Making it through holiday stress can be tough. Now throw on top of that being in a new relationship, it can get real dicey. You might be navigating introducing your partner to family members for the first time. It can be tough to balance family expectations without sacrificing your connection with your partner. So here are a few pitfalls and how to avoid them:
Set Family Expectations
There is a shift for families when you are in a new relationship. Your family might have been used to having you all to themselves. But now you will have to balance time with your family and time with your parents family. This requires two things: boundaries and clear communication.
First, do not make any decisions without your partner. Anytime you feel pressure from your family you will want to set a boundary. Let them know that you need to talk with your partner before you make any final decisions.
Second, figure out what feels fair to you and your partner. Do we split our time? Will we spend one holiday with one family, and another holiday with the other family? Be sure that you reach a conclusion together. If this brings up conflict between the two of you, here is a helpful article on managing conflict through the holidays.
Finally, Let your family know your plans once you and your partner are on the same page. Again, if you feel pressured to change those plans hold that boundary. Let your family know that you do not want to deprive your partner of their family holiday.
Steer Clear of Hot Buttons
Take some time as a couple to prepare each other, especially if this is the first time your partner will meet your family. It might be stereotypical, but fights about politics, religion, and opinions do come up during the holidays. This can be really nerve wracking.
Odds are you know what topics your partner and your outspoken Uncle Jimmy will disagree on. But you also know what they could connect over. Do not just tell your partner what to avoid, but tell them things that they should talk about. People are more likely to look past those talking points they disagree on if they have some kind of connection between them.
Have Each Other’s Backs
Let’s talk about the worst case scenario. Your family is butting heads with your partner. You were not able to avoid those hot button topics. Maybe your family is a little bitter that your partner is taking up time that used to be theirs.
In this worst case scenario, each of you dealing with your own family is the rule to live by. Remember your partner might already be feeling like the outsider. And if they feel like they have to defend themselves that feeling could get worse. Instead, stick up for your partner. You are the insider in your family. Your opinion will hold more sway in your family. And it is important for your partner to know that you are there for them.
If you are looking for help in your relationship, give The Marriage & Family Clinic a call.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.