It’s Dr. Ally, your resident Mental Health and Relationship Expert. You may have missed me on NBC’s Access Live recently, but I discussed a pretty seasonal topic, holiday dating, and mainly how to avoid getting broken-up with during the holidays. December is one of the top break-up months and, strangely enough, Mondays are the leading breakup day. So experts say that the first Monday in December is the leading breakup day of the year. There are many possible reasons from general business, to seasonal affective disorder, to gift anxiety. The last thing you want to do is give someone a reason to end a relationship during the holidays because of perfectly avoidable faux pas. With all of the overwhelming nature of the holidays here are a few things you should focus on when getting ready for the holiday season with a new partner and a few things you should avoid.
So here are your
Do’s and Don’ts When Spending the Holidays With Your Bae
Don’t drink too much
So you’ve been invited to your new bae’s house for some holiday festivity, and you’re very nervous. Before you reach out for that glass of wine, think twice. Alcohol makes a lot of people feel less anxious and that’s primarily because it decreases the activity in your frontal lobe. This region is also known as you executive network. It’s called that because it acts like a little CEO and tells the rest of your brain how to behave — in scientific terms, inhibitory control. On the one hand, it may make you a little less anxious but it will make you even more disinhibited. You may say things that are not entirely appropriate and damage your chances at a long-term relationship. If you’re feeling anxious, remind yourself that’s totally normal. Don’t try to fix normal with alcohol. Use the anxiety and prepare beforehand. Make a list of topics you feel comfortable talking about and have a list of questions you can ask his family and friends, then take a few deep breaths in your car and walk in. You’ll be fine.
Don’t be on your phone
Using your phone is one sure fire way to make people feel super disconnected, frustrated, and distant from you, so avoid the desire to check your IG at all costs. One thing humans desire during social interactions is eye contact. We have evolved to use eye contact as a means to understand a person’s intentions and internal state and avoidance of this eye contact can be seen as hiding or dishonesty. The last thing you want to do is make your new significant other’s family feel distant from you, so do everything you can to stay attentive. You may need to leave your phone in your bag or, for those of us with less impulse control, the car. Know yourself!
Don’t force your opinions
If your family is anything like mine, there are a lot of questions and conversations about religion, politics, sexuality, and relationships. Basically, all the things you should never talk about in mixed company are the exact things family members want to discuss with a belly full of yams and stuffing. In these instances, you want to appear interested in the conversation like you have some personality and perspective but not overly opinionated or emotional. One way to do this is to treat the discussion like a high school debate rather than a personal option. Stick to the facts and try not to make it personal, even if they do. Use words like “experts say” or “some people may agree with that” rather than “I feel” or “In my opinion.” You’d be surprised how you can shift a conversation to one where you agree to disagree when you distance yourself from the subject matter. Let’s admit, we can all be wrong, and we want to stay away from that horrible moment where you double down on something you don’t even believe.
Don’t bring up controversial topics, but if they do, it’s ok to join in
Though you shouldn’t force your opinions on people, it is ok to engage in controversial topics particularly if your hosts bring them up. As I said earlier, this is an opportunity for you to flex your facts muscles and stay away from too many opinions. It’s a great way to help them get to know you a little more and hopefully a great way for you to align with them on topics.
Do be interested and engaged in conversation (even if you’re not actually)
While you are in these conversations, focus on your nonverbal communication. Body language is over 70% of communication after all. Keep your posture open. This means uncross your arms, lean forward, and give appropriate eye contact. This helps give the impression that you are interested in what they are saying. Also nod your head appropriately, smile when needed, and maintain appropriate eye contact. Here’s a little bit of therapist gold. Repeat what someone else has said and then add your comment after. It sounds like this: “I hear you say…I totally agree and…” These things go a long way to give people the impression you are keeping up with the conversation.
Do be honest about your beliefs while also being respectful of theirs
Nobody wants to be dishonest about their deeply held beliefs, but this is a tough one. It’s hard to disagree with someone and keep a cool head. Obviously, you are a guest and shouldn’t go out of your way to disagree with your host, but you also can’t live dishonestly. So you only state your beliefs when directly asked by the host. If they don’t ask, don’t offer.
Do share about yourself but be careful not to monopolize
If your host is asking you questions about yourself, feel free to respond but watch people’s faces. You never want bored or indifferent faces around you. If they are looking bored or antsy it’s time to ask the room “How about you all?” “Have you ever had an experience like that?” Pushing the question outward makes sure that the conversation isn’t just about you. It offers them a chance to get to know you and you an opportunity to learn a little about them.
Do listen and learn as much as you can about their family and friends
I’ve talked a lot about what you can add to a conversation, but it is critical to listen to the people around you and absorb everything. Every conversation is a balance between taking in information and giving it. You should be taking in twice as much. Use your active listening skills to make sure they know you are listening. These are things like nodding your head, responding with “yes” and “I understand.”
If you follow these do’s and don’ts, it should help decrease some of your first holiday jitters and prepare you to be an excellent dinner guest and a great match for your bae.