The holidays are the single most stressful time of the entire year for me. Having to spend money on presents for people to prove something about how much I love them just doesn't do it for me. The cold seriously gets me down. And especially when you're around family, there can be a lot of pressure to justify where you are in life and how well you are doing. I think that these stresses come to the surface in every holiday season interaction, and figuring out how to spend the holidays with your partner's family is no exception. They might not be your blood relatives, but there are still hidden family dynamics you'll have to figure out how to navigate.
At the same time, being invited to spend the holiday with your parter's family is a major relationship milestone. It means that they want you in their life so much that they are willing to share their family's dysfunction with you. Even if you're a Grinch like me, reaching that landmark with your partner is definitely worth celebrating. You might be nervous, but have faith. You can charm the pants off your partner's family as long as you have a good game plan. Here's one that works.
You didn't have to pretend to be someone you're not for your partner to fall in love with you, so you shouldn't have to in order to impress their parents. Remember that parents might be older than you, and might even be dominant authority figures, but beneath that tinsel, they are really just ordinary human beings. As the new person at the table, you are the one who will probably be the focus of attention, so you should be prepared to field a lot of questions.
"If you meet someone for the first time, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be curious about them," Anita Chlipala, founder of Chicago-based relationship therapy firm Relationship Reality 312, told Elite Daily.
Be polite and give as much information about yourself as you want to, but don't pressure yourself to be super charismatic and entertaining if that's just not who you are. Remember what your mom always told you: You make the best impression by just being yourself.
Unless your partner was born into a 1950s sitcom, their family is probably as stressful for them to be around as they are for you. You can pick up on the cues that they are getting stressed out, and they'll notice the subtle family dynamics better than you do. "If the mom is giving you a little side-eye, your partner's likely going to pick up on it before you do," licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson told Elite Daily.
That's why it's important to build in time just for you and your partner to debrief after the first meeting. Go for a winter walk. Offer to run into town to pick up last-minute groceries. Get some space so that you can check in about how the both of you are doing. Remember, you are in this together. Taking space for yourselves will help you maintain balance during the holidays, so you don't drown the stress you might feel otherwise into your eggnog.
You don't have to shower your boyfriend's family with gifts in order to make a good impression. Bring a single, well-thought-out offering to contribute to their holiday festivities. That might be something as simple as a new ornament for their tree. Because honestly, giving material possessions doesn't prove anything to anyone. You can be a horrible person who gives great gifts.
In addition to bringing one small gift, consider making something for the holiday table. Contribute an appetizer or a dessert that your family always made. You can tell them the story of the holiday dish and bring a little bit of your tradition to theirs. Hopefully, these little gestures will set a strong foundation for all of your interactions with your partner's family that are to come.
When you're spending the holidays with your partner's family, the most important thing to remember is that both of you and your partner's family care so much about the same person. Don't allow yourself to be overshadowed or intimidated by the prospect of making a great impression. Let your true self shine like the brightest light on the Christmas tree.
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