Imagine this scenario. You’re at your beloved’s parent’s house. They have just busted their backs preparing an 18 course meal for you and your honey schmoople. Thing is, you eat this stuff and it’s gross, and you’re pretty sure you’re allergic to some of it too. But you know that people who complain to their partner’s parents are terrible jerks, and therefore you’re nearly optionless. I mean, you could either eat that food until you choke, or break their sad little old people hearts. So what’s going on here?
You have entered a state of guessing. It may look like a scenario with two options but it’s not (that’s stupid). And yeah, the scenario I created is silly, but that’s not the problem.
Imagine this instead: You talk to your partner beforehand and say “Hey, I know we’re going to your parent’s house and I am hella allergic to a few things, so I want to know what you think. Should I give your family a list so they avoid those things?” your partner says, “No! We have deep family traditions, we make these 18 things and that’s how it is.”
I should probably just eat this and shut the hell up.
Now what? Well, “Can I bring my own food?” Your partner says, “Egad! Were you raised by wolves? No, no, no! That’s super insulting!”
“Well fuck those guys!” “Sadly I won’t be able to go, it seems your family rules are too inflexible. Perhaps I can take your parents out to dinner sometime instead. I’d love to meet them after all.” BAM.
“What the heck,” you might say, “I thought I was already at the house eating their crummy food; this didn’t help at all.” Well, what’s the point of giving you some tactic to cope with the bad choice you made to begin with when instead I can show you the rules to the game? Besides, the scenario is only hypothetical, so no parents were harmed by it. The deal is, saying anything at the parent’s house when you’re already there is just reacting and nothing more. It’s more effective to hop in and understand a situation before you get into it. This can sometimes take guts. I mean, look back at what I was asking your theoretical beloved. I bet there are some relationships where those questions would be fighting words (sadly).
In any situation where we know less than we feel comfortable with yet we’re expected to make an important decision we have a delicious recipe for stress. Typically, we accept this as our fate. A partber asks us to go to their parent’s for dinner, and even though it’s scary we rationalize, “But I have to go, so I have to just say yes.” You’re guessing that yes is the only thing you can say here. In fact, you have another option: Asking questions. “Do I have to wear a tie?” Maybe you think you have to, but you’re not sure, so this is something you should ask (and expect an honest answer). I think sometimes if you do this guessing crap a lot, you probably attracted another guesser, so that person might just say, “No, of course you should wear whatever you want,” (even if you’ll be bled to death by leeches if you fail to wear a tie) which sucks, honestly, but that’s an issue outside the scope of this article.
But what to ask? How do you know what you should ask to prevent disasters? Anything you feel nervous or uncomfortable not knowing about, you should ask. This can sometimes take work and practice, so obviously you’ll mess it up sometimes when you start doing this. “Do your parents hate fat people like me? Do I deserve to eat? Is this a chance for your family to mock me?” are unreasonable shit questions that have more to do with yourself than anything to do with the parents. That doesn’t mean your fears are stupid, you can use the fear to ask excellent questions: “Dearest, if I get too overwhelmed by your terrifying parents and I have to leave with a really great exit excuse will you be mad at me?” or “If your parents hate me what will that mean for you and me?” These are totally legit and if they’re on your mind, failing to ask will cause you tons of stress. And chances are, the answer they give you will be favorable. When that happens you get to prevent unnecessary stress for everyone, and all you had to do was ask a question.