Holiday dating guide
We’ve spent years studying what makes people happy in relationships but unlike your partner, you can’t choose your family. Which can make Christmas family get-togethers as scary as they can be joyous.
Our families have the ability to press our buttons unlike any other people in our lives. We can revert into our child/teenage self around them, which is frustrating when you are a grown adult. If you’re close to your family and see them often, you’ll have a better shared understanding about what’s un/acceptable in terms of conversation topics, however if you’re gathering with extended family and it only happens once or twice a year, it might be trickier terrain to navigate.
Aside from all the practical preparations, here’s how to emotionally prepare yourself.
Set your expectations realistically
Christmas cards and ads combine idyllic visuals with dreamy music and delicious food and everyone is loving and adoring of each other. Your reality might appear a bit more brutal in comparison but this would be more the norm. If you’ve always had problems with certain family members, chances are they won’t be fixed by the magic component of Christmas, so keep your expectations to what you can control.
Assess how the day will be, what you need to do to prepare for it – both practically and emotionally – and be realistic. Will it get too much? Have a contingency plan such as taking a long walk after lunch. Perhaps you could take along a board game everyone could enjoy, something to distract from any potential heated dinner table talk. Will there be children there? Perhaps they could put on a show of some kind. Could you plan to meet up with a friend in the evening so you have an excuse to leave? Plan ahead and you’ll be less likely to be caught in a sticky situation.
Forewarn and then make like a duck
Perhaps you’ve had a difficult year. You’ve been trying for a baby and it’s not working, your relationship has broken up or you’ve lost your job. Family members don’t always have their filters on and can cause pain with their questions.
It would be great if everyone reading this could learn that it’s important to take your cues from who you are talking to. If they bring up the topic of pregnancy, kids etc, then that’s your green light to be able to engage. If not, best not to ask them when they’re going to “hurry up and procreate” or “find a partner already”. For all you know, they may have suffered a miscarriage, be going through IVF or may have suffered recent heartbreak. A more general question like “how has your year been?” is preferable.
If you have been through pain and are worried about nosey family members, unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do to control it. A simple “I’d rather not go into detail right now” should be enough and have a few diversion topics mentally filed in case you need them. E.g. ‘Kate I’ve been dying to ask how your new business is going’ can divert the flow.
You can also word up someone you trust to look out for you in case you get caught out and they can come and join the conversation to diffuse the pressure on you.
And sometimes we have to realise that we have to make like a duck, and let it all flow over your feathers without ruffling them. Nod and say hmmm, until you can get up and escape. Just because they’re saying it doesn’t make it true, so try not to let unhelpful comments get under your skin.
Remind yourself of what’s important
In the period before Christmas take some time to reflect on your values and what’s important to you. Some of your thoughts and feelings will involve people in the room with you on Christmas Day, some won’t, but if you can find a point of connection with those around you on Christmas Day it will make your day feel lighter and more enjoyable than it otherwise might. If your Christmas means you’ll be around people that don’t understand where you are in life at the moment, well, remind yourself that this day will pass and you’ll be able to get back in the space around the people you choose to uplift you very soon.
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