No two couples are alike, and some are even more unique than others. Whether you are an interfaith couple, an interracial couple, you are just starting to date again after getting divorced, you started dating someone significantly older than you, or you are bringing home a boyfriend or girlfriend for the first time after coming out, the holiday season may bring on a little bit of stress.
For example, if you are Jewish and your partner is Christian, you may wonder which services to attend or whether or not to bring your partner to a traditional ceremony in your extended family’s home. Or if you came out to your family and this is the first time you’ve brought someone home for a holiday meal, you may be wondering how your family will react (and maybe they’ll react in a wonderfully surprising and accepting way!).
The point is that when it comes to the holidays and our families that we don’t often see during the year, it can get complicated when you are in a non-traditional relationship—and sometimes it’s hard to know how to navigate it.
Here are a few strategies for coping, plus a reminder that all couples are beautiful and that as long as your relationship is consensual and loving, there’s no need to be embarrassed or stressed out before the holiday season.
Do What Feels Right to You and Your Partner
Unsure of where to celebrate, with who, and how? Talk to your partner about how you are going to handle the holidays. You may find that you both feel more comfortable spending time with one family versus another, or that you only want to attend certain events with certain people. That’s completely OK and you shouldn’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it.
Always be sure to communicate with your partner to ensure they are feeling comfortable around your family and friends (and make sure that is reciprocated). The main idea is that you don’t want the holidays to feel stressful. They are supposed to be joyful and filled with love. So if you don’t feel like that, then go ahead and skip it.
New to the Family? Start Small First
If you just started dating someone and you are unsure of how your family is going to react, maybe try to start small first. Meeting an entire extended family is overwhelming anyway, and a good course of action for your first holiday season together could be to just see your parents or your close siblings. Don’t feel the pressure to attend every single event just because you’ve always done it.
Keep it casual and easy if you feel like it’s necessary so that you can get full enjoyment out of your holiday season. Of course, if you feel that your family will love your new partner and make them feel like part of the celebration immediately—then by all means bring them to everything you can!
Make Traditions of Your Own
One of the best parts about being in a relationship is that you can create traditions of your own—without any family involvement. Feeling too stressed about the holidays with the big extended family? Start a tradition where you go on a cruise to a tropical island each year, or make a huge meal for the two of you (and maybe some close friends) and have leftovers for a week.
Whatever you decide to do, make it special and make it as private as you want. Invite family members over to your house so that you can feel comfortable in your own space. Anything and everything should be done to make sure that you’ve eaten way too much and enjoyed the holidays to the fullest.
Remember Always: Love is Love
Most importantly, love is love. If you are happy and feel secure in your relationship, nobody’s family member or friend has the right to make you feel like it’s wrong or it’s strange. As long as you have love for each other then that’s all that matters.
Unfortunately some families don’t ever come around to a couple that doesn’t fall in line with their idea of “normal,” but many of them do with time (and maybe a lot of patience). But remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation of your feelings or why you chose your certain partner. Ultimately, if your family or friends aren’t accepting of your relationship then it’s on them. They will have to miss out on spending time with you during the holidays, and they may grow to regret that.
You may be surprised, however, at how families may say one thing and do another—meaning that even if your uncle has claimed to be against homosexuality, he might find that he softens a little when he meets your boyfriend and sees how happy you are. The world needs more love and sometimes you may have to be the one to show them that it has no limits.