This weekend was all about family – literally Saturday through Sunday was spent betwixt the clans Plante and Maxwell. It was as if Dan and I desired a preview of next week’s holiday shenanigans. Clearly, we’re masochists.

No, but really it was fun. On Saturday night, we met my mom and my fresh-from-college brother at the Union Square Holiday Market. **Side note: If you haven’t gone yet, GO! The vendors are there until December 24th!** We shopped, drank hot cocoa – hot cider for my mom – and grabbed dinner at Pete’s Tavern around the corner on Irving. It was FREEZING cold, but it was a lot of fun. I know both my mom and brother appreciated the company.

On Sunday morning not a smidge past 6:30 AM, Dan and I were in his mom’s car headed back to NYC. Why yes, you DID read that correctly. Dan and I willingly got up at 6AM on Sunday to trek into the city with his family. What’s become of us? Dan’s mom and aunt kindly took all us kids (read 20 and up “kids”) into Rockefeller Center for brunch and ice-skating. I had never been ice-skating at the world famous rink, so I was totally excited to go. Plus, the food was amazing. Our table was right against the windows looking out on the rink: baller status. We spent much of the morning and early after skating and then sitting in the Rockefeller Center drinking cocoa (again!) and laughing.

If the holidays were always like these two days, we would never have holiday horror stories. We would never have fights and tears and aunts whispering about sisters-in-laws and dads frowning on boyfriends and moms generally trying (and failing to keep the peace.) The holidays can be extremely stressful. Even in the most even keeled of families, the pressure from outside forces can cause tensions to snap.

I just wanted to say before you all head out for the holidays, remember that your family is always going to be your family – you didn’t get to choose them, but they collectively are all yours. And by that right, your partner’s family is the same. Be kind and understanding. If you love your boyfriend or girlfriend these are the people that you’ll be surrounded by for the rest of your life. You may be lucky and have a great family that welcomes you in, but you could also step into a complicated situation. The holidays tend to over-complicate these already delicate situations, so be aware. Don’t let anything bum you out. If you are bummed out or feel slighted, wait until after you return home with your partner. The worst thing is to bring up something that hurt you while you’re still at the gathering. One it can upset your partner and could cause an all out brawl. When you can calmly explain how you felt to your partner, let them know that you had your feelings hurt by a member of his or her family and that you would like to understand why that may have happened. It could be a simple misunderstanding – families are all different and there are different customs that do come into play. Or it may be that there are family politics at play, and hopefully your partner can explain and make sure you are not dragged into anything messy in the future.

As with everything I’ve written about so far here in Cohabitable, communication is key. Express yourself and your feelings, but don’t let emotions take control of the conversation. You deserve to be respected and so does your partner. Remember that the holidays are about coming together – friends and family – not about arguments and divisiveness.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Festivus, Happy Winter Solstice!

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