No matter how much you love the holidays, it’s undeniable that they come with a whole lot of heavy baggage. They come with tremendous financial and logistical stresses—buying gifts, making travel plans, and sorting out accommodations. Even if you aren’t traveling for the holidays, planning meals and keeping up with a busy schedule can be exhausting.

At the best of times, it can be a challenge to hold it all together. But what do you do when on top of all the usual stresses, you’re also struggling to get along with your partner’s family? In today’s post, we’ll take a deep dive into some steps you can take to make the best of a bad situation.

Find a Way to Vent

Human beings are like teapots. Not exactly, obviously, but just like teapots, if we can’t let off steam, we have a tendency to boil over. Instead of letting your frustrations with your partner’s family build, find a safe place to vent off all that steam. Ideally, that safe place is someone other than your partner. Someone who can listen to your frustrations without judgment and without feeling caught in the middle.

And what do we mean by venting? Certainly not problem solving. When we vent about something that upsets us, the purpose is to give voice to the concerns we’re feeling in our body. Process them and get them out in the open so that we feel heard and understood. Venting doesn’t need to be productive—but it is best done privately.

Set Boundaries

Before heading out to see your partner’s family for the holidays, consider sitting down to talk about how to handle difficult conversations and potential conflicts. Establishing a game plan to deal with a noisy aunt or uncle’s political diatribes or back-handed compliments may help to alleviate some of the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the situation.

Additionally, some topics are more sensitive than others. Issues at work, trouble conceiving, or other matters like that might warrant a call from your partner to their family beforehand, warning them to stay away from certain topics.

Coping Strategies

You know exactly how much of your partner’s family you can take before you need a break. If you’re planning on staying with them for the holidays, consider planning some excursions and errands you can use to get out of the house and keep yourself busy. At parties and other gatherings, take some time to check in with yourself every so often—splash some water on your face in the bathroom or excuse yourself from conversation to go get another snack.

Another strategy that sometimes helps is having a set of topics or questions you can fall back on to change gears or shift the conversation in another direction. It can be easier sometimes to ask people questions and let them talk, rather than getting caught in the spotlight yourself.

Avoid Big Announcements

While the holidays can be a tempting time to make big announcements, it’s almost always better to avoid doing so. Save any big announcements for before or after so that people have time to process and get any comments out of their system.

Set Realistic Expectations

Your partner’s family may not be your cup of tea—you may not be theirs, for that matter—but you don’t have to be best friends in order to get along. Don’t go into the holidays planning to mend any fences or repair any broken bridges. Those changes require sustained effort from both parties over a longer period of time.

Make your first priority taking care of your own comfort—once you feel secure on that front, you can shift gears towards enjoying yourself and having a good time.

Make an Appointment

Your issues with your partner’s family may run deep. If you’re interested in exploring ways to improve that relationship and manage holiday drama, reach out to schedule a consultation for couples therapy.

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