Aww…the holidays. A time to get together with your loved ones, share delicious food and enjoy their company. And rip each other’s heads off. But while going back home to your family might be a little stressful sometimes, there’s something that’s even worse: going home to his family. Your in-laws are probably nice people. You might even get along really well with them, but spending the holidays together will challenge even the strongest relationships. But don’t panic! There are ways to reduce the awkwardness of the ordeal and make it easier for everyone involved without anybody getting shot!
The most important thing to remember is: know your enemy. Not that your in-laws will be actively trying to crush you (hopefully), but this is still their territory. You should learn about them. What they like, how they spend time, the level of formality expected at the table and even what kind of clothes they find acceptable. Luckily for you, you have an inside agent: your partner. He knows his parents well enough to provide you with valuable information on how to get on their good side. Especially if this is your first time visiting, you need to put in the effort to make a good first impression. This goes double if you are staying at their home, you don’t want to be an annoying guest.
Before leaving sit down with your partner and discuss strategy over a cup of coffee. Ask him how their parents are with guests. Find out who will be easier to befriend and how to do it. Ask if they would like it if you helped around the house. Some people will be insulted if you don’t, some will be insulted if you do and some will expect you to offer your help just so they can say no. What about gifts? Or cooking? Will they expect you to spend all your time with them or do they value personal space? All these things are important to know even if you are the host and they will be visiting, so study up!
Even with all that useful information, there’s probably going to be some awkwardness at some point. You can be on your best behavior, but sometimes unexpected things come up, so you have to learn how to deal with them. For this reason, it’s important that your partner and you are on the same page. He’s your inside agent and he should be your ally when conflict arises. Talk about this in advance. If his mom gets super critical and makes a mean comment, is he going to stand up for you? If his father makes an insensitive remark, will he help diffuse the situation?
And if nothing works, just remember: the holidays are a stressful time for everyone. Take a deep breath, hold your partner’s hand and try to relax. It will be over sooner than you think and you’ll get the rest of the year to recover. Until next Christmas.