Giant turkeys, decadent pies, jam packed airports, football- these are all aspects of Thanksgiving traditions that occur across the country from year to year. But what’s new for you this year will be that awkward moment where you are introducing a room full of your relatives to your partner for the first time. This is one of the biggest steps a couple can take in their relationship. It means you are serious enough about this person to bring them around your loved ones, and you feel they won’t run screaming into the night after discovering how crazy your family is. It probably also means that this person is special enough to actually, maybe, possibly, one day end up being “the one”. So, how do you go about preparing yourself, your family, and your boyfriend/girlfriend for turkey day?
First, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to pride fully introduce a great guy or girl to your family, but are you ready for what comes with that? If you are still uncomfortable with your parents’ divorce, or are embarrassed by that uncle that burps and picks his teeth at the table at every social gathering, chances are these issues will still bother you when Thanksgiving arrives. Any discomfort or issues you have with your family will extend to your date. If you want someone else to accept your family, you have to accept them first. If you’re comfortable, they will be too. If your family is going through a fresh, sensitive issue right now or you are absolutely mortified at the idea of them doing or saying anything wrong, you may not be to bring any one home just yet.
Family, as beloved as they are, can be very unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean you should be. It may seem like a good idea to show up with your significant other as a surprise but it may not always be a good one. Make sure you tell your parents, and ask whoever’s home dinner is being hosted at if adding an extra place setting is ok. If possible, update your immediate family on any subjects that might be off limits or offensive to your partner or any dietary restrictions they may have. Avoid topics that might lead to confrontation, like politics or religion. Most importantly, you want to give your family time to digest the idea that you’ll be bringing home somebody special for the first time. It’s just as big a deal for them as it is for you. You won’t be able to stop any bad jokes your dad might tell, but giving your family a heads up may keep the day more pleasant than uncomfortable.
When it comes to your boyfriend or girlfriend, try to put yourself in their shoes. Everybody gets a little nervous at the idea of meeting a partner’s mom or dad for the first time, and that stress is compounded tenfold during the holidays when you’re more likely to meet the entire family and spend the whole day with them. Keep this in mind as you bring them to meet your family. Let them know ahead of time what their getting themselves into, and whether or not their reception will be warm, cold, or a mix of both. It’s important to be honest with them. Tell them ahead of time about that cousin that likes to flirt with everybody, or that your family usually dresses up for Thanksgiving so that they can be prepared for whatever they will be walking into. Keep an eye on them as the night progresses to make sure they aren’t swamped by a ton of curious kids or stuck in an awkward conversation with a nosy relative.
Do you think you’re ready? It may have its stressful moments, but like any holiday Thanksgiving should be a day of thanks and merriment spent with the ones you love, including your significant other. We all know that holiday gatherings are rarely as picture perfect as a Norman Rockwell painting, and something is all but guaranteed to go wrong. Just be grateful you get to eat good food, take some time off from the grind, and be happy that it’s not your butt in the hot seat this Thanksgiving. Don’t be disappointed if things don’t go perfectly, sometimes it takes a while for a family to accept an outsider into their tight knit group. These are the awkward moments you laugh about decades from now. Remember, you can always try again at Christmas.