We’re thrilled to share that Tribeca Therapy was featured in The Atlantic, focusing on how couples can navigate decisions around bringing a partner home to visit family during the holidays. After tracing how shifting cultural norms about how much influence family has in a couple’s relationship has made when to introduce a partner a fraught question, writer Ashley Fetters speaks to our Founder and Clinical Director Matt on ways partners can deal with feeling excluded from family visits or even, feeling over-included.
In “When Does A Boyfriend or Girlfriend Become Part of the Family?”, Matt explains that he regularly sees patients, particularly in their late 20s and early 30s, struggling with these choices in his relationship therapy and couples therapy practice. One reason people can hesitate to include their partner in trips home is that introducing a significant other can shift their typical dynamic with family members. As he observes, “Bringing a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a new partner around, it’s a way that our families see us more clearly, in ways that they have perhaps been reluctant to see us when it’s just us. A parent might say to their daughter, ‘Okay, I get it. You date girls.’ But then it’s like, ‘Oh, this is your partner who you’re bringing to Grandma’s house with you? I guess you’re serious about the dating-girls thing.’ Or even, ‘Wow. You’re really assertive in your relationship with that person. We’re not used to thinking of you as assertive.’”
Though feeling excluded from holidays and other events can put more strain on a relationship than being over-included, Matt also emphasizes that a partner can hesitate to visit their significant other’s family because that means spending less time with their own. However, not wanting to attend a partner’s family event can be a reason to take a look at the relationship. “The first rock I would want to look under as a therapist is, is that saying something problematic about the relationship? Because I think wanting to be included by somebody’s family is really nice…The ‘What does it mean that I’m willing to go to Thanksgiving at your stepdad’s house but you’re not willing to do Christmas Eve at my mom’s?’ conversation? That’s mostly about the dynamic between partners,” he says.
Above all, Matt asserts that these conversations should be approached with curiosity. “The first step of the work is to see if we can transform some bitterness and hurt into curiosity,” he states. “So instead of ‘Why am I not invited to your thing with your dad?’…’How’s your relationship been with your dad lately?’”