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" The holidays stress us out — there's so much to do, shopping sucks, it's cold, and any existing family tensions are exacerbated — so trying to get a new relationship started is the last thing you want to add to your to-do list, especially because there are so many holiday minefields that could blow the fragile little romance to smithereens. Don't feel compelled to bring some new guy to your office party.Office parties can be stressful and awkward for even the most graceful employees — and adding a new beau to the mix will just increase the pressure on you.Thanks for helping us achieve our mission of helping everyone learn how to do anything.But the fact is I've already got the cold-weather festivities on the brain.

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I have been wondering what I want in terms of participation: If we're still together in December, will I be happier if he hangs out with my family on December 25 — or will it be less stressful for both of us if we simply agree to do the holidays apart?Let him know about anything he can do to earn easy brownie points.Perhaps Clara will love him forever if he brings her flowers, or if he compliments her on her needlepoint pillow that says, "Remember the reason for the season: Presents." Think ahead about the little things you can do to make the day more socially smooth for everyone. The guy you're dating is a vegetarian, and your grandmother thinks no meal is complete unless it features something that once mooed, snorted, or bleated? If he's the type who gets irritable when he's hungry — and you have a long drive to get to the relatives' place — bring some snacks in the car. Do your best to get enough sleep and to make time for exercise, especially if it's important to you. People often think drinking will ease all tensions and make everyone jollier.Your mother — whom everyone thinks you look so much like — may be aging very poorly, your father could be the kind of jackass no one would ever want to be in a restaurant with, and so on. Ask if he thinks exchanging gifts would be fun — and, of course, tell him how you feel.If neither of you is making much money, agree to do something inexpensive, like going to a bookstore and buying each other a novel or a volume of poetry.

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