It wasn’t until I was knee-deep in my third long-term relationship that I had to spend a full holiday at a significant other’s family home. My two previous boyfriends’ families lived close enough to my parents that I could easily split my time between my house and their houses. But, when my parents moved four hours away from my previous neighborhood, this little compromise stopped being feasible.
It can be tricky to go to your significant other’s home for a holiday. I know that Christmas at my parents’ house was a little confusing for my boyfriend. We got up for 8 a.m. Mass and then came home and put on our pajamas for the rest of the day and watched James Bond movies while opening gifts. Not exactly what you’d see in a Hallmark card, but it worked for us.
When the tables were turned, I had to learn how to acclimate myself pretty quickly! Here are a few things that helped make the visit as seamless and joyful as possible!
Bring a little of yourself to the table
My boyfriend’s family is full of incredible cooks. I, on the other hand, am excellent at ordering takeout. But I still wanted to bring something to the party, so I offered to make a specialty cocktail for the event, which is something that I do at my own family gatherings. Bringing something that is a small piece of you, like a dessert you love or a wreath you’ve made, can help you feel more comfortable, and it also helps your SO’s family to get to know you better.
Lean into their traditions
The first Christmas Eve that I spent with my boyfriend’s family, I watched with interest and delight as the evening unfolded. We went from his parents’ house, to his uncle’s house, arms laden with gifts, and delicious pastries, we spent time with their joyful extended family, and then headed back to his parents’ house. We sat on the floor around the family’s Christmas tree and were “allowed” to open the gifts that were from each other (the other gifts were from Santa and were opened in the morning – obvi). It was different than what I was used to on Christmas Eve, but I was so happy to be a part of their tradition. The holidays are when many of our most precious memories are made, and your enthusiasm about what makes up their holidays is so meaningful.
Do the dirty work
This is a way to endear yourself to your significant other’s family forever — help to clean up. As a guest there is nothing more unexpected or appreciated by the family that is hosting than someone who is willing to help with the clean up. Being the first person to offer to clear the table, wash the dishes, or clean up wrapping paper without being asked is always going to be welcomed back with open arms.
Set a specific time to talk to your family
As wonderful as it is to be with your significant other’s family, sometimes all of that family time can make you really miss your own. Let your family know that you are going to FaceTime them at a certain time, so you can still get little quality time with your people too!
Originally published on December 21, 2017.