Embarrassing family situations – and how to deal with them

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However much you love your family, you’re bound to still find elements of them embarrassing at times. You might feel equipped to deal with their…eccentricities…but if you’re ready to introduce a new beau to your family, you might be worried about how they’ll react.

The fact is that it’s relatively easy to control other areas of your life. If you’ve got embarrassing or annoying friends you can choose not to see them very often. But unlike those annoying friends there’s no escaping Aunty Pam – after all, blood is thicker than water, and you can’t really tell your mum not to invite her round to tea.

To help prepare you for any potential ‘I wish the ground would swallow me up’ moments when introducing your partner to your family we’ve identified some key situations, and explained how you can negotiate them to minimise the embarrassment.

The photo frenzy
You’ve not been in the house for more than two minutes and Mum is rooting through some old shoe boxes. Guess what? She’s decided now is the perfect time to showcase the family albums. There’s one of you in the paddling pool during that hot summer, and here’s another one of you grinning, proudly gap-toothed before your first school disco.
As the pages continue to be turned, you might be tempted to snap the album shut and try to create a distraction. Don’t. For one thing, your Mum is only showing how proud she is of you, and for another your partner will probably find it more endearing than terrifying. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to show you’re happy to laugh at yourself !

The quirky relatives
Everyone has relatives that seem to go out their way to embarrass them, without even trying. Perhaps grandma’s favourite trick is to take her teeth out after dinner and leave them in her water glass. Or maybe your nieces and nephews think it’s funny to wrap you up in sticky tape and give you a wedgie. Maybe Uncle Bob has a bad habit of talking loudly – and in detail – about his most recent visits to the doctor.

And maybe these are the people you’re dreading your partner meeting – you might even be hoping that you can put it off forever. But why? The fact is that it’s better to spend time with people who have personality, rather than crashing bores. As long as they’re not harming anyone, then you’ve got nothing to worry about – sit back and enjoy.

The relative stuck in 1956
Relatives will often be members of another generation – sometimes an older generation when the term ‘politically correct’ didn’t exist. Perhaps your Great Uncle John has some colourful (read ‘vaguely offensive’) words for people in ethnic minorities that make you a little uncomfortable. Unless your relatives are openly racist, homophobic, sexist or directing specific comments at your partner, resist the temptation to correct them to look PC in front of your loved one. They will know you wouldn’t condone that kind of language, but they should also know that generational differences exist and no malice is intended.

The one with no boundaries
There’s always at least one person in a family that gets too relaxed around new comers too soon. Perhaps it’s a younger brother who thinks it’s ok to break wind in public, or a dad who thinks that incessant teasing is the way to show someone you like them. This requires a two pronged attack. Firstly,  prep your family that this isn’t the kind of behaviour you expect. This might have some minimal effect. Secondly, prepare your other half. It’s the only way you can show that this kind of behaviour isn’t for their benefit alone.

The skeletons in the closet
Now we’ve tackled the small things, we come to the more serious situations. Most people have some issue, past episode or relative they’re not keen to talk about. Perhaps this is related to an addiction, a criminal past or family member who’s gone AWOL. The key to remember here is that these things crop up in every family unit in some form or another. If your partner is for keeps, they’ll probably find out about it sooner or later – it’s up to you how they find out. Confide in them and they’ll be prepared. Wait for someone to drunkenly blurt it out at a family meal and they won’t be.  You can’t change history, but you can try to make good decisions for the future.

If your partner passes the family test, well done to both of you. But, if they’re not prepared to accept you warts and all, maybe they’re not the person you thought they were.


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