The holidays are in full swing! It's time for hot chocolate, presents, and . . . meeting the family? You've been with your significant other for a good amount of time, and they want to celebrate the holidays with you and their family. Well, it's quite the compliment, but also a little nerve-racking! If you've heard of Relationup, then you know it's an on-demand service that matches users to a network of professional advisers for private and secure dating and relationship advice via text messaging. Lindsay Burke, Relationup Advisor, gives us six tips and tricks on how to survive when meeting the family for the first time!
'Tis the season for family gatherings, food, and festivities, and things are getting serious with your new special someone — so special that they invite you to spend the holiday with their family! This can bring up a mix of feelings; feelings of excitement about the relationship — that things are getting more serious and you are entering a new stage. Or feelings of anxiety and doubt . . . "Will his parents like me?" or "Will I get along with her siblings?" Let's be honest, holidays can also bring up old conflicts or grief from lost loved ones, and sometimes those "potential" in-laws (for a lack of a better term) can seem downright strange. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you survive and enjoy this new first!
1. When in doubt, shut up.
As much as you might feel like impressing them with your résumé and amazing singing talent, when you are entering someone's comfort zone, sometimes it is best to first observe and listen. The good news is that this lets you off the hook! You can release that pressure to perform. By simply watching and listening and keeping the focus on them, you will not only learn a few things about how their family dynamics work, but you are also showing them that you find them interesting people to get to know. If they ask you questions, answer them graciously, but no need to go into long stories and rants. Just relax and let them take the lead.
2. Don't be a helicopter girlfriend/boyfriend.
Not only is the stage-two clinger annoying, but it also tells his or her family that you are either insecure or controlling. Remember, they have loved your partner for many years before you showed up and may want a few minutes of alone time to catch up themselves. Allowing your partner to freely meander and socialize without you shows them that you are secure and confident.
3. Stay out of it.
We all know how the holidays can be a stressful time, and there is nothing like putting a group of stressed-out family members together. It is only a matter of time before an argument ensues. As much as you may feel knowledgeable about the political debate at hand or you were a witness to the events that led to the family feud, do your best to stay out of it. Building rapport and trust is more important than appearing smart or taking sides. Also, be sure not to be a gaping Annie . . . feel free to excuse yourself to the restroom until things quiet down again.
4. Be helpful.
In some families, one member will prefer to do all of the preparation themselves, and in others, they will feel that preparation is more a collective responsibility. It never hurts to ask, "May I help with anything?" If they decline, simply show sincere graciousness for their efforts. In the meantime, you can always ask, "Can I join you here in the kitchen?" and take the opportunity to visit with your partner's family while they prep. When it comes to cleanup after meals, the least you can do is take your plate to the kitchen. This is unlikely to offend anyone and it, at the least, shows that you are willing to be helpful.
5. Dress appropriately.
There is a fine line between being yourself and catering to others' comfort levels, but if the ultimate goal is to connect with this new family, you might need to be flexible. Ultimately, you want to ensure they feel at ease around you. Though your old, black Metallica t-shirt is your favorite shirt in the world, or you feel super sexy in this skintight, low-cut dress, it is encouraged that you first ask your partner about his or her family's dress codes/comfort zones. Some families are incredibly casual and you are off the hook. Others may be more conservative and will feel uncomfortable if you wear something too trendy or sexy. You can never lose by wearing something a little more modest, plain, and conservative. Then, the focus is on getting to know you, not on what you are wearing.
6. Be yourself.
Remember, your partner picked you. Something about him or her was attracted to you. So, being an extension of his or her family and their genetics, chances are his parents and siblings will be attracted to those same traits in you! You can relax, kick back a bit (not so much that you forget your manners, but you know what I mean . . .), allow yourself to be a little silly, and simply enjoy this time with your partner's family. Chances are they have been dying to get to know you and have assumed that, if your partner likes you enough to introduce you to the crew, you must be a pretty cool person. Also, as much as you are feeling nervous, they may feel pressured to impress you, too. So, by you remaining relaxed and just enjoying yourself, it gives them permission to do the same.