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Posted on 12/20/2021

How to Keep the Peace with your Partner’s Family this Christmas

How to Keep the Peace with your Partner’s Family this Christmas

It is officially the holiday season, and Christmas is only a couple of days away. This is when we get to have quality time with your family, and if you are in a relationship, possibly with your partner’s family as well. There can be many emotions that come with visiting your partner’s family for Christmas- including anxiety, nervousness, and tension. These emotions can get in the way of spending this holiday together, such as having a nice Christmas gathering and creating conflict at such an event. Here are some ways to keep the peace with your partner’s family this Christmas:

1. Use a seating chart 

If you are hosting this Christmas, properly setting up the ambiance can be a strategic way to keep conversations light and avoid conflict. This includes creating a seating chart for meals where family members with tension sit at opposite sides of the table. Such a situation is similar to what many experience during other holidays such as Thanksgiving. Francesca Di Meglio writes in her article “Expert Tips to Keep the Peace During Thanksgiving Dinner” that when a family member tries to bring up a topic that can cause an argument, to quickly dismiss them by asking them to grab something from the kitchen. Taking the family member away from the dinner table for a second can stop the argument from arising and give the host (you) time to kindly talk to them about avoiding disputes at the dinner table. The seating chart also helps make sure family members are sitting alongside their partners to feel comfortable and at ease during dinner in case an argument arises. 


2. Avoid falling into the “bait” 

Not all conversations that cause tension can be avoided, and it is crucial to handle conversations correctly if the tension does arise. A family member might decide to say something rude or demeaning to another family member or yourself, and it is essential to never snap back at the dinner table. Like previously stated, these problems are typically encountered during both Christmas and Thanksgiving. Mended Hearts Therapeutic Center writes in their article “9 Ways to Keep the Peace and Avoid Family Drama This Thanksgiving” that it is vital to use the mindset of compassion and empathy when a situation like this arises. Such advice can be taken into consideration for other holidays as well, such as Christmas. To demonstrate such a tip, suppose your partner’s family member decides to say something rude towards you. In that case, it is more beneficial to conclude that their insecurities and fear are causing them to act this way, and responding to their rudeness will only trigger them to continue. A better way of handling the situation would be to change the subject and keep a smile on your face to show that their comments are not affecting your Christmas. 


3. Discuss family dynamics prior to Christmas 

If this Christmas is your first holiday with your partner’s family, it is crucial to talk about the family dynamics you are both walking into. Jenna Birch writes in her article “50 Tips for Handling Your First Holiday Together as a Couple” many tips on how to come into your first Christmas as prepared as possible. A simple conversation of giving a short description of each family member and the topics that can be triggering for them can help Christmas go a lot more smoothly on the first try. This also includes explaining each other’s typical holidays to one another and including any unique traditions that go on. Having an idea of what the family gathering will consist of before attending can ease the nerves and anxiety of meeting a family for the first time. This conversation can also help avoid bringing up any conversation starters that can result in arguments within the family. The most common conversation to avoid during a Christmas gathering would be politics. Avoiding this topic can save the event from several views or opposing beliefs and tension rising. 


4. If necessary, use constructive arguing 

Although one can try their best to avoid controversial conversations from developing, they cannot always be avoided. This is when constructive arguing is a beneficial tool to have under your belt at the dinner table during the holidays. Professor James M. Honeycutt writes in his article “Constructive arguing can help keep the peace at your Thanksgiving table” four rules to follow for constructive arguing, an article which can also be applied during Christmas gatherings. The first rule is to express positive understanding when listening to a family member’s point of view. Letting them know you understand where they’re coming from can help keep the argument to a minimum. The second rule is to exhibit rationality by staying calm and collected and avoiding a rise in voice. This will help the opposing view not see you as a threat but rather, sharing differing opinions. The third rule is to keep your argument concise and specific. By sternly standing your ground without generalizing the topic, it helps make your point of view clearer. The fourth and last rule is to show consideration and not force your beliefs/opinions on anyone else. Instead, share your opinion and make it clear that everyone is free to have their views on the topic of discussion. 


5. Get along with your spouse’s family for your spouse 

It is no secret that issues or conflicts with your partner’s family can take a massive toll on your relationship, making it essential to find common ground. The first important step in doing this is asking for your partner’s support in helping resolve any conflict with their family. Karl Pillemer writes in a Psychology Today article that keeping your loyalty to your spouse is most important when handling conflict between your family and your spouse. Once you know that you have your partner’s support at the gathering, being cordial with the family members who tend to cause issues will be easier to do. Having that loyalty and support from your partner at the event will help if conflicting conversations arise and allow you to feel less tension and stress at the gathering. This is where couples therapy can be very beneficial in creating that loyalty and support for each other as a couple and talking through the hardships of having conflict within the family.

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