The new guy at the table
November 10, 2008 12:18 PM   Subscribe

How do I make my new-ish boyfriend feel at home with my family Thanksgiving weekend?

From the opposite end of booknerd's question a little down.

Some details.

We've been dating just about six months. I'm 28, he's 59. (Yes, my family knows this, everyone's either cool about it or will pretend to be). We live together, and have a pretty wonderful relationship.

We're going to my aunt and uncle's house, about four hours from home, and will be staying in a hotel for two nights (my choice, wanting privacy). Aside from my aunt and uncle, other relatives include my mom and her fiance, my dad, brother, sister, related cousins, grandparents and possibly some family friends. Boyfriend is a few years older than my parents/uncles/aunts, if that's a factor.

Aside from never leaving him alone with too many relatives, what else can I do to make him feel welcome? He's expressed that he's very nervous, as he tends to feel uncomfortable in new social situations.
posted by roomthreeseventeen to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Give him as much information about everyone as possible. Give him "talking points" of topics that everyone seems to enjoy when you're together as a family. Brief him on any topics that will surely alienate him. I know how this is going to sound, but basically brief him like you would someone for a job interview. Help him look and play the part and give him enough information to feel confident and have something to talk about. Err on the side of caution. And one thing you can't fake - if you two are happy together, it will be clear, and for the most part, that's what your family will want to know.
posted by smallstatic at 12:22 PM on November 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

The best thing you can do is be yourself. Be confident with him in front of your family. Age is just a number. If he treats you great and you love him, that's all that matters. Good luck!
posted by sunnyday at 12:24 PM on November 10, 2008

Brief him beforehand. One of the biggest stresses I feel (speaking only for myself, obviously) is trying to keep track of names and faces and mapping them to the family tree.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:25 PM on November 10, 2008

On Tomorrowful's subject - My fiance and I have a secret signal that means "I don't know this person's name." I'm not going to tell you what it is in case we ever use it on you, but it's a pretty benign thing that doesn't make you wonder if I have fleas or a disease. However it involves reaching one arm across the body so it's highly visible, even across the room. So if one of us sees it we make sure to use the other person's name in conversation.
posted by phearlez at 12:32 PM on November 10, 2008 [14 favorites]

all of the above and don't leave him alone. Stick with him and help move conversations along. Assume that he will forget names and find ways to say the person's name when you are talking together.
posted by muscat at 12:44 PM on November 10, 2008

Be careful about being too obvious about that, though -- if I were one of your relatives and I was never allowed to have a conversation with him without you there, and you were all, "Well, Amarynth, my cousin who is a data manager and loves pie, how have you been?" I'd think he might not have the pleasure of having all of his marbles.
posted by amarynth at 12:55 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know this isn't really your question, but in terms of how to broach the subject with your boyfriend... I would be careful not to make him think that he can't handle the situation. Find a way to "brief him" on the requisite facts and encourage him without questioning his competency. For example:

"I'm excited for you to spend time with my family. I'm sure you'll really impress them and that they'll see how happy we are together. You mentioned you were a little nervous about meeting new people; would it help if I gave you some background information so you feel better prepared?"

That way, you're not giving unwanted advice... you're just asking if he would like some pointers.

I'm pretty bad with names/faces of new people and if he is too, I recommend giving a funny, easy-to-remember story to go along with each person. Maybe review some photographs and tell some anecdotes about each. If it's easy-going and humourous, he will probably start to think of your relatives as 'real people' instead of 'a group of people I need to wow or else my girlfriend will hate me.'

Definitely tell him the taboo subjects and make sure he has a talking point with each family member. If your mom loves manners, let him know that helping wash dishes will earn him points! If someone needs something moved or lifted and he's able to help... well you get the point.

Don't worry about monitoring him too carefully. I mean he's 59 years old and he will figure out the tone of your family and will observe how you guys interact. I'm sure he'll perform well :)
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:58 PM on November 10, 2008

The buddy system! Find someone to stick close to him when you can't be there (i.e., most of the time), and make sure they have at least *one* think to talk about like football, cameras, movies, NOT POLITICS, animals, books, NOT RELIGION, food, sports besides football, travel, etc., etc.

Brothers are good for this, as are other non-blood-relations; cousins, perhaps not so much. (Lots of us in-laws tend to clump at my wife's parents' house. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:58 PM on November 10, 2008

To piggyback on the "brief him" responses.... Make sure you let him know in advance of any taboo/touchy subjects he should avoid in conversation. For example, if one of your relatives was a strong McCain supporter and is upset about the results, let your BF know in advance so he doesn't say anything to rub salt in the wound, cause an awkward silence. Or if there are any complicated family relationships (half brothers, step-parents, "uncles" that aren't really uncles, etc) explain in advance so he doesn't put his foot in his mouth.

Mostly though, just let him know if there are any notable family-specific no-no's in terms of manners or expectations. (Personal example, my family is really laid-back, but interrupting someone for any reason is considered incredibly bad manners, ditto for sore losing if playing at cards. Elbows on table = not a problem.)
posted by np312 at 1:02 PM on November 10, 2008

In addition to the signal mentioned above about forgetting a name, have a distress signal. I need to get out of here type signal.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:19 PM on November 10, 2008

Are you particularly close with any of your siblings or cousins? When my cousin brings home a new significant other, I keep an eye out to make sure he is:
a) not clueless about the house layout
b) not stuck talking to Uncle Rambles
c) not standing against a wall looking petrified/uncomfortable.

Not that you need to 'assign' someone to him, but maybe ask a sibling to act as a friendly guide in case YOU'RE the one stuck with Uncle Rambles and can't be with him.

Nth-ing on the touchy-subject briefing, if there is anything pertinent. Also, if anything wonderful or new has happened within the family, it would be awesome for him to congratulate the person at hand: "Roomthreeseventeen told me you just got a new job, high five!" Family loves that.
posted by rachaelfaith at 2:07 PM on November 10, 2008

REALLY great call on your part to get the hotel. that way he'll have a place to decompress. i recommend it for any S.O. attending any family gathering of the other side.

make sure he knows the conversation topics that will cause internecine warfare.

make sure he knows of any of the hot buttons of the various relatives, e.g., "Don't ask Aunt Karen perfectly normal and polite thing to ask most people but will cause her to burst into tears."

give him some talking points that are sure to be winners.
posted by micawber at 3:15 PM on November 10, 2008

Nthing going through photos with him to help him associate names and faces. When I meet new people, it tends to be a blur and I will only be able to remember one or two names, tops, for more than 30 seconds. Having the chance to learn names and find out a little bit about the people beforehand, without the pressure of being in a conversation, would be very welcome (for me, at least).
posted by philosophygeek at 12:09 PM on November 12, 2008

« Older When did @username gain currency as a way of...   |   Too many workers, not enough work? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.