While you're there, what should you be looking for; to whom or what should you give any special attention?
So, you might find the suggestions (below) helpful. But, before you attend the event with your partner, be prepared to jot some personal "soon after the event" notes to yourself. These will be valuable to help you remember your specific, personal thoughts and feelings in response to the questions below:
What's the TONE?
- If this is a general family gathering, something your partner's family does every year, observe who attends, what kind of a mood is the family in, and is there any one person, or several people, who seem to set the tone for the rest of the group?
- As best you can, describe the group "tone" you felt. Use your own descriptive words and phrases and be as specific as you can about what you thought you observed and felt.
- If some of the family members do not attend, maybe you can get some information--ask some questions--to find out what those family members are doing, or maybe where they are, and whether their absence is unusual--or maybe it's typical for them?
- How well do you feel you "fit" into the tone of this family group--that's to say, if you were able to be around the family watching and listening "like a fly on the wall"--how would the dynamics of this group experience feel to you over time
Where's the LEADERSHIP?
- Who appears to be the principle organizer (or organizers?) of these kinds of events? Is this the same person--or the same people--who seem to set the tone for the group?
- What is your partner's relationship to, and what do you think is the level of comfort your partner has with the organizer(s)?
- Does your partner have a specific role and responsibilities? What are those responsibilities, and does your partner like these responsibilities? How can you tell?
- How well do you think your partner accomplishes those responsibilities?
- If your partner is NOT the organizer--or one of them--do you think the organizer(s) agree(s) with y our partner's assessment of his/her role? do you think the organizer(s) would agree with your assessment of your partner's role? What are your thoughts?
What are the ROLES and RELATIONSHIPS?
- What kind of a role does your partner appear to play in the family, and--as your partner's guest--how does your partner contribute to the tone you believe you hear and feel?
- Are these people in this family group "all alike" or are they all "completely different?" What is your opinion of them as a group? Individually?
- Be yourself; don't be somebody you're not. Engage with people the way you normally do and observe what happens, how people respond to you, and how that feels to you.
- Among the various members of this family group, who do you suspect you can relate to the best? The least? Why? What's going on for you (inside) as you respond to these questions?
OK. Have fun with this. If you do get a chance to attend each others family events...it's even better--icing on the proverbial cake!
I highly encourage you to find some "together" time after the holidays when you two can sit-down and share your respective observations--your answers to these questions--with one another. In and of itself, the experience of your sharing what you saw and felt can be a really valuable experience for your developing relationship. Among other things, it will give you some first-hand insight into each others family and help you sample some of the dynamics there. It can help you explore how you feel about them, personally, and then how well and how comfortably you can discuss your experiences, feelings, and perceptions with one another--as a team. I use the word, TEAM, because it accurately represents what you may become--together--in the not to distant future. (And how does that thought feel to you?)
Until next time...have fun...be safe...be smart!