“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, falalalala, lalalala”. The holidays are once again upon us. Families travel by trains, planes and automobiles to spend the holidays together. Are you entering the holiday season with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head? Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza, the holidays bring with them unrealistic expectations for family harmony. If you are bringing your partner to these family holiday gatherings for the first time, or the umpteenth time, your relationship can become strained as family (dys)functions are played out for all to see. Therefore, follow these tips listed below and you will be certain your relationship does not become a casualty of holiday madness.
Here are a few tips for keeping your relationship sane in the midst of family holiday insanity
1. Remember your family, like everyone else’s family, is perfectly imperfect. Clue your partner into the unique nature of your family’s imperfections and idiosyncrasies, and they won’t be caught off guard. For example, your slightly eccentric Aunt Jane is guaranteed to act slightly eccentric and your strange cousin Bob will be true to form and act strange. Allowing your partner to anticipate the imperfections, and the downright weirdness of your family during the holiday season will prevent them from getting caught off guard when these behaviors are put on public display for all to see. Anticipating inappropriate remarks aimed at you and/or your partner by family members will certainly soften their blow.
2. Make sure you let your partner know what your family’s conversational landmines are, and avoid them at all cost. If your family holds strong religious and/or political views, especially if they are different from your partner’s, clue your partner into this emotional danger zone. “Dare not tread where angels fear to go”, that’s all I have to say on this topic!
3. Rehearse rescue “get away” signals and/or looks prior to family functions. Have a designated look, or a certain word phrase practiced ahead of time which silently signals your partner that you need rescuing from a conversation or situation with a family member. For example, if you or your partner repeats the phrase “Wow, that’s amazing” two times in a row, swoop in for the rescue and find a way to remove your partner from the fourth game of Texas Hold ‘Em with Uncle Sam or the third version of “Did I ever tell you the story about the time I was blah,blah,blah?” You get the point.
4. On a more serious note, let you partner know that Aunt Mary or Uncle Bill usually drink way too much and become obnoxious when they over imbibe. Be certain to give your partner notice ahead of time to avoid a totally embarrassing situation where they bear the brunt of the drunk’s sarcastic remarks.
Hey, no one wants to be a Debbie Downer, but we all know the holidays do not magically transform our family into a Norman Rockwell family portrait of harmony, peace and love.
We can all look forward to the holidays. Just remember our families will be our families and act like they usually do, no matter what the occasion. Giving our partner a head’s up on the unique peculiarities and danger zones of our family will help them and you avoid embarrassing situations during these family holiday get-togethers. I firmly believe in the expression, “forewarned is forearmed”, especially when it comes to sticky family situations that might compromise your relationships.
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