3 Ways Your New Relationship Can Survive Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is upon us, which means many new relationships will undergo a test this week. Couples will, for the first time, introduce a new boyfriend or girlfriend to the family. As scary as family introductions can be, it’s the easiest part. Because it’s Thanksgiving, you will also consume the most drawn-out meal of the year together. And, there’s a good chance you will be consuming alcohol.
You’ll spend somewhere between 3 hours and 2 days with your new significant other’s family. If your family is anything like mine, there are a myriad of things that could happen in that amount of time.
Here are a few easy-to-implement tips for the Thanksgiving holiday. They focus on preparing for the things a typical family might throw at you. Executed well, they should ensure you two are still vibing on each other through the New Year:
If it’s your family’s Thanksgiving, you need to walk your partner through what to expect. Make sure they know what mom or dad already knows about your relationship. Prepare them with questions that might get asked.
But the worst thing you can do is overdo it. Don’t give your significant other paralysis by analysis.
There’s no way your boyfriend is going to remember that your cousin gets physical after he drinks too much, your brother will judge him for not being into a certain genre of music, and uncle Tom is bound to ask him how often he volunteers at church. Dole out too many specifics and you risk him or her forgetting. If everything is a priority, nothing can be a priority.
Too much information will weigh him or her down. It might make it difficult for their good qualities to shine through.
Plus, this is a good opportunity to see how they do on their feet. Empower them to be themselves. Relationships usually don’t work out when you prop the other person up to look good anyway.
Your family members are unique, but in reality, a family is not. We have a family wildcard. If your boyfriend or girlfriend can’t deal, that’s on them. There is a 99% chance something will happen that embarrasses you. There is a 100% chance things won’t go how you expect them to.
1-2 specific points. This is your goal. Which leads to tip #2.
Chances are, you’ll have at least an hour in the car to discuss how the holiday will go together. Use this time to your advantage.
Brainstorm conversation starters that will make you both look good. Chances are you’ve been dating for at least 2 months if they are coming home for the holiday. What have you done that’s worth mentioning? How can you shine a positive light on your relationship?
The thing is, you’ve told family members a story about your significant other. They have nothing else to go off besides what you’ve told them. So for at least the first hour, your boyfriend is not “Michael”. He is “Michael-the-lawyer-from-New-York”. They will compare what you’ve told them against their own filters and stories of what those things mean. It’s human nature.
The last thing you want is the two stories contradicting another.
So your new girlfriend is a teacher? Find a way to talk about the time you stayed up until 10pm helping her grade papers. He works a corporate job with a description your family won’t understand? Find common language you can use to talk about his work that you can both reference.
You can guess what will come up in conversation by using some common sense. It’s a new person and likely no one wants to be controversial. Set each other up for success.
You should have micro and macro contingency plans in place for Thanksgiving. Because things never go as planned, you may need one to work through or remove yourself from a situation. And if you’re expecting things to go bad, you may need one for exiting completely.
Whatever unplanned shenanigans go down might have nothing to do with your relationship. What if her sister starts throwing up or mom burns the turkey and gets upset? Think about how you might respond to a situation like this, if only to mentally prepare yourself. The last thing you want is to be the weird new boyfriend surrounded by a group of strangers with nothing to say. If your girlfriend had to leave your side for 45 minutes, how would you handle that? What would you talk about with her closest relatives?
Also take a moment to think big picture. What is the goal of this meal, or this weekend? Do you want your family to see your relationship as something that could work long-term? Do you care at all what your family thinks? How does your significant other feel about these things? Factor the end result you both are looking for in here.
While an exit strategy may not mean exit the house, it might. Pretend there truly is a wildcard family member you should avoid spending time around. What’s the game plan?
Long story short, preparation for the holidays goes a long way in ensuring things go well. Some teamwork between you and your new found love will go a long way.
And before I let you go, here’s a bonus tip. Don’t be a pig at dinner and don’t get sloppy drunk. Have some common sense.
Good luck to you and yours this holiday season!
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About Ben Kissam American coach and sports psych based in Germany. I use psychology tools to make informed decisions about dating and life.