Surviving the Holidays with Someone Else's Family

Spending the holiday with your boyfriend’s or husband’s family? Dreading it?

I’ve been there. As a newlywed, I was very intimidated by my husband’s family. They were country club; I wasn’t. They were conservative Republicans; my family voted Democrat. Their holidays featured signature drinks and foodie side dishes; I came from a teetotaler, green-bean-casserole tradition. What could I bring, literally or figuratively, to a gathering like that?

who are these aliensFortunately, a wise therapist shared with me a technique that not only got me through the first few holiday dinners, but helped me for the duration of the marriage. It’s this: pretend you’re visiting a family from an alien culture. Pretend they’re from Indonesia . . . or Mars.

When you do that, you’re freed from feeling like you ought to meld perfectly with the family you’re visiting. After all, you wouldn’t expect an Indonesian family to have the same traditions or eat the same food as you do. You’d expect them to make jokes you didn’t get, to have different table manners, even to use body language that, at first glance, seemed strange or distancing. You wouldn’t take it personally

If the hosting family were from a different culture, you’d probably bring a dish from your own culture to share. You wouldn’t expect them to judge it—or even like it—but you could figure they’d appreciate the gesture. You’d watch the way they did things with interest, and you might discuss the ways your own habits and background differ. But it would all be without pressure. Because their culture is their culture, and your culture is your culture.

Through employing this mindset, I was able to take my chipped beef dip to the foodie table without shame. I could pay curious attention to my new in-laws’ habit of standing around the elegant appetizers, sharing the drink of the day and talking about the disastrous Democrats. I missed my home culture, but didn’t feel like it was gone or like I had to assimilate. I just had to be polite, and interested, and hold off on judgment.

In the end, I didn’t just survive; I truly came to love this alien family. And although I’m no longer a part of it (proving that this method doesn’t solve all marital and relational problems), I remain friendly with every member, and we wish each other well.

Happy Thanksgiving, whether you’re at home or among the aliens! If you need an escape, grab the first two books in my bestselling Sacred Bond series for less than the price of a Tylenol (one’s free, and one’s on sale for 99 cents). And remember the best comfort of all, as explained in Philippians 4:13:  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.



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