HOUSTON, TX - Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and most of us look forward to seeing family and sharing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. In most families, there is always a “special uncle or aunt” you can count on to say the most awkward thing at the wrong time.
You can predict with perfection who will cause drama at the table and the sensitive topics that will be brought up. It’s fine if it’s just you, but what happens when you bring home a new love? Should you tell them in advance about what to expect? Will they be able to endure your family, the noise, and the chaos that can ensue when you all come together?
Every family has some quirks. I suggest you warn your date about issues they may be sensitive to and reassure them that you won’t leave them stranded during heated discussions.
- Go over the names with a short description of your relationship with that family member. Your date may not be able to remember everyone’s name, but if they remember that your cousin Jill has always been jealous of you, it will help them realize this is a frequent pattern.
- Tell your date that you’ll be there for them, but you won’t be speaker of the house for them. Your family will want to get to know your date. Let them speak for themselves and let go of control.
- Go over with your partner issues you don’t want to talk about. If you know family members are going to ask you about getting married or having babies, it’s wise to have a standard answer and prepare your date. Hurt feelings and miscommunication happen when people who don’t understand your family react or get defensive.
- If you have family traditions, explain to your date that participation is expected. Some families play board games, some decorate for Christmas, and some participate in dishwashing competitions. Communicate these to your date so they will feel included and be well received by the family.
- Prepare your date for alone time. Remind your partner beforehand that going off on your own can be difficult, but yet important to the two of you. Practice good boundaries together so you can get away by yourselves. Reminding your partner that it’s okay and important to your emotional health to get away with each other will help them feel less guilty about taking time away from the festivities.
Taking a new love home is an opportunity to introduce someone you care about to your family. It makes parents feel good when they see their child with someone who treats them with respect and care. Do expect some judgements though (families do that), and don’t expect your date to be flawless. Remind your date that you love them just the way they are and that what’s most important to you is that they keep their humor and remain grateful for the experience of meeting the people you hold dearest. –Mary Jo Rapini