By now you have already dealt with the whole Should I? or Shouldn’t I? debacle and have decided to ask your boyfriend to spend Thanksgiving with your family. He has of course said “yes” and the only question that remains is, Will this be a complete disaster on Thanksgiving day??
The answer—despite all the scenarios your over-active imagination keeps dreaming up—is it’s going to be just fine. It’s normal to have some angst about whether or not your boyfriend will feel comfortable and be well-received with your family. No need to worry though: There are some basic steps you can take to ensure a good time is had by all—but most particularly for you and for him.
National etiquette expert, Diane Gottsman, offers seven tips for helping your boyfriend feel at ease with your family on Thanksgiving day.
01. Remember that he is your priority that day.
If you ask your boyfriend to spend the holidays with your family, he is your guest and his comfort is your priority—not your family. It may turn out that you don't love the way he is jiving with your family or that he is a bit more high maintenance than you would like, but it is still important that his comfort is your first concern. If he is not rolling with long-held traditions or not picking up on social cues, be accommodating and perhaps discuss it after the festivities are over.
02. Let the cooks know about dietary restrictions and allergies in advance.
The last thing your boyfriend wants while spending Thanksgiving with your family is too appear picky or ungrateful for the food in front of him, so you want to make sure to serve foods that he can enjoy. If he is vegetarian, you can still cook a turkey, but have plenty of other food options available as well.
03. Give your boyfriend an idea of what to expect before he arrives.
He probably won't admit it, but he is going to be a little nervous about being unfamiliar with your families traditions and protocol for Thanksgiving day. Set his mind at ease with a debriefing before he arrives at your door. Say, “I am looking forward to you meeting some of my family. We usually sit around the fire after the meal or play some tag football. Make sure to dress casual and bring a warm jacket.” A heads-up on certain family personalities can also help him to navigate family dynamics the day of.
04. Encourage conversation.
Be sure to introduce your boyfriend to each member of your family, staying by his side to facilitate the introductions and get conversation going. Even the most confident man can feel uncomfortable in a completely new setting. Enlisting the help of other family members to look out for your boyfriend and engage him in conversation is a good way to remind your family to be cognizant of his presence. Try playing a game that encourages participation. A rousing round of Pictionary or Catch Phrase will have everyone laughing and help your boyfriend to let his guard down.
05. Let your boyfriend have a starring role.
Allow him to tend bar for a little while, open the wine bottles, help you serve the meal, or anything else that keeps him busy and looking engaged. This works especially well if he is somewhat shy or uncomfortable around new people and meeting them for the first time.
06. Have most of your dishes prepared in advance.
A little pre-planning will make your Thanksgiving day easier for everyone. If you can spend more time with your boyfriend and less time in the kitchen cutting and chopping you won't run the risk of abandoning your guy on Thanksgiving day.
07. Enjoy your own day.
If you are frazzled, your boyfriend will sense the tension. Don’t expect everything to be perfect. Go with the flow and make every effort to be present at your own Thanksgiving.