The New Couple's Guide to the Holidays
December 21, 2015
There’s something especially romantic about the idea of spending the holidays with a significant other: the dressing up for parties, the exchanging of thoughtful gifts, the kissing under hanging mistletoe. In theory, it’s like a scene out of a rom-com; in practice, spending the holidays with someone for the first time can be tricky to navigate. For possibly the first time in your relationship, you’re faced with work parties, family obligations, and gift giving expectations—all in the same month.
While it’s natural to feel pressure to make everything about your first holiday season together perfect, the best thing you can do for yourself (and your relationship) is to keep a relaxed attitude. Here are some tips to help things go smoothly as you weather the upcoming weeks.
To give or not to give. You want to be on the same page with your significant other in terms of gift giving, so discuss whether or not to exchange presents (and, if possible, how much you’ll spend) ahead of time. There’s nothing more awkward than giving him a $30 gift when he’s spent $200 or worse—nothing at all. If it’s a brand new relationship, you can opt out of gift-giving altogether and instead celebrate by splurging on a weekend together post-holidays to take time to yourselves.
The plus-one. Meeting each other’s colleagues at office holiday parties can be nerve-wracking, but don’t calm those nerves with multiple trips to the open bar. Remember that despite the festive atmosphere and cheery music, a work party is still a professional environment, and it’s always a good idea to err on the conservative side. Keep your conversation and behavior PC!
Family matters. If he’s coming home with you, give him a heads up on your family traditions so that he’s not caught by surprise when you all gather ’round the piano to sing carols, or go out for Chinese food, or whatever quirky thing your family does to celebrate. (A forewarning about any tricky family dynamics—”My sister and mother are in a fight,” “We never talk about my uncle,” etc.—is also a good idea.)
Make a list, check it twice. If your mother plans on making sure your boyfriend “has a little something under the tree, too,” let him know ahead of time so that he’s not caught unaware or empty-handed. (Vice versa, if your boyfriend plans to show up with presents for the whole family.)
Leave the lingerie. If you’re spending the holidays at his place, pack family-friendly sleepwear. You never know who you’re going to run into outside the bathroom.
PDA rules. When around his family, take your physical affection cues from him. Don’t reach for his hand or kiss him around his parents until he shows that he’s comfortable with it.
Pitch in. Christmas is a chaotic, busy time for the whoever’s hosting. Clear dishes, pick up wrapping paper, help hand out drinks, and do what you can; not only is it courteous, it’s also sometimes easier to break the ice with, say, his mother if you’re both doing something together—rather than just sitting in the living room.
Wake up call. Don’t be the last one up! If you have to set your alarm or make your boyfriend wake you up, so be it, but make sure you don’t roll out of bed an hour after everyone else.
On your own. If you do decide to spend the holidays apart, consider sending a basket of food or a few presents to each other’s families ahead of time; a nice gesture which will let everyone know you’re thinking about them and allow you to participate in each other’s holidays without being physically present.
-This piece originally appeared on Elle.com