DEAR HARRIETTE: I dated a guy for two years, and we even lived together for a year. I thought it was going well, but we broke up about six months ago. I didn't tell my family because I felt embarrassed that it didn't work out.
Now I have a new boyfriend, and I like him a lot. I want to bring him to meet the family at Christmas, but I know they will be surprised to meet somebody new. How do I break it to them that I have a new boyfriend without causing an interrogation? I just want to enjoy my life without reliving what didn't work out. -- Welcome Him, Sarasota, Florida
DEAR WELCOME HIM: By all means, tell your family about your new boyfriend before you bring him home. Otherwise, everyone will be uncomfortable, especially him. Start with your parents. You will have to say something about the breakup and why you are no longer with the first guy. They deserve that context. Before they begin to commiserate with you or chastise you, tell them that you have met someone new whom you really like. Tell your family that you want to bring your new friend home to meet them. Ask them to be kind to him and get to know him.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My family goes to church every year on Christmas Eve. It is a longstanding tradition that I love. I told my boyfriend about it, and I invited him to join us. He doesn't want to come. He did not grow up in the church and doesn't see the value of it. He said he would just as gladly meet up with me afterwards. He said he doesn't want to fake it by going with me since he isn't into church.
I get his point, but I also see that we have a problem. My church life is very important to me. Any man who is going to be a serious partner for me has to at least try to be a part of my religious life. Should I cut him loose now that I know he is unwilling to make the effort? -- Shared Values, New Orleans
DEAR SHARED VALUES: What you learn about a potential partner early on is often what is true throughout, so it is worth it to pay close attention to your boyfriend's actions and words. You have to be direct with him. Tell him how important religious rituals and engagement are for you. While it is not a requirement for him to be involved in all of your church activities, let him know that it is essential for you that he be supportive and participatory sometimes. Be open and honest with him about what you what you need from him as it relates to religion. Don't force him to go to church with you now, but do require conversations where you talk about values and hopes and dreams. You need to find common ground in order for this bond to flourish.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)