I once had a friend who described a typical Christmas day like this: “Well, we spend all afternoon drinking, and then over dinner, my uncle keeps teasing me and my sister until one of us runs crying out of the room.” Granted, not everyone’s holidays are Brady Bunch paragons of sweetness and light, but if you employ the following strategies, you just might survive this stressful time with your relationship (and your sanity) intact.
Don’t buck tradition.
Okay, so your boyfriend’s family likes to usher in Christmas Eve by stripping down to their undies and taking a dip in the nearby creek. Just because they live in a cabin in Vermont rather than a condo in Arizona is no reason to doubt their sanity, and besides, no one’s putting a gun to your head and demanding that you join in.
Choose your gifts wisely.
It’s tempting – especially if your girlfriend’s parents doubt your ability to support her in the manner to which she’s become accustomed – to lavish extravagant gifts on them, like a new deluxe grill or a week-long Alaskan cruise. A pewter teapot will do just fine, thank you. As for her nieces, nephews, little brothers and sisters, etc., buy a used video game and toss it over by the TV. If her parents keep a pack of snarling Dobermans, the same principle applies: just bring a big slab of raw meat.
Get your fighting over with in the car.
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The last thing any household needs over Christmas is yet more bickering, icy stares, and loud, theatrical sighs. Even if you and your boyfriend are on the brink of killing each other, do your part for the holiday spirit by pretending to be all warm and snuggly. (True story: I was once at a holiday dinner in which the hapless husband in a “happy couple” accidentally spilled his drink on the tablecloth. Said his wife, in full hearing of everyone, “Well, don’t just look at it like a dumb animal! Get a paper towel and clean it up!”)
Turn off the TV.
Even if you’re a perfectly happy, well-adjusted pair of adorable lovebirds, watching the tube over the holidays will turn you into fodder for a prime-time Dr. Phil special. No normal couple can process 17 different sitcom retreads of A Christmas Carol
and two or three heartwarming family-reunion movies without feeling twisted and joyless by comparison. Rent something fun and un-Christmas-y instead, like Wanted
Take your brain medicine.
Far be it from me to recommend reckless indulgence in alcohol, or watching the “big game” at a sports bar with your buddies. Instead, see if your doctor will prescribe you the latest fast-acting miracle antidepressant. Remember, when all else fails, ‘Tis the season to be jolly!
Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on About.com, the online information network owned by the
New York Times.