With Thanksgiving now behind us, we’re now in full holiday swing. That means parties, family gatherings, road and long distance trips…it puts us all to the test when it comes to romance. We know that these times can be complicated, so to help you navigate your romantic life during this holiday season, we’ve brought in an expert: Emily Holmes Hahn is the CEO and founder of LastFirst, a bi-coastal bespoke matchmaking service that helps cool women around the country find a great partner. Here’s what she had to say on the topic of love and the holidays.

Let’s start with those that are single, that are currently looking for a partner and dread the holidays… What’s a way for them to deflect the pointed questions about their love-life from family and friends?

I have so many friends ask me this, and it honestly just depends on the context! I generally suggest making a joke – maybe, “well how is your love life going?” At the end of the day I don’t think there’s any specific protocol to follow for this kind of situation. It can be emotionally draining to get asked questions about your love life when it isn’t going the way you want it to—but remember that the family ask-er probably cares a lot about you, so you can feel thankful for that relationship!

If you’ve been on a couple of dates with someone and it seems to be going well, should you send them a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah message?

Of course, or he should send you one! But the texts should stray from anything generic. It’s almost laughable to just say “Merry Christmas!/You too!” if you’re really interested in each other. If you’re in the early stages, he still may be dating other people, and you want to set your conversation apart from the others. Visuals are the easiest way to get him chatting. Try a holiday-inspired sexy selfie if that feels natural to you, or a photo of yourself in a bad holiday sweater could be cute too, depending on the couple and their dynamic. If you prefer keeping things in writing only, ask him a banter-inspiring question, like “what’s the worst gift you have ever received?” 

What are some do-s and don’t-s when it comes to the beginning stages of meeting someone and communication during the holidays?

I think if it’s the really early stages, there’s no communication needed. Gift giving doesn’t need to start until 6 months in, and it’s too early to meet each others’ families. Relax and enjoy the honeymoon period!

That said, why is it a good idea to use a matchmaking service instead of an app or trying your luck at bars or your gym?

You’ll surely meet lots of people on dating apps and at the bar or the gym, but matchmaking takes a quality over quantity approach. With matchmaking, you’re making time for “high probability” introductions that have been screened for a real likelihood of turning into a committed relationship. Even if you meet someone at a bar and the physical chemistry is spot-on, it can be a waste of your time to find out 5 dates in there’s a deal breaker that will prevent a relationship from ever forming. Matchmaking is outsourcing the most valuable headhunt of your life to experts!

When should you introduce the person you are dating to your family? What tips can you share on making it as smooth as possible?

There are many different schools of thought on this, but I advise bringing families into the equation not after a set amount of time, but after a few benchmark events. In my opinion, being intimate, meeting each others’ friends and traveling abroad together should happen prior to meeting the parents. And you should never meet each others’ families for the first time at a holiday gathering! A lunch or dinner out provides a much more comfortable setting to get acquainted with the most important family members first. 

If you’ve been invited to spend a couple of days with your new partner’s family, what should or shouldn’t you wear?

Shouldn’t: Any overly revealing garments, of course! Shoes and certain styles that will pinch, irritate or cause discomfort, stay away too — you don’t want to be that high maintenance girlfriend. 

Should: Consider bringing comfortable, conservative and put-together garments. Easy and low- maintenance pieces like fitted sweaters, nice jeans and delicate jewelry. Walking shoes for a spontaneous family outdoor activity and a matching fitness outfit, too. Of course, you also can’t forget a few flattering and festive holiday dresses for going out to dinners. 

You strongly dislike your partner’s family, any tips you have to share with our readers on getting through the holidays with them?

If you strongly dislike his family, you may want to consider why you like him so much, and be sure that those reasons are enough to sustain a long-term relationship. If they are, and you still dislike his family, perhaps you could try to use the holidays as an opportunity to find common ground with them!

What advice do you have for those who are going through a breakup right before the holidays?

The holidays are the best of times and the worst of times to go through a breakup. I suggest keeping very busy with all the social activities that this season provides. RSVP “yes” to all those holiday parties, even the ones you may feel like you’re dragging yourself to. You never know who you’ll meet, and new romance, even just a fling, is an important step in getting over your ex. A new friend can provide the same effect, to a lesser extent. Of course, you should try to balance butterflying around with leaning on your family and close friends for emotional support, when you’re ready to open up to them.

How about for couples that have been together for a long time and want to find that spark again?

Strong couples never truly lose that spark, so it’s not hard to recover! The holidays are the best time to show appreciation for the long-term love, closeness and family that you two have built. Don’t overlook gift-giving as simply materialistic, it’s an ancient tradition and a verifiable love language! A thoughtful present and a hand-written note are some of the most authentic ways to communicate love to a partner. Present your gift in a surprising or intriguing way to add that sense of spontaneity back into the relationship.