Relationship advice is going to come in handy if you’re meeting your partner’s family for the first time. Here are some tips to make it go smoothly.
Whether you’re meeting your boyfriend/girlfriend’s parents for the first time, or going to your tenth holiday dinner at your in-laws’ place, interacting with your significant other’s family can be one of the most complex parts of your relationship. If you’re willing to be patient and make compromises, you’ll have an easier time with your new relatives-by-proxy.
Spending Time With In-Laws Can Be Stressful
There are two little words that can strike massive fear in the hearts of many men and women: in-laws. Spending time with your significant other’s family can be one of the most strange and stressful parts of your relationship. Unless your partner is a recent orphan, however, you’re not going to get out of family time. The best you can do is learn how to cope with them – while still being yourself and being confident.
If it’s the first time you’re meeting your significant other’s family members, there are a few ways to better prepare yourself. First of all, talk to your partner about his or her relatives – this is probably the best where your best relationship advice comes from because a little research about who these people really are can go a long way. You shouldn’t put up a front, but it is good to adjust yourself slightly to their expectations.
If they’re not big drinkers, don’t show up with a bottle of wine. If they traditionally dress up for dinner, trade in your jeans for a dress or slacks. Think of it like visiting a foreign country; you don’t want to look like a tourist, so you take a few tiny steps to fit in with the locals. This will also endear you to your mate, because he or she will be flattered that you care about impressing the parents.
Will You Fit In With Their Family?
What if, once you’ve met them, you find you don’t fit in at all? If you’re married, engaged, or moving in together, you won’t be able to avoid the in-laws forever. That means you need to strategize appropriately. Try to plan family gatherings that have set end times, so your visits won’t be painfully long. Look for the one or two things you do have in common and focus on them.
If you and your in-laws both love old movies, host a classic movie night at your place. They’ll feel welcomed and loved, and you won’t have to talk to them much during the movie. Have excuses at the ready to cut awkward drop-in visits short or omit awkward silences without being impolite. For instance, if your mother-in-law drops by on a Sunday afternoon and just won’t leave, tell her you hate to end your visit, but you have to run errands before dinner time.
Then plan for one of those aforementioned movie nights so she knows you’re not adverse to spending time with her. When it comes to the holidays, make sure that you and your partner set ground rules early on in your relationship. Every three years is a good rule—one year with your family, the next with your significant other’s family, and the third year to yourselves. That makes both sets of in-laws feel like they’re being treated fairly.
What To Do If It Gets Awkward
Of course, sometimes relations with your partner’s family go beyond awkward unpleasantness and become strained. Maybe you hate being around your spouse’s parents because they have strong political beliefs that oppose yours, or maybe the situation is worse.
If Aunt Jean is a bigot and insults you to your face because you’re not the same race as she is, then you don’t have to put up with that. You can and should cross her off the family game night invite list. If you find that you’re the lone Democrat in a sea of diehard Republicans, avoid the topic of politics like the plague. If it still gets brought up, you can either sit back and quietly observe or suggest a subject change.
In the end, in-laws are a fact of life in long term relationships. You don’t have to enjoy every moment of it, but you can improve upon your time with them. Above all, remember that these folks are your significant other’s family. Like them or not, your mate loves them. You owe it to her or him to make lemonade from these familial lemons. Besides, don’t forget—he or she has to deal with your family, too!