Whether you’ve been hot and heavy with your new main squeeze for a couple of months or a couple of years, meeting the parents is stressful for everyone. Your partner is hoping you get along with his entire network of relatives. His family is hoping you’re not too weird/crazy/mean to be dating him. You’re just trying to hold it all together. Luckily, with a little foresight and planning, you can ensure an easy introduction that works for everyone.
Do the homework.
If you’ve only been on a few dates with your honey, you might want to hold off on meeting Mom, Dad, and the rest of the gang until you get a sense of how he or she gets along with everyone. Do they talk and text everyday, or do they only get together at major holidays? Is there major drama with his older brother or her younger sister? Do they just not talk about long-lost Uncle Terry, or are conspiracy theories welcome? Also remember, if you’re being pressed to meet the family before you’re ready, be sure to let your partner know that you need time to get to know him or her better before you can meet everyone else.
If your partner is set on you being his plus one at a big family wedding or this year’s multi-generational reunion, suggest that you meet a smaller group of his relatives to start out, especially if you’re shy or overwhelm easily in large groups. Meeting just your partner’s parents or siblings can give you a sense of their family dynamic without the added pressure of participating in a bouquet toss or three-legged race. Plus, you offer them the opportunity to really get to know you as a person, rather than as your date’s arm candy–it will make introductions at bigger family functions easier for everyone involved.
Set yourself up for success.
Encourage your partner to choose a meetup situation that works for everyone. After all, he knows everyone involved. Suggest avoiding passive activities, like attending a movie or sporting event, where conversation isn’t the focus. Sharing a meal, meeting for drinks, and other low-key social activities are best.
When the big day finally arrives, do everything you can to ensure a smooth introduction. Get a good night’s sleep, eat well, exercise–do whatever it is that helps you be your best self. Be polite and respectful, and follow your partner’s lead. Avoid discussing religion, politics, and other hot- button topics for the time being. Be sure to give everyone a basic picture of who you are. Tell them about your hometown, your work, and your hobbies. Keep it friendly and light–humor is your friend here.
Give honest feedback to your partner.
After you’ve both made it through the first meeting, take the time to check in with your partner. Let her know what you liked or didn’t like about the family, or ways that she behaved when she was with them that are red flags for you. If your relationship is getting serious, it’s important that decide together about what kind of family interactions are acceptable, and whether the two of you see eye-to-eye on how you fit into one another’s families. And don’t forget to emphasize the positives you experienced with his family–remembering the moments that worked alongside the moments that didn’t will go a long way toward figuring out the best way to build your relationships with family as a couple.