It’s not always rainbows and unicorns with the in-laws. Ask around and you’ll hear stories of passive aggressive mother-in-laws, father-in-laws who watch football all weekend and talk in one-word syllables, and siblings who treat you with suspicion, contempt, and indifference. No matter what you’re walking into, here are some tips for spending your first Christmas with your boyfriend or girlfriend’s family:
Twin Bed or Bust
You and your partner need to get the obvious figured out right away, and it’s going to take a frank, direct, and possibly awkward conversation about sleeping arrangements. Are you staying in the same room? Will one person stay in the room and the other on the couch? Or will you be staying in a hotel during the trip? Have a game plan in place so if you get an answer you don’t want to hear, you won’t be storming off once it’s time for stuffing.
The White Elephant in the Room
While Christmas is a time for family, joy, and peace, it’s also a time for presents! No matter how much you pretend not to care, the consumer in you is hard to ignore. Before hitting the mall and buying a gift for each person of the family, ask your partner about the usual protocol. Are names picked out of a hat so you only have to buy for one person? Is there a price limit for gifts? Do couples buy as couples? Luckily, your partner has done this a few times and will know what’s expected. Realistically, you’re probably not expected to bring presents for everyone if this is your first Christmas with them, so an all-inclusive gift like a nice bottle of wine or fruit basket should work just fine.
Speaking of Gifts…
If you have chosen to go the individual gift route, try to be mindful of what you’re giving. Your hard-core conservative father-in-law may not want the autobiography of a liberal politician. Likewise, your mother-in-law may not want the latest death metal album when she’s more of a Broadway fan. Once again, your partner should be able to guide you with this. One big thing to keep in mind is avoiding those truly generic gifts featured at every drug store. If it’s for Aunt Sally whom you know nothing about, a hot chocolate trio set might work; but for the sister you’ve met a few times, a homemade spiced cider kit is much more suitable.
Less Boxing Gloves, More Boxing Day
Arguments and family go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s inevitable when you have a dozen people who share the same blood but not beliefs. While family quarrels are often silly and sometimes healthy, try to refrain from going to town for 12 rounds. If you’re asked, of course share your opinions, but do so respectfully. This Christmas is your interview, and how you present yourself can determine if you’re invited back. If it helps, think of it like work and avoid the big three topics: politics, religion, and sex. And, this goes without saying, try not to get into a fight with your sweetie on their home turf. Being around family has a funny way of bringing out the extremes in people, but getting into an argument about how she never takes out the trash or he never cooks is not going to make your night of sleep on an air mattress any cozier.
Make Some Time with the Honey
The holidays are meant to be spent with loved ones, and that includes spending time with your sweetie. Whether you two can go for a short hike or for a date to the local dessert shop, reserving some couple time will help with the anxiety of meeting the extended family. Furthermore, this is an excellent excuse to tour a town you’ve probably never been to before.
This holiday season, come prepared with a game plan, gifts, and grin—even if it is just to grin and bear it. Whatever happens, you’re sure to have a story you’ll be telling for years to come.
Do you have any tips for spending the holidays with the in-laws?