Meeting your romantic partner’s parents can feel terrifying but introducing your partner to your own parents can end up as equally nail biting. Wanting this potentially disastrous event to go perfectly (or at least not disastrously) can sometimes feel harder than preparing for a 100-question final. Mothers can scare girlfriends just as much as fathers scare boyfriends. But it doesn’t need to be terrible. You (and your partner) can get through it.
Check out these tips to help make your partner-meets-parents occasion go relatively smoothly.
1. Introduce Them to Other Family Members First
This one sounds weird, but it worked out well for me. Everyone thinks that parents should be the first to meet the “outsider” and then maybe, just maybe, get their approval for you to introduce the rest of the family at future meetings. But sometimes those things can happen out of order, due to unforeseen circumstances, and that’s not a bad thing. Especially if the other relative winds up being someone who your parents particularly like who will then tell them nice things about your partner. Speaking of your partner, they also get a good chance to have a sort of tasting of your family before the full meal.
2. Only Go Through with #1 if Your Parents Give Their Permission
All that being said, your parents will definitely not be okay with not being the first ones to meet your partner, unless you talked it over with them first. Introducing your partner to them first appears as a sign of respect. It shows that you care what they think about who you date and thus what they think of you. So, introducing them to someone else first can sometimes get taken as an insult. But if you ask for their permission to do this, you still show them that you respect their opinions and wishes. They still won’t like not meeting them first, but they’ll appreciate your consideration of their feelings and probably give their approval. Of course, it might also go over better if you accidently bump into other family members while walking around with your significant other.
3. Prepare Your Partner for Your Family’s Crazy
Every family boasts their own type of crazy. No one honest with themselves says otherwise. While your partner’s family certainly possesses their own type of crazy, it probably doesn’t line up with your family’s, so warn them. Tell them about your closed-minded yet outspoken grandmother, your inconsiderate and rude younger siblings, your antisocial cousin and your well-meaning but more-than-slightly annoying parents. Also tell them that odds remain that the family dog will be the only one to accept them right away.
“Meeting my boyfriend’s family was a lot. On the one hand, they accepted me right away, which was great! On the other hand, this meant they all started talking to me about each other. His mother complained about his father, his father complained about his grandmother and he complained to me about everybody!” St. John’s University School of Law LL.M. Candidate Cydiene da Silvia Freitas said.
There’s almost certainly no way to fully prepare your partner for what might come next. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. At the very least, a sincere warning gives you the chance to say, “I told you so.” The last thing you want is for your partner to expect things to go perfectly smoothly. So, for Pete’s sake, don’t sugar-coat anything.
4. Prepare Your Parents for Your Partner’s Crazy
As stated above, every family bears its own type of crazy, including your partner’s. That means your partner possesses their own kind of weird too. Anyone who no longer exists in the honeymoon stage understands this, no matter how much you love them. So, in addition to warning your partner about your family, warn your family about your partner. Tell your parents that there’s nothing wrong with their cooking, your partner just doesn’t eat much. Tell them that they prefer natural remedies to the chemical-filled-pills bought at the drugstore, even though it doesn’t work as well. And for Heaven’s sake, tell them not to bring up politics (more on that later).
5. Make Them Talk on the Phone First
In addition to another family member giving a positive review of your partner to your parents, it can also help to have them talk to each other a little bit over the phone first. This provides them a chance to get a feel for each other before meeting in person. It also gives each of them a better idea of what to expect than you could ever give them. And if it goes well, then they’ll already like each other when they meet. If it does not go well, you can always make up an excuse and hang up to avoid sitting still and enduring awkward silences.
“When I first met my boyfriend’s mother, she friended me on Facebook right away, asked me what my career goals were, where I was planning on going to college and even what my GPA was,” St. John’s University B.A. Candidate Salome Rodgers said.
You can also hang up if your partner gets grilled by your folks. That can of course be even worse than the awkward silences. Sometimes parents ask question that your partner won’t know the answer to, while sometimes they ask a question that your partner won’t think applies to them. In this case, a good hang up is the best defense against the parental police. Go ahead and pick up the phone now.
6. Don’t Talk Politics
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it still needs repeating. Nothing leads to conflict and arguments like politics. Two people can be absolute best of friends and agree on everything else in the world, but as soon as the subject switches to ideologies, they wind up the worst of enemies. Even if they say that they can maintain a nice, civil discussion on the subject with someone whom they disagree with, they can’t. It won’t happen, so just don’t even bother; try talking about the weather. That being said, politics can be a great uniting topic as well. Nothing will bring two people closer than sitting around and complaining about the problems of the world instead of actually trying to solve them, blaming the other side for it all and hoping for big wins in the next election.
7. Show Your Parents That You Really Love Your Partner
Of course, you should let your partner know this too. They feel a lot of pressure to impress your parents, so they’ll find it reassuring to know that they already won over the one person who really matters: you! The sort of extra credit here ends up being that your parents will see this and realize that you really love them, and thus they should love them too. If they see that happiness in you, it warms their hearts. They will feel glad that someone can do this for you.
8. Show Your Partner That You Really Love Your Family
Your partner obviously remains the most important person in your life—but not the only important person in your life, and they understand that. If you can show your partner that you truly love your family, they can see you in a new light. They will see you as a caring person capable of feeling for others, which makes them feel more for you because of it. Even though you will, and should, spend most of your time as a sort of middleman between your parents and your partner, spend time doing other things as well. Engage your parents in meaningful conversation and spend some time with your siblings or cousins.
“The first time I brought a girl over to my house, my parents weren’t home. I wasn’t supposed to do that, but I figured there was plenty of time. However, we soon heard the garage door open from my room. I quickly hid her in my closet, said hello to my parents and then pretended to drive out and get her. In truth, I snuck her out the basement where we ran to the car to take a little drive,” St. John’s University M.S. Candidate Cameron Patterson said.
This can also help you to see your partner in a new light. If they get along with your siblings, that most likely means that future gatherings will be less nerve-racking. You can also start to imagine you partner and siblings becoming friends and even acting like family one day, which would make your life less complicated. If your partner doesn’t like your family, then they’re probably not the one for you. Unless, of course, you don’t like your family either.
9. Give Them the Opportunity to Make Fun of You
Hopefully it doesn’t come to this, but if things get rocky, give your parents and your partner the opportunity to make fun of you. Remember that barbecue where you tried to man the grill and almost burnt down the back patio? Bring that up. Even if they don’t get along at first, they will soon laugh together at the ridiculous things that you and only you do. Being the butt of the joke might not seem very fun, but better than an awkward first encounter between your family and your partner.
10. Keep It Short and Sweet
The first visit should never be long, even if it goes really, really well. Brief encounters are either very pleasant or unpleasant; but, like they say, even the best house guest eventually wears out their welcome. Why do you think some parents kick their kids out when they turn 18? For the first meeting between your parents and your partner, don’t let it get to that point. Play it safe by leaving early.
Introducing your partner to your parents can feel scary. But it doesn’t have to end terribly. If you follow these tips, the first meeting between your partner and your parents should go relatively smoothly. In fact, you might even have a good time. Just remember, you’re on your own for the second encounter.