50 Tips for Handling Your First Holiday Together as a Couple

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The first time a boyfriend ever invited me to spend a holiday with his family, I casually accepted the invite. You know, as one does when they are totally chill and have been invited to puh-lenty of such events. I then proceeded to silently freak out for a period of days leading up to the event. So much freaking out ensued about whether or not his parents would like me that I forgot to think about legit preparation before I entered his family home.

Would I be comfortable with our standard PDA? (Answer: No.) What was his mom like? (Answer: Stern.) His dad’s vibe? (Answer: Eccentric.) Any topical landmines? (Answer: No idea, just started lobbing questions.) Within the first 10 seconds of arrival, when I completely blanked on his mom’s name, I realized how ill-prepared I was.

We here at SELF don’t want you to be like me this year, in case you’re enjoying your very first holiday season with your SO. Whether you’re heading home with them, or they’re coming to meet the fam, or you’re trying to create new couple-y traditions (or all of the above), these next several weeks might be fraught of anxiety and confusion.

In fact, it’s also peak season for argument and disappointment (Joy!) , says Tara Fields, PhD, couples therapist and author of The Love Fix. First, accept that things don’t need to go perfectly, and that’s fine. “It’s just important to have realistic expectations going in,” she explains. “Whatever happens, whatever you do, it’s not going to go seamlessly. Consider it all a work in progress.” Improve and chill with each passing year!

The more you can consider thoughtfully in advance, though, the better off you’ll be for your first holiday together as a couple—whether you’re dealing with your partner’s nosy mother, your personal anxiety over how to make the holidays “special,” or what gift to buy your overly particular SO. But worry not, with the help of these five therapists, SELF helps you prep for your first holiday

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