Although for many, tis the season that could make or break your relationship, the holidays may just be the very first introduction to your future in-laws- which doesn’t always lead to peace on earth and goodwill towards man. The pressure is on! Family gatherings are a defining point within a relationship without the added holiday stressors, anxieties and simmering tensions- but first you must remember to keep calm, and breathe. It’s going to be okay. Let’s continue…
Whether you’re in a relatively new relationship, or in a relaxed, more settled stage, meeting the parental units-plus extended family- certainly kicks things up a notch. It’s a big step. After all, this could be your glimpse into what the potential future has in store for you and your “bae”. Turning to your close friends for counsel, and/or reading the latest issue of Cosmo, often leads to contradicting advice leaving you more confused and nervous than ever.
I’ve heard it all. Charmingly flirt with his dad, but not too sexual. Compliment his mom’s good taste, but don’t brown nose. Bond with the siblings, but don’t get in the middle. The problem is these types of tips do not permit any wiggle room to let your true self shine through or an opportunity to really connect with anyone above the surface. It is important to embrace your strengths and weaknesses at this time. Bottom line, you are straying away from your natural comfort zone, so it is best to communicate with your partner any concerns. By openly laying down some ground rules and agreed upon boundaries before you get there, you are establishing a reassurance and building more trust with your significant other. For instance, if you tend to be more on the shy side than outgoing, in the beginning you may request ‘please don’t leave me to be interrogated alone for too long by anyone ’, or voice particular subject matters that you hope to avoid if possible, etc. Discuss what you feel you can and cannot handle, expectations and ideal scenarios so you can be prepared. Optimistically, this will minimize chances of panic so you can mix and mingle confidently.
To ensure a successful first encounter, it is always beneficial to stick to the basics for socializing.
DO dress properly
Your first and last impression on this night is all you have. It is what will be remembered. You get to choose how you will be perceived. I’m sure your man-candy finds you irresistible in anything, or nothing at all for that matter, but now is not the time to keep his tongue wagging. Tonight is about accommodating the folks. Feel free to showcase your own personal style, but maintain class and sophistication. Do not go over the top and walk in too formal or overdone, you want to highlight your physical attributes appropriately – allowing them to understand why you appeal to their kid, but in an understated manner. This doesn’t mean business casual either, but be put together and attractive.
DON’T arrive late to their home
If apps or dinner are scheduled to be served for a target time, make sure to be there promptly as the clock strikes. Your presence is not only requested, but it is a sign of respect. When a person is late, it implies a greater value of their own time rather than yours. Especially around the holidays, time with family is everything so take advantage of every available second to invest more time into accepting their favors.
DO some research prior to meeting
This is the perfect interval to ask questions. Use it wisely to get the inside scoop. Find out the details about crazy Aunt Bethany, or why Uncle Ron isn’t allowed to drink scotch anymore- Ya know, the good stuff… Perhaps, there is a particularly flower the mom adores, a favorite sports team of his kid bro, or a new gadget Dad seems to be enamored with. This shows you have made a solid effort in their interests and topics to expand on.
DON’T be culturally insensitive
Well, it’s obvious every family has a different dynamic- that goes without saying. But most likely, you and your partner come from distinct backgrounds as well. Whether it be growing up in diverse regional locations, or a specific ethnicity, many factors contribute to cultural mindfulness. Please remain as open as possible when interacting with various lifestyles.
DO bring a gift
It is always in good taste to never show up to a party empty handed to show your gratitude. A festive tray of cookies? A spectacular edible arrangement? It is best to circle back to previous inquiries regarding doing your research to find out what the family would enjoy most. Your thoughtfulness will be dully noted.
DO be polite, but DON’T be dishonest
Manners go a long way-especially when they are genuine. Your behaviors and attitudes reflect you own family and how you were raised, so the spotlight is on. Do not be dishonest, throwing around compliments for the sake of being “polite”, nor should you be too honest in your conversation. It makes people uncomfortable. The point of being polite is consideration- to make those around you feel as comfortable as possible.
DON’T get involved in any family drama
This is a biggie. Even if at some point in time, this becomes your business, right now- it’s not your business. Although you may be tempted to stand up for your man who is being seemingly bullied or verbally abused by his siblings, this is not your fight to fight. I remember my brother called me a “psychotic ass-wipe” in front of my boyfriend one time, and in turn he stepped in thinking he was my knight and shining armor creating pointless strain. He didn’t realize for me and my brother, this was our vigorous form of flattery for one another. It’s just how we laugh, express our love, and speak to one another. It is crucial to comprehend everyone’s rapport. It is always best to stay of things and let the parties involved work out the kinks or drama. If you care about your person, you want them to have strong, stable bonds with all family members- not stir the pot.
DO be yourself, but DON’T overshare
This essentially means be you, but do not lay out all of your cards on the table for everyone to judge. Do not boast or demonstrate all your vices in such a short period of time. It is okay to state your opinion on topics throughout conversing, but do not go overboard. You want people to get to know you, free of conclusion and life sentencing. Do not argue or fight with anyone including your boy toy.
DO show your admiration for their son but DON’T pile on the PDA
Understand where the line is drawn between affection and the over-usage of nicknames like “sexy” or “baby”. Keep your hands and mouth to yourself while describing what it is you love most about your partner. Nobody likes to see explicit PDA- and parents do not wish to see their child reveal that level of intimacy from their day to day life. However, they do want to see that you are treating them the way they deserve to be treated. Parents also feel a sense of pride when someone adores the qualities which they helped to shape. Subtly display that lucky feeling of butterflies while toning down the “shmoopies” for an entire meal if possible.
DO offer to help out
This one should be a given? What were you raised in a barn? This reiterates the simple principles of common courtesy. It dignifies the investment of your positive energy to lend a helping hand even if not necessary. The modest attempt speaks volumes of one’s personality in a humble gesture to demonstrate appreciation.
Bonus Tip: Send a handwritten, personalized thank you note via snail mail, not a text or email. Take a moment to show your appreciation and setup a strong foundation early on.
Once you get passed the initial worry of the meeting, there is no turning back. You’re in it to win it- their heart that is!
Congrats on moving along in life, love and family.