I’m spending Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s family for the first time…HELP!
This is very exciting; for starters remind yourself that this is a great thing. It means your relationship is moving forward in a positive way. It means you will get a better glimpse into the world that helped shape your partner. But it also means your anxiety will probably be working in overdrive.
Like I’ve advised before, I’ll remind you to fake it ’til you make it. This doesn’t mean you should be phony. Don’t become someone you’re not. Just become the best version of yourself you know you’re capable of being. Your girlfriend obviously cares about you and sees good in you, so make sure the family sees this too!
So even if you want to curl up in a ball in the bathroom, or run screaming when you have to meet 5 uncles and 20 cousins, push yourself to smile. To shake hands. To say “it’s nice to meet you.” You can do it.
If you start to feel anxious or fidgety, get yourself to work. Offer to help. Demand they let you help in some way. Getting silverware out. Cleaning dishes. Pouring water. Taking the dog on a walk. Offer to help out.
If her family seems insufferable, if they are crass or offensive or make you uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to acknowledge this with your girlfriend. But do it in private and in a compassionate way. It’s important you still show gratitude while expressing how you’ve been made to feel.
If you’re only there for the day, try and communicate with your girlfriend about when you’ll need to make an exit. And reinforce that it’s important that you stick with that exit-time. Especially if you are prone to anxiety or panic attacks, having a firm deadline will give you something concrete to hold onto.
If you’re staying the night, or maybe a few nights, make it absolutely essential that you get some alone time to recharge your battery. Whether it’s taking a walk or going into the other room to “make a phone call” (aka just sitting and taking deep breaths for 20 minutes) whatever it is give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Because the holidays are difficult enough as it is. And the holidays are supposed to be all about grace and compassion. So be sure to show it to yourself, too.
And remember this above all else: deep down her family just wants to see their daughter happy.