents, who will thoroughly assess this potential partner for their daughter or son? What exactly is going to be different about these scenes when you’re married? If your spouse can’t handle a dirty kitchen, what about when they come home and find your shared home a mess? If they can’t handle your siblings, how are they going to handle their own children? And parents will always be parents (the only difference being the ‘in-law’ stuck on the end).

Any other excuses need to shot down from their sky with a well-aimed ‘Why?’ They won’t get on with my family. My mum will want to talk to them and I don’t want that. My dad wears clothes that’ve seen three generations- I know they’ll laugh at him. …Why?

If you honestly answer that ‘why’, it will reveal so many character traits in your boyfriend/girlfriend that you were probably blind to before. If your boyfriend/girlfriend is willing to run the gauntlet of Family, they are worth keeping.

Parents are wonderful accountability partners too, especially if you’re aiming to keep your relationship clean. I would even go so far as to radically recommend the old-fashioned (but so genuine) question before you even begin dating, “Mr Smith, may I date your daughter?”

A certain mischievous side of me revels in the nervousness of that brave boyfriend, but it’s always a telling sign if the boyfriend refuses, because by that simple act of asking your parent(s), he has to:

a) make your relationship public

b) promise someone to their face that he will honour their daughter

c) accept your family as part of who you are and as people whom you care for.

Family is a great sounding board for authenticity. Brothers and sisters especially, are usually brutally honest when it comes to answering that dangerous question, “So…, what did you think about so-and-so?”

The degrees to which you choose to include your family depend on circumstance and relationships, but no matter where you’re at in the dating scene, one fact remains the same- not only can your family prove invaluable in discerning whether your current boyfriend/girlfriend is sincere and honest, they will also frequently suggest potential ones as well- and they are often closer to the mark than we would care to admit.



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