"That's quite a big step," replies boyfriend T, looking slightly nervous.
"I think I told you before that they don't have any issues with the fact that we're gay :-)."
"Well, I guess I should meet them at some point," he admits, "but can we leave it until next year?"
In the end, a few weeks before Christmas last year I go and visit my family on my own, on a weekend when boyfriend T knew that he was going to be otherwise engaged. However, just over a month ago, I realise that there'll soon be another opportunity for a family visit.
"Have I told you that several members of my family have birthdays in February?" I ask boyfriend T one evening.
"No, I don't think so," he replies, "why do you mention it?"
"Well, because of the birthdays I often go and see them in February," I answer, "so perhaps we could both go this time?"
"I suppose I should meet them, now that we're living together," sighs boyfriend, clearly not completely comfortable with the idea.
"Don't worry! They'll all love you :-)."
"But perhaps ex-boyfriend S can come along too?" asks boyfriend T hopefully.
Indeed, boyfriend T and ex-boyfriend S have been getting on well with each other, ever since the two of them met last year!
"Sure, we can ask him," I answer. "After all the holidays that the two of us had with all of them, I sure they regard him as part of the family now, so they won't have a problem with it :-). But why do you want him there?"
"I want someone there who'll be on my side!"
It turns out that ex-boyfriend S is available, so when the day arrives, the three of us hop on a train together and settle down for the journey.
"Just don't leave me alone with any of them," says boyfriend T to me and ex-boyfriend S, early on in the journey, "because I won't know what to say. I don't want any awkward moments!"
"OK sure :-)" I reply calmly, and ex-boyfriend S nods his head.
"Have you ever met the family of any of your previous boyfriends?" asks ex-boyfriend S.
"I used to talk to the mother of my last boyfriend on the phone," answers boyfriend T, "although I never actually met her!
"I guess that counts for something :-)," I say.
Eventually we arrive at a train station in the middle of the countryside, and as planned, my sister is waiting for us just outside.
"This is boyfriend T :-)" I say to my sister once we've got into her car, "and this is my sister!" I say to boyfriend T.
The two of them exchange a couple of polite sentences, and soon my sister is driving us to her house. On arrival, boyfriend T meets my niece and my sister's husband, and shortly after that my mother arrives so he gets introduced to her too.
"How you doing?" I ask boyfriend T quietly, when we get a moment to ourselves.
"OK," he replies, "but I still wouldn't know what to say so don't leave me alone. I mean it, don't even go to the toilet!"
A restaurant had been booked for lunch, but before we leave my niece takes us to see her two horses, so boyfriend T gets introduced to them too! Half an hour later we arrive at the restaurant, and once my nephew and my father have arrived as well, the introductions for the day are complete.
For the meal, the nine of us sit down at a round table, with boyfriend T sitting in between me and my sister's husband. Although the conversation is a bit difficult to start with, bit by bit I can see boyfriend T relaxing, and gradually things start to become a bit easier. After the meal we all head back to my sister's house.
Sitting around in front of one of the open wood fires in my sister's house, my niece starts asking boyfriend T a bit about his home country in Asia. But after a few minutes, my sister's husband has a question.
"Isn't it true that they eat cats and dogs in some Asian countries :-)," he asks, with a smile on his face.
"Yes I think so," replies boyfriend T, "although as far as I know it's not very common these days."
"It's just that I saw you looking at our cat," continues my sister's husband, still smiling, "perhaps thinking ... that looks tasty, where's the salt and pepper!"
I can't help myself from laughing, because although his comment could be construed as a bit racist, I know that my sister's husband means it as a joke! Luckily boyfriend T laughs too.
"I hope you didn't take offense at that cat and dog comment that my sister's husband made," I say to boyfriend T later, on the train back to London.
"In the past he's made jokes about my background too!" adds ex-boyfriend S.
"I know, everything's fine :-)," answers boyfriend T, looking much more relaxed than he did on the morning's journey.
"Of course," I reply, "the good thing is that if they feel able to joke about that kind of thing with you, it means that they feel comfortable with you. Welcome to the family!!"