Are you as shocked as I am that the holidays are here again already? It seems like it was just Christmas and here we are again, awash in a sea of pumpkin spice and gravy. Not that I'm complaining — I actually love the holiday season. I love the music, the decorations, the weather, and, most of all,
the food. Sitting down for that holiday meal with the people you love is always special, but it can also be stressful, especially when you’re meeting bae's parents and facing down the brutally honest phases of spending thanksgiving with your SO’s family for the first time.
Now don't get me wrong, it can be a really amazing experience. They could be wonderfully warm and welcoming people, but it's totally normal to feel some pressure to make a good impression the first time you meet them. Don't fret! While it may seem a little daunting, you can definitely take solace in knowing you aren't alone. Anyone who has made that first holiday trek to their partner’s parents' home knows that these struggles are real, but they've gotten through it, and you will too! Here's what you can expect it will be like — and how to survive Thanksgiving dinner like a pro.
1. The initial excitement at being invited.
Being included in the holidays is a pretty big deal for any couple, and that first time you go home with your new boo is a major moment for the relationship. So, of course when you first get that invite you can't help but be excited! After all, your relationship just
leveled up. Ride this wave as long as you can, because the next phase is not nearly as fun.
2. The inevitable anxiety spiral.
After that first wave of excitement about being included in your SO's family traditions washes over you, the next wave hits... and it's one of extreme anxiety. After all, if this means the relationship is
leveling up, the pressure to get it right is intense. What if they don't like you? What if you say the wrong thing and feel humiliated? What will you wear? What will you cook? Should you bring something? Ack! It’s maddening. If you’re anything like me, this phase lasts from about 10 seconds after the invite until the day-of. Hopefully the next phase will help dial down some of the panic.
If you’re spinning out, one way to help bring down the anxiety level is to pregame with a full debrief on your SO’s family. What topics should you avoid with which family member? What are some ways to ingratiate yourself? Are there any pet peeves you need to know about? Along with all the basic information like everyone’s name and relations. By having a fair amount of information already when you walk through the door, it will help you feel a little calmer and more prepared. Plus it means it won't be totally overwhelming when you meet the family all at once.
The awkward introduction.
Sorry, it's still awkward. Yes, you have some info under your belt, but there is nothing that will fully prepare you for the wall of family members and their curious eyes as you walk in the door and are introduced for the first time. Ain’t holidays fun?
Time to pretend to know how to cook.
There is a very good chance that at this point, you will be whisked into the kitchen to “help out.” Hopefully your pregaming also included some YouTubing of how to make mashed potatoes and gravy, because it's time to put whatever skills you have to use — likely under the watchful eye of bae’s mom and possibly other family members. Just paste on a smile and mash, mash, mash. Never forget, this too will end. This too
The dinner conversation minefield.
I’d like to tell you the cooking phase was the last difficult part of the evening, but it's actually when you get to the table that the real challenge — and hopefully a few laughs and fun — begins. There will likely be a Q&A portion of the dinner where the family gets to know you. There's also a good chance that anyone who’s, ahem, been over-served at the table is going to say something... controversial. After all, what is Thanksgiving, if not the time for the worst relative to really
shine. Smile and nod and keep it moving. Focus on the pumpkin pie. With enough pumpkin pie, everything will be OK.
The turkey coma victory lap.
Congratulations, you made it! You’ll know you crossed the finish line when the plates are cleared and that sweet, sweet tryptophan (the hormone in Turkey that makes you sleepy) kicks in and everyone chills out. No more dodging awkward questions— just the slow movement of dishes into the kitchen for cleanup. Pro tip: If you want to leave a good impression on your SO’s family, make sure to chip in with the clean up, no matter how much you just want to curl up next to your boo on the couch and ride the visit out. If you’re not staying the night, then it’s just about a wrap on the whole celebration. Thank everyone, tell them how happy you were to meet them, then GTFO!
You did it, and although there may have been a few rough patches, you survived and hopefully even thrived a bit. You’ve also had a chance to learn a few new things about your partner, which is always interesting, and you can add one more thing to your “thankful for” list: Thanksgiving is over, and now it’s your turn to go home for the holidays — and your partner’s turn in the hot seat. Happy holidays!