The holidays are coming. Make sure that the biggest days of the year bring you closer, not farther apart…

The awkward relationship between significant others and their partner’s family is so common it’s often the primary trope of romantic comedies — “Meet the Parents,” anyone? Even if you’ve been through this several times before, it doesn’t seem to get much easier. And, of course, the stressful holiday season is always the primary time these meetups occur. So when you find yourself shoveling in mashed potatoes after accidentally offending his mother’s taste in clothing, think back to these tips.

1. Find a Common Interest.

With generation gaps and differing backgrounds, finding a common interest be tough. There has to be something you can all see eye-to-eye on. It doesn’t have to interest you personally, but maybe something you can connect with. For example, if your brother plays college football and so did your boyfriend’s dad or brother, you can use this as a conversation starter. Suggest going to see a game with the whole family or even just watching one on TV. But if you’re going to talk football, be sure you know your facts. This could be a deal maker or breaker.

2. Suck Up, Gorgeous.

Some girlfriends get too anxious to send gifts or give compliments because they don’t want to come off as a brown-noser. Sure, everyone will know that you’re trying to make a good impression, but that doesn’t mean the gesture won’t be appreciated. For example, if anyone in the family has a birthday between now and the holidays, send them birthday flowers for a small, surprise gift that will make their day better. You can even address it from the two of you to make your relationship more authentic. Plus, you’ll get most of the credit for this idea anyway, since it’s doubtful your boyfriend has had flowers delivered on his own before.

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3. Don’t Just Sit There. Help Out.

Relationships expert Gary Chapman cites “acts of service” as one of the five love languages. In other words, it’s one of the many ways you can express interest and affection to your boyfriend’s family members. Offering to help with dinner and cleanup should (hopefully) be a given, but go even further than this: Offer to take the dog for a walk one evening or watch his younger sister while his parents go out. Make sure to always ask if they need you to pick something up from the store while you’re out, and always bring a small dish or dessert over when you’re invited to dinner.

4. Above all, be Genuine.

It’s harder than it seems to be genuine — especially when you’re trying to make a good impression. But everyone can tell when you’re faking interest and happiness just for them. You don’t have to be a perfect little angel who’s always happy and positive when you’re around his parents. Let your guard down a little and focus on being open. For example, you can talk about your struggles to get good grades in high school or about a negative experience you had with your recent electronics purchase. Personalized stories that aren’t always happy-go-lucky help to humanize you and make you more relatable.

About today’s blogger Lindsey Waldorf. Lindsey is an engineer for a major tech company. She loves writing about tech and mobile trends, when she is not busy playing piano at her local jazz club.

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