Over the years, I have sat out from spending time with boyfriends', lovers' and partner's families simply by stating, "I won't be attending this year. I prefer some quiet time at home." Sure, a partner was disappointed at times, but when the time came to visit my relatives, did I even bother to ask? Nope. I know what it feels like to be pressured into going somewhere with a mate or a friend to see their people, their events, their whatever they are doing and you really have no interest. How long will one keep up the act? So I don't bother to pressure or place a guilt trip on any loved one or friend to be anywhere I will be. Besides, my current husband is lucky, my folks live 3000 miles away while his are in the same town. I don't attend all their events either.
The threat of not being liked, talked about, or judged because you didn't show up to an event will happen depending on the person hosting the get-together. If the special time is honoring a patriarch or matriarch of the family and you are a new comer in the family, then if you know you can make it, then make every effort to attend. But if you can't, send a card, a gift or a message through your partner. Some people have to work, care for children, have family emergencies, or end up getting a good deal on airfare to see their own relatives, so if a mate can't be there, he or she just can't. Making them feel bad about their choice is juvenile, selfish, and will start unnecessary issues especially in an already troubled relationship.
To be honest, when I opted out of meeting a date's family, it was because I knew the guys simply were no longer holding my interest and I wasn't interested in seeing any of them long term. This is typically a dead give-away that a relationship is really not as serious as it looks. Friends with benefits don't typically meet mom and dad and neither do fly-by-night sexual partners. However, those couples who have said things like, "I love you, I want to be in your life, I want what we have exclusive..." to partners are now obligating themselves to attend family events until they are comfortable enough in the relationship to say no to some family functions. They also have to have some time under their belts being with parents' beloved daughter or son for awhile before saying, "Not this year."
One of my relatives who has a long track record of saying, "No, I'm not going to see the in-laws for the holidays..." has gotten away with getting out of family functions, because he made himself available to the key relatives (just those closest to his wife not everyone) during other times of the year. If an errand needed to be run, something needed to be fixed, or someone was in trouble, he was typically there. So he has been able to opt out of family get-togethers, reunions, birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, and New Years celebrations, because he has done good things for his wife's family for decades throughout the year.
So if you are planning to opt out of your Sweetie or Sweetheart's family event or party, be sure of the following:
1. You have been seen around the family enough to do so. If you are a new-comer, I wouldn't advise it.
2. Consider how many years you have invested in a relationship with your significant and how many other family related events you have been to this year with this person. You are due for a break if it is more than enough.
3. If you plan on going elsewhere before the day of the event, be sure the main people (your partner's closest relatives) know this.
4. Be sure you have discussed your plans before the day of the event. If he or she grumbles, complains or does other things because, "I really wanted you to be there..." reiterate your reason and then say nothing. The more you talk about it, the more likely it will lead to an argument.
5. Don't assume relatives will be okay with your opting out. Some just might use your absence as a stick to crack your head with later. Whatever they say or do, make no apologies when confronted by a trouble-maker, just remain quiet and walk away. I learned this from a man in a 30 plus year marriage. He will leave an event early if the family acts disrespectful or says one too many rude things.
6. Above all, stand your ground with partner and in-laws. If they don't like you, they will respect you.
Keep in mind, most relatives don't care that much if in-laws come or don't, they are most concerned with seeing their blood kin anyway, so don't think too much about what others are going to think. Instead, focus on that free time you are going to have yourself and make the most of it!
Nicholl McGuire is the author of Laboring to Love an Abusive Mate and Laboring to Love Myself.