On the list of things people fear the most, I’m told public speaking sits at the top. This time of year makes me wonder if meeting the parents is number three or four on the top fears list. What if her family isn’t okay with the gay thing? What if her family finally accepted it, only to be clinging onto her getting back together with her ex? What if her family voted for Trump? What if? Here I offer 5 tips for meeting her family for the holidays.
1. Be yourself.
One of the scariest parts about meeting the family is the fear that we won’t be accepted. The truth is, we can’t control others’ perception. Jesus could walk in the house and some people would still be haters. It’s good to remember that while it feels so very personal to not be liked, it isn’t about us. Remembering it’s not personal creates the safety and freedom to be authentic and present in the moment.
2. Focus on something you can relate to.
Maybe it’s a shared value of love for family. Maybe it’s a familiar down to earthness that reminds you of your own family. Whatever it is, even in the most awkward, going-to-a-small-conservative-town situations, it is possible to find something in common. At the core of each of us is a desire to feel a sense of belonging. By focusing on what you do have in common rather than your differences you’re setting the stage for a more enjoyable visit.
3. Show gratitude.
As scary as it is for you to meet her family for the holidays, it helps to remember that it may be scary for them too. It’s human nature to want to be liked. They may worry you’ll judge their home, their family dynamics, or their cooking. It might also be good to bring a gift for the hosts and send a thank you card after your visit.
4. Find some time for you.
Many times, visits home mean long travel, changing time zones, or going back into the closet. Because of the added stress, it’s good to practice self-care during your visit. Getting enough sleep, working out at a nearby gym, or taking a walk every day can help support your body and soul, allowing you to be more present to your girlfriend and her family.
5. Remember it’s not about you.
The combination of holidays and families can bring on a perfect storm of old stuff. When it’s someone else’s family, it’s easier to stay out of emotional landmines because we don’t have the history of hurts that our partner may with her own family. This creates a kind of shield that allows you to get to know her family, and thus her, without the baggage, which can be a beautiful thing.
Going home for the holidays with your girlfriend may be scary but it doesn’t have to be stormy. By being yourself, identifying a commonality, being grateful, and taking care of yourself, you can set yourself up for a smooth sailing holiday. What helps you cope with meeting the parents? Please share and leave a comment below.
Kim Baker, author of Girls’ Guide to Healthy Dating: Between the Breakup and the Next U-Haul, is a dating columnist and writer whose writing examines healthier dating through the lens of mindfulness and self-care. Find her at www.girlsguidetohealthydating.com or join her email list by texting gg2dating to 22828, message and date rates may apply.