By Lauren Kominkiewicz
The holidays have looked a little different for many of us over the past couple of years, and now we are finally starting to normalize again. However, our normal may look different to our family. Whether you are traveling this year or people are coming to you, having to explain what you have been doing for almost two years may be challenging, especially if you have a new partner after a separation or divorce.
Ahead of the holidays, you have both decided that there is no better time to introduce them to your family. If you have children, we suggest that you first go to your parenting plan to guide you through introducing your new partner to your children. You may not have looked closely before, so sit down and remember that you and your ex made this plan to avoid stress. See prior articles on planning around the holidays with your ex HEREandHERE.
Here are a few tips to make this time a little less stressful.
Try to plan a small meet with your closest family members first, like a coffee or last-minute shopping trip.
Did you know that most restaurants have a soft opening before they throw open their doors to the general public? It’s an opportunity to bring the people you trust into your inner circle and share what you have been building. Your new relationship means something special to you, and you can guide a small portion of the more prominent family on how they can be supportive. Giving people the chance to rally around you even before the big event will help your partner feel more welcome.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Your great-aunt Carol hasn’t seen you since she attended your wedding ten years ago, and she certainly doesn’t need to know the innermost workings of a divorce. Be wary of people trying to goad you into tell-all moments for their entertainment. You are in a stage of grieving (or non-grieving) that is all your own, and your hard work is what has gotten you this far. Understand that it is likely kinder to say, “Oh, that’s old news!” while offering a cookie than to sit her down and relive it all for her.
Pay attention to making your partner comfortable.
You know your family – your new partner probably doesn’t. You have set your priorities as clearly as possible by bringing them, and you should focus on your motivations. Other people will see how you treat your partner and will hopefully act in kind. If not, you will have all these one-on-one moments to remember the following year when you receive their invitations.
Remember, people are just as anxious as you.
We all handle stress differently, and often we forget that other people may handle it much worse. Your mother may not know how to spell your partner’s name and only adds them as “guest” to an e-vite. Your older cousin, who hasn’t seen you in 5 years, may have only known that you married a blonde, which your new partner happens to be, and tries to share an inside joke with them. All the awkwardness will be the new inside jokes, so take their anxiety in stride. This is also where preparation can help everyone by making it clear who will be attending.
If all else fails, smash a whipped cream pie in your cousin’s face.
Just kidding! But honestly, a little humor goes a long way when dealing with family in normal situations, and it is even more imperative here. If you are confident enough to introduce your partner to your family, show a little compassion by lightening the mood and teaching other people they can laugh at their mistakes along the way. As long as it comes from a place of love brought on by holiday bliss, you will all make it through.
Above everything else, enjoy your first holiday season as a new unit. Let your partner bring something that is a tradition for them, take that picture under the mistletoe, and remember that the best way to spread holiday cheer is to sing loud for all to hear.
Interested in divorce mediation? Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center at (858) 736-2411 today for a free consultation.