Thanksgiving is a nail biter for at least one member of the newlywed couple. Generally the nervous person is the one who will play host to the other’s family. Yet even if the marriage has been humming along for years or decades, there is something unnerving about hosting your in-laws at the most important meal of the year. Take a deep breath and roll up your sleeves: there are some simple tips that make the occasion bearable and perhaps even enjoyable. After all, Thanksgiving is the time to be grateful for the blessings in life and – whether quirky or odd – in-laws are just some of these blessings.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Put up the in-laws in a nearby hotel for the duration of their stay. Do the same for your parents (if they are arriving from out of town). This helps to keep the boundaries of your home sacred and gives you a place where to retreat if things get a little out of hand at some point of their stays. Better yet, it allows you to time interactions in small doses, which also gives your family a bit of a break. Remember: the kids are just as stressed as you are with being on their best behaviors and having their every step scrutinized and perhaps also disciplined.
Hire a cleaning service. Trust me on this one: it is virtually impossible to clean your home yourself so that it will be acceptable to a picky mother-in-law. Professional cleaners may actually do a better job or – at the very least – ensure that you can pass the blame on to them if the abode does not meet the smell test. There is nothing more bonding than griping about the hired help.
Decorate the exterior and interior. A holiday wreath, cinnamon-scented candles, pine cones and pretty garlands give the home a festive appearance and remind all those present that this is not a business meeting but a time for friends and family to come together in gratitude.
Steer clear of the deadly four. These are topics sure to get the blood boiling and tempers flaring. What are these four deadly topics? Religion, politics, money and parenting issues. In-laws are notorious for making their children feel like they are 10 years old again and the spouse doesn’t fare much better. Avoid the lectures by simply not entering into a discussion even if the other party brings it up. A very wise woman once told me to nod, smile and then do what I was going to do all along. It works every time.
Ditch the centerpiece; put the turkey on the table. As odd as it may sound, McGill’s psychology department found out that putting the main course on the table during dinner – in plain view of everyone – actually had a calming effect on men seated around the table. Since the study was conducted on male volunteers only, it is anyone’s guess if the mother-in-law will follow suit and be mollified by the sight of the meat.
Skip the formalities. Unless you know that everyone in the family absolutely loves the idea of being told where to sit, let the guests decide for themselves whom they want to sit next to.
Skip the sauce. Alcohol loosens tongues and diminishes inhibitions. Do not give rise to an alcohol-fuel showdown between yourself and your in-laws. Instead, keep it non-alcoholic. If someone brings a bottle of wine (or five), simply serve it in very small glasses.
Mind you, there is no guarantee that the dinner with your in-laws will be harmonious, no matter how hard you try. Remember to let little slights pass by keeping in mind that after the holiday the in-laws will be on the next plane back home. If nothing else, stick close to your husband; together you’ll get through it.
The Vancouver Sun: “Seeing meat makes people less aggressive: McGill study”
More by Sylvia Cochran:
Thanksgiving Meal Menu Problems and Questions – Answered!
Relationship Advice for Interfaith Couples
Secrets to a Long Life: Mental Health, Plenty of Laughter and Sex