So you’ve finally found The One (or at least The One For The Foreseeable Future) and you’ve committed to a serious relationship. Now what? In our new weekly column, Life After Dating, we’ll discuss the unique joys and challenges of coupledom.
You’ve barely worked your way through your stash of Halloween candy, and already the world is asking you to reserve your free-range turkey at the grocery story and buy your plane ticket for Christmas before the rates triple. If you and your significant other have been avoiding the Where We’ll Spend The Holidays convo, you can avoid it no longer. You may be at a stalemate over where you’re going to go depending on whose families give bigger guilt trips and how much you’re gonna have to cough up to get there and of course, tons of other considerations. We’ll leave that to you to sort out. (Good luck!) As you’re in the final throes of the holiday decision making frenzy, may we recommend (if your parents won’t disown you) forgoing the Where We’ll Spend The Holidays war and offering to spend it with your partner’s family. Not because you don’t love your family. Just because, well, what we’ve started to realize is that a holiday at your SO’s house is a holiday where you’re kind of off the hook — even if his family is a bit high maintenance. There is a beauty to not being expected to make the plans, do the grocery shopping or entertain asshole relatives. There are epiphanies to be had from watching your SO interact with their family members. Here are a few unexpected benefits to heading over the river and through the woods to a holiday celebration with your partner’s family…
1. You’ll Get To Try New Foods And Experience Different Traditions: That creamed corn casserole your grandma always makes that causes you to dry-heave? No sign of it at your SO’s family’s Thanksgiving spread. And that right there is something to be thankful for. Stepping out of your holiday comfort zone will allow you to see how other families celebrate the season — and give you ideas for what traditions you’d like to continue, alter, or combine when you and your partner start a family of your own.
2. People Will Be Nicer To You: OK, we can’t make any guarantees about your boyfriend’s mother once she gets a couple glasses of spiked eggnog in her, but for the most part, people are much kinder to newcomers and outsiders than they are to their actual family members. Kick back on the couch and enjoy a few hours of small talk with people who don’t know you well enough to nag you about the 15 pounds you gained this year or the fact that you didn’t go to law school.
3. You’ll See Your Partner In A New Light: Is there anything more adorable than seeing your partner interact with nieces and nephews? Or watching them help their great grandmother up the stairs? Or listening to them sling surprisingly clever comebacks at their super sarcastic sister? Seeing how your partner fits into their family dynamic is sometimes painful, often entertaining, and always enlightening. At the very least, it helps you understand some of their habits and neuroses and hopefully, have a bit more compassion when dealing with them.
4. You’ll Help Your Partner’s Family See Them In A New Light: Just by being there and sharing a slice of your relationship, your partner’s family is bound to have a few “aha” moments. Maybe they didn’t realize their son was such a hopeless romantic. Maybe a random anecdote about your trip to Europe will make them stop thinking of their daughter as lazy. Maybe seeing their little brother in a grownup relationship will finally force the older siblings that he’s not a baby anymore. Don’t make it your mission to educate your SO’s family; just be open and genuine and let them draw their own conclusions about how awesome they are.
5. You’ll See Your Family In A New Light: There’s nothing like being away from your family during the holidays to make you appreciate them. When having to gag down your fourth forkful of your partner’s aunt’s disgusting ambrosia salad just to be polite, you might start to miss your mother who never made ambrosia — or any food, come to think of it. Sitting there, as your SO’s family argues about what movie you’ll see on Christmas Day, you’ll be reminded that every family has its foibles, and really, maybe your family’s aren’t so bad.
6. It’s An Opportunity To Grow Closer: The holidays are an interesting time for relationships because they allow us to see each other at our most vulnerable. And sharing moments of vulnerability is how you create intimacy. If you can pony up to the challenge of letting the holiday season bring you together rather than tear you apart, it will improve your relationship by leaps and bounds. If you can be there for your partner while he’s having a “moment” with his father, you’ll both forget the ambrosia salad, but you’ll never forget that.
[Photo from Shutterstock]