Dealing with family dinners

Two young people are sitting on a wall asking the question, what is a man?

So you’re faced with an invitation to some family dinners that you just can’t refuse. Even if it’s from a Great Aunt you’ve never met, a no-show on your part could be held against you for a lifetime. So what else can you do but smile and ask what time you should turn up. To find out more about the relatives that you might be faced with, click here

Although you can’t avoid it, you can follow this plan of action to get through the meal without incident…

Accept your fate 

There’s no point seething or even trying to slide out of it. You’ll only risk offending your host, or finding yourself faced with an offer to reschedule. It’s far less painful to just rip the bandaid off quickly; accept it’s going to happen with dignity and grace.

Do your homework for family dinners 

Try to find out what tickles your host’s fancy. OK, so they’re into golf and organic gardening. That’s fine. Each to their own right? Unfortunately, if you want to make this dinner date headache-free then at the very least know your clubhouse from your compost. Five minutes of research on the internet should equip you with enough questions to kick-start a conversation.

Make the effort

OK, you’re about to undergo the most mind-numbing, hideous evening of your life. But we promise that you’ll get through it without losing the ability to blink. It’s important to remember that you’re not being tortured here (although it may feel like it). We actually recommend establishing a dialogue with the person threatening to do your head in. So go in with a smile and a good question, grit your teeth and let them buy the image of you as the perfect family member. That way, you’ve done your bit and can get on with your life without giving them a second thought.

Find common ground 

You might think you have nothing in common with your hosts, but you’re family – you share at least some DNA, even if you don’t want to admit it – so there’s a start! It’s just a question of probing them gently until you find something you identify with. There’s no point asking them whether they rate Harry Styles over Lady Gaga if they’ve never even turned on MTV. Instead, steer them towards the subject of music and let them think they’re setting the conversation agenda.

Don’t be afraid to disagree at family dinners 

If your host has strong views, on anything from politics to football then by all means get ready to rumble. There’s nothing like a good debate to make a dinner party memorable. Just monitor how things are progressing throughout. Nobody wants to hear your argument about the impact of Brexit on the cost of carrots – not even carrot farmers – so make sure that your subject matter is as stimulating as it is stirring. And don’t make it personal. As a general rule of thumb, if things wind up in a fistfight on the patio, you’ve gone too far.

Avoid getting hammered at family dinners 

The prospect of sedating yourself on someone else’s wine might be appealing, but alcohol lowers inhibitions. This means you’re more likely to say what you really think, without realising it until the room goes quiet and the host bursts into tears. By all means enjoy a drink, but don’t use it as a way to get through a bad night. If you go with that tactic, odds are the night’ll be memorable for everyone but you. Not to mention it’ll be for completely the wrong reasons.

. . . and breathe!” (until the next batch of family dinners) 

No matter how much you’re dreading the dinner date, focus on when it’s time to get your coat and leave. That moment will come. In the meantime, reign in your excitement and find a way to work off the stress once you get home. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it leaves you in the frame of mind to accept that some time soon you’ll have to repay their hospitality. Just make sure you’re up for round two when you send out the e-vite. Gotta maintain those family relationships, after all. Arggghhhhh!

Next Steps

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 24-Nov-2022