You can feel it in the air. Each day is progressively shorter, each evening is progressively cooler. You have already taken your winter clothes out of storage and the Holidays are just around the corner.
Normally, this is a festive time of year. A time for getting together with friends and family. While you are never short of Holiday cheer, the friends and family part is what is particularly worrisome for you this year.
Why? The answer is simple, you just started dating somebody a few weeks ago and you just realized that this will likely require interaction between your mutual families. Yes, your loving and caring new partner must endure your great uncle Simon’s stories about tripping on acid at Woodstock and your aunt Gloria’s judgemental stares.
Like ants at a picnic or rain during a baseball game, you view the presence of friends and family on your newly burgeoning relationship as an intrusion.
Before you start fretting about this, before you start venting your anger and rage by punching out every department store Santa and elf that you encounter, take a breath and read our following seven tips. They will help you survive the Holidays when you have a new relationship.
1. Choose When and How
The Holiday season encompasses multiple days of celebration. You have Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years. You also have different strata of celebrations. You have your office party, family get-togethers, neighborhood gatherings — the combinations can seem endless.
This is why, like a good general marshaling his forces, you must pick your field of battle. Being a new couple you don’t want either of you to become needlessly stressed out. You mutually want each other to shine in the eyes of your friends and family. To accomplish this, it is best to select the right gatherings for your appearances together.
A good rule here would be to spend Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other.
2. Take Family Characteristics Into Account
If your family tends to be a bit extroverted, rowdy or just plain nosy — choose the gathering with the smallest number people scheduled to be present. Rumbustious families can overwhelm your new partner, so the fewer members present, the better.
Likewise, if your family is reserved — if getting conversation out of them is harder than trying to light a wet match, then choose the one with the most members present. This will avoid awkward moments of silence.
3. It Helps if They Meet Beforehand
Let’s face it, no matter how sweet and adorable your family is to you, to your partner they are a bunch of strangers. This is why it helps if you introduce your new partner to one or two trusted members of your family in the days or weeks prior to the Holidays. This will at least give your partner a few familiar faces, besides your own, to latch onto. They can also serve as “ambassadors” to help introduce your partner to the rest of the family.
4. Bring a Gift
Being the holiday season, bringing a gift should be taken as a given. However, it is important to bring the right type of gift. If you accompany your partner to a Holiday event where their parents are present, it is wise to bring each of them a little something. It is important to enlist your partner’s help in selecting an appropriate gift. You don’t want it to appear cheap or generic, but you also don’t want it to appear expensive or ostentatious. You don’t want your gift to be misconstrued as a “bribe” for acceptance.
If the gathering has a dinner as its central focus, you may be able to get away with bringing something for the table, such as a decent bottle of wine or tasty dessert in place of personal gifts.
Showing up empty-handed, even if your partner says it’s okay, is usually not a good idea. You are, in a way, making a first impression. You want to be seen as somebody that is worthy of your partner. Remember, to them your partner is their baby and, at least initially, you are an interloper.
5. Be Kind to Kids and Pets
No matter how nice your partner’s family may seem, they will be sizing you up the entire time that you are there. If there are kids or pets in the home, be on your best behavior with them. This may require you to tolerate loud and obnoxious kids as well as less than friendly pets.
You want to show that you are kind and patient. Being friendly and playing with the kids and pets in the house goes a long way toward creating this impression.
6. Old People to the Rescue
If you find your partner’s family is not being talkative or for whatever reason is ignoring you, find one of the oldest members of the group and latch onto them for some conversation. Every family is going to have a grandparent or a great-aunt — someone who has already seen their fair share of Holidays — eager for a new set of ears for their old stories.
Old people such as these appreciate the company and tend to become more talkative. Also, since you haven’t heard the same stories that everybody else has already heard 100 times before, the conversation will be fresh to you and the others will feel relieved that they don’t have to hear them again. You become a hero on multiple levels.
7. Save Some Time for Yourselves
Make sure to set aside some Holiday time just for the both of you. Whether this is time alone at your place or planning a small holiday side trip, don’t let the Holiday season go by without creating your own set of memories. Some new couples make it a point to set aside New Year’s Eve celebrations as their private thing.
Depending on your personality, some couples start Holiday traditions together. These can be as simple as purchasing a Christmas tree ornament together and signing and dating the bottom with a permanent marker. This, with the intent of adding a new ornament every year. These new traditions could also be more demonstrative of the spirit of the season, such as volunteering together at a shelter or soup kitchen.
— Keep It Merry —
When a couple spends their first Christmas and Holidays together it should be fun and exhilarating. It should be joyful. As awkward or stressful as meeting your partner’s family en masse might be, stay focused on the fact that you are building memories with the person that you really care about. Who knows, after a year or two, your partner’s family may officially become your own as well.