Bringing your partner home for the holidays can produce painful anxiety levels – and not just because Uncle Rick sometimes makes inappropriate jokes. If you and your partner are of different faiths, concerns about merging your traditions in the company of family members can make the situation even more serious for both of you. While the two of you may be familiar with each other’s religions or observances, family members can be a bit more unpredictable. In addition, some vacation practices may conflict with your own beliefs or those of your partner. It is important – and respectful to everyone involved – to approach the situation with the level of comfort and individual needs in mind. It can help make the situation really beautiful.
“Holidays are often about food, faith and family. It is wonderful to introduce your partner to the traditions that are meaningful to your family,” Angela Corbo, PhD., Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Widener University’s communications studies, and a safe space ally, says Bustle.
As the person who invites your partner into your family traditions, communicating with all parties involved is essential. “Although your traditions seem reflexive to you, your partner may feel uncomfortable or anxious,” says Corbo.
Take a few moments to think about your vacation experience before you get there, says Corbo. It can help you prepare your partner for things they might be going through. For example, are you attending a church service? Do you pray before meals? Do you hold hands at the table while you pray? Does your family participate in religious practices at home, such as putting a baby Jesus in the manger or lighting the menorah, celebrating Kwaanza, or singing traditional hymns or songs?
“Discuss traditions and practices with your partner in advance to avoid surprises. You can also explain any religious or cultural significance to the practices observed by your family,” says Corbo.
Another thing to consider is what conversations might arise, as families are often very curious about the new person’s arrival in the house, and vice versa. Be there for each other in these situations. It is hard enough to be toasted by family members, even if gently, and if religion or beliefs arise, it can be all the more noticeable.
“It’s common to ‘interview’ a stranger asking about their upbringing,” Corbo says, and the good intentions of getting to know someone and their beliefs can easily seem insensitive. You can facilitate this introduction by speaking with the family ahead of time so they can get to know your partner, Corbo says, and remember that it’s crucial to take an active role in the conversation while your partner try to meet your family. members.
“Tell your partner who will be at the holiday event and some potential issues that may arise. If you are planning, ‘So you haven’t found anyone Jewish?’ or “I just don’t understand how same-sex couples are allowed to get married,” you have to prepare your partner in advance, “says Corbo.
Another important thing to consider? Food and drinks. If your partner has religious restrictions or needs when it comes to diet or alcohol consumption, prepare for it. Consider the food options associated with the holidays. You want your partner to feel comfortable with your family and to feel taken care of.
And as a guest, says Corbo, it’s paramount that you show respect to your partner’s family and traditions. You may not practice any faith or believe in the existence of a higher being.
“You can be inclusive as a guest by observing, participating, or just not judging something that feels foreign to you,” says Corbo.
Social worker Abigale Johnson, who has a private practice in New York City, tells Bustle that pre-vacation communication about what to expect with your partner is key to preparing, as well as educating your family about your partner’s religion and traditions.
“You would be surprised how people greet others on vacation, even when they practice different religions,” Johnson says. You might even find yourself creating a mix of celebrations to honor both religions.
Psychologist Dr Linda Humphreys, Ph.D. in metaphysical advice, tells Bustle that a good way to prepare is to be creative about how you share your traditions. It can be a lot of fun to enlighten each other and share your hopes of celebrating together.
“Everyone shares stories about favorite holiday celebrations when you grew up,” says Humphreys, and stays focused on the fun and humorous moments in particular. “Share the name of the holiday, what the holiday represents, how your family celebrated it, your favorite part of the holiday celebration. Sharing fun holiday stories engages the other person in a non-threatening, non-threatening way. demanding. ”
Then you can each share how you would like to celebrate the holidays together, and how you would like the other person to participate, and what you both feel comfortable with.
Ultimately, you might find a way to celebrate the holidays and honor your religions (or lack thereof) that will be yours.
Social worker Abigale Johnson, in private practice in New York
Psychologist Dr Linda Humphreys
Angela Corbo, PhD., Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies at Widener University