BY NATASIA LANGFELDER
So you want to bring your girlfriend home for the holidays? Congratulations! It’s great to have someone who means so much to you that you’re willing to brave the holidays together. The holidays are simultaneously the best and most stressful time of the year and a successfully integrating your partner into the fun will help everyone bond. Below are some of my tips for making this process as smooth as possible.
DISH ON THE FAMILY DYNAMICS
Let your partner know about family traditions, frequent topics of discussion and what your family expects in terms of behavior from guests. If your Aunt Mildred hates your cousin’s boyfriend because he didn’t compliment her eggnog recipe, let your girlfriend know to throw out a compliment so she doesn’t incur Aunt Mildred’s eternal wrath. Is there a mandatory family football game? Teach her how to play so she doesn’t get left out.
Giving your partner the inside scoop on family dynamics will help her to relate to your family and get along with them better.
INTRODUCE IMMEDIATE FAMILY IN ADVANCE
Everyone’s family structure is different. For most of us, immediate family is parents and siblings. For others, it’s grandparents, or an aunt or uncle. Either way, you want to introduce your girlfriend to a very few, close family members before she meets your extended family for the holidays.
You’re probably thinking, ”but why are you making me go through this twice?” Because it will make things easier for your partner. By getting to know a few people, you’re ensuring she won’t be stuck with no one to talk to during larger holiday parties. It’s hard for anyone to go to a party not knowing anyone and when it’s your girlfriend’s family, there’s extra pressure to make a good impression. Do everything you can to make her feel comfortable and welcome.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to stay in a hotel without making any family members angry, congratulations! Enjoy being able to keep the sexy times train rolling through the holiday season. When most of us go home, we are at the mercy of our guests. If you have cool parents, who are fine with you and your girlfriend sleeping in the same bed, congratulations! Your parents are like, way cool.
So, let’s say you don’t have parents who are down with you and your sig other sleeping in the same room, even though they know you two are totally already doing it anyway and it’s completely unfair because you’re an adult now! I have to quote Disney’s Elsa and tell you to “let it go.” There is going to be tension and awkwardness because it’s the holidays, and that’s what happens, so choose your battles wisely. Unless your parents are treating you differently from your hetero siblings, just accept that you aren’t getting laid this week. If your parents are singling you out, then gently call them out on it and let them know that the double standard isn’t right.
INTRODUCE HER TO EVERYONE
Like, formally. Going up to everyone and looking them in the eye and introducing your partner will:
A. Help them remember her name.
B. Reduce ambiguity about whether or not she’s your girl friend or your girlfriend.
C. Make her more comfortable joining into conversations going on around her.
So do it.
If there are gifts involved, put your girlfriend’s name on all the cards you are giving out, even if she didn’t contribute any money towards anything. This is just being considerate. Also, help her pick out a hostess gift to bring with her to the main event. Everyone will appreciate her thoughtfulness.
HOMOPHOBIC FAMILY MEMBERS AND CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS
My golden rule when it comes to people who are homophobic, racist or otherwise horrible is to let them be the jerk. Always be generous and gracious, especially when others might judge your girlfriend by your reaction. I won’t lie, this isn’t easy.
Let me tell you a story, once upon a time, when I was planning my wedding, I sent an invitation to an aunt who believed that I was going to hell for being gay. I know, that’s crazy! But I was inviting her son, my cousin, and I didn’t want to put him in a position to feel like I was insulting his mother. I also didn’t want my aunt to feel bad if she was the only aunt that I didn’t invite. Why should I care about her feelings when she doesn’t care about mine? Because she’s family and I’m not the hateful one, she is. My aunt declined to come because she doesn’t believe in marriage equality and that’s fine. I can sleep at night, my relationship with my cousin is stronger than ever and I didn’t betray my own personal values.
When it comes to other controversial topics, give your partner a run-down of everyone’s “hot button” issues, so she knows to dip out of a conversation that gets too heated.
WHEN IT IS TIME TO LEAVE
Offer to help clean up, even if you don’t really mean it. It’s the thought that counts.
Say goodbye to everyone.
Strip the bed/air mattress/couch you have been sleeping on and neatly fold the bedding.
Give your girlfriend a high five for surviving her first holiday season with your family.