by Hayden Manders

’Tis the season for evaluating. Cuffing season is approaching. It’s that special time of year when temperatures dip low and folks are looking to get coupled-up not that slow. It’s when our desire for romance and need for warmth come together in a peculiar marriage, where single folks who normally relish their singledom feel that unnecessary but all too familiar societal peer pressure to find a lover and those in relationships begin to reflect on where they are.

Or, as bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter tells us, The holidays serve as a marker for how close we are to our mate. This, of course, means you’re going to be asking yourself one of a relationship’s biggest questions: Should I spend the holidays with my significant other—and our families—or should I… not?

The short answer? There is no short answer. Basically, you know when you know. Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing), unpacks this by saying it should naturally feel like the next step. “If you’re actively avoiding bringing this person home or doing it just because you feel you ‘should’ but really don’t want to, that’s equally important to listen to,” she says. “Trust your intuition!” Making the decision to spend the holidays with your significant other and either side’s family inherently makes you take stock in who you’re dating, why you’re dating, and where you see the relationship going.

There’s a heightened sense of home, family, and belonging,Winter says, adding that the commercialization of the season shoves extraordinary expectations of happiness in our faces. “Putting a relationship into the mix can be a recipe for disaster,

[because] unrealistic ideals, as to ‘how it should be,’ add stress to an already stressful time.

So approach the topic with honesty and trust because, as Syrtash says, “it’s fair to keep the distance until you have a better idea about your relationship.” No matter what your and your partner’s decision is, you’re going to walk away with a better understand of where you two stand, emotionally. Ultimately deciding to spend the holidays apart from one another could hurt one (or both!) of you, because it reveals a lack of investment in the relationship.

Winter advises to try and be as level-headed and non-reactive as possible. Offering to make a future holiday, like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s, into something special for you both is a nice way to make up for any hurt feelings. Your time apart should be spent considering the balance of your relationship while choosing an environment that feels good and provides support.”

At some point, though, your two worlds really ought to collide—compartmentalization is no way to live. “As we get closer and more involved in a relationship,” Syrtash stresses, “we should be exposed to each other’s worlds outside of it.” That could very well mean spending the holidays together and with your respective families.

If you do decide to take that leap, Winter has a few things to keep in mind:

  • Respect the family’s values. This means you may not be sleeping in the same room together.Regardless of how the two of you live privately, you’re now under someone else’s roof. (Unless, of course, the family comes to visit at your house; in that case, live your truth.)
  • Give your partner a rundown of your family, so they know who’s possibly difficult, with whom not to discuss politics, etc.
  • Expect to be auditioning for the role of ‘prospective spouse.’” Questions of your future together will undoubtedly arise. It might not happen, but it’s better to have a set of easy one-liners that can flow off your lips, just in case.
  • Do make an effort to spend alone time together.

As cheesy and saccharine as it all may be, the holidays are meant for celebrating our personal bonds. Your connection with your significant other may not be ready to withstand the chaos that may characterize your family (or you withstanding the chaos of your partner’s). That’s a-okay! Make the decision that feels the most genuine because there are no set-in-stone rules for this kind of step. Trust your soon-to-be-eggnog-filled gut and do so with honesty and, more importantly, trust.