Best Ways to Avoid Family Hostility This Thanksgiving?

This Thanksgiving I am flying to Texas to spend the holidays with my family. My conservative, evangelical Christian family. The last time I spent Thanksgiving with my family there was talk about what a great president GW is and my grandma cried because my cousin hadn’t been baptised yet. I am very liberal and I try not to talk about religion with any of my family members because I don’t share their views. (My dad got very upset over that whole 10 Commandments in the courthouse thing several years ago because he felt that if Christianity was good enough for our founding fathers it should be good enough for the rest of the nation. Where is a vomiting smilie when you need one?)

This year will be a special treat though. You see, this year they have insisted that I bring my new boyfriend to meet them! My incredibly liberal boyfriend who just so happens to be Jewish. They actually bought him a plane ticket so that he can come and meet the family. I am very glad that they want to meet him because, except for the whole politics and religion thing, we tend to get along very well. We don’t scream or fight or anything like that until someone mentions one of the two big conversational land mines. This year has been a difficult one because of the election. The last 3 times I have talked to my father the conversation has turned into me defending myself against his political attacks even after I have told him I really don’t want to talk about the election. I swear, if I hear him say, “I like Obama. He is a really smart guy, but…” one more time I will find a way to stab him through the phone.

We will be staying with my parents for 4 days and, though we have lots of activities planned during that time, there will be much conversation and being so close to the election I can only imagine that things will be steered that way at least once or twice. And as a double plus bonus because it is so close to Christmas I am sure there will be at least one mention of, “Jesus is the reason for the season” or something similar.

I have told my parents he is Jewish. They know he and I are both pretty liberal. I am hoping that they will have discussed this with the rest of the family and that people will find other things to talk about. I have told him not to bring up politics or religion when talking to them either. I also told him not to bring up sex as a conversation topic but that is for totally different reasons. :stuck_out_tongue: I can’t think of much else except what I have already done, which is warn them all that if they want a pleasant family experience to please avoid said topics.

However, when these things inevitably come up what is the best way to change the topic or stop the conversation before someone is offended? I figure I can only fake choking on turkey* or something like that once so I have to have at least a couple of other conflict avoidance techniques to use. I don’t want to have my boyfriend think negatively of my family and I don’t want my family to think negatively of him either. What do you do with your family to keep the peace?
*I don’t actually plan to do this but I am not above it should it become necessary.

At least the election will be over, so they will either be gloating mercilessly or complaining mercilessly. Maybe they will have gotten over the election by then and you guys can talk about Christmas instead. All you can do is tell them that neither of you will be discussing politics or religion and that you will get up and leave the room if either is brought up.

To be perfectly honest i think you are in for a lot of pain. Specially if Obama wins the election, which he probably will. If your dad can’t contain himself on the phone its going to be a lot worse in person.

If things get heated, prompt your boyfriend to excuse himself, saying it’s time for him to daven shaharit (morning prayers), minchah (afternoon), or maariv (evening) as appropriate. Make sure he insists that you join him. Act like you’re learning Judaism and going to be an active participant. Make a moderate scene about how it’s important to his Jewish practice, then eventually you two leave the room for a half hour. Repeat as necessary.

What you actually do during that half hour is left as an exercise for the interested student.

You need to learn to end the conversation. You’re a grownup now. You don’t have to acquiesce. You can draw the line on certain issues.

For example, you say you’ve told your dad that you don’t want to talk about the election on the phone, but then you find yourself defending your positions. So do you want to talk about it or not? Or do his wishes always supersede yours? If so, why?

Anyway, if you really didn’t want to talk about it, you could simply refuse to talk about it.
Dad: <political stuff>
pbbth: Sorry, dad, I really don’t want to talk about it.
Dad: <political stuff>
pbbth: I said I didn’t want to talk about it.
Dad: <political stuff>
pbbth: If you continue to insist on talking about this, I’m going to hang up the phone.
Dad: <political stuff>
pbbth: <click>

He’d be angry, I’m sure, but you will have made your point. Better than being someone who says one thing and does another.

Then you can extend this into Thanksgiving.

I mean, some of it you’ve gotta let just roll off your back. Like the “reason for the season” stuff. Believe me, Jews are used to being the minority. It will probably bother you more than it does him.

But the other stuff–you can simply get up and leave the room.

Or you can cheerfully inform your relatives that in Judaism, fucking is a mitzvah. And a double-mitzvah on Friday nights!* Well, it’ll get them talking about something other than the election, anyway. :slight_smile:

*you can leave out the part where you’re supposed to be married and all when you do it

Don’t go. If you do go, drink alot. If you don’t drink, just slap on a pie-eating grin, nod, and agree with everything they say.

Why do you feel obligated to go in the first place.

Because my 75 year old grandfather, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, called me and told me he is flying from Michigan to Texas to be with my family for what could be his last Thanksgiving and he insisted on buying me a ticket too because he wants us all to be there. Then my parents insisted on buying my boyfriend a ticket to go with me because his mom is visiting his sister who lives out of the country so he doesn’t have any family in the area and was going to end up volunteering at a soup kitchen for the holidays if he didn’t go with me.

There was no getting out of this one. I don’t think there is a way to turn down a free trip to spend the holidays with your dying grandpa. My boyfriend could’ve gotten out of it but he does want to meet my family. I just wish he were meeting them in July or something so there were no holidays or elections looming.

Sorry to hear about your Grandfather. Suck it up and smile. Think of all the questions you would like to ask him about his life. You might be surprised how many interesting stories pop out. Make this about him and let it dominate the conversation, You might even want to bring a video recorder with you. Make lemonade out of lemons.

Serious suggestions first:

Have a discussion about charities besides their church - look them up for the ratio of giving to fund raising. Everyone should choose one, talk about it, and contribute to it this season instead of exchanging gifts

Go out and volunteer for a portion of your thanksgiving. Give the meals-on-wheels folks a break. Pass out food or serve at a shelter. Their church is probably doing something along those lines (hopefully without too many religious overtones).

You could buy dad a subscription in the SDMB if they are online. Tell him, “Whatever you do, don’t visit the PIT”.:):slight_smile: Should enliven your future phone conversations!

Add Snopes to his favorites or switch it to his home page on the browser.

How about UT (or Texas Tech should they pull the upset). Think Colt is serious about coming back for his senior year?

How’s local football (high school)?

Jerry Jones and Cowboys should fill about a full day - Pacman Jones anyone?

Houston is coming back with 3 wins in a row.

NBA - Rockets will be strong this year - Spurs always tough.

In my family the way we avoid problems is the good old method called “What was the weather like in 1938?”

You could answer with the tried and true lines “Well, isn’t that special (in TX, spay-shul)” or “Bless his/her heart”, whichever seems appropriate at the time. :smiley:

Magiver presents a good strategy. You could easily and sincerely make this about your Grandpa. Old farts like to tell their stories, and there may be more there than you realise- if you have the courage to go there, there are possible tensions between him and his child/your other parent/both of them- that usurp other topics, possibly putting family dynamics in a light capable of examination by all. I am presuming your parents already have an unconditional love for you, thus your attendance. There could well be some tense moments but unless they pay only the most egregious lip service to Christian belief, at some point theory becomes practice and things get real, love-wise. If Gpa is a dying man he may have very low tolerance for blatherskite, ballyhoo and bicker bicker bicker.

This is exactly the lesson I learned in my mid-20s with my parents. My dad gets pretty heated when people don’t believe what he believes and he went on a rant during one of our visits because I didn’t agree with him on whatever the issue du jour was then (sorry, thats over 20 years ago!). He went on and on and I finally looked at him and said, “Dad, I’m an adult now and I’m allowed to have my own opinion about stuff and this time my opinion is different from yours.” My mom was sitting there too and her jaw dropped and she literally clapped for me, which was just kind of surreal. Even better, he backed off and now that I think of it, he really doesn’t do that around me any more.

So practice the lines you will use to politely end the conversation (and you do need to practice because when emotions get going, it can be hard to remember what you planned to do). Then do it. Be repetitive, maybe poke a little fun at yourself for being so repetitive but stick to it. NO ONE can make you participate in a conversation you don’t want to have.

I also agree with this approach. I’d combine this with the other suggestion about this being a gathering for your grandpa and remind folks of that if it gets heated and they try to draw you in. I’d say something along the lines of “Look, we already know we have different opinions about politics and religion. But we’re here for grandpa, and this is family time. I’m not going to spend it arguing.” I wouldn’t say it in an angry or defensive way. I’d say it with love, because even though family can drive us insane, they’re still family, and someday, we all die. You never know who might not be at the next gathering, but it’s easy to forget that and take each other for granted. Most family members have things we love about them, even if there are things that drive us up the wall.

It’s really hard to argue with that. Who is going to say, “No, I’d rather fight than be with my seriously ill grandpa who is the reason we all came together.” And if anyone does make that argument, their loss. No need to engage with them and make it your loss too. Think of the things you love about each member of your family, and try to keep the focus on that, and let them know that’s what you’re doing if it comes to that.

This might be hard to get out in a reasonable fashion, but that’s exactly where I’d be.

“Look, I have a completely different point of view than you do and this is going to get mighty uncomfortable if we keep walking down this road. (grandpa) invited us to come down and we’d really like to have a pleasant time with HIM rather than an unpleasant time arguing with YOU. So can we just let this go for now?”

Bring along something silly like a stuffed animal–you can probably pick up a silly beanie baby at a resale store. Exchange it every time you hear an insensitive comment. “Oooo insensitive political comment, my turn to hold the ostritch/vulture/turtle.” “Hey, honey, insensitive religious comment, my turn.” My brothers and I did this on a vacation with my parents. They didn’t seem to actually be aware of how often they made these comments–it was like background noise to them. They asked us to stop it and we pointed out that they were in total control of stopping us–all they had to do was stop stomping on our feelings. One of my proudest moments was when my mother caught one of my brothers making an inflmmatory liberal comment. She laughed and demanded the Cabbage Patch doll. Because of course, a lot of the time we don’t notice our own inflammatory comments. :slight_smile:

Glue the hint of horns to your boy friend’s head and occasionally have a forked tail peep out the back of his pants. They’ll be so busy watching him they won’t have time for politics. Maybe have him do a briss on the turkey before it’s cooked as well.

Say it, once, about the adult thing. It’s time to get it out - I’m an adult now, and I am different from you, and not a copy.

Then - this is the first time your boyfriend’s coming home, right? I have often successfully derailed my family in the middle of a rant by asking for stories.

“Hey, tell him about the time I learned to eat from a spoon. Didn’t you say I did it real early?”


“Hey, can you tell him some stories about grandpa (or whomever)? You know i love hearing those stories.”

This will probably work part of the time. But no matter what you are in for some pain. Practice smiling and shutting up now. And yes, practice your lines.


You have the “good Holiday Problem”. I was afraid you were going to be talking about the bad one - some people have the saddest stories here about their families that don’t love them plus are jackasses. Yours loves you, but make awkward family meals and you don’t feel you fit in, plus you’re worried about your boyfriend - I mean, hell, it’s awkward enough to be a boyfriend guest at somebody else’s holiday when they’re not a) paying your ticket, and b) making you more uncomfortable than normal. But there’s love behind it. Keep that in mind. And kiss your grandpa.