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Holidays with Potential In-Laws: The Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Andrew • December 22, 2017

It’s that time of year when we all gather together in one place–something that both delights us and stresses us out. What’s more stressful, however, is when we gather together in one place with the family of our significant other (SO). Maybe we just met, or perhaps we’re meeting them for the first time during Christmas. This can be an anxious situation in which we fail to truly be ourselves–or we are too much ourselves that we become impolite. For Christmas and New Years, keep these tips in mind for when you’re meeting your potential future in-laws.

Be positive

It’s very important that, before even walking in the door, you put yourself in a positive frame of mind. If you dread meeting or spending time with his/her family, it will show. Search for positives, and smile a lot.

Don’t over-gift

If gifts are exchanged, make your gifts generic but classy–especially because you may not know them well enough to give them something more personal. Special candles, fabulous candy, a serving dish, tea towels, coffee mugs, popular books, movie tickets, etc. are all appropriate choices.

Don’t try too hard to impress

This could be applied to the gifting as well. Don’t try too hard to impress your SO’s family with lavish gifts, too much joking, and bragging about your fabulous job. This tends to come off as a sign of weakness, superiority, or being disingenuous. Pandering and overemphasizing one’s successes will be a huge turnoff, especially to a family who is observing you fairly closely as a future member of theirs.

Help out with cooking and/or cleaning up

Your future in-laws are bringing you into their home, which can be vulnerable on their end as well. As they extend their hospitality and welcome you into their lives, it’s important that you show how much you appreciate it. It’s a chance to show them that you don’t mind doing your share of the work. Help with cooking, and when all is said and done and eaten, help with the cleanup.

Skip politics or highly-charged conversations

It’s okay if you disagree with a statement by your SO’s father, and it’s okay if you already know ahead of time that you and your future in-laws disagree on a larger political level on major issues. However, this is not the time to say so. Politics and potentially debatable discussions should be off-limits for when you meet or spend time with your SO’s family.

Don’t fight with him/her in front of their family

This is a huge mistake. Not only is it disrespectful and embarrassing, but you will lose the argument every time.

Don’t pry or be nosy.

Be careful with curiosity. Showing interest is a must, of course. Just be careful with getting too interested. If they speak of a deceased family member or something sensitive from their past, simply listen and respond lightly, but be wary of digging too deep. Not only could it take you down a sad/awkward memory lane, but such curiosity could also be offensive coming from an outsider. If they volunteer the information, always be receptive.

Assess the family fairly

Understand that, in a way, your significant other’s family is seeking your approval as well. Be as fair to them as you’d have them be to you; every family has its quirks. But also, really assess if you want them to a part of your life going forward. This is very important.

Tone down the PDA

This is similar to the not-fighting advice. Too much Public Display of Affection (PDA) can be uncomfortable for people you don’t even know. Now think about it from a family member’s perspective. It can feel even more uncomfortable seeing your brother or child being that intimate openly. In the end, it’s really just a matter of respecting boundaries.

But don’t completely avoid public affection

I know this seems contradictory, but it’s not. It’s really just about having good judgment. Holding hands or wrapping your arm around your SO isn’t bad. You want their family to know you care about them, and sweet moments like that can show it. Just don’t overdo it.

Whatever happens, even if you feel the visit isn’t going according to plan and you’ve had a few slips, stay positive. The minute you get down on yourself and feel as though you’re failing, you will. Keep that positive mindset filtering the negative emotions you may be feeling. Trust me. It shows signs of maturity, strength, confidence, and humility–all admirable traits for a future daughter- or son-in-law.


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