How to Survive the Holidays With Your Partner’s Family

Published on: 24 Dec 2018
A man dances with a family member

Some people are lucky enough to love their in-laws. For everyone else, getting through the holidays with your partner’s family is a feat akin to tightrope walking without a net. From passive aggressive sisters-in-law, to uncles who make comments about your personality, there are potentially infinite ways for in-laws to offend you — potentially ruin your holiday season.

Thankfully, there are healthy ways to cope. Here are five tips and tricks to help you survive the holidays without a major blow-up.

1. Plan carefully

Don’t leave anything up to chance when planning the holidays. Figure out exactly when and where you are expected to be for each holiday event. Often, fights occur because people are late or early for something, when they weren’t even aware of a set time. Figuring logistics out ahead of time is an easy way to prevent a possible argument.

2. Lay out expectations with your partner.

If you don’t want to buy gifts for everyone in your boyfriend’s extended family, that is your choice. It is also your choice if you don’t want to drive home after midnight on Christmas, Hanukkah, or Thanksgiving. Set your boundaries early on, to avoid misunderstandings.

Although there is a possibility that your partner will be offended, it is better to have this discussion ahead of time versus afterwards, when tensions will be running very high.

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3. Practice empathy

Certain traits of your in-laws may get on your nerves, to put it mildly, or even  trigger your rage. Still, it is a good idea to consider their behavior from an alternate perspective.

For example, your mother-in-law may have grown up in a dysfunctional home, which could impact her current tendencies to play the victim role at every family get-together.

4. Have a support system

It is essential to have friends or family that you can confide in about your stress levels after interacting with your partner’s family. Rather than just gossiping, you should try to convey how you feel about the interactions, and even discuss your own challenges with being kind and empathic toward some of your in-laws who really trigger you.

Of course, a therapist is a great source of support if you find yourself over-relying on a more casual network of confidantes, or if your in-law drama is more severe or complex than most of your friends’ situations.

5. Practice self-compassion

Sometimes, you will not behave as well as you wish you would when interacting with in-laws. You may feel out of control and have to remove yourself — maybe even hiding in the bathroom and texting a friend.

Don’t beat yourself up for not being a perfect person. Instead, review the previous tips and try your best to get back on the horse.

Remember, the holidays don’t last forever! It will be January before you know it, and if you keep these techniques in mind, your New Year’s resolutions won’t have to include making up with your in-laws for the awkward interactions over the Holidays!

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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