In many ways, the holiday season is the best part of the year. Who doesn’t love getting together with loved ones to feast and open presents? But if you’re anxious about bringing your significant other home with you for the first time, you may be dreading the holidays instead of looking forward to them — especially if your partner isn’t quite what your family was expecting. Whether she’s a longtime-lover or a new girlfriend, bringing your partner home can make for some awkward situations. Where are you going to sleep? How will your partner feel about your family’s traditions? What is Grandma going to say? Bringing someone home to meet the family is a big step, and you don’t want to ruin it. These five tips will help ease the process of bringing your same-sex partner home for the holidays.
Tell Your Family
This one should be obvious. The first step in ensuring a smooth holiday visit is filling your family in — on everything. Find a good time to give them a call and set your plans for the holidays well in advance. Let them know you’ll be bringing your partner and how excited you are for them to meet each other. This will give your family time to get ready for having an extra guest and put their best foot forward as they welcome your partner into their home. And if there’s anyone you haven’t come out to who will be around during the visit, now is the time to tell them. The holidays are stressful enough as is, and springing a surprise as big as that at the dinner table won’t be fun for anyone.
Get On the Same Page
The same goes for your significant other. Sit down and discuss your status with each other beforehand. Make sure you’re on the same page in terms of your relationship. Even if you don’t like putting labels on things, everyone else is going to want to know and you don’t want anything to come out of the woodwork when you introduce her as your girlfriend in front of your entire extended family and she thinks otherwise. This will allow you to make specific introductions right off the bat so people aren’t beating around the bush the whole time trying to figure out who your “friend” is.
Brief Her on Your Family
Whether they’re religious or simply habitual, every family has holiday traditions. Enlighten your partner so she’s in the loop before you arrive. If she knows what to expect (and what may be expected of her), she can happily participate and avoid potentially awkward situations. You should also tell her a little about the people in your family to help her make good conversation and avoid touchy subjects. Important family history or news, such as divorces or substance-abuse problems, are good things to bring up before meeting the family. This way, she’ll feel comfortable enough to spend a little one-on-one time with your family members and start forging important bonds. (Just be careful not to abandon her with your family for too long!)
Book Private Accommodations
This can be a tricky one. If you normally take up residence in your old twin-sized bed upstairs, it may be time to rethink your plans. Booking a hotel room for the two of you is wise for several reasons. First of all, you can avoid any inconvenient situations that may arise due to a lack of privacy or, ahem, squeaky beds. Sharing a bathroom and other facilities with strangers can be uncomfortable, and setting your boundaries ahead of time will avoid clumsy questions about where the two of you will sleep.
Additionally, getting some alone time can ease your partner’s stress if she’s overwhelmed. Being surrounded by someone’s whole family can be very stressful, especially if it’s the first time she’s meeting them. Having your own private space nearby will give both of you some breathing room if she gets overwhelmed (or you do). It will also serve as a place of respite if things happen to go south at home.
Exchange Gifts in Private
Getting a gift for your partner can be stressful in itself, so opt to exchange them at another time. Agreeing to do this in private will take the stress off and allow you two to enjoy the holidays without the added judgment of your entire family. That said, a thank-you gift from your partner to the hosts can go a look way in making a good impression — just make sure it’s appropriate. Helping your partner pick out something suitable to say thanks for hosting can help her feel more comfortable if she’s nervous about it.
The holidays can be a trying time for everyone, especially when you want to merge two of the most important (and potentially disparate) aspects of your life. If you really want to make a good first impression, just keep these tips in mind and things should go swimmingly — or at least not end with coal in anyone’s stocking.