The Politics Of Whether To Spend Christmas Day With Your Boyfriend Or Girlfriend's Family
The Debrief: Spending christmas with your boyfriend? How to decode the drama of deciding where to spend Christmas when you're in a relationship
Until this year, I spent five years in a relationship where I could do whatever the fuck I wanted at Christmas. I have a very close, small-knit family, and a wonderful, loving boyfriend (now husband), but every year, we would go our separate ways on December 24th. Spending Christmas with my boyfriend was not a thing. He would go and hang out with his big extended family in London, and I would go home to Sussex so I could get pissed with my school mates on Christmas Eve, and then my Mum, Dad, and brother would spend December 25th locked in the house eating, boozing and watching TV, and seeing literally no-one else. And that's the way I liked it.
But I realise I'm quite singular in my selfish Christmas traditions - most of my friends in relationships tend to spend the festive period with their partners, or have to do that thing called a 'compromise' where you spend alternative Christmases with each other, or try and squeeze everyone in on the same day. And they've all told me it's a fucking nightmare to organise and ALWAYS causes relationship drama.
So this year, when I realised I was in my late twenties, in a long term relationship and did actually want to spend Christmas with my partner and needed to grow the hell up, my husband and I had the 'conversation' about what we were going to do come December 25th.
Thankfully, we didn't get divorced and made a decision like actual adults, and with no fights (smug, much?). But because it could have ended SO differently, I asked all my other friends (who shall remain nameless) for advice on how to spend Christmas with the sort-of-in-laws or how to deal with bringing your partner home to face your family's own idiosyncratic Christmas traditions. Here's how to spend Christmas with your boyfriend. And Your boyfriend's family.
1. Have 'the conversation' as early on as possible
If you haven't already discussed your Christmas plans with your other half... well it's Christmas Eve, and they're probably already on the Megabus back to Swindon, so what were you thinking? We had ours in September. If you want to spend Christmas with your boyfriend, you don't want to put it off, and then have a blazing row before deciding whether to turn off the next junction/board a train. Do it early, and you can be calm and adult about it, which means the whole thing becomes less of a deal.
2. Don't try and see everyone on Christmas Day
One of our 'ideas' at the beginning was to try and see everyone on Christmas Day, rather than making the 'your parents or mine' decision. So we'd see my parents on Christmas morning, then drive for four hours to see my husband's Dad. This plan went down like a steamed turd, because we realised Christmas driving would be hateful, I couldn't drink, and it would be like having a weird, watered down Christmas day with each family, rather than one big party time.
So, unless your families live within 10 minutes of each other, I beg you not to make anyone drive, or try to drive yourselves, as it will probably be shit and ruin Christmas. No-one needs the pressure of trying to 'squeeze everyone in.' Unless both your families love each other loads and want to hang out, of course.
3. Alternate Christmases are a good compromise
I think this plan is great, mainly because this is what we are doing and I'm pretty happy with the situation. But most people I know spend alternate Christmases at each family's house each year, meaning both parties are happy because at some point you'll return to the nest and revert back to your teenage ways, just with an added boyfriend/partner.
4. If you are spending it with his family, get your game face on
I am really excited to spend Christmas with my husband's family, because they are lovely people who put on a great party at Christmas (I'm talking two different types of bird at dinner, people). And while they don't have the same traditions as me, it's important to my partner that I experience his Christmas - and they're my family too now. And even if I wasn't psyched up for it, looking miserable and groaning everytime anyone mentions Christmas doesn't help anyone, and pretty much guarantees you're going to have a shit time. Act like you're really excited about the whole thing in the run up to Christmas, and you're much more likely to actually feel it.
5. If there's a likelihood it will be shit, it's only one day
You aren't five anymore, so stop treating Dec 25th as the hallowed day. Don't let it become New Year's Eve, where hype and expectation ruin what is essentially a time to get together with loved ones and get pissed.
6. Now is probably not the time to make introductions
Parents never met your partner? Christmas is not an ideal team to intro him to the fam. I guarantee it will be awkward when someone asks a weird question over the chipolatas.
7. Don't spend Christmas being a whiny bitch, because you'll be miserable
Find his Uncle Jim annoying during charades? Can't bear his crying little cousin ruining Christmas TOTP? Don't bitch about it on Christmas Day, because, with all the booze and heavy meals and enforced family fun times involved, you'll probably fight. If the family really are awful to you, then absolutely let your partner know you shouldn't be treated badly. But if they are just mildly irritating, he'll probably agree with you about it later. Just hold off on the Scrooge vibes, OK?
8. Be grateful
If you have a nice partner, and a choice of two families are able to spend Christmas with, you are not only lucky, but a chump for moaning about it. Remenber the moral of the John Lewis Christmas ad (aside from the old 'buy things because it's Christmas' adage)? Some people, particularly the elderly, don't see ANYONE at Christmas. So do stop your whining and be thankful.
9. Accept that families are different
His family may not like watching TV. At all. And your family might think board games are lame. Respect each other's traditions, however random they may be.
10. Spending Christmas away from your family will make you treasure the traditions even more
I will miss the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs my Dad always makes for breakfast, the opening of presents in our fanciest outfits at 11.36 AM on the dot, the obligatory nap after grazing the box of Miniature Heroes in front of some Disney film, but it means next year I will truly adore revisiting those Smith family rituals.
11. Remember there's a reason you want to spend Christmas together
If you actually like your partner, there's a chance you'll want to spend Christmas day together. So put aside the awks phone chat you might have to have with your Mum, and enjoy the fact that this year you can eat until you feel sick with your bae.
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