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Published: Saturday December 21, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday December 21, 2013 MYT 8:15:04 AM

December's romantic pitfalls

In this season of parties and holidays, singles will be tempted to rush into relationships. Experts don’t expect the romance to last past the New Year. — Filepic

In this season of parties and holidays, singles will be tempted to rush into relationships. Experts don’t expect the romance to last past the New Year. — Filepic

During the holiday season, enchantment and self-delusion are in the air.

WITH holiday parties looming and stoking the mood for romance, about now can feel like a most wonderful time to start a new relationship.

But although there are numerous bonuses to getting involved with a new flame as the holidays approach – having a date to the office soiree, avoiding another year of decorating your Christmas tree solo – fledgling lovers should take care not to be blinded by the twinkling lights.

From gift-giving to family visits to expectations of enchantment, the season can be either a gold mine or a minefield for people in the amorphous throes of a nascent relationship.

Here are three holiday hurdles that budding sweethearts should navigate with caution.

> Getting lost in fantasy land: The celebratory spirit of the season drives emotions high, which can layer seriousness on a relationship that hasn’t quite earned it.

“It really is a magical time of year, but because of that, it can be fantasy land a little bit, too,” says Erin Tillman, a Los Angeles-based single life consultant, host of a radio show on dating and author of The Dating Guidebook: Tips For Living A Happy And Healthy Single Life Without Losing Yourself In The Dating Process (AuthorHouse).

“It is tougher to figure out what it would be like just dating on a Monday in February.”

Tillman said some people like to be partnered during the holidays but don’t intend for the romance to extend past the New Year, which is fine as long as they aren’t making their love interest insincere promises fuelled by holiday giddiness. She advises people to check in with themselves and their new partners about their intentions.

> Gift-giving: Does the obligatory gift-giving of the season extend to someone you barely know? The short answer is yes, but don’t go overboard.

“There should be acknowledgment of the holiday and a token of appreciation, like a certain tea that they said they liked, or a gift certificate, or at least some sort of card,” Tillman says. “If someone totally ignores it, I honestly think that maybe you shouldn’t be dating that person.”

Yet people should take care not to read too much symbolism into gifts from their new paramour.

J.M. Kearns, author of Why Mr. Right Can’t Find You (Wiley) and three other relationship books, points out that, “We sometimes measure whether someone is compatible with us – and whether they really know us in our soul of souls – by the gift they give us. That’s a high bar to reach for someone who only met you recently.”

> Meeting family and friends: It is one thing to bring a new date to an office party, but do you invite them to travel to your aunt’s annual eggnog fest?

Everyone has different thresholds of seriousness before they introduce a new partner to relatives, but ask yourself if you actually want your parents to meet this person or if you’re merely motivated by everyone else bringing someone home, Tillman says. If you are ready for the parent-meeting step, try not to get sucked into the “mythic ideal of family togetherness and joy” that holidays tend to dredge up even when it never existed, or get disappointed when your new beau doesn’t live up to the fantasy, Kearns adds.

On the plus side, the season’s many family gatherings offer a rich source of information about your new partner, as you both can observe how you fit into the greater context of each other’s lives and gain a deeper understanding of who the other person is and how compatible you really are, Kearns says.

“Families have an uncanny ability to suss out weaknesses or phoniness in someone who claims to be worthy of their relative,” Kearns says.

The holidays also are a key opportunity to spend quality time with your new flame and each other’s friends, as “much depends on whether you can see eye to eye on the characters who are going to star in your life,” Kearns adds.

“Do they enjoy them? Does he take a real interest in them? Does she seem to pick up on the things you love about them? Does his or her presence enrich the experience of being with them, or suppress the connections you cherish?”

On the other end of the spectrum, the family-focused season can mean that people have travel plans or other obligations that don’t involve the new lover. The challenge then isn’t whether the budding couples bond too fast, but whether the connection wanes as other responsibilities distract you.

“It’s kind of an epidemic, people don’t keep in touch very well,” Tillman says. “Both people have to be active participants or it will fizzle away and someone will jump in and take their spot.” – Chicago Tribune/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Holidays, Romance, Family, Relationship, Love

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