It’s never easy to deal with frustrating family members and awkward situations between relatives, but in a time when divorce is all too familiar and the word “family” has taken on endless definitions, many of us have gotten a grip on what works in our own tribes. You know who’s talking to whom — and more importantly, who’s declared they are never speaking again — and what conversations to avoid around the holiday table. Congratulations, you’ve mastered your clan!

Unfortunately, if you’re dating, that’s only half the battle. Coming into your S.O.’s family drama is like getting caught up on 10 seasons of a soap opera you’ve never even heard of. Since binge watching all of that back story is next to impossible when you’re starting up a new relationship (who has the time?), here are five tips to stepping into your boo’s family drama that will help avoid driving a wedge between you and your special someone.

friends at a dinner party

1. Respect the history. If you have a hunch that there’s a big awkward elephant hanging in the room whenever your S.O. brings up their family, resist the urge to dig for more information. Respect that this story may be much deeper than you realize, and trust that you’ll learn what you need to learn — when your S.O. is ready for you to learn it.

2. Don’t blend your baggage. You may think you’re a pro at managing the tricky quirks of your own family, but your S.O. is likely not interested in comparing your situations. Establish a distance between how you would handle a similar situation in your own family and how your S.O. approaches their unique case.

3. Put a smile on. If the time has come to face your S.O.’s frustrating family in person, follow the cliché rule of thumb and kill them with kindness. It’s not up to you to fight your bae’s battles, and it will make both of you look good if you can rise above and act like you have no idea about the tension. Drama? What drama?

Couple not talking after argument

4. You can’t fix this. Just like you can’t change a person to make them who you want them to be, you can’t change their relationships to fit a model that makes you more comfortable. Accept your S.O.’s family for who they are, and don’t take on responsibility for creating a rosier picture.

5. Remember why you’re here. Don’t let the drama in your S.O.’s personal life distract you from why you chose them in the first place. Focus on being a supportive, non-judgmental partner. The further you explore and build your relationship, the stronger you’ll be down the road to face the family headaches as a team.

How do you keep your cool when it comes to your S.O.’s family drama? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)