Meeting the parents of your romantic partner is definitely a relationship milestone, and the opportunity to make a great first impression will only happen once! So it’s completely normal to be nervous. After all, you love their child, and no matter what the family dynamic looks like, it’s had an influence on who your partner is today. We’ve gathered up our top tips to help you head into this meeting with confidence so that you can embrace this opportunity to get to know where the person you love comes from.
When planning this meeting, your partner will likely take the lead on coordinating logistics, but meeting over a meal is the easiest route. If they offer up their home, the respectful choice is to accept the invite, but if you’d feel more comfortable in neutral territory--feel free to suggest a restaurant. Whether you meet for lunch or dinner, when there’s a meal at the center of attention it gives the meeting a more defined endpoint.
Now, as you prepare, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask your partner about their parents’ likes, dislikes, backgrounds, and personalities. Not only do some of these items prepare you with talking points, you’ll feel more comfortable if you know what to expect as far as the family dynamic goes. Also, ask that the meeting be kept small and intimate--we’re talking parents and siblings. Let’s save the extended family for another occasion.
It’s a good idea to bring a gift. While that may feel like an outdated tradition, it’s a sign of respect that kicks things off on a positive note. Keep it simple with flowers, dessert, or a bottle of wine. Feel free to get your partner involved in the selection process, but know that it’s the thought that counts, so keep it small.
Presentation starts with your appearance, so aim for an event-appropriate outfit. Once the setting for the meeting is determined, dress comfortably, but in an outfit that showcases the most tasteful version of yourself. Keep your sense of style in mind--since that’s a part of your personality--but keep the cleavage and skin exposure to a minimum. On that note, avoid the PDA. You want everyone to feel comfortable, and as much as you want to show your enthusiasm for your relationship, that’s better done in words than physical affection in this circumstance.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves--ask your partner beforehand what you should refer to their parents as. The best bet is to start formal, and then allow them to steer you in a more casual direction. Then, smile through your nerves and offer a firm handshake (unless your partner has advised you that they’re huggers). Throughout this experience, you’ll want to do your best to lead the interaction with respect. That includes being polite and grateful--so offer to help if they’re hosting. When you lead with respect, you can walk away knowing you put your very best foot forward.
Above all, be yourself. The entire experience will go smoother if you can relax into it by feeling comfortable in your own skin. So own who you are and showcase that, but with humility. You may feel inclined to put on a show, but they’ll have an easier time connecting with you if you’re as real as you can be. If you’re forcing it, trying to be something you’re not, or insincere, they’ll pick up on that, and you don’t want to give them a false impression.
Finally, while you may be tempted to curb your nerves with alcohol, keep your intake in check. Getting too tipsy isn’t the best look.
Be as present as possible throughout this experience--which means putting your phone away. Focus on the interaction, so that you can be an active and engaged participant. That means asking questions! Remember that this is an interaction, not an interview, and the conversation will flow better if there’s give and take from everyone involved. Asking questions not only fuels the conversation, it helps you find some common ground to talk about.
Do your best to avoid tense topics like religion, politics, and world issues. These types of conversations are easier to navigate when you all know each other a little better and conduct a more open discussion of those topics. For now, think of it as a first date--you’re all just trying to get to know each other, establishing a foundation to grow your relationship on. Of course, read the room too, and if they open the doors to those conversations, walk through them with caution.
An easy topic you can all appreciate is what brought you all together in the first place--your partner. You can easily ask about what your partner was like growing up, how they’ve changed over the years, or family memories you’ve heard about briefly. Also, this is a great opportunity to express your love for your partner, the person they raised. Most parents love hearing that their child is loved for who they are, inside and out, so showcase that. They’ll feel more confident in your relationship if they can learn more about why you two work well together and how you bring out the best in one another.
At the end of the day (and this meeting), parents are just people too. In this life, we’ll meet all kinds of different people, and this is one of those times where we may meet people who are very different from ourselves or what we know. Welcome that opportunity for personal growth, and soothe your nerves with the reminder that they’re just humans like yourself.