The holidays can be a time of joy — but they can also be a time of serious stress. And nothing is more stressful than hosting your partner’s parents. Except, that is, hosting your
partner’s family over the holidays when you kind of can’t stand them. Maybe your father-in-law is racist. Maybe your partner’s mom keeps a hidden stash of vodka in her purse. Maybe they both hate your dog. Maybe their brother is prone to starting major family drama — like the kind where people yell and dishes break. Or maybe they're just generally annoying. Whatever the reason, if you’re dreading the holidays because your beloved’s family is coming by, this time of year can be especially stressful.
And while no one can wave a magic wand and make your partner's parents less terrible, there
are people out there who are quite literally experts at this stuff: therapists. So if you feel your cortisol levels rising already as the end of the month fast approaches, take a deep breath. Square your shoulders. Grab that ugly Christmas sweater that makes you smile. And take in these tips on what to do if you don’t like your partner’s family and they’re visiting over the holidays, according to experts.
First things first: Talk about your boundaries ahead of time. Be clear with your partner what you're OK with this holiday season — and what you're not.
"Make sure you discuss what your boundaries are with your partner," Sarah Watson,
licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, tells Bustle. "What are the plans? How long are they staying, if they are staying with you? What are you willing to do and what are you not? Be specific."
Be Gentle With Your Partner
Don't add the
stress of fighting with your partner to the already stressful situation! That doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about your needs — you absolutely should — just that it's worth being kind to both your partner and to yourself when you have those conversations.
"If it is emotionally taxing for you, speak about this with your partner in a gentle way," Watson says. "Most of us can't see our families dysfunction when we are in it. Be open and talk about your feelings, but do so in a way that will bring you closer to your partner, not create distance. "
Take Some Time To Yourself
It's totally OK to take some "me time" when your partner's family is visiting. "If you need to step back and take some time to yourself, share that with your partner," Watson says.
Consider What It Would Be Like If The Situation Was Reversed
Try thinking about it from a different perspective. "I think you have to approach it as if the tables were reversed,"
Dr. Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "What if your partner didn't like your family? How would you want [them] to behave and interact with them?"
In addition to setting boundaries, it's a good idea to set expectations for behavior — for both of you.
"Ask what their expectations are of you," Dr. Martinez says. "For example, if someone is being rude to you, should you address it with the person or let your significant other step in and speak to the rude person?"
Do A Little Studying Beforehand
If you really want to be able to handle your partner's family, it might help to learn more about them. Your partner is probably an expert on their own family, so have them be your teacher!
"Ask your partner to help you understand their family dynamics so you can more easily navigate the holidays with them," Dr. Martinez says.
Holidays come with enough stress. Don't let a visit from your partner's family make it exponentially worse. You can do this!