In life, when you enter a new relationship, it's OK to initially focus on the two of you. However, once the relationship progresses, that's when families become involved. Families can be tough and come in all shapes and sizes, but it's a chance to get to know them and become closer to your partner. The process can be challenging, and often our family dynamics widely differ from those of our partners. Still, if you plan to create a future with your partner, the family will definitely be in it, and of a high priority, nonetheless. So, it's best to get good terms and assimilate. Plus, chances are you, you might really enjoy activities together and mesh well with their personalities!
As a certified health coach, I help my clients feel more positive about their relationships and be better able to handle familial issues. A lot of stress can result from relationship drama, and by adding your partner's family to the mix, it only makes things trickier. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and burdened by the family obligations that your partner may bestow on you, I encourage clients to think of the introduction to a new family as an exciting opportunity to meet new people and add to their support system. Families, while difficult at times, are full of love, and there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy love from all different groups of people. Here are eleven ways to bond with your partner's family and develop connections that will enhance your commitment to each other.
1. Don't Put Pressure On Yourself
Especially upon the first few encounters, it's important to limit tension and get along nicely with everyone. Don't put too many expectations on yourself; you don't need to instantly hit it off with common interests or have the wittiest remarks. "Recognize that you don't have to be bff, but to kind and mindful, if for no other reason, because he is your 'partner' whom you love," says psychiatrist, Dr. Judith H. Tanenbaum, M.D., over email with Bustle. By being cordial and thoughtful, you'll become closer with time.
2. Realize It Matters To Your Partner
Whether or not you get along with his or her family can be incredibly important for determining whether the relationship has future potential. A lot of families are very close and will be heavily involved in their children's relationships. While some families might only come together for holidays and major events, others see one another each week for dinner or brunch. Determine how close your partner is with his or her family, and put in your best effort to show up as much as possible.
3. Ask Them Questions
It's known that people enjoy talking about themselves. There's no better way to express to someone that you are interested in getting to know them than to ask questions about what they do and what they like. Listening to their desires and asking them to express themselves will encourage them to like you and want to do the same.
4. Make Plans, Solo
Inviting your partner's family members to fun outings is a great way to bond and enjoy similar interests. It's also nice to not have your partner there as a security blanket, but to show that you can ask his or her siblings or parents out for some solo, bonding time. Does his sister love wine? Invite her out to a wine tasting or ask her to come over to create sangria recipes together. Does her dad love football? Invite him to a football game, with beers in hand.
5. Try New Activities
Families have their own sets of traditions and activities that they enjoy doing together, and those may differ from your own. Some families are incredibly active, where they play sports and vacation on mountain trails. Others are more artistic, where they take in Broadway musicals and attend painting classes. Be open to trying new activities. "Life is about having fun and trying new things. Go outside your comfort zone," says healthy lifestyle coach, Michelle Dooley, as interviewed by email with Bustle.
6. Remember The Little Things
Little, nice gestures can go a long way. It can be said that well-liked people remember the little things, like a birthday, upcoming work presentation or anniversary. Listen in conversation, absorb, and then show the family that you are thinking of and wishing them the best. If it helps, write down important dates that were discussed in your calendar so that you can send a "Good luck!" or "Happy birthday!" text day of.
7. Use Humor
It's always a good idea to crack a joke (or two). Being able to make people laugh is a great quality, as laughter can draw people to like us more. Not only does it make the tension (which is especially prevalent within the first few hangouts), less palpable, but it also makes the people around us happier. So, start laughing and let the happiness take over!
8. Be Confident
Remember, your partner likes you! The family wants to love you, as well! There's nothing a family wants more than for someone in its unit to find love and happiness, and just the mention of meeting you, is enough to bring that excitement. If your partner didn't think you were a catch, he or she wouldn't be asking you to meet the folks. So, pump yourself up with self-talk, and be natural.
9. Avoid Highly-Debated Topics
Though still being natural, keep the conversation topics light and fun. Don't dive into heavy and controversial talking points, such as politics, liberal issues, religion, and relationships. You never know what your partner's family's stance is and just how passionate they are, and by engaging in conversation on these issues, it allows for opportunities for confrontation. Also, it's best to not say anything bad about your partner, unless it's in a playful way, as their family will probably feel protective.
10. Dress To Impress
There's no need to buy a new outfit or change up your makeup routine, but simply dressing well will make for a better impression. Dress naturally and for the occasion. If you're meeting over a dinner at a steakhouse, something business casual would be appropriate — something a little more formal, but that still makes you feel confident and features your own personal style. However, if you're meeting for a backyard BBQ, something a little more comfortable is probably a good option, so you don't feel like you're worrying about your outfit all day and can really focus on getting to know people.
11. Don't Talk Badly About The Family
Your partner may love you, but he or she most likely loves their family, too. While your partner might come home after a long day and start ranting about family members, it doesn't mean you can. Keep negativity to yourself, and don't engage when your partner is bashing them. However, if there is a serious issue that has upset you, and you're at the point in a relationship where it's okay to mention it, then bring it up in a graceful, calm and compassionate manner.
Whether you feel that instant connection or not, just know that being on good terms with your partner's family is essential for building a future together. Keep trying to bond, and it will become more natural with time. As long as you put the effort is, your partner will appreciate it.
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