There’s nothing like the holidays to test out the strength of your relationship.
The holidays can present challenges and psychological triggers for many, and bringing a partner home might create an even more stressful environment. Alex Borovoy, a Toronto-based psychotherapist who devotes particular attention to the LGBT community, says that there are many psychological considerations to take into account.
“It’s quite tribal, because the other person is being brought into the tribe,” Borovoy says. But there are tangible steps you can take to ensure that everyone stays merry this season.
“Make the implicit explicit,” suggests Borovoy. This means identifying potential issues and addressing them head-on before you even arrive.
Will everyone be getting your partner gifts and should he be doing the same in return? Will you both be sleeping together in your childhood bed or will this present issues for him or your parents? Will you be too nervous to kiss under the mistletoe or will your family not bat an eyelash? These are all potential stressors and should be discussed beforehand.
Having to talk to your parents about where you and your partner will sleep might be uncomfortable, but it’s nothing compared to this becoming a huge issue on Christmas Eve.
“Everyone will be nervous. So I think to acknowledge it explicitly will put everyone at ease, and even that is a commonality,” says Borovoy.
Find common ground
Sometimes there can be differences in lifestyles choices.
Maybe you and your partner live an urban lifestyle but your parents love the rural life — and it can create conflict. One way to bridge this divide is to take the special insight you have on both your partner and family and find common ground.
“Start to expand the person,” says Borovoy. “Tell the family about the other person, and tell the other person about the family so they each have common points to touch on.”
If ballet and bush planes seem incongruous, find other things that parties might have in common such as: cooking, Netflix, books, art or, sports. Everyone will feel more comfortable if they’re talking about something they enjoy instead of something they’re only politely pretending to care about.
As the connection between all parties, you have a special position as emissary and a responsibility to ensure that you’re trying to make everyone as comfortable as possible.
“Be respectful. Watch etiquette. You don’t have to change who you are but some of the social graces might need to be amped up just a bit,” says Borovoy.
This mostly means being aware that you’re in someone else’s home — use a coaster at the coffee and dinner table and offering to help clean up after meals. But it also means respecting the views of others, even if they diverge from your own. So while you’re free to turn aunt Cathy woke by giving her the truth on Trump, keep in mind that it might sour the rest of the stay.
“Don’t expect anyone to be too different than they usually are after about an hour and a half,” cautions Borovoy. “Everyone will be on really good behaviour in the beginning and then they’ll start to fall into who they are, so anticipate that.”
And above all else, remember that the holidays eventually and you and bae will soon be headed back to the city, ready to retreat to the couch and binge on TV and cuddles.