There can be many exciting "firsts" in a relationship — the first time you leave a toothbrush at your honey's place, the first time you say, "I love you," and the first time your cat deigns to sit on your partner's lap. (OK, maybe the last one is specific to me, but it's still a BFD in my world!) Meeting your partner's family is also a pretty big deal, and since the holidays are upon us, you just might be spending your first Christmas with your significant other's family this year. Whether your own family gathers to celebrate the holidays together or not, being included in your boyfriend or girlfriend's family holidays is significant — but don't stress!
While navigating family dynamics and holidays pressures can be tricky — as evidenced by almost every Christmas rom-com ever — the important thing to remember is that you and your bae wanted to spend the holidays together and that's a great thing. When it comes to dealing with this big "first," I spoke to Maria Sullivan, Dating Expert and VP of Dating.com, who says, "When the ones you love the most are out of reach during the holidays, you’ll need find ways to fill the void. There are a few simple ways to tackle holiday blues and have you feeling at home — even at your significant other’s home." So while you're packing your bags with festive sweaters, holiday pajamas, and plenty of gifts, don't forget to take these tips with you, too.
If you're feeling bummed about missing out on the acutal holidays with your family, make a plan for when you return or when you next see your own family to make up for it. Sullivan says, "There’s always the chance to have a 'second' holiday, and celebrate when you see your family next. Knowing this option exists can keep the excitement of the holiday season going, even after it passes. Looking forward to this time can also make spending time apart more bearable." So throw a mini-Christmas or a post-holiday gathering on the calendar!
Although you're not with your family this holiday season, if you've got an internet connection, you can easily stay in touch! Sullivan suggests a video chat and says, "Get your partner’s family in the room, ring your own family and introduce them over the phone. Make them feel like they’re part of the family gathering by showing off some gifts you received. You can even plan ahead and send your family members presents they can open while you video chat! Just 30 minutes will go a long way and will create a fun dynamic that can get everyone into the holiday spirit."
Being a part of your partner's family's holidays might be intimidating, but go ahead and join in! Roll up your sleeves and offer to help out with baking cookies, assist with decorating, or simply go with the flow. Sullivan says, "Join in, but don’t come on too strong. Don’t be afraid to take part in tradition, but keep in mind there’s a definite need for balance. Your partner brought you there for a reason — they want you involved and present with the ones they love most." Sullivan does caution against coming on a little too strong and says, "Think about it this way — if it was your family, you wouldn’t necessarily want someone you aren’t very familiar with making the annual toast at Christmas dinner."
With new faces, names, and sugarplums dancing in your head, you might feel a little overwhelmed, but don't forget to enjoy yourself. You don't always have to be "on," and the holidays are a great time to relax and simply enjoy being in the moment. Sullivan says, "Your family back home will always be there for you. You’re able to text, call or visit them whenever. For now, relax and enjoy your partner’s family’s take on the holiday."
If you find yourself in the thick of your partner's family celebration and are still missing yours, you might wonder if this is a bad sign or indicates that something is lacking in your relationship with your partner. But Sullivan believes missing your own family is perfectly normal and doesn't reflect poorly on your boo. She says, "This is a perfectly natural reaction, and in no way a signifier of trouble in your relationship. If anything, feeling lonely or homesick is a direct reflection of the strong foundation you have built with your family. Be open and talk to your partner about what’s going through your mind. And look forward to bringing them to Christmas at your house next year!" And if next year's holidays find you and your honey packing up to join your family — go ahead and send your partner a link to this article!