Meeting the Parents: How to Make Your First Holiday Visit Stress-Free

For most people, the holiday season means plenty of family time, which can bring laughter and closeness or tension and uneasiness—sometimes both in the span of just one visit. This is especially true if you’re spending the holidays with a significant other and meeting the parents for the first time.

Although it’s bound to happen in most serious relationships, the hectic nature of the holidays can easily compound the first-time jitters: you want to make a great impression, gain their approval, and still manage to enjoy the festivities with your partner. This survival guide will help you navigate the situation without your inner Clark Griswold coming out.     

Make Travel as Easy as Possible

According to a recent holiday analysis, the average person travels around 275 miles during the holidays. Traveling is stressful, from planning the stops on your road trip to making it to your gate on time. Whether you’re driving or flying, make this portion of the trip stress-free so you step off the plane ready to mingle and meet everyone.

The best way to make this happen is to plan ahead. If you’re renting a car, get that taken care of now. If you’re traveling on a plane, get your itinerary memorized so there’s no last-minute surprises. Don’t forget to bring food so no one gets “hangry” and pack headphones so you can tune out the chaos of the airport.

Arrive with a Flexible Attitude

Inflated or unrealistic “expectations breed disappointment” in families, but lowering your demands can “mitigate exasperation,” suggests Erris Langer-Klapper, relationship blogger  for the Huffington Post. While it’s normal to hope for a positive outcome and warm reception, you should also keep in mind the actions of others are outside your control.

Be flexible and adaptable for the duration of your visit to deflect awkward situations or abrasive members of your S.O.’s family. The only attitude you are responsible for is your own and arguments, steeped in deep-seeded family history, is no place for you.

Get Involved in the Preparations

Volunteer for a specific role in the holiday preparations to keep yourself occupied. “In general, people are more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation if they have something to do,” says Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, licensed marriage and family counselor.

Luckily, in a busy holiday household, it won’t be hard to find easy tasks to takeover. Offer to chop the vegetables, baste the turkey, mash the potatoes or set the table before dinner, then pitch in to clean dishes once the meal is over. Your willingness to help out will bode well for making a good impression and it might even give you a chance to strike up a conversation with your significant other’s parents or relatives as you work alongside them.  

Find Downtime for Yourself

The idea of designating alone time is often met with resistance because it can appear selfish or antisocial, especially during this people-oriented time of year. Yet, it’s critical for a stress-free trip:

“When you practice self-care, you’re practicing self-compassion. As you offer compassion to yourself, you can offer compassion to others. During the holidays, we are so quick to give our time and energy that we can end up feeling depleted afterwards,” says Stephanie Harrison, Huffington Post contributor.

Grant yourself permission to withdraw temporarily from the noise and action to re-energize. Practice meditation, read, journal, take a walk and embrace the quiet solitude for a short while.

Plan an Exit Strategy if Needed

This may sound extreme or unnecessary, but it doesn’t mean you need to create a plan to bail early. Rather you “should agree beforehand how long to stay and then leave at the predetermined time,” advises Deanna Brann, in her book Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along with Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law.

Knowing when you plan to depart can give you the patience needed to tolerate a stressful environment. If necessary, you can have a last-minute exit strategy in case those unfamiliar family dynamics prove difficult to handle. Decide this together, before heading inside, so you can both be ready if necessary.

Meet the Parents

The holidays can be stressful and meeting the parents can only add to the chaos—but it doesn’t have to. Use these ideas to alleviate the tension and free yourself up to embrace the seasonal festivities. You might even come to find common ground with your significant other’s family, so remember to keep an open-mind and be ready for anything.

Surviving the Holidays as a Fabulous Singleton

There are certain times of the year when there is more of a focus on whether you’re in a relationship or not. If we can put aside the dreaded Valentine’s day for now, then Christmas has got to be top of the list.

An endless stream of romantic comedies fills the TV schedule, and all of them seem to end with a happily-ever-after-beginning kiss, timed perfectly with the arrival of much-loved snow.

Back in reality, a lot of us are watching the credits roll from our singly occupied bed, wondering why we still haven’t had that perfect movie finish.

The other major influence that brings singleton shame during the holidays, is family. Never-before seen Great Aunts appear as if from nowhere, to question you about the intimate details of your dating life, and inquire about marriage and kids.

As a season known for its vastly available liquor and food, it’s tempting to try to drown the sorrows. However, there is an alternative.

This holiday season, it’s time to embrace and love your single status.

Embrace Your Singleton Status

Unless you’re in a relationship already, it’s highly improbable that you’ll be paired up and madly in love by the time Santa comes a ’jingling. Life just ain’t like the movies, kid.

The worst thing you can do for your love life -and your self-esteem- is go on a mad dash to find ‘the one’ between now and Christmas. The second worst thing you can do is sit around feeling sorry for yourself and lamenting all over everyone else’s joy.

It’s time to pull up your Christmas Stockings, and accept that this holiday season your sleigh will be flying solo.

Don’t Let Them Needle You

No, this isn’t referring to the Christmas tree, but to the (probably) well-meaning others that will be asking more questions than a quiz show host.  Prepare a stock answer before the holiday parties begin, so that you’re prepared. Keep it short and simple, and have a question ready to ask back to move the conversation along. Remember, there’s no shame in being single, no matter what your second-cousin twice removed thinks.

Change the Channel, Flip the Script

You’re the lead in your own Christmas movie and right now it’s not looking like a romance, so it’s time to change your expectations and switch to a different genre. Go ‘action adventure’ and pack and your holiday schedule full of new and exciting activities that won’t require a co-star, like snow sports or sledding.

Maybe you’re feeling more of a ‘Hangover’ vibe and want to get in some quality time with quality people. Find your glitziest outfit, half-drown yourself in glitter and take to the town to make this Christmas the ‘merriest’ one yet.

Whatever way your holiday movie goes, make it a blockbuster.

Want to be the lead in your own romantic movie? Visit dating advice expert Michael Valmont

10 Fun Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Couples

Whether it’s a new relationship or you’ve been together for years, holiday shopping can be stressful. Unlike the big-ticket items that go under the tree, you can have a little more fun with less-expensive gifts for your beau’s stocking. In this gift guide, I’ve put together some of my favorite items for under $25. So as you hang your stockings by the chimney with care, here are 10 stocking stuffers for when love is in the air.

Couples Mugs & Holiday Mugs

Heat up the cold winter nights with hot chocolate or your favorite beverage of choice. Go the romantic route and get cute couples cups or give your girlfriend or boyfriend a festive holiday mug.

Wireless Earbuds

Help your girl or guy rock out to their favorite holiday music or workout playlist with a new pair of wireless earbuds. For under $25, these Bluetooth earbuds are perfect for the office, travel or the gym.

Funny Face Coasters

 These Funny Face Coasters do so much more than prevent rings on your coffee table. Slip them on your nose to change your appearance; we guarantee they’ll be a hit for a night in or a holiday party!

Texting Gloves

 With these touch-screen gloves, your sweetie’s hands will stay warm and he or she can still use their mobile device. Whether they want to post the perfect selfie or send a holiday snap, these texting gloves will make your boyfriend or girlfriend feel #blessed.

Bubble Bath or Body Wash

 Make sure your girl or guy feels fresh, clean and pampered this holiday season. This Everyone 3-in-1 Soap smells delicious and can be used as a shampoo, body wash or bubble bath; perfect for a little TLC.

Gift Cards

Gift cards are the best stocking stuffer for the girl or guy who has everything. Grab an iTunes gift card, a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant, or a Visa or American Express card they can use wherever they want.

Custom Phone Cases

 Have a favorite pic of the two of you? Grab the best photos from Facebook or Instagram and turn them into a personalized phone case. 

Date Night Activity Vouchers

Do you have a special activity you love to do together? Whether it’s movie night, ice skating or a wine and paint outing, grab a few date-night deals and surprise your sweetie with a night out on the town.


From gourmet chocolate to holiday favorites like candy canes and chocolate snowmen, candy is the go-to stocking stuffer for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Festive Socks

Socks were the gift you were never excited about as a kid, but most adults appreciate a cute, comfy pair. No matter what your S.O. is into, find a pair to strike their fancy and keep their feet warm and toasty.

Enjoy the holidays with your special someone. Grab one or a few of these items to fill their stocking and spread the holiday cheer!

The Ultimate 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Baby it’s cold outside, which means it’s time for the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping!

Finding the right gifts can be quite tricky depending on what type of person you’re buying for, so I’ve broken down this year’s Holiday Gift Guide into a couple common categories, to give you a head start on gifts for: the techie, gamer, the long term lover, the DIY-er, the foodie, the cocktail enthusiast, the “we just started dating”, and the brainiac.

The Techie & Gamer


Google Home Mini: “Ok Google, make Christmas dinner for me.” Maybe it can’t make your holiday feast, but this gadget can pretty well do everything else, hands-free.

Nintendo Switch: Gamers have been buzzing over Nintendo Switch since its release a year ago. Give the gift of gaming on a plane, a big screen at home or a tablet.

Oculus Rift: In the words of singer, Jamiroquai, “futures….made of….virtual insanity.” Oculus rift is one of the straight up coolest gifts on the market for any techie. Step into another reality with this VR, one of a kind, headset.

The “we just started dating”

To buy or not to buy, I say go the safe route and buy, even something little is a good call!

Gift Card – This is the one time a gift card is acceptable and probably most appreciated. You’ve been on a couple dates, so you have an idea of what makes this person tick, but don’t want to get too specific and/or over the top.

Bottle of Booze: You’ve probably gone for drinks with your new boo, and know what their preferred drink of choice is. Why not treat them to their favorite bottle of whiskey, wine, or growler of beer!

Flowers/Chocolate: These two gifts are the epitome of a nice gesture and both are simple, inexpensive and casual, so if your date doesn’t get you anything they won’t be too embarrassed.

The DIY God/Godess

DIY date night: You may not be the craftiest person yourself, but boy, can your partner make a killer bar of soap. Step into their realm and do some DIY as a couple – here are some ideas to steer you in the right direction; candle making, fresh pasta making, face masks. Your partner will be so thrilled you took an interest in their passion.

Scrapbook: You know he/she has kept every concert stub, pamphlet, wristband and needs a place to put these things! DIY-ers LOVE scrapbooking. Buy a joint scrapbook and add some special mementos to get them started. Even if they decide to rearrange them, it shows you tried and they will love you for it.

Organizer: Just pinterest DIY shelf organizer and boom, buy any one of those shelving units for your crafty beau. They will be elated that you understand their desire to be organized.

The Food Lover

Ultimate dining experience: Perhaps your foodie has a favorite restaurant that you two save for “special occasions” because it is trés chere for a casual date night. Treat your S.O. to a feast they’ll never forget!

Gourmet Spice Rack: I bet you never thought of this one. Although it may not be the sexiest of gifts, it’s definitely spicy and a foodie’s dream gift set. You can find beautiful artisan sets here and here.

Pizza Stone: If they don’t like pizza, I have a hard time believing they are a food lover. Pizza stones are a no mess cooking stone that will amplify your homemade fresh pizza pie! If you want to really impress your date, buy them a stone that can be used on the bbq. Bbq pizza is one way to a food lover’s heart.

The Brainiac

The Hottest Board Game: But which game to buy? For those who are totally lost, start with the Pandemic series of games, or the classic – Settlers Of Catan.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry: Written by the man himself, Neil Degrasse Tyson, explains the nature of space and time. This also holds the  #9 spot on the New York Times Best Nonfiction Sellers List.

Wicked Smaht T-Shirt: If your S.O. hasn’t seen the film Good Will Hunting yet, I highly suggest you make them watch it before you gift them this t-shirt to avoid them missing the reference and jumping straight to correct the spelling on the t-shirt.

The Long Time Lover

Scavenger Hunt: This is a winning idea that I stole from a friend who seamlessly pulled it off. He ended the scavenger hunt by asking my best friend to marry him NBD *sobs. Now you can do this yourself (engagement optional of course) by creating a whole day scavenger hunt of all your firsts together – first date, first kiss, first “I love yous,” by planting puzzles and clues around the city.

Frame the Vows: I’ll admit, another idea taken from my father which had my whole family in tears one Xmas morning. My parents originally wrote their vows on the back of a hydro bill (real romantic) and after 30 years of marriage, my father found them in the attic one day. Without telling my mother, he had their vows professionally printed on beautiful parchment paper and framed. Sentimental pieces are the perfect way to warm up the heart this holiday season.

Matching PJ Onesies: There’s no better way to scream cutest couple than to have matching pjs on Xmas morning. You and your beau will want to stay in these jammies all day and cuddle! Bonus, you reap the benefits with this gift too.

Cocktail + Wine + Beer Enthusiast

Personal Carry On Cocktail Kit: Fly high with this wonderful little gem of a kit which contains a bar spoon/muddler, cane sugar and small batch bitters along with a linen coaster…because your beau is classy like that. All you need to do is order a mini bottle of bourbon from the lovely flight crew and you have yourself x2 old fashions.

Wine Tasting/Brewery Tour: Set up a beer tour and tasting flight for two! Or if your date is a wine connoisseur of sorts, look into the closest winery tour and book a spot for the both of you. You can even make a weekend trip out of it, as many wineries have B&B’s near by.

Bespoke Barware: Oak aging barrels, copper mugs and stainless steel ice cubes anyone? Every cocktail enthusiast loves to add to their barware. Check out the latest pieces Bespoke has to offer!



Ghosts Of Exes Past – 3 Tips To End Your Bad Dating Habits

Between the mistletoe, sappy TV adverts, and Mariah Carey songs, it’s easy to fall under the Christmas romance spell.

Side effects of the Christmas romance spell include: wondering if Dave from the Accounts Departments is actually your one true love, or spending a lot of time at the ice rink waiting to fall into the arms of Prince/Princess charming!

**Spoiler alert: Dave probably isn’t your soul mate, but even if he is, tequila-drunk at the Christmas party isn’t the best time to explore this option.

If you’re serious about finding romance this Christmas, it’s time to look away from the spell-bounding glitter and twinkling lights, and start reflecting on what habits you may want to change.

Ignore the Ghosts of Romances Past

You’re back in your hometown for Christmas and out for a few drinks at your old local. It’s snowing outside. The pub door swings open and in he/she walks: your ex. It all feels a bit magical, right?


It’s a pretty stark truth that not many of us like to hear, but if a relationship didn’t work in the past, it probably won’t work again in the future.

Now I know what you’re thinking – your relationship is different:

 “It just wasn’t the right time or circumstances back then. We can make it work this time.” 

Honestly, you most likely won’t make it work this time either. You’re only going back because it may be comfortable, easy and familiar. And there’s snow.

Remember: You’re the Present

If going on a date feels more like a job interview than having fun, you may need to re-think your approach. Rather than trying spew as many impressive facts about yourself, remember a conversation takes two to tango! Ask questions about them and get to know each other through thoughtful conversation.

You need to remember that you’re the prize that your date would be lucky to win. Know your own self-worth and your natural fabulousness will shine brighter than the star atop your tree.  Get more confidence with some advice from yours truly: dating expert Michael Valmont.

Keep your Drive Towards the Future

It’s easy to become despondent whilst dating, especially at Christmas. Between nosy Aunts at family parties and endless engagements, you might feel under pressure to be in a relationship.

Don’t panic and rush into a relationship with the wrong person.

Think of dating like being stuck in traffic: it feels like you’re not moving. It’s tempting to get off at the next exit and figure out how to get to the destination from there.

Remember that even though it feels like you’re not getting very far, you are headed in the right direction. Don’t settle for the relationship equivalent to a road paved with speed bumps. You know where you want to be. Don’t lose your direction.