Meeting the parents is a huge milestone in any relationship. The timing is an individualized decision based on a number of individual, relationship, and cultural factors. In some cases, you may both feel completely confident and ready. In others, the appropriate time might be more difficult to assess. However, answering yes to the five questions below is a signal it may be the right time for you.
1) Are you without a doubt a couple? 2) Have you met his friends? 3) Has he met your friends and/or family? 4) Are you in an exclusive and serious relationship? 5) Do you believe your relationship is going somewhere, and have you both communicated these feelings on some level?
Now that you’ve established the timing is right, planning out a strategy will make meeting his parents less stressful and more exciting. Although it’s natural to be nervous and wonder if the timing is right, the more relaxed and empowered you feel, the better the first meeting will go.
You can ensure you’re making a good first impression by avoiding common mistakes, such as clinging to your phone; drinking too much; putting down or fighting with your boyfriend in front of his family; dressing inappropriately, appearing judgmental, fake, or disingenuous; lying; showing up late; commenting on his ex; and being culturally insensitive. Getting along with the in-laws supports the well-being and health of your relationship, so being well-received by his family will go a long way in staying satisfied and connected (especially if he values their opinion).
1. Do Your Homework & Get On the Same Page as Your Partner
Find out how your partner feels toward his or her family, and what you can expect from the encounter. Familiarize yourself with the family’s values and traditions, topics to avoid (along with what is mentioned below in number nine), potentially difficult family dynamics, names and descriptions of who you’re going to meet, etc. Have your partner share anything that will help make the first meeting go smoothly and calm your natural worries.
2. Have Your Partner Provide the Family With Some Background Information About You Prior to the Meeting
3. Understand the Importance of Venue & Its Effect On the Meeting
Meeting the parents for dinner nearby if they live locally is completely different than spending a week at their home in another state. Or meeting the parents one on one is a different vibe from meeting them at a huge family gathering, event, wedding, or religious ceremony.
If you’re meeting them at a sister’s wedding, for example, understand they may be thrilled to meet you, but they’ll also be feeling overwhelmed, distracted, and excited as parents of the bride. You may not receive the undivided attention you were hoping for, but keep a big picture perspective and don’t take these situations personally.
4. Don’t Show Up Empty-Handed
5. Dress Appropriately
6. Make a Genuine Effort
7. Respect Their Rituals, Routines & Traditions
It’s natural to approach this situation from your own unique upbringing.
However, it’s important to remember all families are different.
Respect family rules and holiday traditions, even if their ways differ from yours.
For example, if the rule is to sleep in separate rooms while staying with the parents despite having many sleepovers on your own, be considerate and respectful of this arrangement.
8. Use Your Manners
Ditch public displays of affection to ensure you aren’t making anyone uncomfortable. Offer to help out and lend a helping hand, even if you’re turned down.
Go with the flow, be punctual and polite, and don’t overshare or get into heated debates. Also, practice gratitude by saying thank you in person and also sending a thoughtful thank-you note post-meeting.
9. Steer Clear of Touchy Subjects
If you overshare or discuss heated subjects (exes, politics, etc.) with the parents without a solid foundation to support you, you’re bound to run into relational issues and discomfort all-around. This may mean biting your tongue, at least initially.