I’ve been invited to my boyfriend’s family to celebrate Thanksgiving, which for most Americans is almost as big a deal as Christmas.
I met his brother and wife casually one other time, so this is the first major acknowledgement of us as a couple. We’ve been dating for five months.
I invited him to my family’s dinner the next night.
I know I’ll be nervous about both occasions until November 24th!
I don’t know his family well, but I do know that they’re really “normal” – welcoming, nice, smart, organized, good people. My boyfriend’s like them and it’s why I’m crazy about him.
My own close relatives are decent people but very different – sometimes chaotic, lots of dysfunction, which is pretty easy to see, judgmental, hard on each other and themselves.
I’ve got insecurities from growing up in that atmosphere, but I’ve worked hard at doing better in some ways.
I love them and stay fairly close, but am realistic about them.
Now I wonder how big a gap there’ll be between our family backgrounds, and how my boyfriend will perceive me after meeting my relatives.
How can I best handle this Thanksgiving’s exposures?
Beyond the Turkey
Be yourself. Be proud that your relatives are “decent people” – that’s a solid base, no matter other issues.
Explain ahead to your boyfriend some of what shapes your family’s dynamic - circumstances and reasons that will help him understand, just as you do.
Do not make comparisons to his family, and above all, do not become insecure and apologetic.
He’s with you because of what he sees, likes, and admires in you.
Enjoy his family’s company and don’t stress about impressing them. Their main interest will be seeing you and your boyfriend in a healthy united relationship, just as you are.
Recently, I bumped into a former close friend. We were close in high school but went separate ways through our university years. But we were always warm when we saw each other.
Then he went on to become a lawyer and married, while I travelled and worked in different countries, marrying later.
When we’d bump into each other in our hometown, he’d be abrupt and I thought he’d become snobbish.
He was never interested in stopping for a coffee, catching up on each other, finding out about each other’s children, etc.
Then it happened just weeks ago. He called out, crossed a road to greet me, and insisted we stop somewhere to talk.
He told me he’d had a difficult marriage and got divorced, but was now re-married.
Then came the tough details of one daughter’s severe illness and another’s injuries and ongoing effects from a sports accident.
I was shocked - not only by his misfortunes but how wrongly I’d judged his previous behaviour when we’d accidentally meet.
I’d made negative assumptions and never even checked them out.
Do I now owe him an apology and reveal my past judgmental thoughts?
Or, if I suddenly start trying to connect often, will I appear to be intrusive?
Instead of an abject apology revealing that you misjudged him, send an email saying how good it was to connect.
Say that you appreciate his sharing his news with you and wish him much better times ahead.
If he sends back a message, you could then judge whether there’s enough mutual interest in getting together sometime.
Meanwhile, you learned a powerful lesson. We do not know what goes on in other peoples’ lives.
FEEDBACK Regarding disability and the man whose obese co-worker left an odour in his car (Oct. 4):
Reader – “I walk with a cane, am physically weak, and quite slow.
“It's nice when people carry things or open the door for me.
“Nevertheless, I recognize that my disability doesn’t make everyone else with "ability" my slave.
“There’s a difference between my needing help and my being a burden: help is free.
“However, my "burden" to be addressed with any constancy requires a considerable devotion, which not everyone’s capable of, or can be expected to fulfill.
“The writer was describing a situation he feels he can't handle. He’s not wrong to say that he cannot drive him anymore.”
Ellie – It’s good to offer a kindness, but if it becomes an annoying pattern, then the person must find a kind solution, either about the odour, helping find another lift, or at least explaining kindly.
Tip of the day:
Thanksgiving is for appreciation of who we are and what we have, not for judging.