Holidays are supposed to be filled with fun, laughter and eating lots of great food. But sometimes, especially where blending families is concerned, that fun can end up being replaced by stress. We asked some real women about their worst Thanksgiving experiences and got some expert advice on how to deal.
We asked Dr. Francine Lederer, Clinical Psychologist at LA TALK THERAPY, for her tips on how to deal with some common issues that can crop up around the Thanksgiving table.
Tongue tied terror
“I get totally tongue-tied around my boyfriend’s family. I’ve met them three times now, but I never know what to say and end up looking really awkward.” — Kris, 27, Denver, Colorado
Solution: Your nerves are getting in the way of you feeling like you can be yourself, says Lederer. So what should you do? “Take a few minutes and try implementing some deep breathing and/or relaxation exercises right before a family function,” she advises. “What’s the worst thing that can happen in these settings? If there are specific family members that rub you the wrong way, make sure you surround yourself with the people at the event who you feel most comfortable [around].”
She hates me, she hates me not
“Last Thanksgiving I was really excited to be part of my boyfriend’s family and all their holiday traditions. But when I got there, his mom acted like she hated me. I didn’t know how to act around her and I really felt like she would rather I wasn’t there.” — Amber, 31, London, Ontario
Solution: Does she really hate you? This is a question you need to ask yourself. “Make sure you do some reality testing by checking in with yourself and those closest to you about what you are experiencing,” advises Lederer. “You may also want to try spending one-on-one time with your partner’s mom. If she is feeling at all threatened by you being in her son’s life, it may be helpful to give her some reassurance that you are in favor of her having a relationship with her son — as well as starting one with her, yourself.” The more open you are in communicating your thoughts and feelings, the more she may open up to you.
The big insult
“I accidentally offended my husband’s sister the last time we visited. I made a joke that hit close to home for her and she got up and left the table in tears. I didn’t mean to upset her, but I was totally mortified and felt terrible.” — Julie, 28, Madison, Wisconsin
Solution: Remind yourself that you did nothing on purpose. “Clearly, it wasn’t intentional. There’s no better human quality than maintaining honesty and showing remorse for one’s actions,” says Lederer. “Be honest and apologize if you feel you need to. Don’t spend the time covering up or avoiding a mistake,” she advises. Chances are his family will respect you more for being open with them.
On being ignored
“I love my boyfriend, but every time we see his family, I get shut out. It really feels like I’m not even there, or they don’t even see me and I don’t get what I’m doing wrong.” — Beverly, 34, Orlando, Florida
Solution: Let’s face it — no one likes feeling rejected. However, it’s important you share your feelings with your partner. “If you can’t communicate with his family or feel invisible, then it should become your partner’s responsibility to address these things with them,” explains Lederer. “What concerns you, should equally concern him. Don’t bottle these things inside. This would be a good test to see how you both overcome this challenge, as issues with in-laws typically don’t go away by themselves.”