There are a few relationship milestones in life that can make anyone nervous. For some people, it could be saying “I love you” for the first time. For others, it could be moving in together. But nothing — and I mean nothing — evokes a feeling of sheer panic quite like meeting the parents.
Questions like, “What will you talk about?” “How will you impress them?” “What will they think about you?” may fester in your mind the days or weeks leading up to the meet-and-greet. But the truth is, meeting your partner’s parents is like meeting any other stranger — just with higher stakes.
“It’s best to be friendly, passive, and observant,” licensed therapist Cathryn Leff, PhD, tells POPSUGAR. “The main thing is not to jump in too fast. Just be relaxed and take the time to get to know them.”
Remember, if your partner feels comfortable enough to bring you around their parents, this is a huge indicator things are moving in a positive direction. And likely, their parents will recognize this and want you to be a part of their child’s life just as much as you do.
So to help alleviate some of your pre-meet anxiety, here are a few things to do to make sure meeting the parents goes as well as it possibly can. Like any big project or game, you’ll want a solid game plan going into it. You’ve come to the right place to find it.
1. You’ll Need to Do Your Homework
Your partner is a great information source on how to prepare for the first time you meet their parents. Ask your partner about their parent’s likes, dislikes, interests, dietary restrictions, what they liked about your partner’s exes, and what they didn’t like about your partner’s exes, and anything else you think would be important to know. There’s zero reason to adapt your personality or change your behaviors based on their preferences, but knowing that they love literature or care a lot about their job can be an indicator of where to steer the conversation. Plus, they’ll most likely appreciate you doing your homework — just like they’ve probably done on you.
2. Consider Bringing Something Small
It’s always a good idea to bring a gift the first time you meet the family of your partner. Whether it’s flowers, a small dessert, an appetizer, or a bottle of wine, showing up with something is a good way to make a great first impression. (Just make sure to ask your partner about any dietary restrictions and/or if they drink alcohol.) Feel free to keep it small though, no need to over-do it with matching Rolex’s for everyone in the family.
3. Ask Them Open-Ended Questions
Treating the first meeting as this big scary test you need to pass can put you into the wrong state of mind. Remember, at the end of the day, the goal is to meet the people who are important to your partner. If you go into it with a genuine interest in getting to know who they are as people, you’ll find that the conversation flows better. Consider asking them about work, their hobbies, funny stories that involve your partner, and more. Keep the questions open-ended — aka, avoid questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no” answer. You’ll find that people love talking about themselves.
4. Be Yourself
While the hope is that you impress your partner’s parents, you should also want them to get to know the real you. Though it’s a good idea to be polite and maybe a bit reserved, make sure you are being honest about who you are. No, this does not mean you should be completely unfiltered and drop the f*ck bomb as often as you might with your partner, but feel free to let your personality shine in the way you’d want a manager or teacher to see.
5. Keep the PDA to a Minimum
If you and your partner are super lovey dovey, that’s great. But going full-on Kravis style in front of your partner’s parents might make them a tad bit uncomfortable. There’s nothing wrong with some hand holding, nuzzling, or a peck here and there — but if your version of PDA seems like a natural progression to sex, it’s best to steer clear. Also remember that people were brought up differently, and what’s comfortable for you might not be the same for someone else. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to being touchy-feely in front of the parents. Communicate with your partner about what type of physical affection is normal for their parents to see and what’s not.
6. Embrace the Awkward Silences
At the end of the day, you’re meeting people who you’ve never met before — things are bound to get a little awkward. Just remember that this is perfectly normal. While you can always fill the silence with a follow-up question to get to know them better or a polite compliment on the food or the house, also keep in mind that you don’t need to control every second of the conversation. Awkward silences might feel long in the moment, but they all end eventually.
7. Don’t Try Too Hard
There’s nothing wrong with wanting your partner’s parents to like you, but that doesn’t mean you have to go above and beyond to make sure that happens. Don’t be overly friendly or give out false compliments. Just like your relationship with your partner, this relationship shouldn’t be forced or disingenuous. Most parents
8. Know That There’s a Chance It Might Not Go Well, and That’s OK
While no one wants the first meet-and-greet to go poorly, you should probably get comfortable with the possibility that this could happen, so you can understand it’s not the end of the world if it does. Even though first impressions are important, they are not everything. Talk to your partner about what didn’t go well and plan some more for the next time around. Remember that you’re dating your partner, not their parents. And while it should be important to you to get along with their parents, the reality is that some people don’t always love their partner’s parents — and vice versa. As long as there is mutual respect and understanding, your relationship can still thrive if the first time meeting the parents doesn’t go so well. Plus, you can always keep the meetings to just the holidays in the future.