The #1 killer of relationships? In my opinion, the answer is holidays. Let’s face it; bringing home your significant other can be very stressful. Even in the most “normal” (and I use normal here loosely) families, there is always at least one family member who will bring up the most painfully embarrassing moments in your life in front of your s.o., or ask the most inappropriately personal questions.
But do not despair. With a little humor, a little preparation, and a LOT of alcohol (but not too much of course—you don’t want to make a complete ass of yourself), you CAN make it through the holiday. And if you are lucky, you’ll have something to laugh about with your s.o. 10 years from now.
Situation #1: You are going to your boyfriend’s house for the holiday, and his/her mother isn’t exactly your biggest fan.
Survival technique: Build an alliance. Spend your time winning the other family members over with your charm and wit—ideally family members who later contradict her negative opinion of you.
(On a side note: if your boyfriend doesn’t have a spine where his mother is concerned, you need to do some serious thinking.)
Situation #2: You are bringing your vegetarian boyfriend to your house for Thanksgiving—and tofurkey is definitely NOT on the menu.
Survival technique: Bring provisions. Make and bring vegetarian side dishes that your entire family can eat—e.g., stuffing without giblets. Explain to your boyfriend ahead of time that Thanksgiving isn’t the time or place to explain why he is revolted by the turkey carcass on the table. On the flip side, it would be appropriate to warn your parents in advance that this might be a good time to send the deer head above the mantel out for a good cleaning.
Situation #3: Your “crazy Aunt Sadie” just asked your new boyfriend/girlfriend when you were getting married—pointing out that you certainly aren’t getting younger.
Survival technique: Strike back. Chances are, this isn’t the first time Aunt Sadie has put you on the spot. The moment you walk in the door, you should be on the ready with pre-rehearsed retorts designed to shut Aunt Sadie up. For example, this is the perfect time to inquire how Aunt Sadie’s recent mole-removal surgery went. She’ll get the picture. Don’t worry about hurt feelings, this one is war.
Situation #4: Your well-meaning-but-inappropriate Uncle Sonny just pulled your significant other aside and asked him/her about his “intentions.”
Survival technique: Rescue and recovery. You need to get your s.o. out of there. Now. Enlist backup in the form of your aunt or other family members who know just what might be going down. As for damage control, don’t explain or elaborate, just say to your sweetie, “Sorry for my crazy family. I’ll promise I’ll make it up to you later.” That way, he/she will be thinking about OTHER things on your way home.
Situation #5: You and your non-Jewish significant other are getting serious, and your “I-don’t-care-who-you-marry-so-long-as-he/she’s-Jewish-Bubbe” just asked you both how you intend to raise the children. And you don’t have an answer to that question yet—or at least, not one she might want to hear.
Survival technique: Temporary deflection. Try the best you can to change the topic – but be warned, if Bubbe really wants an answer right now, you are in a very tight spot. You can try humor: “the best we can—of course! Oh, did you use cinnamon in this pie?” or flattery “however you did – you are such a great mother and grandmother. By the way, can I get your kugel recipe?”
But hell hath no fury like a Bubbe on a mission. In reality, what you will really need to do is run like hell, because Thanksgiving probably isn’t the best time to tell Bubbe you will be celebrating Christmas with his family this year.
Situation #6: Your recently-divorced cousin just gave your commitment-phobic boyfriend an earful about the perils of marriage and fatherhood.
Survival technique: Counter couple. This would be the perfect time to ask to steal your s.o. away and introduce him to your happily married cousins. Later, you can say: “Hey, sorry you got dumped on. He’s going through a rough time right now; it’s really cool of you to have listened. And aren’t Jack and Jill great together? ”
Situation #7: You just left dinner, and feel the need to discuss the status of your relationship with your significant other.
Survival technique: Wait a couple of days. Sure, you two will need to eventually discuss marriage, kids, religion, and other “values.” But don’t bring up engagement just because your cousin was flashing her beautiful new ring, or because some family members turned up the volume on your biological clock. Be sure any conversation you feel you need to have about your “future” is motivated not by the desires of others, but the desires of your own heart, when you are good and ready to deal with them.